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God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State

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With humor and the biting insight of a native, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower explores the history, culture, and politics of Texas, while holding the stereotypes up for rigorous scrutiny.

God Save Texas is a journey through the most controversial state in America. It is a red state in the heart of Trumpland that hasn't elected a Democrat to a statewide office in more than twenty years; but it is also a state in which minorities already form a majority (including the largest number of Muslims). The cities are blue and among the most diverse in the nation. Oil is still king but Texas now leads California in technology exports. The Texas economic model of low taxes and minimal regulation has produced extraordinary growth but also striking income disparities. Texas looks a lot like the America that Donald Trump wants to create. And Wright's profound portrait of the state not only reflects our country back as it is, but as it was and as it might be.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published April 17, 2018

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About the author

Lawrence Wright

48 books2,092 followers
There is more than one author with this name

Lawrence Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, screenwriter, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, and fellow at the Center for Law and Security at the New York University School of Law. He is a graduate of Tulane University, and for two years taught at the American University in Cairo in Egypt.

Wright graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School (Dallas, Texas) in 1965 and, in 2009, was inducted into Woodrow's Hall of Fame.

Wright is the author of six books, but is best known for his 2006 book, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. A quick bestseller, The Looming Tower was awarded the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, and is frequently referenced by media pundits as an excellent source of background information on Al Qaeda and the September 11 attacks. The book's title is a phrase from the Quran: "Wherever you are, death will find you, even in the looming tower," which Osama bin Laden quoted three times in a videotaped speech seen as directed to the 9/11 hijackers.

Among Wright's other books is Remembering Satan: A Tragic Case of Recovered Memory (1994), about the Paul Ingram false memory case. On June 7, 1996, Wright testified at Ingram's pardon hearing.

Wright also co-wrote the screenplay for the film The Siege (1998), which told the story of a terrorist attack in New York City that led to curtailed civil liberties and rounding up of Arab-Americans.

A script that Wright originally wrote for Oliver Stone was turned instead into a well-regarded Showtime movie, Noriega: God's Favorite (2000).

A documentary featuring Wright, My Trip to Al-Qaeda, premiered on HBO in September 2010. Based on his journeys and experience in the Middle East during his research for The Looming Tower, My Trip to Al-Qaeda covers topics ranging from the current state of the regime in Saudi Arabia to the historic underpinnings of 9/11.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 867 reviews
Profile Image for Hank Stuever.
Author 3 books2,016 followers
January 14, 2019
What a treat to have read "God Save Texas" after reading Sam Anderson's "Boom Town" (about Oklahoma City) and Lou Berney's "November Road" (a novel about the JFK assassination in Dallas that's also partly set in Oklahoma). It's soooo nice to take such deep, thoughtful and intelligent dives into MY part of the world instead of all the East Coast-preoccupied literature out there. (Yes, I live in Washington, D.C., but I was born and raised in Oklahoma City and lived and worked for a few years in Austin. Lately both places seem closer to me than they are, sort of a combination of long delayed homesickness and nostalgia.)

Lawrence Wright is humble almost to a fault, but it suits him. The truth is, he's one of our greatest living writers and journalists, not just a Texas writer. "God Save Texas" might look like a collection of past work or a delve mainly into politics -- and to a small extent it is both of those things. But really it's a memoir, told through history and contemporary events. So many wonderful stories in here are told from personal recollection, full of insight, wisdom and humor. I especially enjoyed the recurring bits of Wright's long and intellectually bountiful friendship with writer Stephen Harrigan. I was also moved by the penultimate chapter (Far West, Far Out) and the way Wright writes about his marriage to his wife Roberta. Cover to cover, this book is such a gift.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
499 reviews857 followers
December 23, 2022
My introduction to Lawrence Wright is God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State. Anyone who savors long reads in Texas Monthly or the New Yorker should feel right at home with this terrific book published in 2018 and with Wright, a screenwriter/ playwright/ Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who's contributed pieces to those two magazines. Wright grew up in Dallas in the '60s and with his own family, relocated from Atlanta to Austin in 1979. His perspective is that of a native son who ventured away from Texas only to return with knowledge and experience, which he applies to different areas, aspects and activity of my native state.

Rather than an academic study with footnotes, the book falls within the journalism spectrum, which I always love. Wright straps on his road gear for a bicycle trip to the five Spanish missions along the San Antonio River, with his friend, novelist Steve Harrigan. He recounts his experience being licensed to carry a handgun in a section that explores gun violence. Two entire chapters on Texas politics are highlighted by Wright's experience roaming the halls of the state capitol. He recounts hanging out with quintessential Texans like George W. Bush, Cormac McCarthy and Willie Nelson. The book is no hatchet job and often glows with love for Texas, but is also brutal and unmerciful.

From the chapter The Charms, Such as They Are:

-- I've lived in Texas most of my life, and I've come to appreciate what the state symbolizes, both to people who live here and to those who view it from afar. Texans see themselves as confident, hardworking and neurosis-free--a distillation of the best qualities of America. Outsiders view Texas as the national id, a place where rambunctious and disavowed principles run wild. Texans, they believe, mindlessly celebrate individualism, and view government as a kind of kryptonite that saps the entrepreneurial muscles. We're reputed to be braggarts; careless with money and our personal lives; a little gullible but dangerous if crossed; insecure but obsessed with power and prestige. Indeed, it's an irony that the figure who most embodies the values people associate with the state is a narcissistic Manhattan billionaire now sitting in the Oval Office.

From the chapter Turn the Radio On:

-- One of the surprises is that if you have a handgun in your car and you're drunk, it doesn't matter if you're unlicensed; but if you are licensed, you're liable to be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which can mean a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. "A lot of my students decide not to get a license because of that," our instructor, Michael Cargill, told us. He showed us some cautionary real-life videos. A convenience-store security camera recorded a customer who happened upon a robbery in progress; the customer frantically pulls out his concealed weapon and plugs the clerk, not the robber. Another video shows a target shooter plunking cans off a log with a rifle; one bullet misfires and the shooter peeks down the barrel to see what's going on, when suddenly his gimme cap is blown off his head. People do a lot of stupid things with guns, which is one reason I've always been wary of owning one.

From the chapter Sausage Makers:

-- The bathroom bill was not unique to Texas--a dozen other states had similar bills pending--but it embodied the meanness and intolerance that people tend to associate with Texas. The bill was being sold as a way to protect women against sexual predators who might pose as transgender--a problem that scarcely exists. Laws already on the books protect women from being accosted or spied upon. The sponsors of the bill claimed that it was not meant to discriminate against transgender Texans, although the law would do just that. The only remedy for trans people would be to change their birth certificate, a costly and time-consuming procedure. The bill proposed fining schools or state agencies up to $10,500 per day for violations. "How are they going to enforce it?" Chuy Hinojosa asked me. "Would a woman have to raise her dress?" There was grumbling about the need to hire "pecker checkers."

From the chapter The City of the Violet Crown:

-- All of these disparate cultural trends that were careening past each other in Austin like swirling electrons suddenly coalesced into a recognizable scene when Willie arrived. He occupies a place in Texas and especially in Austin, that no one else can claim. He was a jazz-infused country singer with a gospel background, and a songwriter with some notable hits. When his house in Nashville burned down, he decided to return to his home state, hoping to find more creative freedom. He let his beard grow and put his hair in pigtails. You never saw a man looking like that in Texas, but Willie could get away with it.

Because he is so culturally confounding, and because his songs are so much a part of the land, everybody claims Willie. He's a leftist, a Bernie Sanders fan, but he's beloved even by Tea Party types like Ted Cruz and Rick Perry. For decades he has advocated legalization of marijuana in a state where the laws of possession are quite punitive. He has even been cultivating his own brand, Willie's Reserve. Every once in a while, some state trooper or deputy sheriff will pull Willie's bus over and "discover" his stash. Willie has gotten off with a free concert, but the arrests are universally seen as poor sportsmanship.

From the chapter More Sausage:

-- Texas leads the nation is Latino population growth. Latinos account for more than half the 2.7 million new Texans since 2010. Every Democrat in Texas believes that if Hispanics voted at the same rate in Texas as they do in California, the state would already be blue. "The difference between Texas and California is the labor movement," Garnet Coleman, a Houston member of the Texas House of Representatives, told me. In the 1960s, Cesar Chavez began organizing the California farmworkers into a union, which didn't happen in Texas, a right-to-work state. "Labor unions create a culture of voting and political participation," Coleman observed. In Texas politics, Coleman believes, "everything is about race. It's veiled as public policy, but it encourages people to believe that their tax dollars are going to support lazy black and brown people." Political views have become more entrenched because of redistricting, and yet the demographic majority in Texas is far more progressive than its representatives. Coleman predicts a showdown. "This is the battle about the future of the country, based on a new majority, and we have to have this out."

If you've thought about visiting Texas (and you should, at least in the spring), I recommend God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State. Wright demonstrates his credentials as a journalist and a native Texan and uses them both to dissect the state with passion and wit. If you're thinking about buying a home in Texas, I highly recommend this book. Insatiably readable, I loved how it was organized, with the allure and challenges of Houston, Dallas and Austin (three of the eleven largest cities in the U.S.) examined with their own chapters, as well as the state capitol, with issues like immigration, healthcare, global warming and gun violence woven in.

Somehow, my favorite five pages ended up being in the Austin chapter and specifically, the leprechaun-like arrival of actor Matthew McConaughey in Wright's neighborhood of Tarrytown. I was familiar with the actor's "naked bongo" incident from the pages of Texas Monthly but wouldn't have known that Wright was for a time McConaughey's neighbor and had a front row seat to what happened. I wouldn't say that this gossip page item summarizes a state as complex and giant as Texas, except that maybe you really can't go home again, and that Wright writes about the affair with such an unjaundiced eye for detail and also pathos.

I talked to Steve about Matthew's broken dream of a normal existence. Steve was sympathetic, but he observed that movie stars like Matthew cultivate celebrity and can't expect to escape notoriety. In any case, "he's not a 'normal' person," Steve said. "He's a wild man living in Tarrytown."
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews621 followers
May 10, 2018
Audiobook....narrated by the author, Lawrence Wright, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for book “The Looming Tower”.

This is my first book by Lawrence Wright....
.....which is entertaining and informative....’fascinating info.’

I sure wouldn’t hesitate reading any one of Wright’s other books — each one are interesting topics & issues: Twins and what they tell us....The Terror Years from Al Qaeda to the Islamic State....Scientology.....animal welfare, “ The Right of Mice”.....etc.

Besides learning that Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to a statewide office in more than 20 years - and that Texas leads California in technology exports —no other state in America is more relaxed about homeowners having exotic animals as pets. Would you want a tiger living in your back yard?

I laughed when learning that Texas imported Peacocks to eat their snakes.

Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. It’s why - after living in Austin for 5 years - our younger daughter, Ali, was ready to jump ship. And did. A 10 minute drive to work started to be a minimum of 30 minutes.

This was a terrific - fun - audiobook. It’s a wonderful smorgasbord of history, politics, friendship, ( his buddy Steve), convenience stores ( BIG), gas stations, ( BIG), food, - BBQ-( BIG), part memoir, ....@ authentic Texan Culture vs. inauthentic ( Austin’s High Rise Towers is an example of ‘not’ authentic)....

So why do people who live in Texas have so much pride about their state? Very enjoyable book - as I said .... but I’ve no idea what they are so proud about.
However .....if you are ever in Austin, make sure to visit “BookPeople”. It’s a great book store....one Texans can definitely be proud about!!!

In Texas, homeowners are allowed to have exotic animals as big as they want in their yard. Power to the animals. 🦁🐯🦓🐑🐄🐓 🐿🐊🐅🐉🌵🦅
In Florida, homeowners will be fined $50 a day for growing vegetables in their front yard. No power to the veggies or property. 🌶🥕🍅🍆🌽🥔🥒🥦
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,439 followers
May 9, 2018
This is a fast and fabulous, smart and funny read…the kind that reads so effortlessly because the author has a lifetime of writing experience. There is a big-hearted generosity in Wright’s view of Texas, though he doesn’t hesitate to point out personalities or policies that diminish what he believes the state could be. Wright lived many years in Austin, the big blue liberal heart of Texas, a city that attracted so many people to what the city once was that it no longer resembles that attractive mixed-race, mixed-income diversity so rich with possibility.

Having read Wright’s big books on Carter’s peace talks at Camp David, and his exhaustive study of Christian Science, I was unprepared for the deep vein of “will you look at that” humor that richly marbles this piece. It is an utter delight to have Wright use his insider status as a resident to call out especially egregious instances of Texas bullshit.

The book is a memoir, really—the memoir of a natural raconteur from a state where cracking jokes about serious issues is an art form. But before page ten Wright makes clear his assessment of the state:
"Texas has nurtured an immature political culture that has some terrible damage to the state and to the nation. Because Texas is a part of almost everything in modern America—the South, the West. the Plains, Hispanic and immigrant communities, the border, the divide between rural areas and the cities—what happens here tends to disproportionately affect the rest of the nation. Illinois and New Jersey may be more corrupt, Kansas and Louisiana more dysfunctional, but they don’t bear the responsibility of being the future."
Wright is so skilled now at writing big books that he manages to give us lots of detail and information even in this more relaxed telling, all the while being really funny. He is clear-eyed about why Texas can be a big fail and yet he clearly loves the place.
"To strike it rich is still the Texas dream...Texans are always talking about how much they loved the state, but I wondered where was the evidence of that love."
Wright admits he considered leaving during the oil boom/bust in the 1980s when the state never seemed to live up to its obligations. He dreamed sometimes of decamping to liberal California, where he could flog his screenwriting skills...and make more money. He thinks that a country that can hold together two such immensely powerful and opposing forces as California and Texas has got to be something worthwhile and important. I used to think so, too, but feel less confident now. Sometimes I want to saw off those pieces of the country that claim to want so much freedom, and seal the borders. No trade. We’ll see then who comes out on top.

Music and art are sprinkled throughout this biography, obviously an important part of Wright’s attraction to the state. Each chapter sports woodcuts by David Dantz describing the chapter’s subject and Dantz’s endpapers illustrate the arc of the book. The art, like the prose, is rich with humor and attitude. Music is a part of Wright’s own biography and so he writes particularly well about the scene and historical influences. It’s rounded, this book, and interesting and fun and full of reasons to like Texas, despite its particularly awful politicians.

Texas was a reliably blue state until the 1990s. Houston is the only major city in America without zoning laws. AM Texas radio hosts Alex Jones. Ted Cruz makes jokes about Machine Gun Bacon on Youtube but as usual when Cruz is trying to be funny, it’s an epic fail. Dallas had been a city fostering extremism until Kennedy died there. After that humiliation, Dallas became more open and tolerant, more progressive…and developed more churches per capita than any city in the nation. Wright thinks Dallas has the ability to transform suffering into social change. I say we shouldn’t be blamed for being a little suspicious of all that supposed holiness. Evangelicals have shown what they are thinking where they are standing.

In the last chapters, Wright is open about searching for his final resting place. He is only seventy years old, but he is calling it for Texas. I really like that about him. He can conceive of life and death, Democrat and Republican, north and south in one sentence. He can love Texas and laugh at it, too. He has written a truly wonderful, un-put-down-able book about the biggest second-biggest state in the union.

I'm from Texas.
Profile Image for Brina.
933 reviews4 followers
May 9, 2019
With summer approaching, I find myself drawn to books set in warmer locations. Each summer I also search for a travelogue that takes me along the open roads. Although not exactly a travelogue, when a group in the nonfiction book club started reading G-D Save Texas by former Pulitzer winning and long time Texas resident Lawrence Wright, I was moved to join them. Wright takes his readers on a journey through the state in a way that only a Texan can. The rest of the readers in my group happen to be from Texas; I have lived in the Midwest for 95% of my life, yet my husband pines to visit Texas because he loves cowboy boots and hats and old school shootouts. Wright’s book along with my Texas buddies made this a perfect opportunity to kick off my summer travel reading through the Lone Star State.

Lawrence Wright has lived all over Texas; growing up in Abilene, Marfa, and finally, Dallas. After meeting his future wife while studying at Tulane University in New Orleans, the new couple married in Greece and lived the first few years of their marriage in Egypt as English teachers. Yet, both Lawrence and his wife Roberta knew that Egypt was not a permanent home, and they sought jobs much closer to home. After a seven year sojourn in Atlanta freelancing for various magazines, Wright landed a job with Texas Monthly Magazine in the capital city of Austin. Home to a university and bohemian yet community of inventors that spurred Whole Foods, Dell, and other creations that made the city a great place to raise children, both Wrights knew that they had found a home. Lawrence, Roberta and their two children have called Austin their home since 1976 and never looked back. Roberta has taught elementary school, and Lawrence dabbled in screenwriting along with his friend Steve Harrigan before both men successfully transitioned to becoming authors. Many of the vignettes in G-D Save Texas are as much Harrigan’s ideas as they are Wright’s. Over book critiques, bicycle trips, and treks around the state, the book began to take shape.

With an area larger than many small countries and the second most populous state in the United States, Wright writes a little about a lot of things that make Texas a unique place to live. One can not begin to appreciate Texans’ flair without describing its history of first being an independent nation before being coerced into joining the United States in 1845. In exchange for membership in the union, Texas ceded land that made up five other states to its new nation. With area encompassing what is now parts of New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Wyoming, Texas was actually larger than the new nation that it joined. Home to generations of Mexicans, native cultures, cowboys, and cattleman, Texas’ new status as a state brought waves of immigrants from eastern states looking to homestead and start a new life. Yet, the situation was precarious because Texas actually entered the union as slave state due to its location even though many Texans would have rather not supported slavery and remained independent. This early history lead to racial divisions between white, black, and brown people and the lines between red and blue areas of the state that persist to this day. With such a large population, however, the lines are not as simple as black and white or red and blue.

Wright does devote a good chunk discussing politics, the law makers in Austin and the hot button issues that they contend with as well as the history of oil drilling, presidents who called Texas home, and the evolving political trends within the state. Wright’s argument is that as Texas becomes less Anglo and more Hispanic and more immigrants pour into cities like Houston and Austin, the Lone Star State will not automatically be red in every election. Coalitions in the state government will need to form between moderate politicians in both parties in order to meet the needs of an ever changing state racial makeup. The issues like school vouchers, sanctuary cities, and immigration are not going to go away anytime soon, yet the politics in Austin become more fractious. As one who is not a native Texan, I thought that was a little too much current politics, even though I found the vignettes about the various governors including Ann Richards and current governor Greg Abbott to even be humorous at times, especially when Wright refers to Molly Ivins writing about Richards. Both women are dearly missed. Yet, the politics in Texas are not what has led my husband to want to visit the state; the rich, cultural history, which Wright describes in depth as well, are his impetus to take a drive southwest.

While not as pressing as the politics, Wright’s descriptions of the landscape and culture of Texas has lead me to want to take a driving vacation as well. He takes readers bird watching, to the Johnson Space Station in Houston, to various locales in Austin, including the architecture of the capital building, and to the Mexican dominated culture of El Paso, which gave way to the Tex-Mex cuisine and culture that is a staple of many American homes today. Wright also gives readers a brief history of Texas music including some of its most famous native sons Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, and Stevie Ray Vaughn, as well as its rich literary history which is often overlooked nationally highlighted by the novels of Larry McMurtry. While I found these layers of culture to be fascinating, I found Big Bend National Park in the southwest corner of the state to be the most captivating of all. In the middle of nowhere with lush flora and fauna and camping under the stars at night, it is this scenery that makes an outsider like myself inclined to see why a native would never want to leave the state of Texas.

Lawrence Wright won a Pulitzer Prize for his The Looming Tower, although his ode to his home State is here a labor of love. I continue to pick the brains of my Texan buddies in our read in the nonfiction book club and find the current state of political affairs to be alarming and intriguing, seeing how a state’s population shifts can effect the entire nation. Perhaps this is why one does not mess with Texas. Politics aside, Wright’s description of Texas makes me want to hop in the car and travel to the Alamo in San Antonio, cultural museums in El Paso, and camp in Big Bend National Park. While not on my radar until last week, G-D Save Texas became a multilayered, fast paced summer travel read.

4 stars
Profile Image for Marija.
20 reviews65 followers
February 25, 2019
If you have ever had a friend who can´t stop bragging about himself, begins the conversation following one topic just for you to realize quickly that he has meanwhile slipped into an unrelated digression, constantly dropping names regardless of what people around him talk about, then you know how it feels to read "God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State" by Lawrence Wright.
I was so excited to read about Texas because I felt like this was such a brilliant field to explore and, of course, because of my memories. Lawrence Write hasn´t done any justice to Texas, not because of his consistent references to trivial political aspects of the state, but because of his inability to recognize the culture that is beyond the obvious. He hasn´t made any effort to dig deeper into the timeless and univocal characteristics of Texas.
Such a shame!
Profile Image for Chantal Lyons.
281 reviews36 followers
January 21, 2018
If America interests you in any way, you'll almost certainly get something out of "God Save Texas". As an Americanophile who recently visited Dallas and Austin, reading the book was fascinating and enjoyable.

I'm afraid I've never heard of Lawrence Wright, but his diverse career and connections afford him the most intimate of insights into the artistic and political worlds of Texas - and beyond, in the case of presidential politics, since Wright has known the Bushes well for all his life. This familiarity with the Bushes exemplifies Wright's balance in writing about this state he knows, fears and loves - he undoubtedly has fondness for Bush Jnr, for example, but is critical of him too (and still wishes Bush had not invaded Iraq).

As the author reveals, Texas is right in the heart of so many of the issues that most polarise American society and draw the eyes of the world: Trump, Mexico, climate change, state vs. federal government, gun rights, the Black Lives Matter movement, the subjugation of women through anti-
abortion measures. But Wright also impresses on us Texas's distinct culture when it comes to cooking, music, film, architecture, and friendliness.

The book packs so much in, and while I sometimes wished it would linger just a little longer on some issues, the pace also dissuades any boredom. The transitions are kind of fun too - sometimes there was a logic to them but other times the author veered unexpectedly onto something else, which might have annoyed me in a different book, but only adds to the vibrancy of this one. I've given four stars rather than five because of the aforementioned lack of depth for some of the issues that really interested me, and my eyes glazed when Wright plunged deep into the music scene, but that only lasted a few pages or so.

Wright claims off the bat that examining Texas could help us foresee, understand, and maybe change the future of America. Having read "God Save Texas", I'm inclined to agree with him.
Profile Image for Ayse_.
155 reviews73 followers
May 19, 2019
I have learned so many things about Houston`s history and Texas from this book. I liked it very much. It is a book that explains, embraces and forewarns about the TEXAN evolution. Anyone with an interest in Texas or US politics will enjoy it very much. I love reading books like this when the narrative flows effortlessly, and you can stop and sip your tea and do your thing and come back and continue where you've left with ease. In this one, one can additionally see the wide open spaces which many of Texans are always in love with, feel the heat, hear the accent and feel blessed being a part of. It was my first book from author Wright, I am sure I will be looking forward to read his next one.
Profile Image for Dax.
252 reviews120 followers
June 5, 2018
A nice glimpse into the current cultural, political, and social environment of the Lone Star State. Wright also includes some interesting historical tidbits and introduces us to several fascinating and oftentimes hilarious characters. I laughed a lot while reading this.

Not just for Texans, either. Anyone interested in learning about the cultural melting pot that is Texas would enjoy this one. It’s a much more complicated and, dare I say, interesting place than it’s reputation would suggest. Excellent work by Mr. Wright.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,649 followers
August 31, 2018
This book is really well-written, funny, and interesting. It's about Texas and it's about America. But it's more about Wright and Wright's texas than it is about Texas and America. For example, when he talks about Mexicans, he only talks about the border and the undocumented Mexicans. But Mexicans have occupied Texas since before Wright's people have. Brownsville, Houston--all over Texas. Why not talk about their Texas too? Or the native Americans?
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,397 reviews584 followers
July 26, 2018
Hmmmm! Can I say that I choose this book from the ratings and the trailer. And that it was on the shelf at my home library. That too, as well. And that I have visited Texas about 5 or 6 times in the last 10 years (every time in winter). Those are my disclaimers. And that I love the South and the people I have meet have been tops (above average in interchange, kindness, service when required, happy quotient etc.) and also intelligent in conversations. That's my experience.

This book is written in a scattered pattern that includes different categories (industries) and histories and logistics, demographics of Texas and the progressions of increased populations too over the years.

It's written through two sets of eyes in particular and the individual observations are just as center core criteria as the other data and factual dynamics I just listed. In fact, more so. The fun fact and humorous quip of autobiographical prose makes the reading lighter on occasion. And sometimes poignant.

So it truly is about their "journey" (the author and his lifelong friend) to falling back into love with their state as much as it is about their state itself, IMHO. So my experience of reading the book became a lower star rating in enjoyment and in knowledge gathering the more into the book I got. By the last quarter I was speed reading. Total is a 2.5 star but I just can't round it up.

It's a large subject, but I thought it was underdone and bias filtered to the critical estimations, the projections and to the forecasts. All three. And that the "soul" part is not encapsulated as the title suggests. It's his soul, and his "eyes" and not the "soul" of Texas that is captured at all, IMHO. Especially since he makes dozens of assumptions and observations that I and many Texans observe in varying to "his" more singular definitions to "purpose" or reactive onus.

The historical aspects are scattered throughout. And yet in that field I found that the interchanges of cause/effect- those were at least 3 star.

Knowing a number of people and entire family branches (more than a just a number actually and some are moving businesses too) who have made Texas their home after generations in the North, I found that they represent, as does this author, Austin more than they represent Texas.
Profile Image for Ian Cook Westgate.
112 reviews1 follower
May 4, 2018
I’m not sure what the point of this book was. Each chapter tends to embrace a different city or concept. But then the organization is all over the place. In one section, you might get a fascinating political/sociological look at some major thing that happened in Texan history. The next, you’ll get some interesting but ultimately irrelevant fluff.

It is hard to describe without giving a few examples. For one, in the chapter about Texan presidents, the author randomly spends what felt like a third of it talking about the appeal of cowboy style jeans and denim. This is not brought up again. For another, the chapter on Austin features a section about race relations and another about Matthew McConaughey getting arrested for playing the bongo drums. This sort of tonal whiplash occurs throughout the entire book, feeling especially egregious when the author shoehorns in his own memories of growing up in Texas, even if they have almost no relation to the supposed topic of this or that chapter.

I believe that the ultimate goal was probably to convey the author’s complicated love/hate relationship with Texas as if through osmosis. The reader is barraged with loosely connected short stories about this or that until you feel like you get a sense of the author’s own complicated impression of the state. The problem is that that impression is too vague and contradictory, both in tone and in delivery. The result is a book that felt interesting to read but felt rather ephemeral in substance. Do I regret reading this book? No, it was quite enjoyable and a page-turner. But will this book stay with me in any meaningful way? Probably not.
Profile Image for Truman32.
351 reviews104 followers
May 15, 2018
Lawrence Wright’s first rate new book, God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State, is a clear-eyed, yet affectionate exploration of America’s 28th state which Wright also calls home. It can be said that Texas (with it’s political unrest, populism ideology, and general cantankerousness) is a reflection of the United States of America as a whole. This is not unlike how my wife says I am a reflection of Hugh Jackman.

Texas has a kind of cultural identity that makes it like no other place on Earth. Wright, a wonderful and often very funny writer, is able to convey this Texas charm by hoping around subject to subject in a way that is enlightening and thought-provoking. Through fourteen chapters he digs into the history, lifestyles, and issues of various Parts of this very large state and it’s citizens.

There is much to like about Texas- the innovative entrepreneurial spirit that has brought us Whole Foods and Dell; a thriving art scene; a diverse population; beautiful open vistas; and Willie Nelson. But there is also much to be concerned about as well. Texas has massive income inequality; an extremist fetishism for firearms; a deep dread of discovering transgender individuals in their bathrooms; and a lack of interest in funding their schools.

In fact, Texas reminds me of this girl I dated in college. Hannah Evans was just about perfect with all these great qualities. Cute and caring, smart and loyal, and she loved orphans and puppies almost as much as orphans and puppies loved her. Hannah was kind to the elderly, cried during sad movies, loved to cook… and oh, she was an Imperial Officer for the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. There was so much to Hannah to love and if I could just get by her extracurricular activities on Thursday nights when she would come home smelling of gasoline. Or work past her grumbling that I (once again) mistakenly washed a bunch of her clothes in my bright colors load last weekend and now her hoods and robes are all pink; then she just might be a keeper. But no matter how many great traits Hannah had, she was still attempting to institute a race war. That’s pretty hard to accept. And yes, Texas has many great things going for it, but the level of racism, sexism, and general heartlessness in this state makes it hard to stomach all the good parts.

This duality is what makes God Save Texas such an important read. Because this is happening everywhere. Folks who are not bad people are getting behind those that are just terrible. They are supporting leaders that are just one Horcrux away from being Voldemort. How can they support those that destroy their lands, sicken their neighbors, and act in ways that go against their religions? While God Save Texas is not offering any cut and dried solutions, it will open some eyes and engage the voltage fluctuations in the neurons throughout that gray squishy organ in our skulls.

Profile Image for Jay Pruitt.
222 reviews16 followers
Shelved as 'stopped-reading'
June 24, 2019
Liberal perspective from author who trashes all Texans but those living in left-leaning Austin.
Profile Image for Aurelie.
Author 2 books24 followers
September 23, 2018
This book reads like a collection of vignettes hastily put together at the suggestion of Mr Wright's editor at The New Yorker. There is no attempt at analysis. It has more of a feeling of "let me tell you about this and now let me tell you about that because I've got to make this a full-length book." What a missed opportunity. In addition, I listened to the New York Times Book Review podcast about "God Save Texas" and attended Mr Wright's talk in Dallas when he was promoting it and he shared exactly word for word the same anecdotes, which are also provided in the book: people who are not from Texas don't like Texas, except when he tells them he's from Austin; his representative is a salesman 200+ miles away because of redistricting, and so on. The book feels lazily put together, in the sense that the author doesn't come across as having put a lot of effort in it, so I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise that Mr. Wright didn't invest much time in presenting anecdotes on book tour that the audience wouldn't have heard before. Given the growing importance of Texas on the national scene (with an inflow from other states such as California and the growing profile of Beto O'Rourke, perhaps a future U.S. president), there would certainly be value in giving Americans a book that explains Texas. I would certainly have benefited from such a book when I moved to Texas not too long ago. Mr Wright's book isn't that book.
Profile Image for Lorna.
721 reviews419 followers
June 4, 2019
God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State was a delightful memoir by Pulitzer prize winner author Lawrence Wright and a tribute to the state of Texas, and how his life is inextricably woven, not only to the history of this country, but to the state of Texas.

Growing up in the southwest, the state of Texas has always been an interesting part of history of the United States. Lawrence Wright keeps one interested as he talks about his childhood in Texas, living in many places including Marfa, Abilene and Dallas. What I loved most about the book was how he opens this book as he embarks on a long bike ride from Austin to San Antonio with his childhood friend Steve. Their goal was to visit five Spanish missions that were integral to the history of Texas and this nation. There is nothing more peaceful, consoling and hopeful than a visit to the missions. There is so much history of our nation here during these very tumultuous years.

Wright talks about all of the key cities, and how the history of the United States begins here, namely that is the "cradle of the presidents" but my favorite part is his choice to live in Austin. He and his wife met at Tulane University in New Orleans, and lived in Egypt following their marriage, and worked as teachers at the American University. When they came back to the United States, they lived in Atlanta for a few years, but when they moved to Austin, Texas, they knew they were home. This was a lovely book giving a very personal assessment of a very complex history of a pivotal state in the United States, more interesting because of the history of this family in Texas. "God Save Texas."

"I think Texas has nurtured an immature political culture that has done terrible damage to the state and to the nation. Because Texas is a part of almost everything in modern America -- the South, the West, the Plains, Hispanic and immigrant communities, the border, the divide between the rural areas and the cities -- what happens here to disproportionately affect the rest of the nation."

"The liberal tradition that Johnson embodied is practically extinct in Texas now, but so much of the country we live in was fashioned by his administration, including Medicaid, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, public broadcasting, federal aid to the arts and education, the War on Poverty, the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Voting Rights Act, even the Gun Control Act."

Profile Image for Ian Holmes.
85 reviews5 followers
May 9, 2018
This is a marvelous book about the beauty and contradictions of Texas. It's part memoir, part collection of essays, but all Texas. Makes me a little homesick, but as it it Texas, it also makes me a little sick.
Profile Image for Michelle.
311 reviews14 followers
April 10, 2018
Lawrence Wright
God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State
Alfred A. Knopf
Hardcover, 978-0-5255-2010-4, (also available as an e-book, on Audible, and as a large-print paperback), 368 pgs., $27.95
April 17, 2018

In a former life, I was a paralegal for an international law firm in Dallas. During a conversation with a lawyer from Philadelphia, he told me something astonishing. According to him, neither does Pennsylvania require years of state history in school curriculum, nor do automobile manufacturers create Pennsylvania-edition SUVs. He’d never experienced anything like the Texas identity juggernaut and wanted me to explain it. I’m going to send him an email recommending Lawrence Wright’s new book.

Wright focuses his razor-sharp lens inward and on his home state in God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State. Austinite Wright is a staff writer for The New Yorker, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and author of ten books of nonfiction, including Pulitzer Prize winner The Looming Tower (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006). God Save Texas is history lesson, cultural criticism, reporting, and memoir. By turns funny and fond, disgusted and resigned, Wright defaults to weary exasperation, but he can’t deny that only Texas feels like home.

God Save Texas is written in first person, rare for Wright. When he references “my friend Steve,” he is referring to beloved Texas writer Stephen Harrigan, with whom he has been close friends for decades and frequently debates questions of Texas’s hegemonic personality. Wright claims you can get a crash course in Texan-ness by perusing the merchandise at Buc-ee’s, which embodies Texas archetypes — “a low-brow society … that finds its fullest expression in a truck stop on the interstate.” This is harsh. Wright names the usual culprits: rugged individualism, simple patriotism, isolationism, nostalgia for a past that mostly never was, insubordination, braggadocio. “It’s an irony that the figure who most embodies the values people associate with [Texas],” Wright notes, “is a narcissistic Manhattan billionaire now sitting in the Oval Office.”

Wright accuses Texas of “[nurturing] an immature political culture” that has harmed not only itself, but the entire country, because “what happens here tends to disproportionately affect the rest of the nation,” from textbooks to undemocratic redistricting schemes to the Tea Party to Alex Jones. Texas simultaneously reflects frontier myths and predicts the future. Thankfully, as Wright admits, the old stereotypes are softening around the edges with new stereotypes — hipsters, musicians, technology titans, and a growing artistic community. Texas has plenty to be proud of, and cautious optimism is excused.

Wright interjects personal anecdotes to enliven the facts and figures, sometimes approaching stream of consciousness. If you live in Texas and are sentient, then you won’t find surprises in God Save Texas. If you haven’t been paying attention, it’s a fine primer on policy, and it makes a collective impact gathered in one volume.

I admire Wright’s work and his brain. He’s a smart guy with a dry humor and a thoughtful, precise manner, though he meanders periodically here. The conclusion is disappointing because there isn’t one; I wanted a grand summation of the thesis, but God Save Texas ends abruptly.

Wright is conflicted, so why does he live here? For the same reason I do. Like Wright, I have left and returned. I have tried to be someone else, somewhere else, but those places aren’t home. And to paraphrase from Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird, Texas is mine, too, and I refuse to surrender it.

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,873 reviews292 followers
April 29, 2018
Lawrence Wright is a storyteller, a magical storyteller. I'm so happy he chose our oddity of a place to make his home because this is the place he has chosen to tell stories about.

That's what this book is about. Stories upon stories upon stories. All set in Texas, and every story with a thread or two of such zaniness that you wouldn't believe it if you were a responsible citizen and saw it on Fox News. Not just little odd stories, mind you, of odd people he happened upon in the Texas backwaters. No, little odd stories of odd people in the highest offices of Texas, in positions of power in Texas, running the businesses of Texas.

It's downright scary.

I'm going to push this book off on everyone I meet. You, for example. Have you read God Save Texas? You need to. It's a wake-up call for America.
Profile Image for Chris Ladd.
1 review13 followers
July 14, 2018
Let's be clear - It is difficult to write about Texas. Render it too literally and the work comes off like a caricature. Let yourself be seduced by its romanticized lore and you've just produced another dimestore Western. Try too hard to explain it without stepping on any toes, and you end up writing a story about yourself. That's what happened in God Save Texas.

The book skirted the hard stuff, retreating into namedropping anecdotes when the material wanted to go deeper. The format, as a collection of essays, made it easier to drop away when a story began to touch on something complex and troubling. No honest journey into the soul of Texas could be this glib.

What took the book from "meh" to "you gotta be kidding" was the way he yada-yada-ed the state's switch from one-party control under Democrats to one-party control under Republicans. It was accomplished with a wave of a hand and a single paragraph that never acknowledged the segregationist baggage those Democrats brought with them in the switch.

In fairness, few people have had any real success describing Texas except for the McMurtrys, Larry and his songwriter son, James. What you virtually never see in Texas depictions, literary, musical or otherwise, is the complex, multi-dimensional racial dynamics that make the place what it is. On that count this book was worse than usual, providing a Chamber of Commerce gloss over the state's most potent defining traits. Texas is still waiting for its Faulkner, and at this rate it may never get one.
Profile Image for Jill Meyer.
1,171 reviews107 followers
March 15, 2020
Lawrence Wright is a noted writer of non-fiction - his book, "The Looming Tower" was a Pulitzer Prize winner - and one work of fiction. As an almost life-long resident of Texas, his latest book, "God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State", is a journey through the history of the state as well as a bit of a journey through his life. He and his family have lived decades in Texas - mostly in Austin - and he's lived though some of the most important events since 1950. His book is like a road trip through Texas with his interesting narrative along the way.

Wright's written a rather idiosyncratic view of Texas. Less a history than assorted chapters about what has made Texas, Texas, Wright's book talks about history, politics, society, and that spirit that leaves much of the rest of the United States saying, "huh", when we hear about something outlandish that makes the news. Wright attempts to explain the vagaries of the Texas political structure, which has flipped almost completely from Democratic to Republican in the past 30 years. He also writes about the music scene and Texans timeless endearment of firearms. His book is also a love letter to the city of Austin and it's "Keep Austin Weird" vibe. But in all his writing, I couldn't detect much, if any nastiness about his subject. That's not saying Lawrence Wright is not critical about his beloved state, but what is said critically is said with a love the reader can't miss. Sort of like a parent writing about a much-loved, if slightly exasperating, child.

It took me a while to read "God Save Texas". I began it on Tuesday when it was released and just finished it. It was a book that I savored. It was like the fact that I have liked every Texan I've ever met in the flesh, as opposed to who - and what - I see in the news. It's not difficult to dislike Texas and its people if you don't know any Texans or you haven't read a book like Lawrence Wright's
Profile Image for Myrna.
716 reviews
March 31, 2019
Where are the BBQ recipes?

Okay, all kidding aside I did enjoy most of this book about my home state but I thought it would be deeper. What about the everyday people, food, and beautiful places (besides Big Bend) Texas has to offer? I did learn a few things I didn’t know like Texans can openly carry swords. LOL. I’m yet to see someone do that. The historical aspects and the chapter on Houston are the best parts of the book IMHO. This book does contain a lot about Wright himself and heavy handed on the politics. If you’re not a native Texan please note we’re not all gun toting, sword yielding rednecks thinking of only ourselves. 3.5★s
Profile Image for Ashleigh.
250 reviews25 followers
January 14, 2019
This book is not a book about Texas. It is a disjointed memoir about the author's complicated relationship with his home state. With a whole lot of Texas politics and opinions thrown in. I did not see an accurate description of the Texas I have lived in over the last few decades adequately represented, and I suspect most Texans will not think this is a true representation of their home state. Disappointing, since his other books are so well researched and taught me so much.
111 reviews
May 20, 2018
I could not figure out what the point of this book is supposed to be. It’s just a bunch of unconnected episodes of something paired with a lot of name dropping.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,389 reviews115 followers
June 15, 2018
Wright is most remembered for his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Looming Tower, about the rise of al-Qaida. But, he has also written film scripts, plays, and is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. He seems to have an insatiable curiosity about people, places and all things Texan. He has traveled throughout the State and is on a first-name basis with a plethora of Texan notables.
God Save Texas is an engaging travelogue that is part memoir, part history and part journalistic reporting. He covers Texas’ founding, debunking a few widely-held beliefs regarding the Alamo. He recounts the main reason the bankrupt Texas Republic chose to be annexed by the United States in 1845, rather than be bailed out by the British—the British would have required that Texans switch to non-slave labor. Wright covers the Kennedy assassination. He spends considerable ink on the boom-and-bust cycles of the Texan oil industry, and the impact that wind energy is having on electricity prices.
Texas is a blue state demographically, but is politically one of America’s reddest. There are two main reasons for that—Karl Rove’s determined efforts at gerrymandering, and the poor voter turnout by Texan Latinos and African Americans. It is ironic that Austin—Texas’ liberal enclave—happens to be one of the whitest and most “economically segregated cities in the country”; whereas Houston is now the single most ethnically diverse metro area in the country, and touted as a great place to live. Is that due to the onerous zoning laws in Austin and the lack of them in Houston? One wonders.
Wright doesn’t forget the “deities” that Texans pay homage to—football, guns, cowboys and music. Enjoy!!
Profile Image for Jerrie.
990 reviews130 followers
September 18, 2018
A well-written, personal look at the Lonestar state. Wright, a native Texan, looks at the state’s history to try to understand its present. It is clear that Wright both loves and is often frustrated by his home state. He delves deep into the politics of the state, which is quickly becoming one of the most populous, and therefor politically relevant, in the country. The author explores Texas’ strange mix of red and blue - it’s a red state, but there are islands of blue captures by cities, such as Austin. Issues of immigration play out in the state as well due to its size and location.
Profile Image for Петър Стойков.
Author 2 books284 followers
September 25, 2022
Това, което е Америка за света, това е Тексас за Америка - както му казват, "Америката на Америка". Тексас олицетворява всички стереотипи, които хората имат за американците и ги превръщат в културна идентичност.

За съжаление, когато за тоя тъй хубав щат се захване да пише автор, който като цяло не харесва особено Америка, се получават тъжни резултати и тая книга е пример точно за това.

Лорънс Райт е от Тексас, но няма нищо общо с културата на щата, с каубои и барбекю, със свободата като изконна ценност, с американския юг и т.н. Той е градски журналист, който се оптива да пише за историята и културата на тоя предимно провинциален щат и презрението и подигравката му към всичко, свързано с него личи ясно, въпреки, че се опитва да ги скрие.
Profile Image for Sydney Young.
1,121 reviews89 followers
March 28, 2018
My choice for my April - Paris Life column. Loved it as a Texan, but I think its way bigger than that. Will post my review here after a month or so. In the meantime, just know that it is not to miss.

Also, thank you to the publisher's for an ARC so that I could give an honest review of it for the magazine during its publication month.
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