2021 Texas Great Read Selection Marfa for the Perplexed Available Statewide as a Free e-Book

The Texas Center for the Book at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission has chosen Marfa for the Perplexed by Lonn Taylor as the Texas Great Read for 2021. Every year, the Library of Congress asks each state Center for the Book to select a title that represents the state’s literary landscape to highlight at the National Book Festival. The event showcases the importance of books and reading. In 2021, the 21st Library of Congress National Book Festival will take place virtually September 17-26. 

Texas Center for the Book invites Texans to read Marfa for the Perplexed and to take part in a statewide book club by using the hashtag #TXGreatRead on social media. For more information on the 2021 Texas Great Read program, visit www.tsl.texas.gov/greatreadtexas

In celebration of its selection as the 2021 Texas Great Read, Marfa for the Perplexed is now available to Texas residents as a freely accessible e-book thanks to E-Read Texas, TSLAC’s statewide public library e-book program at www.tsl.texas.gov/greatread2021ebook

About the Book

Marfa for the Perplexed is literary nonfiction, essays, and Texas history all rolled into one. Readers meet artists, priests, ranchers, movie stars, chili aficionados, and more in the rugged borderlands of the Big Bend country. This compilation brings people and historical events of Marfa, Alpine, Fort Davis, Presidio County, Mexico, and the surrounding area to life. The book became very popular and during one interview when asked what surprised him most when researching the stories in the book, Lonn confessed that he had not realized “how deep the scars left by a century of segregation and suspicion between Anglo and Hispanic residents were, or how hard younger members of both groups are working to heal them.”

About the Author

Lonn Wood Taylor’s career took him to many different locations around the country before he resettled in the Big Bend area. He was Director and Curator at the Winedale Historical Complex in Central Texas, Curator at the Dallas Historical Society, and Deputy Director of the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe. In 1984 he went to Washington, DC, as the Historian and Director of public programs for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Described by the Washington Post as a “lively presence during his 18 years at the museum on the National Mall,” Lonn had a major role in preparing several of the museum’s permanent exhibits. One of his most renowned projects involved the history of the Star Spangled Banner which resulted in the book, The Star Spangled Banner: The Making of An American Icon. On the 200th anniversary of the battle that generated the anthem, Lonn was invited to appear on The Colbert Report, and, just in case Stephen Colbert asked, he memorized all four verses of Francis Scott Key’s song. His last work, Child of the Sun, a memoir of his childhood in the Philippines was published posthumously after his death in 2019.

In addition to Marfa for the Perplexed, the E-Read Texas collection currently includes more than 7,000 high-quality e-books from top publishers. While many of the e-books in the collection have limits on the number of simultaneous users, more than half the e-books are available for simultaneous use with no wait lists or holds. These titles are available to any resident of Texas via geolocation at https://e-readtx.biblioboard.com/home. Public libraries participating in the full E-Read Texas program can also access the entire collection of e-books via SimplyE, a free library app supported by the Amigos Library Consortia. Individuals are encouraged to visit their local library’s website to learn more about available digital resources.

Established in 1987, the Center for the Book seeks to stimulate public interest in books, reading, literacy and libraries. The Center builds partnerships with library professionals, educators, authors, publishers and booksellers who provide support to our shared mission of promoting a love of literature throughout the Lone Star State. The Texas Center for the Book is under the direction of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission at the Lorenzo De Zavala State Archives and Library Building in Austin, Texas.

Students Invited to Participate in 2021-2022 Letters About Literature Texas Competition

Banner for Letters About Literature Texas

The Texas Center for the Book’s website is updated for the 2021-2022 Letters About Literature Texas contest, a program that invites students to respond to authors of books or poetry who have touched their lives. The contest is open to Texas students in grades 4 through 12.

Participants select a book, book series, essay, play poem, short story of speech that has made a lasting impact on their lives. They then write a personal letter to the author that reflects how they have been changed, inspired or motivated by the work they selected. State winners receive $100 and will be honored at 2022 Texas Library Association Conference.

Letters About Literature is a reading and writing contest for 4th-12th graders under the direction of the Texas Center for the Book at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

The submissions will open on Nov. 4, 2021, and all submissions for the 2021 contest must be submitted on the new online submission platform by Dec. 17, 2021, 5:00 p.m. (CST). A permission form is required for all students who will be younger than 13 on Nov. 4, 2021.

To learn more about the contest, how to submit and to view winning entries from previous years, visit: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/lettersaboutliterature.

The website also features an Educator Resources page including a new TEKS guide, printable bookmarks and student handouts, participation certificates, key dates, permission forms, and a step-by-step teaching guide featuring writing prompts. The site also includes a Frequently Asked Questions page, student and teacher submission guidelines, letters from past winner, videos from authors, and the official contest rules

Read Across Texas 2021: Free E-Books and Registration Call

Logo for Read Across Texas Recovery

The Texas Center for the Book (TCFB) invites libraries, community nonprofits, and readers statewide to join in its 2021 reading campaign, Read Across Texas: Recovery. This year, thanks to the E-Read Texas partnership with Biblioboard, access to the e-book versions of We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a TimeAll of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing after the Oklahoma City Bombing; and Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here will be available to all Texas residents in May and June by visiting www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexasebooks.

Libraries and organizations across Texas are invited to participate by using books to open dialogue and explore what “recovery” could mean within their communities. Visit the Read Across Texas website to register your library’s program, download discussion resources, and access free e-books for your program and your patrons in May and June. We hope libraries and organizations will register their participation for the good of the program. Each library or organization that registers will be entered to win a $100 BookPeople gift card. After your program, please share photos and stories. Please be sure to share photos and posts on social media (Facebook: Texas Center for the Book, Twitter: @TSLAC #ReadAcrossTexas).

The TCFB will also host a free, online author event on May 19. Libraries and organizations statewide can access an online step-by-step facilitator toolkit that includes materials such as a Read Across Texas how-to guide, additional recommended titles, digital resources and links to recovery specific discussion questions. The toolkit along with the program registration form and details are available at tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas.

Read Across Texas: Recovery offers libraries a broad canvas for convening individuals and groups to explore the unique questions, challenges and solidarity that can occur in communities throughout the state. During a period of extreme difficulties, isolation and loss, the TCFB recognizes the importance of sharing our stories to build understanding and support. Literature can be one of the many routes to recovery. This year’s campaign features four book selections that will give communities a platform to engage in challenging, insightful and transformative conversations.

banner for Things You Would Know

Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here  by Nancy Wayson Dinan considers questions of history and empathy and brings a pre-apocalyptic landscape both foreign and familiar to shockingly vivid life. This title will be available for Texans in e-book format in May and June.

Banner for All of a Sudden and Forever

All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing after the Oklahoma City Bombing by Chris Barton, illustrated by Nicole Xu, considers tragedy, hope and healing and was released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. This title will be available for Texans in e-book format in May and June.

Banner for We Fed an Island

We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time by José Andrés with Richard Wolfe describes how a network of community kitchens activated real change in the face of disasters both natural and man-made, offering suggestions for how to address a crisis like this in the future. This title will be available for Texans in e-book format in May and June.

Book cover for What Unites Us

What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner documents Rather’s witness to historical change, offering a map to trace where we have been and what might be a way forward to heal division.

Celebrating #TXBookChat Author Don Tate

In honor of Black History Month, we would like to continue the celebrations by recognizing the incredible work of author and illustrator Don Tate, one of our #TXBookChat spotlight authors. In his prolific career, Don has authored one book illustrated by someone else, authored-illustrated three published books (with two more on the way), and illustrated 80+ trade and educational picture books. Through his work, Don showcases narratives from Black history.

His words and illustrations provide children the opportunities to view history from a Black artists’ perspective, which is incredibly important when we consider the lack of representation in children’s literature. Don believes in the importance of telling children the truth and not sugar-coating history. His extensive research and incredible talent pair together to provide literary treasures.

We will highlight a handful of his powerful titles and encourage readers to check out the full list of his publications on his website: www.dontate.com/.

Book cover of William Still and His Freedom Stories: Father of the Underground Railroad

William Still, known as the Father of the Underground Railroad, collected the stories of thousands of other freedom seekers and reunited many formerly enslaved families, while building a remarkable collection of records. He worked with Harriet Tubman, Henry “Box” Brown, William and Ellen Craft, and many other key figures of the abolitionist movement from his base in Philadelphia.

Book cover of Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton

George Moses Horton taught himself to read and earned money to purchase his time away from his master, though not his freedom. He became the first African American to be published in the South, protesting slavery in the form of verse.

Book cover of It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

A biography of outsider artist Bill Traylor, a formerly enslaved Alabama man who at the age of 83 began to draw pictures based on his memories and observations of rural and urban life.

Book cover of No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and his Kingdom in Kansas

An incredible, true story of how one of history’s most successful potato farmers began life enslaved, purchased farmland after emancipation, and worked until he was named the “Potato King of the World”!

Book cover of Hope's Gift

A poignant story celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Watch the recording of Don’s recent #TXBookChat discussion here!

Join TSLAC for the Spring 2021 #TXBookChat Virtual Series

Please join us for the #TXBookChat series. The Texas Center for the Book recently launched its third lineup of virtual literary events for spring 2021. This online program from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission launched in 2020. The #TXBookChat series offers brief discussions and programs with authors, librarians, and literary professionals. These informal “coffee chats” last about 30 minutes and offer a quick look into different aspects of the state’s literary world. #TXBookChat series seeks to bring together diverse voices and perspectives.

#TXBookChat continued on January 21, with a Graphic Novels for Today’s Readers session, and you may watch the recording here. There are three more conversations scheduled for the spring. All programs begin at 11:00 a.m. CST.

  • February 11 Love of Writing: Fueling Literary Dreams – Join author and Texas Center for the Book Coordinator Rebekah Manley in discussion about her debut book and the sparks that keep her writing dreams burning bright.
  • March 25 How to Participate in Read Across Texas – Get the inside scoop on how to participate in this year’s statewide community read on the theme of Recovery.
  • April 15 National Student Poet of the Southwest: Texan Ethan Wang – Join the 2020 National Student Poet of the Southwest for a poetry reading and discussion of his work.

“The Texas Center for the Book is so excited to reach even more book lovers in 2021,” said Coordinator Rebekah Manley. “Our book chats bring Texas authors, illustrators, librarians, and literacy advocates into readers’ homes, and we have some wonderful discussions planned for our third installment.”

The events take place on the Zoom platform, and registration is required. Visit www.tsl.texas.gov/txbookchat to learn more about upcoming events and reserve your spot.

Texas Center for the Book Seeks Literary Landmark Applications

Literary Landmark Roundup header - logo surronded by red lasso

There is one week left to enter into the Texas Center for the Book’s 2021 Literary Landmark Roundup! This is a project to increase the number of official Literary Landmark sites in Texas. The Center seeks nominations from libraries, historical associations, Chambers of Commerce, educational institutions, museums, and literary societies, among others. Nominations are being accepted online at www.tsl.texas.gov/literarylandmark through February 8, 2021.

Literary Landmarks are special places located across the country that attract tourists, book lovers, and history buffs to educate the public about the important literary works and history in their state. Made possible by funding from the Summerlee Foundation of Dallas, this special push for more Texas landmarks will provide funds to cover the application fee, which also includes cost of the foundry-made Literary Landmark plaque, and will assist local institutions in creating awareness of the site’s importance to the state’s literary heritage.

To apply to become one of five new Texas sites through the Literary Landmark Roundup, first identify a site in your community. A Literary Landmark is a location tied to a deceased literary figure, author(s), and/or their work. It could be a writer’s home or birthplace, a library where work was crafted or is housed, an author’s burial site, a special place where literary figures met and discoursed, or an establishment where an author worked or did research. Creative applications are encouraged.

The second step is collecting and submitting the information needed to nominate the site, including a location description, background material, a bibliography, named groups or individuals who will be responsible for the site, an outline of plans for a dedication ceremony (in person or virtual), and a publicity strategy. The deadline to apply online is Monday, February 8.

Five new Literary Landmark sites will be notified by March 15. These qualifying sites will receive funding and support to finalize their Literary Landmark. With assistance from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, 2021 Literary Landmark Roundup recipients must submit their official application to United for Libraries, the national organization that administers the program, by May 1, 2021.

A list of Literary Landmarks by state can be found on the United for Libraries website.

2020 Texas Great Read Selection Butterfly Yellow Available Statewide as a Free e-Book

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) and the Texas Center for the Book are thrilled to announce that any resident of Texas will be able to read the 2020 Texas Great Read, Thanhhà Lại’s award-winning young adult novel Butterfly Yellow, free online through E-Read Texas, from Nov. 16 – Jan. 16. 

TSLAC is partnering with Biblioboard to make this and thousands of other e-books available to Texas residents. The Biblioboard website is geofenced so that any user located in Texas can access it, no login or password required. And there are no simultaneous user restrictions, so that means there are no holds or waitlists. A special web page has been set up for Butterfly Yellow and can be accessed via the Texas Great Read web page by clicking on the “Read the Book” link.

In addition to the full text of the Butterfly Yellow e-book, readers and teachers across Texas will be able to access multimedia support materials, including interviews with the author, teaching guides, and other resources from Teaching Books/Book Connections. Libraries looking to promote the availability of the e-book to their patrons can visit the Texas Great Read webpage to download promotional graphics and blurbs to help in marketing.

Public libraries that participate in E-Read Texas can also access the Butterfly Yellow e-book through their SimplyE app, along with thousands of other e-books. E-Read Texas is a recently launched statewide e-book program made available to eligible public libraries in Texas. The collection currently includes more than 6,000 high-quality e-books from top publishers. While many of the e-books in the collection have limits on the number of simultaneous users, more than half the e-books are available for simultaneous use with no wait lists or holds. To learn more about E-Read Texas, please visit the E-Read Texas webpage, or contact Karen McElfresh.

A linkable graphic that has the text "Texas Great Read" and shows the book cover and the logos of the partnering organizations.

About the Book

In the final days of the Việt Nam War, Hằng takes her little brother, Linh, to the airport, determined to find a way to safety in America. In a split second, Linh is ripped from her arms—and Hằng is left behind in the war-torn country.

Six years later, Hằng has made the brutal journey from Việt Nam and is now in Texas as a refugee. She doesn’t know how she will find the little brother who was taken from her until she meets LeeRoy, a city boy with big rodeo dreams, who decides to help her.

Hằng is overjoyed when she reunites with Linh. But when she realizes he doesn’t remember her, their family, or Việt Nam, her heart is crushed. Though the distance between them feels greater than ever, Hằng has come so far that she will do anything to bridge the gap.

About the Author

Thanhhà Lại is also the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Inside Out & Back Again, her debut novel in verse, winner of the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor, and Listen, Slowly, honored with inclusion on numerous “book of the year” lists. Lại was born in Viêt Nam and lives in New York with her family. Lại is also the founder of Viet Kids Inc., a non-profit that changes the lives of Vietnamese students through the purchase of bicycles, tuition, uniforms, and rice. For information about Lại and her work, visit www.thanhhalai.com.

Applications NOW BEING ACCEPTED for $200 Lone Star Día Grants from First Book

The Texas Center for the Book has partnered with First Book to help libraries and literacy nonprofits celebrate Children’s Day, Book Day!

The Lone Star Día Grant program is open to libraries and literacy nonprofit organizations serving children in need. We invite you to apply for a $200 credit toward brand new books from the First Book Marketplace to help support your upcoming Día celebration in April 2020!

To learn more about the guidelines and application process, visit our Lone Star Día page.

Please note, grants are awarded in the order they are received. We encourage you to apply as soon as possible. We have a limited number of Amazon gift cards to share with libraries and literacy nonprofits that do not qualify for First Book Marketplace. Therefore, be sure to both sign up with First Book and fill out the Lone Star Día Grant application to qualify.

Children's Day, Book Day. Lone Star Día
Book Grants Available, Spring 2020

$2,000 Texas Center for the Book Literacy award: Nominate a literacy-based organization by Sept. 1!

We’re passing along the following information from our friends at the Texas Center for the Book! For more information, please see the full press release.

TCFB Literacy Award Graphic

Dear Literacy Fan,

Please help a worthy, literacy-based organization receive $2,000. The short nomination form is due by Sept. 1.

The winning organization receives a $2,000 cash award to assist in its future work promoting reading and combating illiteracy. Additionally, an honorable mention recipient will receive $500. The Literacy Award is formally presented during the Annual Texas Authors Celebration that kicks off the Texas Book Festival in the fall.

Nonprofit organizations whose primary purpose is to support and encourage literacy are eligible. Anyone may submit a nomination, and eligible organizations are encouraged to self-nominate. This award is made possible by the Friends of Libraries & Archives of Texas and was inspired by the Library of Congress Literacy Awards. The winner will receive the Texas Center for the Book’s nomination for the 2020 Library of Congress State Literacy Award.

While this award promotes partnerships with libraries, please note that library friends organizations, public libraries, school and academic libraries, and other library entities are not eligible for nomination. However, these entities are encouraged to nominate literacy organizations within their local and/or regional communities.

By Sept. 1, please nominate here: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/literacyaward

Thank you for your time,


Rebekah Manley, MFA

Coordinator | Texas Center for the Book

Free Books and Webinar for Statewide Community Read

The Texas Center for the Book (TCFB) recently launched their second statewide community read. Read Across Texas – Know Your Neighbor: Cultivating Communities of Compassion kicks off this spring, with libraries throughout the state signing up to host reading and discussion programs.

Find out more at our webinar on Tues., Mar. 19 at 2:00pm Central when TCFB’s Coordinator Rebekah Manley will discuss the resources and book grants. Our special guest Rev. Jennifer Elisa Veninga, Ph.D. will give insight on leading conversations about compassion. Dr. Veninga is a Professor of Religious and Theological Studies from the School of Arts and Humanities at St. Edward’s University in Austin.

Please note, there are limited book grants available through the Read Acoss Texas program. If you are interested in doing this program, be sure to submit an application for your books asap: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas