The end of the year is approaching quickly so it must be time for the Heartlands Best Reads list. It’s been a good year for reading, even with a move and shift in environment. This is the fifth year for this list.
A quick reminder of the criteria for making this list: writing with a strong sense of place, particular attention to the South and its enduring themes of race and faith, poetry, Texas. The books don’t have to be written in 2021, though a book that is written in the current year does get a little more weight. (Hence the unusual sight of William Faulkner and Willa Cather below other reads last year.)
I’ll be rolling these books out over the next two weeks, so we’ll start today with #10–On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed. I did not expect this to be the Texas book of the year. Despite the fact that Juneteenth is a holiday that has its origins in Galveston where the belated news of emancipation reached enslaved people on June 19, 1865, I didn’t foresee that Gordon-Reed would widen the lens to create a book about the place of Texas in the nation.
The essays in this book are part history and part memoir, written with grace and wisdom by one of our best public historians who is herself a native of Texas. I’m a sucker for a Texas book, but this one is good for everyone.