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Houston Authors You Need to Be Reading in 2020

Y’all I have been reading up a storm lately — perhaps one of the very, very few benefits of COVID-19 turning our world upside down.

Seriously, I’ve read… a lot. So much that I even started a bookstagram account with all sorts of fun recommendations and pretty book pictures. Sound like your jam? See ya over there…

Anyway, this blog post isn’t about my new passion as a bookstagrammer, but instead about my forever passion for Houston. And a bit about books. I love supporting other Houstonians — current and former a like. I have kept track of a few Houston-based authors over the years and I’ve discovered new ones recently too. Some even have books out THIS YEAR so I thought — why not round some up for a blog post??

Here’s what Houston authors you should be reading before the end of 2020.

Note: I definitely recommend getting these books directly to a few of my fave local bookstores — Blue Willow Books, Brazos Bookstore, River Oaks Bookstore, and Kaboom Books — but I have linked each book I mention with commission links below.

Katharine McGee

I’ve got to start with Katie because we have the best story. Y’all ever read to a book’s very end? Like, past “The End” and into the acknowledgements? No me either… except one time. I had just had my mind blown at the end of the Thousandth Floor, a futuristic young adult novel (the first of a trilogy by Katie), and then read on to see that the woman responsible for my book club’s pick was… a Houstonian! A quick Google search led me to her website, which had a contact page. So, without any hesitation, I penned Katie a note. It was more or less, “Hi. I love your book. I’m from Houston too! K thx bye.”

Katie actually responded — she was moving back to Houston after years on each coast and was very interested in the fact that I knew all the cool things in Houston (thanks to blog life). We connected and have been friends ever since!

After this first trilogy, Katie started working on a new series called American Royals — which imagines the United States as a monarchy about to crown its first reigning queen. The sequel comes out on September 1, and the first book is available now!

What to read by Katharine McGee:

David Eagleman

David Eagleman and I also go way back — less personal of a story, though. When I was an intern working at a magazine, I had to fact check a piece on David Eagleman — a Baylor College of Medicine neuroscience professor and expert at the time — and his most recent tome, “Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain.” I’m not sure if I had to call him or just confirm details online and I don’t even remember anything about the story itself, just that hey, cool, a Houston guy with a book!

Flash forward almost 10 years, and now he lives in Silicon Valley and dabbles in the startup world. He still writes a bunch and has a new book out every year or two — all focused on neuroscience. I like to listen to them on Audible — he voices them himself.

What to read by David Eagleman:

Katherine Center

How blessed we are as a city to have another Katherine author in town! Katherine Center is a newly discovered love of mine and through her instagram, I feel like I know her so well already?

I’ve only read one of Katherine’s books — her newest one which is set in Galveston! And I’m excited to get to read more. They are all (I think) set in TEXAS! Here’s what are on my TBR.

What to read by Katherine Center:

Bryan Washington

Another personal connection here! When I was in school at the University of Houston, I served as news editor then managing editor at our daily newspaper, The Daily Cougar. Let’s pause for a second to lament the fact that I, in my 20s, was on a leadership team for a daily publication. Whew, was I busy.

Anyways, Bryan Washington and I overlapped a bit in our tenures at the newspaper. He was a rockstar columnist that was known to produce amazing copy for the opinion section — a section I mostly had nothing to do with, so Bryan and I never really crossed paths, but I still am so proud with what he’s accomplished as a very well renown up-and-coming young author. He still lives in Houston and his two books are set here too.

What to read by Bryan Washington:

Stephen Klineberg

OK, so Stephen Klineberg us a little less prolific than most of the authors on this list, and that’s mostly to say that yes, he only has one book out — but it’s a book that accumulates 30 years of data and research and interviews across Houston, so I think it’s safe to say he’s just as important of an author than anyone on this list.

“Prophetic City: Houston on the Cusp of a Changing America” came out in June and is absolutely something I consider required reading for Houstonians — new or old, young or senior, big or small, proud or critical. The book takes three decades of community research from Rice University’s Kinder Institute and uses it to paint a picture of Houston — its diversity, its shortcomings, and its ability to lead the way in the country.

Brené Brown

Yes! Yes, we sure do get to claim this wonderful human who has churned out several iconic nonfiction books that have been touted by everyone famous — including Oprah!

Brené and I also go way back — but she has no clue. When she rose to fame in 2010ish, she was a professor at UH. I wrote a story on her success at The Daily Cougar. (Why yes I did track down the link for you, you’re welcome.) All of her books have such great perspective on vulnerability and humanity.

What to read by Brené Brown:

Kevin Kwan

Y’all. I had no clue Kevin Kwan was a Houstonian — thanks for the heads up, @ksuheyyy on Insta! You probably know his books — they are PRETTY popular. I’m excited to dive into his latest. Thanks so much to the follower who told me he was a local!

What to read by Kevin Kwan:

Michael Arceneaux

This one is another suggestion from a follower (S/o @breedster on insta)! ahh! Keep them coming, guys! OK, so I know very little about Michael Arceneaux except that he’s from Houston and is hilarious. So actually do we even need to know anything more before diving in?

What to read by Michael Arceneaux:

Jia Tolentino

OK so how did I not know about Jia Tolentino? God bless@mattitude2 for the recommendation on Instagram. Still gotta learn more about her but she allegedly writes about Houston in her book Trick Mirror, which published last year.

Justin Cronin

Shout out to Kevin Simpson on Facebook for tipping us off to Justin Cronin — a Houston-based author and former English professor at Rice University. His genre is horror and sci-fi so I’m expecting Stephen King vibes.

What to read by Justin Cronin:

Y’all! I love finding out about Houston-based or Houston-connected authors/books — who else should I know about?? Email me at or comment below!

5 thoughts on “Houston Authors You Need to Be Reading in 2020

  1. another Houston area author is Ron Rozelle — he was my teacher for 9th and 12th grade English (Brazoswood High School – Clute, TX) and has written several books I enjoyed – including one about the 1900 Galveston storm, and another about the east Texas school explosion in the 1930s. He also make Shakespeare enjoyable (not easy for high school kids) and made the best handouts with his wonderful calligraphy

  2. The only Rice Professor to win a Pulitzer:

    Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America, by W. Caleb McDaniel (Oxford University Press)

    A masterfully researched meditation on reparations based on the remarkable story of a 19th century woman who survived kidnapping and re-enslavement to sue her captor.

  3. Pingback: How to Make the Most Out of a Houston Library Card – It's Not Hou It's Me

  4. Hi Natalie,
    My husband recently wrote a book (The Long Road Home by Sandy Wall) which features his dangerous, interesting, hilarious and sometimes bizarre adventures during his career on the Houston Police Department in the 70s and 80s. It’s based on his service patrolling the streets, working illegal drug cases and his long time position on the SWAT team. It’s an easy read that appeals to Houstonians who experienced the events of this era.
    Take a look at it on Amazon!

  5. Pursuit of Purpose: 11 Keys to Rise Like a Phoenix and Soar by Dr. Shree Cooper-Franks recently released and available on Amazo.

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