The Austin Chronicle

Austin in a Winter Wonderland

Three recommended books and a couple of holiday wishes

December 3, 2010, News

O Come, All Ye Faithful Townies

Weird City: Sense of Place and Creative Resistance in Austin, Texas

by Joshua Long
University of Texas Press, 221 pp., $25 (paper)

As we noted in an interview with Joshua Long earlier this year (see "Vive la Résistance," Books, June 4), this academic but accessible tome is "a study of how people become attached to Austin, the forces driving local change, and the backlash change creates." It's also an indispensable primer on local politics, digging beneath the surfaces of flashpoints like the Northcross Walmart and Las Mani­tas to discuss what such resistance truly says about us as a city. – Wells Dunbar

Environmental City: People, Place, Politics, and the Meaning of Modern Austin

by William Scott Swearingen Jr.
University of Texas Press, 295 pp., $50

Written by urban sociologist William Scott Swear­in­gen Jr., Environmental City makes a fitting companion piece to Weird City – the two were published just a month apart last spring. Swear­ingen takes a look back at the personalities and watershed events that shaped Austin's politics and landscape over the last 80 years, exploring the evolution of Austin's particular brands of "liberal" and "conservative" (environmentalist vs. developer) and telling the stories of those who fought to preserve the public spaces that have come to define not just the look and feel of the city (think Lady Bird Lake, Barton Springs, Westcave Preserve, and the hike-and-bike trails – a term coined in Austin) but a particular lifestyle beloved by so many who live here. It's a great gift for the sentimental townie on your list. – Nora Ankrum

Who's Naughty and Nice

Lines in the Sand: Congressional Redistricting in Texas and the Downfall of Tom DeLay

by Steve Bickerstaff
University of Texas Press, 484 pp., $30 (paper)

It's not often that we would recommend a three-year-old book for our gift guide, but this title suddenly regained its timeliness with last week's conviction of Tom DeLay, the return of redistricting in the upcoming legislative session, and this new paperback edition. The author was actually called as a witness in DeLay's money-laundering trial. DeLay's criminal actions directly led to the badly gerrymandered map that carved Austin into three districts and put most of our liberal city under Republican representation. As Chronicle News Editor Michael King wrote in his 2007 review (see "Readings," Books, March 1, 2007), "It will become increasingly useful to have this material." Indeed – if you want to understand how the past led to our present and what it may mean for our future, this may be required reading. – Lee Nichols

Merriment for the Masses

More Riders for MetroRail

New low price starting Jan. 16!
$1, local; $2.75, regional

Poor Capital Metro. Rail was supposed to move us boldly into the future. Instead, it isn't moving much of anything. Predictions indicated that the Red Line, which debuted in March, would carry about 1,700-2,000 riders per day; instead, ridership has stagnated around 850 (which translates to around 425-500 actual people). So when you're out at the mall – presumably Lakeline, for sure not Highland – could you buy a few mass transit lovers and deposit them at the nearest Red Line station? Local transportation planners and taxpayers would appreciate it. – L.N.

And Representing Austin ...

A Single Congressional District for Austin

20 Senate votes

Actually, a single district for a city our size has become impossible, but it would be nice to have as much of Austin united as possible, unlike the gerrymandered mess that Tom DeLay and fellow Republicans concocted in 2003 in hopes of evicting Lloyd Doggett from Congress (which failed). The GOP-dominated Legislature will sit down to redraw the boundaries in its 2011 session – hopefully, the shifting population and/or a Democratic-led Department of Justice will force them to treat us fairly, but we're not going to lay money on it. – L.N.

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