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The Texanist
Fine Advice on Living in Texas
By David Courtney and Jack Unruh
University of Texas Press, 2017

The Texanist, Texas Monthly’s perennially popular back-page column, has become the magazine’s most-read feature. With an inimitable style and an unassailable wholesomeness, columnist David Courtney has counseled many a well-intentioned Texan, native or wannabe, on how to properly conduct him- or herself. Until the July 2016 issue, an original illustration by the late award-winning artist Jack Unruh, depicting the Texanist in a situation described in the column, accompanied the Texanist’s sage wisdom. Unruh’s peerless illustrations displayed a sly wit that paired perfectly with Courtney’s humorous ripostes.

The Texanist gathers several dozen of Unruh’s most unforgettable illustrations, along with the fascinating, perplexing, and even downright weird questions that inspired them. Curing the curious, exorcizing bedevilment, and orienting the disoriented, the Texanist advises on such things as: Is it wrong to wear your football team’s jersey to church? When out at a dancehall, do you need to stick with the one that brung ya? Is it real Tex-Mex if it’s served with a side of black beans? Can one have too many Texas-themed tattoos? The Texanist addresses all of these important subjects and more. Whether you heed the good guidance, or just enjoy the whimsical illustrations, The Texanist will both entertain and educate you.


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There's a Bobcat in My Backyard
Living with and Enjoying Urban Wildlife
Jonathan Hanson
University of Arizona Press, 2004
Bobcats in your backyard? Javelinas tromping through your landscaping? Or maybe a packrat has found its way into the vent of your clothes dryer and decided to call it home. . . .

Human residents of the Sonoran Desert are sometimes not completely comfortable when confronted by the wild creatures with whom they share this fragile habitat. But have no fear—please! Not only do these critters mean you no harm, they can also be a source of immense delight.

In this entertaining guidebook, naturalist Jonathan Hanson introduces readers to the satisfaction of attracting and enjoying desert wildlife. Whether your home is deep within the city limits or on what is (currently) the edge of human settlement, you can turn your backyard into a miniature wildlife refuge by providing a simple combination of food, water, and habitat. An appropriately landscaped yard can become a home for a bevy of birds, beasts, and bugs, while even a condo patio can attract colorful hummingbirds and butterflies. Hanson advises you on what kind of birdseed to put out to attract the most interesting avian species, how to tell the difference between rabbits and jackrabbits, and when to worry about roving reptiles—which really isn't all that often. He'll even help you pick out a pair of binoculars to heighten your enjoyment.

Not all desert creatures offer people a positive experience, and Hanson tells how to cope with those that are sometimes considered pests—whether it's the Gila woodpecker announcing its presence on your roof at five in the morning, the rattlesnake slithering unconcerned across your porch, the coyote running amok with a taste for wandering housecats, or the aforementioned woodrat homesteading in a major appliance or car engine. From bears to bees to "creepy crawlies"—scorpions, spiders, and the like—he lets you know when you need to be cautious . . . and when you simply need to give a wild animal its space.

If you live in the desert, you're part of the desert. This book, generously laced with humor and brimming with helpful information, can turn you from a mere bystander into an active participant in an environment in which we all—people and wildlife—must coexist.

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To Serve the Living
Funeral Directors and the African American Way of Death
Suzanne E. Smith
Harvard University Press, 2010

From antebellum slavery to the twenty-first century, African American funeral directors have orchestrated funerals or “homegoing” ceremonies with dignity and pageantry. As entrepreneurs in a largely segregated trade, they were among the few black individuals in any community who were economically independent and not beholden to the local white power structure. Most important, their financial freedom gave them the ability to support the struggle for civil rights and, indeed, to serve the living as well as bury the dead.

During the Jim Crow era, black funeral directors relied on racial segregation to secure their foothold in America’s capitalist marketplace. With the dawning of the civil rights age, these entrepreneurs were drawn into the movement to integrate American society, but were also uncertain how racial integration would affect their business success. From the beginning, this tension between personal gain and community service shaped the history of African American funeral directing.

For African Americans, death was never simply the end of life, and funerals were not just places to mourn. In the “hush harbors” of the slave quarters, African Americans first used funerals to bury their dead and to plan a path to freedom. Similarly, throughout the long—and often violent—struggle for racial equality in the twentieth century, funeral directors aided the cause by honoring the dead while supporting the living. To Serve the Living offers a fascinating history of how African American funeral directors have been integral to the fight for freedom.


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Tombs for the Living
Andean Mortuary Practices
Tom D. Dillehay
Harvard University Press, 2011
In the Andes, a long history of research on burial records and burial contexts exists for the purpose of reconstructing cultural affiliation, chronology, socioeconomic status, grave content, and human body treatment. Less attention is paid to the larger question of how mortuary practices functioned in different cultures. Tombs for the Living: Andean Mortuary Practices (originally released in 1995) examines this broader issue by looking at the mortuary practices that created a connection between the living and the dead; the role of wealth and ancestors in cosmological schemes; the location, construction, and sociopolitical implications of tombs and cemeteries; and the art and iconography of death. By examining rich sets of archaeological, ethnographic, and ethnohistoric data, the thirteen essays continue to enrich our understanding of the context and meaning of the mortuary traditions in the Andes.

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Or the Art of Living a Wild and Poetic Life
Tomas Espedal
Seagull Books, 2010
A lyrical travelogue charting Tomas Espedal’s journeys to and ruminations around the world, from his native Norway to Istanbul and beyond.
“Why travel?” asks Tomas Espedal in Tramp, “Why not just stay at home, in your room, in your house, in the place you like better than any other, your own place. The familiar house, the requisite rooms in which we have gathered the things we need, a good bed, a desk, a whole pile of books. The windows giving on to the sea and the garden with its apple trees and holly hedge, a beautiful garden, growing wild.”
The first step in any trip or journey is always a footstep—the brave or curious act of putting one foot in front of the other and stepping out of the house onto the sidewalk below. Here, Espedal contemplates what this ambulatory mode of travel has meant for great artists and thinkers, including Rousseau, Kant, Hazlitt, Thoreau, Rimbaud, Whitman, Giacometti, and Robert Louis Stevenson. In the process, he confronts his own inability to write from a fixed abode and his refusal to banish the temptation to become permanently itinerant.
Lyrical and rebellious, immediate and sensuous, Tramp conveys Espedal’s own need to explore on foot—in places as diverse as Wales and Turkey—and offers us the excitement and adventure of being a companion on his fascinating and intriguing travels.

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