Recommended Reading: Books That Amplify Our Voices

Pictured above: Austin authors Juli Berwald and ire’ne lara silva, with TBF Literary Director Julie Wernersbach, laugh along with a gathering of local readers and writers.

Last week, we kicked off our quarterly Book Tips and Sips series at Prohibition Creamery. I sat down with authors ire’ne lara silva and Juli Berwald to talk about books that inspire us, encourage us to amplify our voices, and motivate us to engage beyond the page with big ideas and action in our communities.

The conversation ranged across many topics and looked at books about the environment, women’s rights, grief, untold history, and more. We received some great recommendations from the audience, including What if It’s Us by Becky Albertelli and Adam Silvera (a story told in dual perspectives of two boys who meet in a post office and then try to find one another); What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (a good look at how to think clean and clear when the mind is scattered); Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli (a look at immigration and the systems that handle undocumented children in America); and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (“Dystopia always makes us want to be better!”)

Our featured writers gave us some terrific book recs, which you can peruse below. I scribbled notes as fast as I could, trying to catch all of the brilliant summaries and perspectives silva and Berwald had on these great reads. Enjoy!

Join us for the next installment of Book Tips and Sips at Prohibition Creamery on Tuesday, May 7 from 5:30 – 7:00pm when we talk summer reading picks with Austin writers Maya Perez and Amy Gentry. 


Recommended by Juli Berwald

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
Originally published in 1971, Boom recounts her family’s story of hiding Jews during World War II and their subsequent imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp. The author was the family’s only survivor. In addition to serving as a reminder of this period of history, it also holds up moments of the family’s glory in the midst of terrible situations.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Her voice, her story; we all know this book is incredible and has been in the hands of so many readers of all ages, despite censorship in school districts such as Katy, Texas. A well-written story about a difficult subject, this novel is an example of how fiction can speak to our current moment.

Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer
An engrossing book about what we can learn from moss. Seriously, this book is fascinating! It’s a close-up look at ecology, environmental health, and how the organisms that live in moss can be an indication of change. Our planet is rich with life! 

Archangel by Andrea Barrett
This book is a wonderful example of how the natural world is exalted in the hands of a skilled writer who reminds us how precious our planet is by demonstrating how beautiful it is, and how beautifully it can be written. 

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
The story of the author’s friendship with an unlikely companion, a snail who makes a home on her nightstand, demonstrating how much there is to learn by being quiet and attentive to our world. 

Life and Death in a Coral Sea by Jacques-Yves Cousteau
For all his faults, Cousteau pointed us towards the need to protect our oceans. In 1971, he was calling attention to dying coral reefs and was surprised by how much our oceans were at risk. This book serves as a good measure of what the status quo was then, so that we might evaluate our interpretations, responses, and actions now.

The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck
Sometimes, it’s fun to simply remember the sea. In this work by Steinbeck, you see history fleshed out it in the story and bodies, and think about how the story parallels now and how history has shaped the present.

The Dragon Behind the Glass by Emily Voigt
Voigt discovers the most expensive fish in the world and goes on a mission to find its remaining wild populations. The book talks about the importance of taxonomy, how things are related to one another, and demonstrates how Voigt’s understanding of our planet shifted.


Recommended by ire’ne lara silva

Shame the Stars Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Set in South Texas in 1915, this retelling of Romeo and Juliet illuminates a time in Texas history when the Mexican Revolution took hold of one side of the border while Texas Rangers confronted Tejanos on the other. 

Future Home of the Living God Louise Erdrich
A story of evolution gone wrong, written as a letter from a woman to her unborn child and touching on women’s rights. Reviewers missed the point of this novel when it was first published. This isn’t entertainment so much as a look at the apocalypse of the conquest, as if Walking Dead told a story of indigenous people. 

Citizens of the Mausoleum Rodney Gomez
Poems about grief that go beyond personal grief to look at our larger community and cultural losses. 

Invocation to Daughters Barbara Jane Reyes
Reyes is a Filipina writer who completely inhabits her rage and turns it into fuel, exploring the places women are permitted to inhabit. 

Light in the Dark/Luz En Lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality by Gloria Anzaldua
Full of epiphanies! Published thirteen years after the writer’s death, this work is about more than physical borders; she’s writing about liminal frontiers, places of conflict and intersection, looking at things holistically and how to describe life, creativity, spirituality while bringing all of your pieces to bear.

Event Series: Book Tips and Sips at Prohibition Creamery

Texas Book Festival is pleased to host free quarterly event series Book Tips and Sips at Prohibition Creamery in Austin. We’re bringing together Central Texas authors and members of the literary community to talk about their favorite books at four unique, themed events hosted at Prohibition Creamery, a delicious cocktail and ice cream bar on east seventh street. Join us for book recommendations, ice cream, cocktails and community!

These events are all free and open to the public. Enjoy “A Sidecar Named Desire,” Prohibition Creamery’s literary take on the sidecar cocktail, made with brandy, pine-infused gin, hibiscus, and lemon, and a portion of your drink purchase will support the Texas Book Festival.

Prohibition Creamery is located at 1407 East 7th St in Austin. The shop is open to all ages.


Book Tips and Sips: Literary Libations
August 13, 2019 – 5:30PM
Join us for Literary Libations! We’re gearing up for this year’s Lit Crawl Austin with a lively book discussion featuring several friends from literary organizations around town, and of course, Prohibition Creamery’s signature literary-themed cocktail, A Sidecar Named Desire. Join us at Prohibition Creamery as we welcome Lit Crawl partners from American Short Fiction, Austin Bat Cave, Black Poets Speak Out, and Chicon Street Poets to talk about the books they’re reading and what it means to have a strong literary community in Austin. TBF Literary Director Julie Wernersbach will also give a sneak peek of some of the best and biggest books hitting shelves this Fall!


Adeena Reitberger, American Short Fiction

Adeena is a writer, editor, and teacher in Austin, Texas. Her stories and essays have appeared in Black Warrior Review, Mississippi Review, Cimarron Review, Nimrod International, Third Coast, Sierra Nevada Review, Smokelong Quarterly, and other magazines, and her work has been recognized in the Best American series. She is the coeditor and director of American Short Fiction.

Ali Haider, Austin Bat Cave

Ali is the Executive Director of Austin Bat Cave, a nonprofit that connects local writers with students through creative and engaging writing workshops. His fiction has appeared in Cimarron Review, Glimmer Train, and Juked. Roxane Gay published his essay “Porkistan” on The Toast’s vertical The Butter.

Amanda Johnston, Black Poets Speak Out

Amanda earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine. She is the author of two chapbooks, GUAP and Lock & Key, and the full-length collection Another Way to Say Enter. Her poetry and interviews have appeared in numerous online and print publications, among them, Callaloo, Poetry, Puerto del Sol, Muzzle, Pluck!, No, Dear and the anthologies, Small BatchFulldi-ver-cityThe Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism. Honors include the Christina Sergeyevna Award from the Austin International Poetry Festival, a joint finalist for the Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism from Split This Rock, and multiple Artist Enrichment grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women,  Amanda is a member of the Affrilachian Poets and has received fellowships from Cave Canem Foundation and the Austin Project at the University of Texas. Johnston is a Stonecoast MFA faculty member, a cofounder of Black Poets Speak Out, and founder / executive director of Torch Literary Arts. She serves on the Cave Canem Foundation board of directors and currently lives in Texas.

Sam Treviño, Chicon Street Poets

Sam Treviño is a writer, poet and literary organizer from Austin, Texas. He is the founder and organizer of Fresh Meat Poets Showcase in Austin, a former Editorial Contributor for Paper Darts Magazine, and has been published by Paper Darts, DigBoston, Scout Magazine in Cambridge and Somerville, and Sybil Journal. His debut chapbook, Werewolf Mask, was published in 2016 by Weekly Weird Monthly. He is currently Community Outreach Director of Chicon Street Poets, a literary nonprofit based in East Austin, and oversees the Aural Literature reading series for Austin Public Library, where he is a Library Associate. He currently lives in Austin with his librarian superhero wife and their anxious cat.




Holiday Book Swap!
December 2019
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the season when we get to buy books for all of our family and friends! We understand that selecting the perfect read for someone you love can be daunting. Texas Book Fest is here to help! Join two local authors, along with TBF Literary Director Julie Wernersbach, as they share the books they’re giving to the readers on their lists this season. Of course, in the spirit of the holiday, we want everyone to take home a gift for themselves, so we’re hosting a holiday book swap! Bring a book you loved and want to share, add it to the swap, and take home a new read of your own. Merry reading!

We love putting together free programming in support of authors and readers here in Texas. If you believe in strengthening a love of literature and keeping arts programming free and open to the public in Texas, please consider supporting the Texas Book Festival.