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Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis

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Award-winning journalist Sam Anderson’s long-awaited debut is a brilliant, kaleidoscopic narrative of Oklahoma City--a great American story of civics, basketball, and destiny. Oklahoma City was born from chaos. It was founded in a bizarre but momentous "Land Run" in 1889, when thousands of people lined up along the borders of Oklahoma Territory and rushed in at noon to stak Award-winning journalist Sam Anderson’s long-awaited debut is a brilliant, kaleidoscopic narrative of Oklahoma City--a great American story of civics, basketball, and destiny. Oklahoma City was born from chaos. It was founded in a bizarre but momentous "Land Run" in 1889, when thousands of people lined up along the borders of Oklahoma Territory and rushed in at noon to stake their claims. Since then, it has been a city torn between the wild energy that drives its outsized ambitions, and the forces of order that seek sustainable progress. Nowhere was this dynamic better realized than in the drama of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team's 2012-13 season, when the Thunder's brilliant general manager, Sam Presti, ignited a firestorm by trading future superstar James Harden just days before the first game. Presti's all-in gamble on "the Process"—the patient, methodical management style that dictated the trade as the team’s best hope for long-term greatness—kicked off a pivotal year in the city's history, one that would include pitched battles over urban planning, a series of cataclysmic tornadoes, and the frenzied hope that an NBA championship might finally deliver the glory of which the city had always dreamed. Boom Town announces the arrival of an exciting literary voice. Sam Anderson, former book critic for New York magazine and now a staff writer at the New York Times magazine, unfolds an idiosyncratic mix of American history, sports reporting, urban studies, gonzo memoir, and much more to tell the strange but compelling story of an American city whose unique mix of geography and history make it a fascinating microcosm of the democratic experiment. Filled with characters ranging from NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook; to Flaming Lips oddball frontman Wayne Coyne; to legendary Great Plains meteorologist Gary England; to Stanley Draper, Oklahoma City's would-be Robert Moses; to civil rights activist Clara Luper; to the citizens and public servants who survived the notorious 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, Boom Town offers a remarkable look at the urban tapestry woven from control and chaos, sports and civics.


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Award-winning journalist Sam Anderson’s long-awaited debut is a brilliant, kaleidoscopic narrative of Oklahoma City--a great American story of civics, basketball, and destiny. Oklahoma City was born from chaos. It was founded in a bizarre but momentous "Land Run" in 1889, when thousands of people lined up along the borders of Oklahoma Territory and rushed in at noon to stak Award-winning journalist Sam Anderson’s long-awaited debut is a brilliant, kaleidoscopic narrative of Oklahoma City--a great American story of civics, basketball, and destiny. Oklahoma City was born from chaos. It was founded in a bizarre but momentous "Land Run" in 1889, when thousands of people lined up along the borders of Oklahoma Territory and rushed in at noon to stake their claims. Since then, it has been a city torn between the wild energy that drives its outsized ambitions, and the forces of order that seek sustainable progress. Nowhere was this dynamic better realized than in the drama of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team's 2012-13 season, when the Thunder's brilliant general manager, Sam Presti, ignited a firestorm by trading future superstar James Harden just days before the first game. Presti's all-in gamble on "the Process"—the patient, methodical management style that dictated the trade as the team’s best hope for long-term greatness—kicked off a pivotal year in the city's history, one that would include pitched battles over urban planning, a series of cataclysmic tornadoes, and the frenzied hope that an NBA championship might finally deliver the glory of which the city had always dreamed. Boom Town announces the arrival of an exciting literary voice. Sam Anderson, former book critic for New York magazine and now a staff writer at the New York Times magazine, unfolds an idiosyncratic mix of American history, sports reporting, urban studies, gonzo memoir, and much more to tell the strange but compelling story of an American city whose unique mix of geography and history make it a fascinating microcosm of the democratic experiment. Filled with characters ranging from NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook; to Flaming Lips oddball frontman Wayne Coyne; to legendary Great Plains meteorologist Gary England; to Stanley Draper, Oklahoma City's would-be Robert Moses; to civil rights activist Clara Luper; to the citizens and public servants who survived the notorious 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, Boom Town offers a remarkable look at the urban tapestry woven from control and chaos, sports and civics.

30 review for Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    If Sam Anderson can emotionally invest born and raised Okie-me in the politics and interpersonal relationships of the Thunder, a basketball team I've never watched play a single game (not even on a television screen), then I promise you that he can effortlessly breathe life into my hometown's unique and bizarre history for even the most removed reader. He's just that good...and OKC is just that weird. I would recommend this to anyone, without qualifiers.

  2. 4 out of 5

    L.A. Starks

    Anderson came to OKC from New York to report on the Thunder, Oklahoma City's basketball team, but he writes a fine history of Oklahoma City itself, interspersed with the Thunder's on-court drama. Anderson starts with the land run, writes about the growth by annexation, desegregation, the unfortunate clearing of downtown--an idea generated by I.M. Pei and adopted by the city fathers--the Murrah bombing, and tornadoes. He writes some about oil and gas but is less specific than he could be that poo Anderson came to OKC from New York to report on the Thunder, Oklahoma City's basketball team, but he writes a fine history of Oklahoma City itself, interspersed with the Thunder's on-court drama. Anderson starts with the land run, writes about the growth by annexation, desegregation, the unfortunate clearing of downtown--an idea generated by I.M. Pei and adopted by the city fathers--the Murrah bombing, and tornadoes. He writes some about oil and gas but is less specific than he could be that poorer times (and less development) stemmed from oil and gas downturns. Much to his credit, he gets the sources of Oklahoma's earthquakes right--not fracking but the deep wastewater disposal wells, which are now used much less than they were originally, with the result that earthquakes have decreased.. Anderson reports rather than comments, but it is clear I.M. Pei's brutalist downtown clearing of Oklahoma City was a bad idea--the hoped-for replacement buildings didn't come along. (I.M. Pei also did Dallas no favors with his design of its bunker-like city hall.) But--it's been pointed out that old buildings do not make particularly nice current places to live or stay--they require a lot of rehabbing to be livable. The Murrah bombing was an enormous tragedy. Anderson treats it with the reporting and respect it deserves. This book is recommended to all Oklahomans and anyone who likes the Thunder or who's ever been curious about Oklahoma City.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scott S.

    4.5 stars Boom Town is one of those books that I refer to as "It's all right there in the title, folks." Anderson - with a a lot of well-placed humor and extensive research - examines the origin of the relatively young metropolis, that is firmly entrenched in what is called America's 'flyover country,' starting with the chaotic Land Run of 1889 (where the settlers physically raced in to the then-territory to claim real estate -- probably best known from its depiction in the Tom Cruise / Nicole Kid 4.5 stars Boom Town is one of those books that I refer to as "It's all right there in the title, folks." Anderson - with a a lot of well-placed humor and extensive research - examines the origin of the relatively young metropolis, that is firmly entrenched in what is called America's 'flyover country,' starting with the chaotic Land Run of 1889 (where the settlers physically raced in to the then-territory to claim real estate -- probably best known from its depiction in the Tom Cruise / Nicole Kidman movie Far and Away) and the haphazard and often-violent origin of what would become the state's capital city. It initially depicted as a rough community, brimming with mostly cowboys and criminals. (The state itself is somewhat 'new,' at least by U.S. standards, established only in 1907.) After detailing some of the founding fathers Anderson begins to switch gears between the other segments, focusing on the personalities in the region -- the newly acquired Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team (formerly the Seattle SuperSonics), and a study in contrasts between its superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook; civil rights pioneer Clara Luper, a local legend who deserves to be more well-known like many of the men in national prominence from the same time period; long-time TV meteorologist Gary England, a calming, respected, and trusted presence during many of the area's frequently severe thunderstorms and tornadoes; and Wayne Coyne, eccentric front-man of the experimental rock group Flaming Lips, responsible for the single 'She Don't Use Jelly' in 1993. Appropriately and tactfully, Anderson discusses the tragic Alfred Murrah federal building bombing near the finale, detailing terrorist Timothy McVeigh's horrific and devastating work in 1995. It is here that the author takes a rare misstep, albeit briefly, with a needless cheap shot at the state trooper who apprehended McVeigh (which was the first break in the case). Just stick to the facts, guy. Boom Town is off-beat but intelligent history, uniquely covering the good and bad of a city.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stella

    There a few versions of Oklahoma City. There's the "bombing" OKC. There's the "flyover state" OKC. Then there's the Thunder version. Sam Anderson has taken Oklahoma City, the OKC Thunder and, really, the state of Oklahoma and combined it into a fantastic story. Shooing back and forth through time, Anderson captures what makes Oklahoma and the Thunder so great. This is the story of a great state, a state that popped up over night, a state that had a college before it was officially recognized as There a few versions of Oklahoma City. There's the "bombing" OKC. There's the "flyover state" OKC. Then there's the Thunder version. Sam Anderson has taken Oklahoma City, the OKC Thunder and, really, the state of Oklahoma and combined it into a fantastic story. Shooing back and forth through time, Anderson captures what makes Oklahoma and the Thunder so great. This is the story of a great state, a state that popped up over night, a state that had a college before it was officially recognized as a state. There's the Land Run, tornados, Wayne Coyne, Gary England. There's also Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. I always find it hard to describe Oklahoma. Yes, it in the middle of the country and yes, it's full of people with very conservative values. But it's also the home of Clara Luper and Ralph Ellison, Wanda Jackson and Garth Brooks. The passion that Oklahomans have for college football, combined and made the OKC Thunder one of the most beloved teams in professional sports. Oklahomas love what is theirs. We love each other and we love Oklahoma. This is a basketball book. This is a history book. This is Oklahoma.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ron S

    Who needs a synopsis with a sub-title like that? A fun, fast-paced read for people that enjoy unusual histories with a generous helping of weird.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    How is this book not on every "best of 2018" list for non-fiction? So fun, so well-written, so fascinating (I listened to it on audiobook--great listen as well). The majority of my family is from Oklahoma, and that's what compelled me to pick up the book but I would've loved this anyway, regardless of any connection. I love sports but hate the NBA but the Thunder storyline is so fantastically woven into the overall narrative I was completely hooked. The author tackles the founding of the city, t How is this book not on every "best of 2018" list for non-fiction? So fun, so well-written, so fascinating (I listened to it on audiobook--great listen as well). The majority of my family is from Oklahoma, and that's what compelled me to pick up the book but I would've loved this anyway, regardless of any connection. I love sports but hate the NBA but the Thunder storyline is so fantastically woven into the overall narrative I was completely hooked. The author tackles the founding of the city, the booms, the busts, racism and segregation, the OKC bombing (e.g. basically the main thing the city is known for), among other things. What a weird little place (in the best way possible) and the author really brings it to life with smarts and humor.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Uriel Perez

    This is a stunningly good piece of civic history here. Sam Anderson does the impossible and makes the arid, droll landscape of Oklahoma City explode with intrigue. ‘Boom Town’ is a wonderful mix of basketball reportage, frontier history and expose of a city in flyover country that really deserves a second look.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Trike

    Oklahoma City has a crazy history. Crazier than most cities. From its birth during the Oklahoma Land Run through its lawless Wild West days continuing through booms and busts and failed urban renewal to the Murrah building bombing and the area’s insane tornado weather, it’s been one crazy rollercoaster ride. If this were the backstory of a sci-fi book no one would buy into it because it’s so completely absurd. For instance, the bit about the “purloined basketball team” refers to the OKC Thunder, Oklahoma City has a crazy history. Crazier than most cities. From its birth during the Oklahoma Land Run through its lawless Wild West days continuing through booms and busts and failed urban renewal to the Murrah building bombing and the area’s insane tornado weather, it’s been one crazy rollercoaster ride. If this were the backstory of a sci-fi book no one would buy into it because it’s so completely absurd. For instance, the bit about the “purloined basketball team” refers to the OKC Thunder, who used to be the Seattle SuperSonics. OKC businessmen straight-up stole the team legally by buying them and then making demands of Seattle they knew the citizens of Washington wouldn’t agree to, like building a new half-billion-dollar stadium. Which is fitting, since back in the 1960s Seattle-based Boeing was developing a supersonic airplane and they needed a city to test the effects of sonic booms on the population underneath the flight path, so the Oklahoma City town council (in cahoots with local business leaders) volunteered. To be part of the future! The US government then started overflying OKC with their latest jets, causing sonic booms. Many, many booms. Which exploded windows, caused plaster ceilings to collapse, drove animals literally insane and chickens to their deaths from the stress. After two weeks the citizens begged them to stop. The guys in charge listened to their petitions and looked at all the property damage being done, not to mention the terrible side effects to everyone’s health from the booms themselves but also from the stress, and they said, “No.” The flights were increased and went on for over six months. Boeing, the US government and OKC’s prominent businessmen essentially tortured everyone for months on end, only to have the plan for supersonic jet travel over the United States scrapped. ...and then they did it some more. 😂 I can’t even imagine the lawsuits that would happen today if they tried something like that. People wonder why we are such a litigious country. Probably because of little things like people being injured by their ceilings caving in on them due to a fighter jet roaring by 5 miles overhead. This isn’t even the craziest thing that happened in the city’s history. This took me a long time to read because I kept stopping to look stuff up. All the descriptions of the Land Run sounded exactly like the scene from the Ron Howard movie Far and Away (the one where Tom Cruise has a terrible Irish accent). So I watched that scene again: https://youtu.be/yxaJY8UZxn4 When he talks about the two shady organizations holding their own elections and staking out the city on day two of its founding, I went over Google Maps to see what those streets look like today, and you *can* still see where they had to inexpertly match up the two layouts. Then I got sucked into Street View, looking at all the places he references. As he talks about the OKC Thunder playing, especially when it featured the heyday of Durant, Westbrook and Harden, I watched highlight films: https://youtu.be/sCUwuSwmcck When he talked about the opening of the 1913-2013 Century Chest time capsule, I watched numerous videos of it: https://youtu.be/NydcQGo8wF0 Then I went to the OKC historical society page to look at the stuff: https://www.okhistory.org/centurychest/ I read all of the “prophecies” that the city leaders of 1913 wrote, which included this rather amazing prognostication by a prominent banker: This letter will not interrupt the opening of your morning mail for the very good reason that you will have no morning mail, or not much. Your distant correspondence will be conducted instantaneously by electrical means all through business hours and only letters with document enclosures will come to you by the slower-moving mails. He gets other things wrong, but he’s talking about email and e-commerce. For a guy living in 1913 when they don’t even have radio yet, that’s incredible. The story of civil rights activist Clara Luper sent me on a quest to learn more about this amazing woman, who staged patient, good-humored sit-ins for six years: https://youtu.be/bXMOJjDrIuQ When we get into the tornadoes of Oklahoma, especially the devastating ones which hit Moore in both 1999 and 2013, as well as the El Reno tornado, I went down the rabbit hole of watching hours of storm footage on YouTube: https://youtu.be/nWB7Edw-bCA ...and so on. I visited OKC in 1984 and I can not recall a single thing about that town. Now I know it’s because of their disastrous attempt at urban renewal, which led to them essentially bulldozing half the city, including most of their landmark buildings. The amount of federal tax dollars which have gone into propping up OKC for the past 130 years is sickening. Anderson doesn’t make that a feature of the book, casually mentioning it here and there, but it’s safe to say OKC would have ceased to exist without liberal blue states sending hundreds of millions of dollars to this deeply conservative area over the decades. Oklahoma stole the land from the Native Americans, and it’s still stealing from the rest of America to this day. Seriously, this is one crazy, dysfunctional city.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa (splitreads)

    Overall a really amusing book... Definitely can recommend as an audiobook (narrated by the author). It's part history, sports recap, and anecdotal life in Oklahoma City. Anderson tells readers of OKC's land run days, its eagerness to grow as a metropolis (good luck with that), its civil rights movement, the Oklahoma City bombing, disastrous tornadoes and the weathermen who follow them, and of course: Thunder basketball. He focuses on the humor and irony and weirdness of Oklahoma City, so you wil Overall a really amusing book... Definitely can recommend as an audiobook (narrated by the author). It's part history, sports recap, and anecdotal life in Oklahoma City. Anderson tells readers of OKC's land run days, its eagerness to grow as a metropolis (good luck with that), its civil rights movement, the Oklahoma City bombing, disastrous tornadoes and the weathermen who follow them, and of course: Thunder basketball. He focuses on the humor and irony and weirdness of Oklahoma City, so you will giggle. Some aspects are more entertaining/enlightening than others and it's also a long book that could've been shorter. But I enjoyed the majority of it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lance

    I had mixed feelings about this book. At least the parts that piqued my interest, the passages about the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, were interesting and I especially enjoyed reading about the angst felt when one of the young stars of the team, James Harden, was going to leave and sign with another team. The writing about Garden's trademark heard was very entertaining. But the rest of the book wasn't doing it for me. I had trouble fitting together the entire history of the city and at I had mixed feelings about this book. At least the parts that piqued my interest, the passages about the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, were interesting and I especially enjoyed reading about the angst felt when one of the young stars of the team, James Harden, was going to leave and sign with another team. The writing about Garden's trademark heard was very entertaining. But the rest of the book wasn't doing it for me. I had trouble fitting together the entire history of the city and at times I couldn't figure out what it had to do with the basketball team. The book felt disjointed at times. Overall I will give it a passing grade for the basketball but that is all I liked about it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    The 5-star rating may be a little biased considering I’m a lifelong Oklahoma resident, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author covers all the big events/themes in OKC history - the Land Run, the oil booms & busts, Clara Luper & the civil rights movement, the OKC bombing, the Thunder, the tornado tragedies - and also touches on really interesting small details. I found myself both laughing out loud and crying at different points, and I found it really interesting to see decades of The 5-star rating may be a little biased considering I’m a lifelong Oklahoma resident, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author covers all the big events/themes in OKC history - the Land Run, the oil booms & busts, Clara Luper & the civil rights movement, the OKC bombing, the Thunder, the tornado tragedies - and also touches on really interesting small details. I found myself both laughing out loud and crying at different points, and I found it really interesting to see decades of chaotic OKC history woven together in one narrative. Would recommend!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hank Stuever

    It's a surreal experience to read the deepest dive any writer (and big-time publisher) will ever undertake about your hometown, which, as "Boom Town's" mostly East Coast reviewers have noted, is one of those places that almost nobody thinks about. I was born and raised in Oklahoma City and left to go to college when I was 18 (in 1986), returning less and less as the years passed and family died (or moved). Now it's mostly a trip back for a high school reunion every five or 10 years. Enough about It's a surreal experience to read the deepest dive any writer (and big-time publisher) will ever undertake about your hometown, which, as "Boom Town's" mostly East Coast reviewers have noted, is one of those places that almost nobody thinks about. I was born and raised in Oklahoma City and left to go to college when I was 18 (in 1986), returning less and less as the years passed and family died (or moved). Now it's mostly a trip back for a high school reunion every five or 10 years. Enough about OKC remains the same, so that these visits can become a satisfying nostalgia trip. It's a real and always sentimental journey for me, but a lot has changed, to say the very least. This is a book about a truly American place always on the verge of something big, ever since 1889, and never quite getting there. Sam Anderson has done a terrific job of mixing historical research and literary wonder, understanding Oklahoma City for what it is and what it dreams of being. It's heartbreaking, really -- the implosion/explosion and boom/bust metaphors woven into its identity, including the 1995 federal building bombing that I covered as a reporter who was sent back home to write about the nature of the place. I was telling a friend from high school about the experience of reading "Boom Town" and encountering all this historical material that I somehow already knew, almost inherently. "Laverne Crumley, duh," she said, recalling our sweet but stern Oklahoma History teacher (all high school freshmen had to take a semester of Oklahoma History, by law). My friend is right -- Mrs. Crumley gave us a great education in our state's chaotic history, people and places. Sam Anderson fills in a lot of holes in the story, particularly as it pertains to Oklahoma City's (and the state's) deplorable record on race and civil rights. As Anderson notes, it's a wonder Oklahoma City isn't uttered in the same breath as Birmingham and other Southern cities, given how hideously its white citizens treated anybody who wasn't white. (Or straight, I hasten to add. Or Christian, others hasten to add.) I was happy and sad reading this book. I left OKC at full escape velocity -- I was a closeted gay kid who wanted to be a journalist, and the city offered me nothing but disappointment in either regard. Part of me wonders: What would it be like to return and make a life there? Answer: I'd have to really like basketball, and I really don't. My only letdown with "Boom Town" is that soooooooo much of it is about the Thunder, the NBA franchise credited with finally putting Oklahoma City on the nation's cultural/entertainment map. I rarely buy into longform narrative journalism about the meaning of sports and sports teams/glory, etc., but I persevered and trusted Sam Anderson to tell the story he wanted to tell. After all, the Thunder is the only reason he visited Oklahoma City in the first place -- on assignment. Good for him for seeing so much more than that and sticking around so long to learn about it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rika

    As someone who has lived in Oklahoma since 1987 (I think?), I was interested to see what an outsider thought and also learn about Oklahoma history since i had largely forgotten everything from my Oklahoma history class in ninth grade. I did learn many things in this book and found it very educational, but I found the author so pompous and desperate to hang out with famous people that it ruined the book for me. He wanted to make sure that every reader knew that he was from New York, that Oklahoma As someone who has lived in Oklahoma since 1987 (I think?), I was interested to see what an outsider thought and also learn about Oklahoma history since i had largely forgotten everything from my Oklahoma history class in ninth grade. I did learn many things in this book and found it very educational, but I found the author so pompous and desperate to hang out with famous people that it ruined the book for me. He wanted to make sure that every reader knew that he was from New York, that Oklahoma would never be a cool of a city as people wanted it to be and he was above our city but he’d do is a great favor of exposing OKC to his brilliant mind by writing a book connecting all of our history in an interconnected way that nobody but him would have been able to see. The parallels he tried to fit in and weave throughout the book between the founding of OKC and the Thunder, nobody ever connected those dots because they are two dots that aren’t connected. It is pure coincidence that some bigger events in Thunder history were on the same days as historic events. He spent so much time weaving the Thunder history into OKC just so he could feel cool and hang out with Thunder players. He spent so much time discussing Wayne Coyne just so he could feel cool that he was hanging out with a rock star. The events that truly buoyed up the city and state like the bombing and the big tornadoes he just glossed over so he could check the box that he mentioned them but could then go back to talking about Westbrook or Durant or Coyne. His true narrative of OKC outside of the Thunder is as weak as that pathetic purple stripe that he painted as part of Coyne’s rainbow: nervy, anemic and inconsequential. He even wrote in the book a quote from Nick Collison that said “It’s just basketball, I would hate to have someone who lost family members in the bombing hear some player say, ‘We’re here now, we’re winning, so that makes it better.’ They’re totally different things. I do think the Thunder has been positive for the city, and the city had really gotten behind us. But I’m not gonna say we’ve made up for anything. I’ll let people who live here say that, if they believe it.” He uncovered a piece that would destroy his entire narrative and threw the quote in there to say he mentioned it but ignored it and powered through, otherwise no one he considered important would read the book and his chance to hang with celebrities would be over. I guess i just get tired of people coming to OK and tell me over and over that it’s not that cool, it doesn’t have much history, that OK is a flyover state that no one cares about. This book just captures that sentiment and i just got tired of it after a while.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    What a fucking trip. Living in Oklahoma City definitely fertilizes the soil here, but I think I might've loved this book even if I didn't. Sam Anderson's writing is bright, conspiratorial, and funny; it's snarky but not mean, personal but not self-centered. He tells the story of Oklahoma City, from its bizarre artificially inseminated birth to its sleek new basketball franchise. The Thunder, in fact, consume about half the book; perhaps it's more accurate to say that this book intertwines the hi What a fucking trip. Living in Oklahoma City definitely fertilizes the soil here, but I think I might've loved this book even if I didn't. Sam Anderson's writing is bright, conspiratorial, and funny; it's snarky but not mean, personal but not self-centered. He tells the story of Oklahoma City, from its bizarre artificially inseminated birth to its sleek new basketball franchise. The Thunder, in fact, consume about half the book; perhaps it's more accurate to say that this book intertwines the history of the Thunder with that of the city who love them. Anderson's book really illustrates the difference between history that recounts the facts and history that constructs a narrative. He loves to make bold, even far-fetched, suggestions about links and maybe-more-than-coincidences between OKC's history and its present; he loves to note events that share an anniversary or a birthday, implying fate or subconscious resonance. His broad framework for understanding the city, though, is shockingly persuasive: that the city operates on a philosophy of "boom or bust," that in spite of its conservatism, it can never resist a roll of the dice, that the dream of impossible greatness, however remote, is worth gambling everything. The city booms, and it busts—from its chaotic roots to its oil investments to the bombing in 1995 and beyond. The boom/bust pattern is, unsurprisingly, almost completely the work of men. Men rule Oklahoma City, and have always ruled it. The one exception, though, is worth mentioning here: Clara Luper, who was a history teacher for many years and became a leading figure in the Civil Rights movement. She led her students in a crusade to desegregate Oklahoma City's restaurants using sit-in protests that preceded the Greensboro sit-ins by a full two years—and she was successful, too. She remained a looming, and luminous, figure in Oklahoma City well into the 21st century. I'm adding her celebrated autobiography, Behold The Walls, to my list.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Eliza McNitt

    As a meteorology buff, I was excited to read about a part of the country that, because of its location at the intersection of warm southerly winds and arctic cold fronts, is often subjected to severe weather. Needless to say, I was sucked into the book like it was an F4 tornado. The author's descriptions of these weather events made this a real page turner for a weather fan like myself. Of course, some of the other parts of the book weren't about the weather at all but would be interesting to so As a meteorology buff, I was excited to read about a part of the country that, because of its location at the intersection of warm southerly winds and arctic cold fronts, is often subjected to severe weather. Needless to say, I was sucked into the book like it was an F4 tornado. The author's descriptions of these weather events made this a real page turner for a weather fan like myself. Of course, some of the other parts of the book weren't about the weather at all but would be interesting to someone who loves NBA basketball or civic planning. Although one part was about how the weather affected an NBA basketball game so I was sort of half-interested in that part. All in all, great read!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Connor

    I enjoyed learning about a city that daily feels more like home. Although I wish the author would have focused on some more topics that really drive the city (Tinker AFB, culture, etc) instead of the plethora of details about the Thunder, I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek of the author and the knowledge of the city and it’s upbringing.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Owen

    This book felt like it was written just for me - 1/3 about basketball, 1/3 about history, and 1/3 about urban development/meteorology/current events, all set in Oklahoma. It read like an extended Grantland or Ringer piece. My one wish is that the author used citations and had a fully-fleshed bibliography. I have higher expectations authors citing works after reading nonfiction by David Grann and Erik Larson.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Phil Overeem

    Endlessly fascinating, funny, sad, and familiar reportage about a very American (and very weird) city. Highly recommended especially to readers who'd appreciate the consistent presence of Russell Westbrook, Wayne Coyne, and Gary England in one book. And who don't know who Clara Luper is. Also, Timothy McVeigh makes an appearance...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Barnabas Piper

    Basketball Tornadoes Civil Rights Hero Civil Rights Heroine Land Rush Bombing Insane politicians Celebrity meterologists These are just a few of the things that made this book remarkably interesting. Anderson did a masterful job weaving past and present together to paint a picture of a city I knew nothing, and cared even less, about. It's more a history of Middle America, where worlds and weather collides, than anything else. It is fascinating.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amy Lawson

    There was so much local buzz around this one and after finishing the book I would agree that this one was worth every bit of that BUZZ. The blurb "fantastical saga of OKC, apocalyptic weather, purloined basketball team, etc...." immediately hooked me and I zoomed through it. I loved how Anderson flipped back and forth between present day and historical Oklahoma and especially loved his reporting on the Land Run. You would think at this point in my life I would know enough about the Oklahoma Land There was so much local buzz around this one and after finishing the book I would agree that this one was worth every bit of that BUZZ. The blurb "fantastical saga of OKC, apocalyptic weather, purloined basketball team, etc...." immediately hooked me and I zoomed through it. I loved how Anderson flipped back and forth between present day and historical Oklahoma and especially loved his reporting on the Land Run. You would think at this point in my life I would know enough about the Oklahoma Land Run but I learned TONS. And, Anderson juxtaposes some of that great stuff with the tormented relationship between the Thunder's Westbrook and Durant and it is just literary magic! I also really enjoyed the few chapters about local legend Gary England and loved reliving some wild Oklahoma weather through these pages. One of the tornadoes mentioned in the book happened during high school and I vividly remember being on the front porch with my dad as sirens blared through Ada, Oklahoma. I heard Andrson interviewed on the New York Times Book Review podcast and would highly recommend. It was only a short 20 minutes but offered a lot of the backstory about what brought this New Yorker to OKC initially. Attaching here in case anyone is interested- https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/07/bo... Prior to picking up this book, I read a blog post about it. The blogger ended with this note, "By the time I finished this doozy of a book, he (Anderson) had me asking: Oklahoma City, where have you been all my life." I felt the same way. Mike and I are committing to venture the 15 miles north more than we do and take in more of this "world-class metropolis" dreamer!!!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aimee Dars

    I love reading about my home state, and Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Being a World-Class Metropolis by Sam Anderson came with high expectations and strong recommendations. I wasn’t disappointed. Boom Town recounts the history of Oklahoma City from its founding with the Land Run of 1889 (as well as the illicit incursions of the Boomers some time before). On that day, people were so I love reading about my home state, and Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Being a World-Class Metropolis by Sam Anderson came with high expectations and strong recommendations. I wasn’t disappointed. Boom Town recounts the history of Oklahoma City from its founding with the Land Run of 1889 (as well as the illicit incursions of the Boomers some time before). On that day, people were so eager to stake their claims they forgot that cities needed things like roads and open spaces. Yet, out of this chaos came a growing frontier city that wrested the status of capital from its neighbor, Guthrie, to the north. Oklahoma City’s chaos was tamed by the arrival of Stanley Draper who became a powerful figure as head of the Chamber of Commerce and wielded more influence than the city government. Under his guidance, the historic and unique buildings of downtown were demolished in the name of urban renewal, and the city annexed more surrounding land than it would ever need. He negotiated for the air force to conduct Operation Bongo, a six month test of resident response to sonic booms. When residents complained and wanted the experiment to stop, convincing the city council to take action, Draper stepped in and kept them from shutting down Bongo because it was for the good of the city. (It was not.) Anderson also honestly delves into a dark corner of Oklahoma City’s past: it’s history of racism and segregation, but also profiles the hero Clara Luper, who led teenagers in sit-ins in downtown Oklahoma City over six years until all the diners were desegregated, though she was arrested twenty-six times in the process. Later, she supported sanitation workers during a garbage strike and helped them reach a favorable settlement with the city government. I learned so much from Anderson’s historic account, and I can’t believe that this wasn’t taught in my Oklahoma History class, but on the other hand, I could have forgotten some details. Even more likely, our Oklahoma History class would not have highlighted critical information, preferring to glorify the early settlers. Growing up, I went to Oklahoma City for special events, field trips, shopping, concerts, and to visit relatives. As an adult, I spent five years living in and around Oklahoma City (before the Thunder), and I would eat at Bricktown, go to games at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark to see the Oklahoma City Dodgers. For a time, I worked at a government building across from the capital. Anderson describes the tragic tornado of May 3, 1999, and I remember that I was on a business trip, coming home that day. My flight arrived in Oklahoma City after the tornado had come and gone, and I remember everyone shell shocked from the damage. So, the book was also a little nostalgic for me, and at times, painful, especially when Anderson recounted the Murrah Building bombing in 1995. Among the history of the city, Anderson weaves vignettes of Wayne Coyne, the Oklahoma native and famous frontman of the Flaming Lips rock band who is also famous for staying in Oklahoma City. Some readers might be even more interested in Anderson’s replay of how the Thunder arrived in Oklahoma City and their 2012-2013 season, the season they were supposed to win the championship, the first season after GM Presti traded James Harden to Houston. Without Harden, two stars remained, Kevin Durant and Russell Holbrook, and how they could work together without the stabilizing force of Harden could settle the fate of the season. While I like the Thunder as my home state team, I’m not all that interested in sports. Anderson, though, made the chapters about the Thunder so interesting, combining details about the plays, the stars, and the organization behind them. One of the most impressive things about Boom Town is how deftly Anderson shifts styles from this expert sports writing to weather reporting, historical documentation, the trippy character profile of Coyne, and a surreal chapter in which he retraces the fourteen mile route of the Land Run on foot. No matter what voice he’s using, Anderson is engaging and often witty. Boom Town is told basically in alternating chapters, from history to the Thunder, with epilogues that bring the book to the current time (earthquakes! more Russell Holbrook! fewer Thunder wins!). Although this might be the best way to structure the book, it did make for a bit of a choppy reading experience since the transitions weren’t always smooth or natural. And while there was some discussion of Native Americans and how the government stole Oklahoma from them, land they’d been given in exchange for land the government stole from them in the South and Southeast, I would have liked to see more about the intersection of Native American culture and the city. Finally, while Anderson provides a section on his main sources for the book, I’m still curious about his secondary sources and how he got access to the people he interviewed for the book. As much as I liked Boom Town, it depressed me a bit. Thunder or not Thunder, Oklahoma City has made significant mistakes with annexation and urban renewal, and under the current ultra conservative city and state government, those mistakes continue. I suppose the hope is that now, more people are knowledgeable, active, and have an alternative, hopeful, inclusive vision of the city. ...aka darzy... | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

  22. 4 out of 5

    Trey Malone

    This is without a doubt in my mind the best book I have read this year. Anyone interested in the history American cities, basketball, or Oklahoma will not be able to put this one down.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    And you ask me why Oklahoma City is the way it is. Really well researched and written, including thanks to Harper Langston whom everyone knows is a pundit!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bart Thanhauser

    I really enjoyed that. Was skeptical I could read about Oklahoma City for 400+ pages, but this book was like candy—tons of chapters on basketball, urban planning, the Flaming Lips, and OKC’s uniquely weird founding. Anderson also has a good narrative voice. He clearly loves OKC but also injects enough of a conversational humor to his tone to make this book more than just a tribute type book. Not every chapter is great—oddly, it felt to me like the tornado / apocalyptic weather chapters were sort I really enjoyed that. Was skeptical I could read about Oklahoma City for 400+ pages, but this book was like candy—tons of chapters on basketball, urban planning, the Flaming Lips, and OKC’s uniquely weird founding. Anderson also has a good narrative voice. He clearly loves OKC but also injects enough of a conversational humor to his tone to make this book more than just a tribute type book. Not every chapter is great—oddly, it felt to me like the tornado / apocalyptic weather chapters were sort of just tracked on (an-I-guess-I-have-to-write-about-Twister-sort-of-coda) though I liked gleaming details of Anderson’s friendship with the weather mystic, Gary England. Not sure I’d recommend to people without an interest in sports—Anderson, I believe, has worked as a sports journalist covering the OKC Thunder. There’s more than just sports of course, but the role the team plays in the city’s identity is fairly central to this book, and is the springboard for his thesis on the city, metaphors and chapters. Still, at the end of the day, I think Anderson does achieve a good deal of what he advertises in the book’s preface. I’m not convinced that OKC could be “the great minor city of America”; but I do think there’s much truth to his claim “that Oklahoma City is one of the great weirdo cities of the world—as strange, in its way, as Venice or Dubai or Versailles or Pyongyang.”

  25. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    Boom Town is centered around Oklahoma City and it's strong will and obstinance to survive and remain relevant since the city's time of conception when people first staked out their claims to this city. This book is a tribute not just to the city but to the people who have made and are still making OKC the kind of city it is today. Sam Anderson, takes his reader, back and forth through a time continuum using history, current events, and sports as the backdrop to tell the story of OKC. He introduc Boom Town is centered around Oklahoma City and it's strong will and obstinance to survive and remain relevant since the city's time of conception when people first staked out their claims to this city. This book is a tribute not just to the city but to the people who have made and are still making OKC the kind of city it is today. Sam Anderson, takes his reader, back and forth through a time continuum using history, current events, and sports as the backdrop to tell the story of OKC. He introduces us to men and women who aren't found in our history books like Ms. Clara Luper an African-American woman who desegregated lunch counters and other business establishments during the Civil Rights. Mr. England, the local celebrity, a meteorologist. Scattered throughout Boom Town, Anderson takes the word Boom and plays with the word and its significance to OKC. Starting out with the landrace, how the city rapidly developed into an urban community, over time how the city would lose everything, the OKC bombing, to the tornadoes that devastated the community, to its sports team that was rapidly making a name for itself-the OKC Thunders to the fame of OKC's life-long most popular citizen-Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. Anderson draws you in through his storytelling. He draws you into the character development of OKC and its people who live in the city and the politics of the city. He takes snippets and shows us the city. Through each page, Anderson is taking us on a ride showing us the city and how it has changed and how it also has stayed stagnant over time and the city's hope to never give up or to never be lost in the background. Boom Town is a fast read and well-deserved. Each word on the page is used without forethought. Each word is used for purpose and meaning. Anderson invokes all emotions throughout the book and leaves you questioning about development and the importance of it but most of all, how does a city continue to thrive without forgetting the concerns of their citizens who are the most impacted by decisions that are being made. How does a city move forward? How does a city progress? In Boom Town, Anderson finds a way without getting lost in the politics by sharing the ups and downs of OKC. I received an early copy of this book for an early review by NetGalley and Crown Publishing. #BoomTown #NetGalley

  26. 4 out of 5

    E.

    Yes, Oklahoma City is a weird city, and here is an outsider affectionately chronicling some of that weirdness. OKC was also an adopted city for me. I grew up in the NE corner of the state with Tulsa as more of my metropolis and in the 80's it was the far superior city to OKC. But I went to college 45 minutes from downtown OKC and ended up living 14 years in the metro area, 5 in OKC proper. And most of those other years of my life visiting regularly for the family and friends that live there. The Yes, Oklahoma City is a weird city, and here is an outsider affectionately chronicling some of that weirdness. OKC was also an adopted city for me. I grew up in the NE corner of the state with Tulsa as more of my metropolis and in the 80's it was the far superior city to OKC. But I went to college 45 minutes from downtown OKC and ended up living 14 years in the metro area, 5 in OKC proper. And most of those other years of my life visiting regularly for the family and friends that live there. The contemporary parts of the book are largely set in a time when we didn't live there and focus on the city's boosterism around the Thunder. But the chapters about the 80's and 90's are very familiar and the parts about the bombing and the May 3, 1999 tornadoes made me emotional. I was surprised when I first saw a book about OKC being reviewed and reviewed glowingly in the national press. The work is as good as the reviews say.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    Guys, this books is sooooo good. It is rare that I find nonfiction to be a page-turner, especially nonfiction about the city I live in, that is basically telling me things I already know. But this book is so engagingly written, and presents the history and present of OKC in such a personal and unique way that I could not put this down. A word of warning for other Oklahomans reading this -- the parts about the May 2013 tornadoes were super hard for me to read and I suffered no damage from them. I Guys, this books is sooooo good. It is rare that I find nonfiction to be a page-turner, especially nonfiction about the city I live in, that is basically telling me things I already know. But this book is so engagingly written, and presents the history and present of OKC in such a personal and unique way that I could not put this down. A word of warning for other Oklahomans reading this -- the parts about the May 2013 tornadoes were super hard for me to read and I suffered no damage from them. I still was taken right back to the fear of those days. I didn't live here in 1999 or 1995, so if you experienced those years in Oklahoma City just beware of those chapters. A must read for every Oklahoman, and for anyone who wants to understand OKC, living in a mid-tier city in a red state, or just cities striving to be something.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    This book is simply fantastic. Anderson weaves together so many seemingly disparate threads without ever having to force the comparison or relevance. People interested in: sports,history, politics, art, music, science, urban planning, public policy, race relations, civil rights, travel, Americana, humor and probably ten other genres will find something here. It is a serious work that is amazingly written. At times it is sad and tragic, at others it is hilarious and irreverent. I haven't read a b This book is simply fantastic. Anderson weaves together so many seemingly disparate threads without ever having to force the comparison or relevance. People interested in: sports,history, politics, art, music, science, urban planning, public policy, race relations, civil rights, travel, Americana, humor and probably ten other genres will find something here. It is a serious work that is amazingly written. At times it is sad and tragic, at others it is hilarious and irreverent. I haven't read a book this awesome in some time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

    I loved this book. If Sam Anderson wants to be interviewed for a homespun podcast for teachers, or be on the writers council for the National Writing Project, he should reach out. I couldn't stop wanting to ask him questions about process: how do you keep track of what happens in a basketball game so that later, after the teams' fates are decided, you have the stuff to write about? what is your filing system? how many notebooks did you fill? What does your writing space/office look like? did you I loved this book. If Sam Anderson wants to be interviewed for a homespun podcast for teachers, or be on the writers council for the National Writing Project, he should reach out. I couldn't stop wanting to ask him questions about process: how do you keep track of what happens in a basketball game so that later, after the teams' fates are decided, you have the stuff to write about? what is your filing system? how many notebooks did you fill? What does your writing space/office look like? did you use a time line? many timelines? How did a guy from Brooklyn walk into OKC with such a big heart and write such a true, honest, generous and loving book?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Teddy Farkas

    I don’t often write reviews but this book was really extraordinary. I enjoyed every bit of it from start to finish and for some reason it made me want to read every source the author outlines at the end of the book. I’m sure if I read them though, I wouldn’t be nearly as enthralled with Oklahoma City as I was throughout Anderson’s exceptional story telling. I cried reading about the violent details of the Murray Federal Building bombing and laughed at the jubilance of Wayne Coyne’s antics around I don’t often write reviews but this book was really extraordinary. I enjoyed every bit of it from start to finish and for some reason it made me want to read every source the author outlines at the end of the book. I’m sure if I read them though, I wouldn’t be nearly as enthralled with Oklahoma City as I was throughout Anderson’s exceptional story telling. I cried reading about the violent details of the Murray Federal Building bombing and laughed at the jubilance of Wayne Coyne’s antics around OKC. I would recommend this book to anyone because there really is something for everyone.

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