A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, THE ECONOMIST AND DEADSPIN
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.
Anderson, a New York Times Magazine staff writer, delivers a rollicking, kaleidoscopic chronicle of America's 27th-largest city. Oklahoma City was a "pure social experiment," born in an event called the Land Run of 1889. In that land rush, "unassigned lands" in the Indian Territory (seized from tribes that had supported the Confederacy) were opened up for settlement, and settlers rushed in to each claim 160 free acres by hammering in their stakes and fighting off competitors in a free-for-all that Anderson jokes could have more accurately been named "Reckoning of the DoomSettlers: Clusterfuck on the Prairie." His vivid narrative of Oklahoma City's tumultuous history draws parallels between the dramatic ups and downs of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, including the controversial trade of future superstar James Harden and the achievements of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, and the city's larger history of booms and busts. In the latter sections, he touches on influential personalities, among them Roscoe Dunjee, who founded Oklahoma City's first black newspaper and advanced housing integration; urban planner Sam Draper, who executed a master plan for the frontier town; legendary Great Plains weatherman Gary England; civil rights activist Clara Luper, who integrated Oklahoma City's restaurants and lunch counters with her sit-ins in the 1950s and '60s; and the Flaming Lips' flamboyant front man, Wayne Coyne. Anderson's lively and empathetic saga captures the outsize ambitions, provincial realities, and vibrant history of a quintessentially American city.