Literary Tourism

Literary Tourism: Galveston, TX

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Cassandra Neace

Staff Writer

Cassandra Neace is a high school English teacher in Houston. When she's not in the classroom, she reads books and writes about them. She prides herself on her ability to recommend a book for most any occasion. She can be found on Instagram @read_write_make

It may not feel that way in large portions of the country, but we’re inching ever closer to beach weather.  At the very least, we’re getting close to sitting on the beach under a blanket with a book in hand weather. My favorite little stretch of beach is on Galveston Island, looking out over the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s on the far side of the island, and the damage from the last hurricane to roll through is still visible, which means that the number of sun worshippers and tourists who make their way out that far is low. This makes it an ideal spot to curl up with a good book and escape for an afternoon.  There are few stops to make on the way there, of course. Bookish stops. Obviously.

The Strand Historic District is the cultural center of the island (not the literal one), and it is home to both the Galveston Bookshop and Visker & Scrivener, a shop that specializes in handcrafted books, quills, and other writing paraphernalia. I had the pleasure of browsing the shelves of Galveston Bookshop and meeting their most valued employee, the shop cat Gus. The shop has an excellent selection of local authors and keeps a good stock of the books that students find on their reading lists. Unfortunately, Visker & Scrivener was closed that day.

While December rarely offers what can be referred to as beach weather, it does offer the chance to experience Dickens on the Strand, an annual Victorian holiday festival.  You can have a drink at Fezziwig’s Beer Hall and take a walking tour of The Strand in all its Victorian glory. There are games, shows, and workshops. Last year, Dickens’ great-great-great-granddaughter Linda Dickens Hawksley joined in the festivities.

There are a surprising number of books that are set in Galveston for it being such a small island.  Recent additions to the list include The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black, Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto, and Erik Larson’s book Isaac’s Storm, a work of nonfiction that reads like a thriller, with its almost minute-by-minute account of the hurricane of 1900. That storm remains the deadliest hurricane in American history, and its impact is still felt on the island and on the stories that take place there.

Numerous landmarks still stand to remind people of both the tragedy that cost so many lives and the resilience of those who survived and worked so hard to rebuild their home. If you’re looking for a little context for all the Galveston books that make a reference to the storm (and there are a lot!), then be sure to visit the Pier 21 Theater and check out The Great Storm, a documentary chronicling the storm and the island’s recovery.  There is also a memorial to the many lives lost on the beach, near the seawall.


A few final notes…

  • The island also serves as the inspiration for a number of mystery series, including the Truman Smith books by Bill Crider and the Cade McCane series by Jim Tausworthe. I’m told they make excellent beach reads.
  • If you’re a cookbook or seafood fan, be sure to stop by Gaidos, as the offer some of the best of both.
  • If you’re a taphophile, Galveston has got some great cemeteries for you to explore. And some of those tombstones tell the most interesting stories.

    I hope to see you at the beach with a book in your hand – in the distance, of course. You have to find your own spot. I’ve already claimed mine.