What began as an assignment to cover a professional basketball team turned into a piece of pure Americana. Oklahoma City may be the most unique city in the country, beginning with its aberrant origin, yet the various stages it has gone through also reflect the general philosophy and aspirations of much of the nation. Sam Anderson presents an American city in all its glory and failure, making it a metaphor for so much of the national history and experience.— From Bill's 2018 Picks
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.
About the Author
Sam Anderson is currently a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine. Formerly a book critic for New York Magazine and regular contributor to Slate, Anderson's journalism and essays have won numerous awards, including the National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism. He lives in New York with his family.
“In writing both idiosyncratic and unerring, this culture critic (formerly of New York) proves that any subject, in the right hands, can mesmerize and delight… Befitting the title, OKC is always on the verge of triumph (oil booms, redevelopment) and disaster (oil busts, tornadoes), a young locale more archetypal of the American mythos than the 26 bigger cities in the country.”
—VULTURE, "8 New Books You Should Read This August"
“The decorated journalist Sam Anderson, a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, has set out to fill a yawning gap in the American popular imagination: our tendency to ignore the nation’s 27th-largest metropolis, Oklahoma City. Anderson’s rollicking narrative is woven from two threads —the vicissitudes of the city’s NBA team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the city’s boom-and-bust history… Anderson runs wild with this material.”
“Maybe you didn’t know that Oklahoma City was the key to everything. But it is. Boom Town is a bone-shaking thrill ride through civic history.”
"A wild ride of a book that goes from fascinating to hilarious to hair-raising to powerfully moving, sometimes in the space of just a few pages. With clear-eyed affection and consummate skill, Anderson shows us an amazing American place wherein we recognize ourselves."
"No one—no one—writes like Sam Anderson: so vividly, so stylishly, so smartly, so weirdly, so funnily. By the time I’d finished this doozy of a book, he had me asking: Oklahoma City, where have you been all my life?"
“In Boom Town, Sam Anderson shrewdly anatomizes the deep strangeness of Oklahoma City—its messy history of hope, self-subversion, and occasional wretched luck—and of its citizens’ grandiose belief in their capacity for renewal and greatness. The result, a yarn that deftly navigates between then and now, brims with wit, bright color, relentless reporting, and, most admirably, empathy.”
“Sam Anderson is a visionary artist who sees what others can’t; he’s a master wordsmith who creates beauty and light from confusion and plunging darkness; he's our tour guide to a better tomorrow because he understands a complex and foundational history that is our launching pad to new and unexplored universes.”
“This book offers [Anderson’s] take on the histories of both [the Oklahoma City Thunder and its boom or bust hometown], rendered through research, copious interviews, and a sharp eye for the quirky. Written with style and amazingly good humor, considering the hopes blooming and dashed nature of both city and team, this should please a wide range of readers, from basketball fans to historians to city planners.”
—LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred)
“An irreverent look at one of the nation's quirkier cities… [Boom Town is] a rollicking [and] entertaining history of a city that, for all its booms and busts, is never boring.”
“[Anderson’s] first book, Boom Town, is a hilarious history and drive-through study of this Midwestern city born of bedlam and ambition… Anderson digs relentlessly into the state capital’s boom-and-bust history. Illustrated with archival photos, his story jumps between top-flight sportswriting and more lighthearted and diverse chapters on the idiosyncrasies of OKC.”