Boom Town by Sam Anderson

Boom Town

Sam Anderson

Boom Town combines American history, sports reporting and urban studies to tell the strange but compelling story of Oklahoma city whose unique mix of geography and history make it a fascinating microcosm of the democratic experiment.

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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 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.

Advance Galley Reviews

I'm neither a rabid NBA fan nor a resident of Oklahoma, so I had to Google a few things while I read Boom Town, but I loved Anderson's account of the history of OKC and how it created the character of the city that holds true today and is exemplified by all things, even and especially the city's NBA team. Great read for anyone interested in the Old West, in history, or in basketball.

I couldn't make it to the end of this -- it was promising, but something about so much bouncing back and forth between the history and the present was very off-putting, and broke up the flow. I saw where it made sense in some spots, such as juxtaposing the initially abysmal treatment of African Americans at the founding and early days of OKC; compared with reverence for celebrities along with mediocre treatment for everyone else. The Wayne Coyne stuff just seemed like starf*cking -- I didn't really see how that fit in other than that OKC and the author were just so happy to have a homegrown celebrity stay there that they let him do whatever he wants? Every city has eccentrics and outliers, but his didn't seem to be the sort of city-affecting residency as Prince with Minneapolis others making real community investment/cultural enrichment. Other obsessions like the basketball team also didn't seem to contribute to the narrative of how OKC grew, as it's more like a spaceship that landed and took the city off it's trajectory. I'm very surprised oil wasn't more front and center.

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.

I never would have picked up a book on Oklahoma history on my own. No offense to Oklahoma, I'm just not from there, have no connections to there, and don't generally pick up histories of random states/cities. Since I received an advance copy of this book, though, I figured it wouldn't hurt to broaden my knowledge. I was very surprised. This book was exciting, interesting, heartwarming in places, heart-wrenching in others - in other words, it was a good read! The historical details of Oklahoma were some of the best parts of the book, as were the details about tornadoes and the Oklahoma City Bombing. The basketball...I could have done without that part. I realize that the author was trying to make a big connection/statement about Oklahoma City, but I honestly didn't feel like it added something relevant to the book for me. All of the chapters on basketball could have been removed and I don't think I would have missed them. Everything else, however, made for an interesting read.

A somewhat interesting look into history. It's a surprisingly enjoyable story.

This book grabbed my attention because of my interest in urban planning and cities and I found it thoroughly enjoyable. At times the switch from the origin story of Oklahoma City to the story of the basketball team became a bit tiresome but over all Anderson enlivens what could have easily been a dry historical narrative with his bright and funny prose.

I enjoyed reading about the founding of Oklahoma City and the juxtaposition of the Oklahoma City getting a basketball team. The chaos of the city being created seems like a foreshadowing to how the city eventually gets the Thunder. The explanation of the politics and planning of the city, as well as it's ups and downs, is written in a way that keeps the reader wanting to learn more. The various ways that the city of OKC and the Thunder boom and bust are told brilliantly.

I received an advance copy of this book from Penguin's "First to Read" program. I feel like the blurb for this book tricked me into reading a book about basketball, though that may have been a failure of reading comprehension on my part. There were things I liked about the book - Sam Anderson writes well, with energy and humor, and I really enjoyed the portions of the book that were about Oklahoma City history, meteorology, civil rights milestones, the federal building bombing in 1995, etc. But then just when things got interesting, there we were back at the basketball arena and my eyes glazed over again. If basketball interests you, you will probably enjoy this book far more than I did. But I really can't recommend the book to anyone who's not a sports fan - unless you're OK just reading alternate chapters. I do look forward to reading any future non-sports books by Sam Anderson!

I received a free copy of this book from Penguin's First To Read. I have visited OKC, but have no real attachment to or knowledge about it. This seemed like an interesting lens to learn more. I liked this for the most part, but in parts it just dragged. It was interesting to see how the team coming actually effected the town so much not as fans but as citizens. A little but for everyone here, but just kind of slow.

This is a real fun historical read! I rate this pretty high, just to reward the educational value of the content....I learned A LOT about OKC. I didn't even know that I was that interested in learning about the city...but the author really wrote an enjoyable, readable account.....touching on a lot of aspects....history, events, geography, politics, sports, weather, celebrities, sensationalism, industry, success & failures. Anderson found quirky, side stories that tied in, coloring the story of the evolution of the city.....& actually made it quite compelling to read. This book is really well done & I think Sam Anderson will find favor with it! I received this e-ARC from Penguin's First-To-Read giveaway program, in exchange for giving my own fair & honest review.

Boom Town is an astounding account of some historical events in Oklahoma City. The author, Sam Anderson, has penned an adult version of local civics and government classes. Most children learn their state and local history in the middle grades, but this book does not follow the traditional pattern of chronology found in student textbooks. The chapters skip around in no particular order, and they change in time and space so often, I felt like I was reading literature designed for attention deficit readers. There were times I thought the author was hired as a public relations spokesman for the Oklahoma Thunder or the Oklahoma chamber of commerce. I was also amazed at the urban sprawl of the city, the tenacity and foresight of city employee Stanley Draper, and the arrogance of NBA basketball players. Oklahoma City residents are certainly a resilient bunch, and Anderson demonstrates that with his writing.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I enjoy sports and sportswriting, but I’m not hugely basketball, and think that worked against me here. The writing is excellent, and I thought the non-linear structure worked well (I’m not usually a fan). Overall, I think is an interesting book but it didn’t quite work for me.

Non-linear telling of the history of Oklahoma City, both old and new. The contemporary history of the city is pretty much centered on the Oklahoma City Thunder which I did not mind but if you are not a basketball fan you probably will not enjoy it.


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