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L is for Larry McMurtry’s Booked Up

Booked Up in Archer City, TX (photo by Tui Snider)
Booked Up in Archer City, TX (photo by Tui Snider)

Larry McMurtry’s Booked Up

In 1988, Pulitzer Prize winning author Larry McMurtry returned to his hometown of Archer City, Texas with the dream of transforming it into a book-themed town. He even took out ads in literary magazines proclaiming, “Miraculous birth! Visit the newly born book town of Archer City, Texas, and help the endless migration of good books continue.”

For those who can’t quite place the name, Larry McMurtry has written dozens of novels, several of which have been turned into movies, including the Oscar-winning “Terms of Endearment” and “Brokeback Mountain.” Even if his name is not familiar, you may have heard of his book “Lonesome Dove” which was also a hit TV miniseries back in 1989. If Texas ever implements a citizenship test, it will certainly have a section dedicated to McMurty and “Lonesome Dove.”

While “Texasville” and “The Last Picture Show” (more movies based on McMurtry novels) were filmed on the streets of Archer City, McMurtry’s “book town” never quite came to fruition. Booked Up spread through several city blocks, but the rest of the town couldn’t keep up. Over the past thirty years, other bookstores and book-themed bed and breakfast inns came along, but failed to thrive. In August 2012, worried that Booked Up might burden his heirs, McMurtry downsized his stock from some 450,000 books to a more manageable – but still huge – stock of around 200,000.

Booked Up in Archer City, TX (photo by Tui Snider)
Booked Up in Archer City, TX (photo by Tui Snider)

I visited Booked Up after this auction and still managed to get lost for several hours in the stacks. When you first walk into Building 1 (there are 4 all together) it feels like you’ve stepped into a farm house owned by a rancher who likes to read. The décor is homey, with well-worn furniture, mounted deer heads, and knick-knacks. I found several interesting books in this first room, but they were pricey; we’re talking $200 and up. Luckily, other rooms had books in my price range and I came home with a couple of treasures.

Despite the massive downsizing, Booked Up’s stock still fills an entire city block, and you can feel that it is a labor of love. Homemade signs throughout the labyrinthine shop are part of the fun. Most are collages made from old magazines and say things like, “If you are unable to locate an employee in this building, please feel free to wander about yelling ‘yoo-hoo’ and peering into storage rooms until completely frustrated. Then proceed to building one where you will find patronizing employees busy at work or sitting around drinking coffee, laughing at you. Thank you.”

In 2011, the long-divorced McMurtry got re-married. His new spouse is Norma Faye Kesey (widow of the author, Ken Kesey.) The newlyweds live down the street from Booked Up, so you never know when they might pop into the store. [The previous section is an abridged excerpt from my Amazon Best Selling offbeat travel guide Unexpected Texas.]

Plan your trip to Booked Up
Address: 216 S Center St, Archer City, TX 76351

Booked Up in Archer City, TX (photo by Tui Snider)
Booked Up in Archer City, TX (photo by Tui Snider)

Follow me on Instagram & I’ll follow you back!

I’ve gone from turning up my nose at the idea of cell phone pictures, to being an avid iPhone photographer, which is why my theme for the 2014 A to Z blog challenge is Instagram Travel Photos. If you are on Instagram, I’d be delighted to follow you. Simply follow my photo feed (@TuiSnider) on Instagram and I’ll follow you back!

For more, check out my collaboration with Morgan Dragonwillow. Morgan used my iPhone photos to accompany her poems in a book called Wild Woman Waking. Check it out!

Booked Up in Archer City, TX (photo by Tui Snider)
Booked Up in Archer City, TX (photo by Tui Snider)

What is the April A to Z Blog Challenge?

Each April, people from all over the world participate in the April A to Z blog challenge, and you can too. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet other bloggers. To play along, all you do is make a blog post for each letter of the alphabet during April, then use the blog hop linky to visit as many other bloggers as you can.

My A to Z Inspired Book: Unexpected Texas

I’d like to thank everyone who commented on my blog during the A to Z Challenge last year, because it convinced me to take the self-publishing plunge. On March 2, 2014, I released Unexpected Texas as a paperback and eBook and it quickly became an Amazon Best Seller!

Check out other A to Z blogs below:

Check out the other participants of the A to Z Challenge 


Tui Snider
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Published inTravel Photo Essays


  1. Jane Frank Jane Frank

    Hi Tui
    Great post.
    I am publishing a book on book towns. Would you allow me permission to use your skull photograph and corridor photograph in my book? They are wonderful and I would be honoured to include them.
    Thanks and best wishes

  2. Looks like heaven to me! What a neat project. It’s too bad it never became what he envisioned, but I admire him for having the dream.

  3. My sister and I would love to do a roadtrip to Texas and include this destination!

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Texas is made for road trips! I hope you and your sister get a chance to hit the road together soon. If you do, check out my Amazon best-selling book Unexpected Texas. This post is an excerpt from it, and it is full of offbeat places to explore. :D

  4. This place would be so awesome to see. 200,000 books. That is almost unimaginable to me.

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Hi Annika! It’s a very fun little town, with a great bookstore. I really want to go back! :D

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Oh yeah, Patty! Plus, Archer City is so barren and spare. You just wanna find a shady corner and read yourself into oblivion when you are there. :D

  5. A book town! How cool. I may just have to make my way out to see this before he decides to downsize any more.

    • Tui Snider Tui Snider

      Oh yeah, Chuck! I, actually, really, really need to go back because a bunch of my photos from that jaunt got lost. I’m so bummed about that… :/ Live and learn, I guess! Plus, it’s a great excuse to go back. :D

  6. Wow, sounds like my kind of place! Great images by the way.
    Stopping by on the A to Z challenge. :)

  7. Rare for me to know the name of an author, I simply don’t remember them, but I knew Larry which made me smile. Is there a town library? I’m thinking they don’t need one, lol. I’m enjoying reading more then ever now that I have my ipad, musty books make me sneeze. Have a feeling visiting that place would really get me going.

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