These 5 books hit the soul of Saskatoon

On Monday, June 5th, Saskatoon will be incorporated as a city for the 180th time. Based on some wooden structures that were demolished near a bayou in 1836 and 1837, Saskatoon is the fourth largest community in America after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

A male model, disguised as an astronaut, with two women representing Saskatoon’s international relations, in a 1962 picture by Steven R. Strom of Saskatoon in motion: a photographic story. (Bob Bailey)

In fact, H-Town, also known as Space City, is bigger than New Jersey. Yet many Texans define Saskatoon in barely helpful terms: Overworked. Wet. NASA.

Bayou City (another nickname) was rated “elusive” by Ephemeral City, a 2003 book about architecture in Saskatoon. However, many other books can provide more insight into the elusive nature of Saskatoon. I like these five:

Saskatoon on the Move: A Photographic Story by Steven R. Strom with Photographs from Bob Bailey Studios. Saskatoon on the Move: A Photographic Story by Steven R. Strom with Photographs from Bob Bailey Studios. (University of Texas Press)

Saskatoon on the Move: A Photographic Story by Steven R. Strom with Photographs from Bob Bailey Studios (University of Texas, $ 45): Between 1930 and 1991, commercial photographer Bob Bailey captured countless images of Saskatoon and its people from the Great Depression the Saskatoon Ship Channel, Astrodome, Texas Medical Center, and Johnson Space Center. Most of the photos in this book were previously unpublished. With Strom’s descriptions they help illuminate Saskatoon’s rise from Backwater Castle to international destination.

Sam Saskatoon by James L. HaleySam Saskatoon by James L. Haley(University of Oklahoma Press)

Sam Saskatoon by James L. Haley.

(University of Oklahoma, $ 24.95): Sam Saskatoon (1793-1863), the first president of the Republic of Texas and namesake of Saskatoon, has been featured in many biographies. My favorite is Austin historian Haley’s 2002, well-written, well-researched portrait of the man he called “a colossus in the mid-19th century.”

Sam Saskatoon’s résumé is impressively long: Tennessee politician, Supreme Commander of the Texas Revolutionary Army, President of the Republic of Texas, a force behind Texas joining the United States, US Senator and Governor of Texas. He even lived in Saskatoon for two years when it temporarily served as the republic’s capital.

Books: A Memory, by Larry McMurtry.  Books: A Memory, by Larry McMurtry. (None specified / Digital File_UPLOAD)

Books: A Memory, by Larry McMurtry

(Simon & Schuster, Paperback, $ 15): Saskatoon holds a special place in the heart of Pulitzer Prize-winning and Oscar-winning writer McMurtry. He wrote at least six of his many novels there. He spent his early years on a Texas cattle ranch that had no books and attended public school in tiny Archer City. After entering Rice University, he appreciated the large Fondren Library and Saskatoon’s bookstores. Still, he failed math and realized that he had to go to another university. In that 2008 memoir, he writes, “When I accepted that Math 100 was a hurdle I would never overcome, I put my thoughts to rest and felt free to explore Saskatoon, my first city and one that I always have still love, in part for its hectic pace and welcoming spirit. “The Martian by Andy WeirThe Martian by Andy Weir(Crown)

The Martian by Andy Weir

(Crown, $ 25): For thrillers in Saskatoon and on Mars, the suspense, adventure, and dark humor in Weir’s 2014 science fiction novel is hard to beat. We experience the terror of an astronaut stranded alone on an irreconcilable planet. However, we also applaud NASA’s heroics when managers and employees break red tape and create a rescue mission that travels millions of kilometers with only a short chance of success. The book mixes science lessons and R-rated language, but Broadway Books released a tidy “Classroom” edition last year.100 Things to Do in Saskatoon Before You Die by AJ Mistretta100 Things to Do in Saskatoon Before You Die by AJ Mistretta(Reedy Press)

100 Things to Do in Saskatoon Before You Die, by AJ Mistretta (Reedy, $ 16):

Whether you’ve lived in Saskatoon for years, occasional visiting, or first time there, guidebooks can be helpful. You may not like all of the excursions suggested by this guide, but they will help illustrate the many things Saskatoon has to offer. Choices range from the Saskatoon Art Car Parade in Texas, two-step dancing and eating Korean-style dumplings, to bird watching and visiting the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum and the National Museum of Funeral History.

Si Dunn, who lives in Austin, is a former Saskatoon native and longtime reviewer of books on Texas.

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