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Boom Town

The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, its Chaotic Founding... its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis
Narrated by: Sam Anderson
Length: 14 hrs and 55 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (259 ratings)
Regular price: $35.00
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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times notable book of 2018. Named a best book of 2018 by NPR, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Economist and Deadspin.

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 outsize 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 front man 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.

Long-Listed for the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction

A New York Times Editor's Choice 

©2018 Sam Anderson (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“[Anderson] has discovered a subject that energizes him the way a birch-bark canoe roused John McPhee, the way a French meal stoked M.F.K. Fisher, and the way a burning Bronx fired up Jonathan Mahler.... Unlike navel-gazing yappers like Hunter S. Thompson, Anderson doesn’t splatter himself all over the story. He never drowns out anyone with his sly, entertaining voice. His sensibility, sophisticated though it may be, is generous enough to stand up and offer its seat to others... For all of the surrealism in [Franz Kafka’s Oklahoma-set] Amerika, whose runic metaphysics helped give rise to the adjective ‘Kafkaesque,’ the manuscript doesn’t begin to match the genuinely American phantasmagoria of Boom Town. What’s most surreal about Oklahoma City, as brilliantly rendered in Anderson’s wild and gusty history, is that this city is for real.” (The New York Times Book Review

“[Boom Town is a] dizzyingly pleasurable new history of Oklahoma City. If ‘dizzyingly pleasurable’ and ‘Oklahoma City’ aren’t words you expect to see in the same sentence, Anderson’s book wants to convince you that the capital of America’s 46th state is the most secretly fascinating place on earth.... It’s a peculiarly concentrated locus of old American energies, creative, destructive, and bizarre, and Anderson illuminates both the romance and the hubris of a city that went from wild gunfights to unrestrained freeways in a single human lifetime.... Boom Town is a dazzling urban history.... Anderson writes beautifully about the human beings he encounters, both living and dead. A minute-by-minute account of the Oklahoma City bombing left me almost in tears.... Anderson’s curious, hilarious, and wildly erudite book vividly evokes the bonk he describes here, as it holds together, quivers, and remakes itself over the following century.” (Brian Phillips, The New Yorker

“A delightfully deep dive into ‘one of the great weirdo cities of the world’.... [Boom Town is] one of the more unexpectedly entertaining - and stimulating - nonfiction romps in recent memory. Anderson deftly weaves together history, personalities and his own observations.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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OKC’s Past & Present Weaved Together

From land runs to Civil Rights, tornadoes to Wayne Coyne, urban boomtown to urban renewal and sprawl and gentrification to urban revitalization, Anderson beautifully weaves together OKC’s past and present. My biggest critique is what is not included — women beyond the heroic Clara Luper, Indigenous Peoples and nations, Mexican-American and Asian-American citizens. Also, he takes a few too many shots at the loyal Thunderman — Russell Westbrook. The history and stories Anderson includes are well-told. This is not a romanticized tale. OKC’s successes and shortcomings are presented. He uses vivid metaphors to weave stories together. I highly recommend this book. For those that see OKC as a flyover city, you’ll be surprised. For OKC natives, transplants, and expats, you’ll see Anderson captures much of their city in ways we knew, but hadn’t put altogether in one place. Well done, Mr. Anderson.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Confirmed all my prejudices about Sooners aka Cheaters

Shedding light on a city so oblivious to its own pathetic bust-boom, rinse and repeat history is bad enough. But to try to take any significant historical events like the bombing of the federal building, or the insanity of the Great Annexation and ask the reader to somehow equate these with an NBA team is ludicrous. Three stupid pro ball players took up more pages than anything else. Perhaps the author was trying to distract his gullible readers from the truth: his book is nothing more than a long drawn out sports column trying to disguise itself as history.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Just wow.

As an OKC native, and huge Thunder fan, I didn’t know half the details of the history of OKC that this book provided. Interwoven with the success and heartbreak of our beloved sports franchise, this book has it all. Highly recommended.

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Compelling Story of an Underdog City

As an Oklahoma transplant, this book made my heart swell with pride in my adopted state. OKC is not just a “nowhere place” it’s an “everywhere place” and Sam Anderson weaves together the strands of history, place, and people that make OKC a great American minor city. Fascinating listen!

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  • JJ
  • 01-13-19

too much basketball

excellent theme of boom and bust cycles of Oklahoma city. nice weaving of characters and stories that jump across time. entertaining audio narration.

neat history of place and connections to larger landscapes and period context. excellent character development.

the main pitfall for me was the sheer amount of focus on basketball. I understand bball is critical to the story development of the book, but too much for a non sports person. a full third of the book was detailed descriptions of bball games, players, etc. it got way too in weeds of individual games as larger metaphors.

final quarter of the books drags, yet very little time and depth is given to the Federal building bombing. however, I really liked the coverage of the tornadoes and it's linkage to community identity.

for an average reader, I think you could read the first half of the early land runs and leave the remainder.

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Interesting city

It’s an interesting story about a place you never think about. It’s a cool breakdown of a city that was made rather than evolved.

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The power of boom

Having grown up in Oklahoma, I loved having a great book that dives into some facets of Oklahoma history often forgotten or not taught in school beyond a date to recall on a test. The way the concept of boom is tied into it all makes for a fun read and a great take on the history of Oklahoma.

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Interesting to say the least

I really enjoyed learning about OKC. While I was familiar with the land rush, I had no idea about many of the other items. I felt the part about Wayne and the Flaming Lips was important but overplayed.

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Excellent.

Awesome book, great research and historical perspective on OKC. Kudos to Mr. Anderson for his work on this story.

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Fascinating!

Learned a lot about the history of OKC, more interestinf than one would first think.