• Boom Town

  • The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, its Chaotic Founding... its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis
  • By: Sam Anderson
  • Narrated by: Sam Anderson
  • Length: 14 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (807 ratings)
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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 listeners say about Boom Town

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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.

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Surprisingly interesting! Give it a listen

You do not need to like basketball or Oklahoma to enjoy this book. You have lived through and been affected by way more of Oklahoma's history than you think.

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Weird, Wonderful OKC

Story is good, but then Anderson had a great subject that he shorted a bit.
I've lived here 62 years, and I can testify: OKC is weird. Not weird in a "working too hard to be in your face artsy" weird like Portland, but in a "shit's happened here that's never happened anywhere else in the world" weird. Anderson gets some of this, but he also focuses a lot on the stuff that's not unusual at all; Jim Crow, urban renewal blight, stupid politicians, pro basketball team drama... stuff that a hundred other cities have also gone through.
OKC is also wonderful. Why else would all these people live here? World's Biggest Small Town. The Big Friendly. This is what Anderson doesn't get. Long passages make you wonder why anyone would live here at all.
So part of my enjoyment of the book came from personally living through so many of events, personally knowing the people and places he described. Don't know if anyone else would get as much out of it.

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Riveting

What a joyful surprise! I never thought I would care about Oklahoma City, but after hearing Sam talk about his book on the 99% Invisible podcast I had to check it out. It was funny, tragic, riveting and engaging and I am genuinely upset that I have finished listening.

Highly recommend!

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Boom Town Delivers!

This book reminds me of all of the quirky, weird reasons I love Oklahoma City. Oklahomans are a different breed...we chase crazy dreams and sometimes achieve them with even wackier results. Our heros, our ethos and our outlooks are unique. I married a Texan, I live among Texans, but I will always be an Oklahoman at heart. Sam Anderson gets to the heart of our unusual city...great read!

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heartbreaking and elating

As a lifelong OKC native, this book was, for me, both joyous and devastating. All the things in the book really happened, pretty much as exactly described. I know because my family was here from the very beginning. We have connections to so many of these events. At times I wanted to keep listening because it was so happy and invigorating, remembering the family stories I had been told all my life. At others, two times in particular, I actually had to skip on to the next chapter because the memories had me sobbing.
I recommend this book both to natives, who will see themselves and their communities from a different perspective, and to non-natives, who can thrill and despair along with us.
Great book.

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ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!

I really had low expectations for this book but I had worked in OKC for two years so was interested in understanding it. Sam Anderson describes it perfectly. My impressions of the city are exactly as Sam described through his narrative and stories.

I loved the way that he told the story of OKC through multiple angles, personalities and stories.

Sam Anderson is an incredible story teller and narrator. I am sad that this is his only book. I hope he writes and narrates more.

The best audiobooks are the ones that you feel sad when they end because they could have gone on forever. This is one of them.

I want to go back to OKC to walk down the streets again. Wish this had been available before I went. So much I missed.

Thanks, Sam!

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interesting read

very interesting. talks about early OKC and ties current to past very well. would recommend!

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  • K
  • 09-05-21

In Sam Anderson we trust

This is one of those books where you just need to take a leap of faith, similar to how the Sooners did when they moved to “the unassigned lands” in 1889.

No, I wouldn’t have been able to make that comparison before reading this book. No, I have no desire to visit Oklahoma City or watch the Thunder or listen to the Flaming Lips or learn more about the 1995 bombing or fracking or tornados or urban planning or all the vigilante shit that went down in OKC.

But still, my goodness Sam Anderson is such a terrific journalist and writer (look up his NYT article on the last two white rhinos if you want a taste) that this book held my attention and then some. It’s digressive, a little shaggy, but so funny and insightful and moving, especially in the last section when he recounts in detail the horrific 1995 bombing and its effects on the city. That section is all the more masterful because in the previous sections he introduced us to many of the city’s residents, so we really care when he tells us what each of them experienced on April 19, 1995.

One last thing: Sam Anderson’s narration is both affable and clear, a real treat to spend 14 hours with.

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Excellent

A virtuostic combination of sports journalism in the mode of Roger Angell, and travel writing in the mode of Bill Bryson, Boom Town is funny, informative, insightful, and sad. A story of hope and disappointment, hubris and humility, oddity and conformity: it turns out OKC is America in miniature.

Featuring: Wayne Coyne (driving genius of Flaming Lips) as the city's Coyote-god; Kevin Durant as its self-conception as both conservatism and extravagancy; the city's Black community as victim and victor; and the weather as the eternal, unbeatable, unpredictable overlord that returns, every year, like clockwork and like lottery.