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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
Written by: Sam Anderson
Narrated by: Sam Anderson
Length: 14 hrs and 55 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (14 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

What the critics say

“[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

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fantastic

fantastic all round.. great story telling interesting features and well put together. will keep an eye open for more from Sam

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  • dan
  • 2018-09-09

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Justine
  • 2019-05-31

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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Hayley Frost
  • 2019-04-08

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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Benjamin R. Schmidt
  • 2019-11-21

A perfect book

I can't express how sad and nearly distraught I am to have finished this book. I could have kept listening to it indefinitely. A perfect blend of history, politics, urban planning, sports, told through a Hunter S. Thompson or David Foster Wallace lens that captures the ironies and absurdities of a place like OKC. Sam Anderson is unbelievably and unfairly talented, dropping wicked turns of phrase nearly every page, subjective but fair, deeply human. If I were a millionaire, I'd be writing checks for him to go write books on every American city. You will feel like you've inhabited OKC, right down to the cracks in the mud and the rainbow-painted streets on desolate commercial corridors. If you're interested enough to read this review, get the book immediately. Also read by Anderson, which is always preferable. One of my favorite books, ever.

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  • Justin A Berg
  • 2019-11-09

In Awe

Anderson’s storytelling is off the charts. This is an all-time ace piece of literature.

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  • J. Balash
  • Beverly Hills, CA USA
  • 2019-11-08

A terrific and skillful narrative

Sam Anderson is an insightful, poetic and captivating writer. He spent five years writing and researching this book. He carefully weaves OKC’s history into its current day culture and life. A thoughtful, instructive, educational and terrific work.

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  • MjaO
  • 2019-10-22

Wonderful

Having lived in Norman, OK for 22 years the book brought back many memories. Reliving the bombing and tornadoes was hard. Enjoyed learning more about OK and the weather.

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  • John
  • 2019-10-16

astoundingly good

This book is fantastic, one of the best I have listened to on Audible. It's a riveting history of Oklahoma City braided with the story of their NBA team, the Thunder. If you are at all interested in basketball or American history, you will enjoy this.

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  • Brett P. Ziller
  • 2019-10-09

Great intersection of sports, urban planning and US history

Author does a great job weaving the story of Oklahoma City through history and basketball. Really captures the mindset of a place.

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  • Adam S. Ryan
  • 2019-10-04

Outstanding!

I was basically forced to read this by a friend and had very low expectations - no interest in Oklahoma or basketball. I could not stop listening - so fascinating and unbelievably well put together.