Princeton professor Robert Wuthnow
Princeton professor Robert Wuthnow

The book: From its lingering legacies of slavery and segregation to the rise of the Tea Party, Texas has a history that mirrors the story of America. Rough Country examines — through the stories of ordinary men and women — the intersection of religion, race, and politics in the Lone Star state, from Reconstruction to Gov. Rick Perry’s failed bid for president. The author explores the decisive role of religion in Texas, where more evangelicals live than any other state, and the way in which religion has been complicated by race and ethnicity.

The author: Robert Wuthnow is a professor of social sciences and sociology at Princeton and director of the Center for the Study of Religion. Widely known for his work on the sociology of religion, he is the author of Small-Town America: Finding Community, Shaping the Future and Red State Religion.

Opening lines: “On Tuesday, Nov. 30, 1869, a well-respected businessman named B.W. Loveland failed to show up for the 7 p.m. meeting of the Lone State Odd Fellows lodge of which he was a member. Loveland operated a grocery store one block from Main Street in the heart of the city, only a few doors from the present-day site of Christ Church Cathedral and the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Houston. He was a quiet, unassuming man, a Confederate veteran who attended lodge and church meetings faithfully. And that made his absence puzzling. In fact, just that afternoon he had mentioned to a fellow member his intention of being present at the meeting. When his store remained closed the next day, a neighbor looked through the window and saw his body on the floor near the cash register. Someone had crushed his skull with a fatal blow to the back of his head.”

Review: Kirkus Reviews said: “In this brilliantly detailed book, Wuthnow … draws on newspapers, eyewitness accounts, and archival material as well as sociological theory, showing how notions of self and other emerged through institution-building practices that helped define Texan (and ultimately, national) identity.”