Literary City Guide | Houston, Texas


Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.
— Neil Armstrong

Tour Guide: Ima Oduok

Ima Odouk

Ima (pronounced ‘E-ma’) is a Houston native. She studied French, linguistics, and comparative literature and is working on a graduate certificate in translation.

Q&A

Relationship to Houston: Houston native. I grew up in the suburbs, but now live in the city center.

Writer you’d like to invite to dinner: Lorrie Moore or Patrick Chamoiseau

Chef you’d like to prepare the meal: Frédéric Perrier

Writing soundtrack: Silence

Pen or Pencil: Pen

Coffee or Tea?: Coffee

Paperback or Hardback? Paperback


Good Reads


BOOKSTORES

Brazos Bookstore. A hallmark of the Houston literary scene. They host readings and other literary events.

Murder By The Book. This specialty bookstore only sells mysteries, and its related genres. They are neighbors to Brazos.

Blue Willow Bookshop. Blue Willow, in addition to hosting readings from local authors, also has a series of story times for children.

LIBRARIES

Fondren Library. Fondren is the university library of Rice University. It houses over 1 million books on a wide range of topics.

Houston Public Library. The Central Branch, located downtown next to city hall, participates with local organizations to host cultural and educational events. The library also hosts a reading series called Public Poetry.

READINGS & CONFERENCES

Inprint’s Margarett Root Brown Reading Series. Now in its 34th season, The Margarett Root Brown Reading Series has brought such talents as Jeffrey Eugenides, Magaret Atwood, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Houston.

Gulf Coast. Organized by the literary journal of the University of Houston, this reading series features the work of students in the creative writing MFA program. 

Public Poetry. This nonprofit provides readings from renowned poets to the public free of charge.

OTHER FINDS

Menil Fest. This festival, which takes place at the Menil Collection, features readings, music, and dance every year. Literary organizations, libraries, local bookshops, and writers set up tables around this iconic museum to inform people about the thriving Houston literary scene.

University of Houston Boldface Writers Conference. This yearly conference takes place on UH’s main campus. Its aim is to encourage and inform emerging writers.

Good Eats


COFFEE SHOPS

Black Hole. This coffee house offers plenty of seating and parking (a rarity within the loop). Close to Rice and St. Thomas universities, it’s a hot spot for students.

Agora. Open late, Agora offers beer and wine in addition to coffee.

Boomtown. Located in a hip neighborhood, Boomtown gives off an effortless and groovy air. Plus, there is usually a food truck parked outside.

A PROPER MEAL

Edloe St. Cafe & Catering. An American diner with a variety in menu, and consistency in taste. Everything’s delicious.

Teotihuacan. If you want TexMex, this is the place to go.  

Blue Nile. Come here to eat authentic Ethiopian food

Coco’s Crepes. Easily the best crepe restaurant in Houston. Their savory crepes are simple, yet delicious.

Les Givrals. They offer tasty bahn mi sandwiches for low prices. 

TREATS

Chez Beignets. With three locations around Houston, Chez Beignets dominates the cajun donut scene. 

House of Pies. Just as the name implies, House of Pies makes a lot of pies. They are also a traditional diner.

El Bolillo. A Mexican bakery with fresh pan dulces.


Ima's 5 Favorites


1. Favorite view: Buffalo Bayou Park sits in the middle of Neartown. You get the greenery of a large public park, with public art sculptures, trails, and a dog park all while staring at the Houston skyline.

2. Favorite place to write: Writespace Houston. This writing center just opened and provides a small, quiet space, without the distraction of the internet.

3. Favorite museum: The Menil Collection has appeared on the list of 1000 Places to See Before You Die. It’s free and owns works by Picasso and Magritte.

4. Favorite coffee shop: Agora. The coffee shop also serves beer and wine.

5. Favorite thing about Houston: Houston is the most diverse city in America. You can find food from every continent, and there are always cultural events going on.