Big Bend is a National Geographic pick for the 25 must-see places in the world, but not everyone is lucky enough to live an eight-hour drive away. There are other ways to see the wild, and not-so-wild, West.

A new coffee table book exploring the vast expanses of West Texas is set to hit the shelves in June. Frontiers by Stephanie and James Khattak, the founders of Dallas-based K.Co Press, is the publication’s fourth book.

The more than 100-page photography book will showcase the beauty, “diversity and interest of an area that lives large in Texas lore,” according to a blog post. It is their first release of 2023.

Some of the gorgeous West Texas locations the book captures include Amarillo, Abilene, Lubbock, Marfa, Palo Duro Canyon, and many more.

Stephanie hopes Frontiers inspires readers to “learn more about this consequential region, and to experience it for themselves," she said in a release.

“From the grandeur of the Palo Duro Canyon to the kitsch of Route 66 in Amarillo, the enduring legacies of the Quanah Parker Trail and unique destinations of all sizes, the Texas frontier is as interesting as it is beautiful,” she said.

K.Co Press’ three previous coffee table books and travel guides were all published throughout 2022, entitled Ten Texas Towns and Places In-Between: Field Notes from the Back Roads; Sunwashed; and Howdy, Neighbor!

Two additional books are slated for release in 2023. Shorelines, which captures the Texas coast from Port Isabel in South Texas to Port Arthur in East Texas, is scheduled for August. Their sixth book, entitled When Brothers Agree: Historic Masonic Lodge Buildings in Texas and the Region, is expected in November.

Frontiers will be published on May 30, and will be ready for purchase in early June. For more information, visit kcoarts.com.

Photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Austin author highlights 75 weird, delicious, and creepy fungi in enchanting coffee table book

More spores in store

It's not mush ado about nothing — mushrooms live rich little lives in more places than people expect. (They also live big lives, if you're thinking about the world's heaviest edible fungi specimen weighing in at 100 pounds in 1990). They cure diseases, play big roles in spiritual rituals, and remove unwanted substances from the forest floor.

All this and more is ripe for exploration in The Little Book of Mushrooms, an Austin author's newest contribution to the world of fungi, out May 2. Alex Dorr already has lots of influence in this realm, through his Austin-based "functional mushroom" company, Mushroom Revival Inc., as well as the widely respected Mushroom Revival Podcast, and the Mycoremediation Handbook, actually his academic thesis about using mushrooms to clean up their environments.

This new written venture is more of a coffee table treasure, with hand painted illustrations (by Sara Richard) and approachable language that enthusiasts and newbies alike may idle among for hours. The Little Book of Mushrooms catches readers up to speed with geographic and growing locations (basically where they grow and what they grow on), characteristics, and uses, including lots of info about edible types and dangerous lookalikes.

The 75 mushrooms profiled were chosen both to cover a basic need-to-know selection as well as more morbid curiosities, such as Cordyceps caloceroides, which infects tarantulas and may grow as long as a human forearm. The book doesn't take a regional focus, but many of its subjects appear in Central Texas. Chorioactis geaster, also known as the "Devil's Cigar" or "Texas Star," is not just the state mushroom — it was discovered in Austin in 1893, and lives a curious double life here, in the mountains of Japan, and nowhere else, as far as scientists know. The strangest part: The two have been separate for more than 19 million years.

"I have ADD, so I love books that allow you to flip to a random page, read a couple of pages and then put it down," says Dorr. "This is one of those books that you can read cover-to-cover...or you can flip to a random mushroom, and that's your mushroom of the day — you read a couple pages about that mushroom, then you put it down, and you can go about your day."

Even though he wasn't in Texas yet, Dorr got acquainted with mushrooms in much the same way as many Austinites — that is, in college, recreationally. Then at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, he found that his new hobby freed him of pharmaceutical use, drinking, and smoking cigarettes, seemingly effortlessly. Every mushroom-related class Dorr could find made its way onto his schedule.

"Since they radically changed my life — pretty much overnight — I asked the question, 'Well, if these mushrooms could do that, what else is out there?'" says Dorr. "I discovered that you can grow them for food, for medicine, for building materials — they pretty much can solve most of our biggest world problems. And they're severely under-studied. ... We have only really discovered about one percent of all fungi."

Now in Austin, Dorr gets involved in the mushroom community at large through Mushroom Revival, sometimes doing giveaways, emceeing events, and teaching workshops with the Central Texas Mycological Society. The podcast airs weekly interviews with experts in the field of fungi from all over the world.

"A lot of people don't know anything about mushrooms or fungi, and that they're their own kingdom of life," says Dorr. "I think they're the underrepresented stewards of our planet, and they go pretty unacknowledged and unappreciated. And so, I think step one is just acknowledging that they're there."

The Little Book of Mushrooms is out now in hardcover and ebook formats at simonandschuster.com.

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Famous Austin furniture store Louis Shanks shutters last remaining locations

closing up shop

After nearly 80 years in business, family-owned Texas furniture store Louis Shanks is closing down its business.

As reported by Furniture Today, Louis Shanks will host a liquidation sale beginning Thursday, September 21, at the last remaining store in San Antonio, at 11035 IH-10 West, and its flagship store in Austin.

The furniture retailer first opened in 1945, led by its namesake Louis Shanks and John Stanford, Furniture Today said. The business had been operated by the Shanks family for four generations, with the San Antonio store opening in 1983. The company previously had a second Austin store, and more locations Houston and Sugar Land, which have all since been closed.

"An independent, regional retailer became nationally recognized by the industry and its customers for its fine furniture selection and impeccably vignetted showrooms," the industry website said.

Furniture Today reported that Planned Furniture Promotions will be spearheading the liquidation sale for Louis Shanks. Senior vice president Tom Liddell said in a statement that his company is "honored to be a part of [the] historic moment" with the long-established furniture retailer.

"This is a celebration of their decades of excellence and an extraordinary opportunity for consumers in the Austin and San Antonio areas to experience the legacy of Louis Shanks Furniture one last time," Liddell said. "This marks the end of an era, and we at PFP are thrilled they have entrusted us with this pivotal project."

A combined 200,000 square feet of merchandise will be liquidated, according to the report.

Here are the top 7 things to do in Austin this weekend

Weekend Event Guide

Nonstop cinema, critically acclaimed comedy, and tons of festival fun are in our sights for the next several days. Enjoy riveting conversation and expert journalism up close at the Texas Tribune Festival, or enjoy nonstop cinema with the return of Fantastic Fest. Check out the top seven things to do in Austin this weekend. For a complete list of events, go to our calendar.

Thursday, September 21

Fantastic Fest
The country’s largest genre film festival returns to Alamo Drafthouse Cinema South Lamar for another year of all things fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and action. Attendees will have the opportunity to screen a curated selection of daring and thought-provoking cinema by filmmakers from around the world. Notable festival events include screenings of the opening night film The Toxic Avenger, the first two episodes of Netflix's The Fall of the House of Usher, the mystery thriller Eileen, the closing night film Totally Killer, and more. Screenings and events are scheduled through September 28. Badges are available at fantasticfest.com.

Texas Tribune Festival
Lone Star journalism takes center stage at the return of the Texas Tribune Festival. The three-day event is curated by the journalists of the Texas Tribune itself and features interviews, surprise talent mashups, panel discussions, and several guest speakers all in one jam-packed weekend. Confirmed speakers for this year’s festival include Jake Tapper, Katie Couric, Coln Allred, and many more. For a full schedule of events and to attend the festival, go to texastribune.org.

ACL Live presents "Jim Gaffigan: Barely Alive Tour"
ACL Live hosts multihyphenate entertainer Jim Gaffigan for two nights back-to-back. He’s widely known for his keenly hilarious observations on life and is also a New York Times best-selling author and three-time Emmy-winning recording artist. Ticket information can be found on acllive.com.

Cap City Comedy Club presents Kevin Nealon
Comedic great Kevin Nealon is the newest featured artist to take up a residency at Capitol City Comedy Club. He’s best known for his decade-long stint on Saturday Night Live and other popular television series including Weeds and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Shows are scheduled through September 23. Get more details at capcitycomedy.com.

Public Power Block Party
Photo by Leah Muse Photography

Bust out your best moves at the Public Power Block Party on September 24.

Friday, September 22

Beerthoven Inc. presents "From the Top: A Duet for the Beginning of Time"
Duo da Capo, a local harp and oboe ensemble, explores the story of creation with a special live concert at Saengerrunde Hall. Guests can expect a program of contemporary music accompanied by creation artwork, for a dynamic showing for multiple senses. Pastries, beer and wine, and non-alcoholic beverages will be served. For tickets, go to Eventbrite.

Saturday, September 23

Dripping Springs Pumpkin Festival
Take a short trip to the Dr. Pound Historical Farmstead in Dripping Springs to welcome the fall season with a cornucopia of autumn-inspired activities for all ages. Pumpkin Festival highlights include live musical performances, seasonal food offerings, photo opportunities, games, attractions, a marketplace, and more. Following opening weekend, festival programming continues through October 29. For tickets and additional event information, visit geoji.com.

Sunday, September 24

Sierra Club Texas presents Public Power Block Party
Moontower Cider Company partners with the Texas Sierra Club to open its doors and grounds for a block party to raise awareness about clean energy plans and sustainability efforts. Visitors can enjoy food, drinks, live music, and other family-friendly activities all while learning about Austin Energy’s upcoming resource plan and other new initiatives. Block party admission is free and open to the public. Go to sierraclub.org for more details.

Austin wakes up and smells the brews at 2nd annual coffee festival

cool beans

Making a cup of coffee is one of the most ritualistic morning activities for millions of people every day. It's a truly customizable experience: You can use pre-ground coffee or grind whole beans yourself, and there are many different brewing methods, such as a traditional drip coffeemaker, a moka pot, or an AeroPress.

The local coffee community in Austin is in a world of its own, and coffee aficionados can enjoy a special weekend all to themselves to meet their favorite local roasters at the second annual Austin Coffee Festival on September 30 and October 1 at Fair Market.

Attendees are encouraged to bring their own reusable cups to enjoy endless coffee tastings from about two dozen well-known Austin roasters like Merit Coffee Co., Medici Roasting, Barrett's Coffee Roasters, and Greater Goods Coffee Co. Master roasters can help newcomers learn more about coffee, and local musicians will provide the soundtrack for the weekend.

If you're not a coffee drinker but would still like to tag along, there will be non-coffee options available, like tea tastings from Kilogram Tea and Kinship Milk Tea. Snacks will be available for purchase from Gelu Italian Ice and casual Mexican mini-chain Pueblo Viejo.

Additional roasters that will be at the festival include:

  • Creature Coffee
  • Red Horn Brew
  • Malone Specialty Coffee
  • Fara Coffee
  • Intelligenista
  • Kimbala
  • Sightseer Coffee Roasters
  • Vision
  • Springtown Roasters
  • Casa Brasil
  • Hard Charger Coffee
  • Haciendo Coffee Roasters
  • Carta Coffee Merchants
  • Dog Day Coffee
  • Tianon Coffee
  • Little City Coffee Roasters
  • Wild Gift Coffee
  • Luna Espresso

ATX Theatre, Topo Chico, Oatly, Mill-King, Minor Figures, and Loveramics will also be in attendance.

More information about the festival and tickets (beginning at $25) can be found on austincoffeefestival.com.