Take our word for it. You can snuggle up with Understanding the Arizona Constitution - and not only be all the better for it but entertained as well. Phoenix lawyer Toni McClory's informative, straightforward, witty look at this venerable, ubiquitous document was the number-one choice of this year's Southwest Books of the Year panel, garnering four votes out of a possible five.

There are a total of 29 titles listed as the five panelists' top choices. Close in popularity to number one: The Southwest Inside Out, looking at the geology of the Southwest, and Sunk Without A Sound, unraveling a Colorado River mystery.

Biographies did well: Edward Abbey: A Life and Pie Town Woman, two biographies whose subjects, if nothing else, are at the opposite ends of the fame and financial curve. And, American Character, the story of Charles Lummis (pronounced Lum—to rhyme with “plum”—iss), a man without whose efforts we might not be doing this project at all!

It has been 24 years since a listing of southwestern titles first appeared in the pages of the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson's morning newspaper; it was identified as a Christmas list. This year is the second for its sponsorship by the Pima County Public Library under the name Southwest Books of the Year.

The top choices follow with a brief summary written by one of the panelists who chose it. Following the top picks, you'll find each panelist's list with commentary. And we've included a Complete List of all the books considered; many of which are excellent candidates for any southwest library.

Good reading, and we'll see you in 2002.

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