Cover of Southwest Books of the Year 2008Welcome to the 2008 edition of the best reading in Southwest books! Southwest literature has fascinated readers since the mid-1800s, when intrepid writers, braving the forbidding frontier, captivated eastern audiences with their remarkable tales of an exotic land few readers would ever see. Since that time our world has gotten smaller and travel speedier, but readers' fascination with the legends, culture and improbable landscape of the Southwest is unabated. With this in mind we proudly present our 32nd edition of the finest reading to be found west of the 100th meridian.

As in years past, our panel of southwest specialists has read far and wide and returned with a list of gems. In fact, two of their lavishly-illustrated favorites focus on gems of one type or another and the artisans who craft them into wearable art. They've also come up with great reads on subjects that range from Zuni pottery to New Mexican printmaking and from Brigham Young's wives to Stewart Udall's Camelot. We offer art from the Grand Canyon, and insightful new perspectives from the borderlands. You'll also find new titles on flora, fauna, and harvesting the rain to keep them all going. There are familiar names among the authors featured, including Charles Bowden, Gary Paul Nabhan and Luci Tapahonso, as well as plenty of writers to add to your list of favorites.

Of the 35 titles offered here, 12 are "Top Picks", especially noteworthy for having been selected by one or more panelists. Birders will find a boon topping the list in Wings in the Desert: A Folk Ornithology of the Northern Pimas. Four decades in the writing, Wings in the Desert is an intimate look at the natural world of the Pima Indians by ornithologist and ethnobotanist Amadeo Rea. Panelist Bruce Dinges calls it "...a bird book like no other, [possessing] an engaging informality that magically draws readers into the O'odham world." Also at the top of the list is Stella Pope Duarte's If I Die in Juárez, a profoundly disturbing eye-opener of a novel set in that border city, where hundreds of young women have been tortured and murdered. "Duarte has stunningly realized...a people trying to survive amidst the greed, avarice and predation of a failed state and two failed governments," say reviewers Sharon Gilbert and Paul Huddy. History buffs will want to consider L. Boyd Finch's memoir, Legacies of Camelot: Stewart and Lee Udall, American Culture and the Arts, a panelist favorite that W. David Laird characterizes as "A touching, personal, and thoroughly enjoyable reading pleasure."

We also have a list to please the kids, and it includes The Elephant Quilt: Stitch by Stitch to California, by perennial favorite Susan Lowell. Cathy Jacobus notes that with this addition to her acclaimed books for Southwest children, "Lowell, has outdone herself. Her choice of words is exquisite, and the character development she achieves is extraordinary in a picture book."

Whatever your reading pleasure, we have plenty of titles to chose from, including art, archaeology, astronomy, biography, ecology, ethnobotany, poetry, and photography, not to mention some great Southwest fiction that will keep you turning pages. See the complete, annotated inventory of the 2008 titles that arrived for consideration prior to our deadline by visiting the Complete List.

Our panelists read all year long to turn out this annual offering and are relentless in their pursuit of the Southwest's best. They are Bill Broyles, author, naturalist, and retired teacher; Bruce Dinges, Arizona Historical Society director of publications; Patricia Etter, a member of Arizona State University's Emeritus College; children's literature aficionada Cathy Jacobus, a Pima County Public librarian; W. David Laird, former University of Arizona head of libraries and owner of Books West Southwest; and the writing team of Sharon Gilbert, formerly a librarian with the Pima County Public Library and her partner, Solar Institute scientist Paul Huddy. Their task is not an easy one as they understand what an enormous undertaking it is to produce a book. Several are authors themselves; elsewhere in this publication you'll find their new, or soon-to-be-released offerings.

Many dedicated hands are involved in the process that produces Southwest Books of the Year, and we call your attention to their names in the "Thanks and Sponsorship" section of this publication. And finally, to keep abreast with what's new in Southwest reading all year long, we invite you to sign up for our monthly electronic newsletter, New Books of the Southwest.

-Helene Woodhams
Pima County Public Library Southwest Collections librarian and coordinator of Southwest Books of the Year.

Thanks & Sponsorship

Southwest Books of the Year–Best Reading 2008 is published by the Pima County Public Library in partnership with theFriends of the Pima County Public Library Friends of the Pima County Public Library and the Arizona Historical Society. This is the 32nd annual edition. The publication was begun by the Arizona Daily Star in 1977 and continued by the library in 2000.

Arizona Historical Society Southwest Books of the Year is made possible by a gift from the Friends of the Pima County Public Library and with funds granted by the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records Agency under the Library Services and Technology Act, which is administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Members of the Pima County Public Library’s Southwest Literature Project Committee are: Kathleen Dannreuther; Bruce Dinges, director of publications for the Arizona Historical Society; Margaret Guerrero; Marly Helm, past board president of the Friends of the Pima County Public Library; Rona Rosenberg; Dianna Thor; and Helene Woodhams, chairman. Nancy Ledeboer is the director of the Pima County Public Library.

We thank the numerous publishers who provided the Southwest Books of the Year panelists with review copies of their books. Many hands make light work, and we’re grateful for the handiwork of many. Elizabeth Burden, publication designer extraordinaire, has our thanks, as does our eagle-eyed proofreader, Mary Canavan. Thanks also to library associate Jenn Berry for her unfailing dedication and thoroughness, and to the Library's Virtual Library for their invaluable service in taking Southwest Books of the Year global through the wonders of the Internet.

Southwest Books of the Year considers titles published during the current year that are about Southwest subjects, or are set in the Southwest. For information about submitting a book for consideration contact us.

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