Southwest Books of the Year
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Clicking on a book cover will search for the book in the catalog. If it is not part of our collection, you may request it by clicking on the Can't Find It link. An icon indicates if the book is chosen by a panelist as one of the year's best.
- Names on a Map
- By Benjamin Alire Saenz. Harper Perennial. 426 pp. . $14.95.
- In this poetic novel set in El Paso at the height of the Vietnam era, Saenz explores the morality of the Southeast Asian conflict through the eyes of three generations of the Espejo family whose draft-age son struggles with the decision to serve or to flee to Mexico. Saenz vividly recreates the turmoil of the sixties, while penning a stinging indictment of the personal and social consequences of an unjust war. [ ]
- Natural Environments of Arizona: From Deserts to Mountains
- By Owen K. Davis, Peter F. Ffolliott. The University of Arizona Press. 196 pp. Index. $19.95.
- This revision of Charles Lowe’s Arizona’s Natural Environments features nine essays by acknowledged experts in the fields of climate, soils, water, flora, fauna, and geology. It presents an overview of the state’s resources and may help some readers better understand and appreciate the state’s diverse landscapes, fascinating plants and wildlife, and looming problems. The writing is scientists speaking to scientists; for example, “Sustaining flows of high-quality water becomes problematic when vegetation on the contributing watersheds has been inappropriately removed, burned by wildfires, or impacted by other actions causing elevated physical, chemical, and biological pollutants in streamflow regimes” (page 160). The information is precise but general. Maps would have helped. [ ]
- Nature at Your Doorstep: a Nature Trails Book
- By Gloria A. Tveten, John L. Tveten. Texas A&M University Press. 178 pp. $24.95.
- The best of twenty years-worth of articles about local flora and fauna by popular Houston Chronicle columnists John and Gloria Tveten, with illustrations by John Tveten.
- Nepantla: Essays From the Land in the Middle
- By Pat Mora. Univ Of New Mexico Press. 181 pp. $19.95.
- In twenty essays, Mora explores the issues of cultural preservation; preservation of her own Mexican American culture, which she views as a source for her creativity and for her sense of self.
- New Mexico in 1801: The Priests Report
- By Rick Hendricks. Rio Grande Books. 206 pp. Index. $17.95.
- In 1792 the Merchants Guild in Guadalajara was granted trading rights separate from the official traders in Guadalajara and a decade later they asked the local priests (20 all told) to report on the situation vis-a-vis “commerce” in the Pueblos. Hendricks has translated their reports, some as short as half a page, some as long as several pages into practical English aimed at accuracy rather than literary style.
- New Mexico Territory During the Civil War: Wallen and Evans Inspection Reports, 1862-1863
- By Andrew Wallace Evans, Jerry D. Thompson, Henry Davies Wallen. University of New Mexico Press. 304 pp. Index. $34.95.
- Major Henry D. Wallen and Captain Andrew W. Evans report on conditions at military posts garrisoned by the Union Army following the Confederate evacuation of New Mexico. Published here for the first time, with an introduction and detailed notes, these reports provide valuable information for military historians and students of the Civil War in the Southwest. [ ]
- The first thing I notice when reading the inside flaps of the book jacket was that the information on the front flap was partially repeated on the end flap, ending mid-sentence. Someone goofed here. The book contains a collection of Major Henry Davies Wallen's 1862-1863 inspection reports of nine New Mexican forts and Captain Andrew Wallace Evans' inspection of four New Mexican forts in 1863. The results suggest that because Western posts were isolated, they were almost ignored by those involved in the war. This included lack of supplies, poor care of the animals, even absence of sleeping sacks. The book is heavily annotated and includes biographies of individuals mentioned. There are sketches of the various forts but maps and other illustrations would have been welcome. [ ]
- New Mexico's Crypto-Jews: Image and Memory
- By Cary Herz. University of New Mexico Press. 153 pp. . $39.95.
- In what she describes as a "photographic diary," Herz captures in evocative black-and-white images the faces of descendents of 16th-century refugees from the Spanish Inquisition and displays cultural artifacts reflecting the secret Jewish heritage of the Southwest. Herz's subjects describe how Judaic practices were passed down to present generations and explain how awareness of their Jewish ancestry has influenced their identity. A haunting and uplifting look into a hidden corner of southwestern history.
- New Mexico: a Biographical Dictionary 1540-1980, Volume II
- By Don Bullis. Rio Grande Books. 408 pp. Index. $19.95.
- This second volume provides short biographies for about 500 “New Mexicans” (half of them shown in photographs) missed in Bullis’ biographical dictionary of a few years ago. Such names as photographer Lee Marmon (father of the much more famous New Mexican writer Leslie Marmon Silko) and Santa Fe resident actor Alan Arkin. We can quibble with some choices, but most readers will just wonder how some names were missed the first time around; names such as Mangas Coloradas (Apache war chief); Allan Houser (world class Native American artist); Nancy Lopez (world class golfer); Lozen (Apache warrior, sister of Victorio); and Mike Todd (Hollywood mogul and Liz’s first!). Good catch-up volume, Don. [ ]
- New Stories from the Southwest
- By D. Seth Horton. Swallow Press/Ohio University Press. 285 pp. . $32.95.
- Editor Horton, a University of Arizona graduate, has selected some 19 stories, all previously published in journals during 2006. The subjects are as varied as the authors who wrote them and are guaranteed to provide pleasurable reading. Patrick Tobin created an imaginary story about what might have been on the other side of Zzyzx Road near Baker, California. How did the cornfield appear next to the Pow Wow Hotel in West Texas? Dennis Fulgoni was entranced by the fact that a "Deadman's Nail" could be transplanted from a cadaver, while Donald Hurd found some interesting ways for Guadalupe to put a hex on the taxman. [ ]
- No Settlement, No Conquest: A History of the Coronado Entrada
- By Richard Flint. University of New Mexico Press. 358 pp. Index. $376.
- Thanks to the Spaniards' obsession with record-keeping, historians have long had a pretty good idea of what occurred during the 1539-42 exploration of the present-day Southwest. Now, archaeologist Flint draws on three decades of research and publication (with his wife, Shirley) to explain "how" and "why." Although this book lacks the narrative sweep of Herbert Bolton's classic account, Flint performs an immense service by detailing the background and context of the Coronado expedition and assessing its immediate and enduring legacy. [ ]
- Nobody's Horses: the Dramatic Rescue of the Wild Herd of White Sands
- By Don Höglund. University of Nebraska Press. 264 pp. $17.95.
- A history of the wild horses living on New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range, and a riveting account of the author’s organization of their rescue and relocation to safety.
- Northline: a Novel
- By Willy Vlautin. Harper Perennial. 192 pp. $14.95.
- Escaping her abusive boyfriend in Las Vegas Allison stops in Reno, adopts-out her "unwanted" baby and settles down to a less than perfect life. Vlautin writes "gritty" and "lost" very well, making this a fascinating, though perhaps not enjoyable, read. He also writes music and is lead singer for a band (a CD of his music is included in a pocket at the back of the book).
- Notes From Texas: On Writing in the Lone Star State
- By W. C. Jameson. TCU Press. 254 pp. Index. $27.95.
- Fourteen contemporary authors reflect on why they write and how place shapes their craft. Contributers include Judy Alter, Robert Flynn, Don Graham, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, Paulette Jiles, Elmer Kelton, Larry L. King, James Ward Lee, James Reasoner, Clay Reynolds, Joyce Gibson Roach, Red Steagall, Carlton Stowers, and Frances Brannen Vick. This entertaining glimpse into the creative process will appeal to readers and budding authors (or "arthurs," as Larry King calls them) alike. [ ]
- Notes on Blood Meridian
- By John Sepich. University of Texas Press. 216 pp. Index. $45.00.
- Sepich has updated, and added two new essays to, his seminal study of Cormac McCarthy's masterwork. Originally published in a small edition a quarter century ago, this essential sourcebook explores the historical and literary inspirations, imagery, themes, motifs, and assorted minutia McCarthy drew upon to paint his inspired portrait of scalphunters in the post-Mexican War borderlands. A "must read" for those, like myself, who consider Blood Meridian the great southwestern novel. [ ]