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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.

Half Broke Horses: A True Life Novel
By Jeannette Walls. Scribner. 288 pp. $26.00.
Top Pick
The true-life to which the subtitle refers is that of Walls’ grandmother, Lily, a no-nonsense woman who grew up in the old western way, on ranches around horses. Not a novel in the strict sense it might better be thought of as fictional autobiography for it is a life personally revealed by the woman who lived it. Filled with down-home wit and wisdom (“If you can’t stop a horse, sell him, Dad liked to say, and if you can’t sell him, shoot him”), the tale moves through hard times as bad as the Great Depression, and worse, the suicide of a sister, to good times with expanding business, private planes and private landing strips. Fine book. []
Lily Casey Smith takes her place among the growing circle of spunky western heroines in memoirist ("The Glass Castle") Walls' "true-life" novel based on her grandmother's adventures as a ranch woman and school teacher in West Texas, New Mexico, and northern Arizona. Walls is a talented writer blessed with a quirky family. Readers will quickly find themselves swept along in a current that is perhaps broader than it is deep, but nonetheless provides a fun ride as Lily clobbers adversity and cuts her own path across a hard land. []

Healing the West: Voices of Culture and Habitat
By Jack Loeffler. Museum of New Mexico Press. 176 pp. $34.95.
Have you ever gone to a stimulating conference about the interplay between people and nature, and then tried to remember what all the speakers said? This is that conference, one of Native Americans and conservationists discussing the fate of northern New Mexico. The conversations are drawn from 25 years of Jack Loeffler’s interviews with a wide range of insightful, interesting people. From these, he constructs a book with three sections: “spirit of the place,” “shifting coordinates” and “moving waters.” An audio CD is included. I do wish that the book’s design more clearly defined the conversations from the short biographies and editor’s bridges. The topic is timely and deserved a more emphatic punch. Perhaps readers will benefit from reading the Hopi afterword first. The battles for control of the Southwest continue. []

Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest: the Definitive Guide: Medicinal & Edible Plants; Collection, Preparation, Use, & Cautions
By Charles W. Kane. Lincoln Town Press. 346 pp. Index. $24.95.

Discover complete medicinal and edible uses for more than 210 western plants, along with methods for collection, preparation, and cautions. Color photographs and paintings aid identification.
Heritage Farming in the Southwest
By Gary Nabhan. Western National Parks Association. 63 pp. .
Old time crops of Native Americans and westward settlers are now being grown on small heritage farms in order to produce more food with less water and to retain crop variety. The idea is to keep the larder full while avoiding the mono-culture produce and grains found at modern supermarkets. Varieties of chickens, sheep, cows, and pigs are also raised. Renowned ethnobiologist Gary Nabhan, a driving force in heritage farming, provides a fascinating and clear introduction not only to the crops but to places where visitors can touch the past, such as Rancho de las Gonondrinas, Tumacácori Mission, Capitol Reef, and Hubbell Trading Post. This traditional farming “involves the integration of drought-tolerant farming techniques with modern technological advances and the creative marketing of place-based foods” (page 27). Nabhan calls this a tasty miracle, aka Southwest cuisine. The book is lavishly illustrated but overdesigned and, in places, hard to read.
Nabhan’s legion of fans will also enjoy his new Where Our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine (Island Press, 2009), though it is not about the Southwest per se.

Historic Photos of Arizona
By Dick Buscher, Linda Buscher. Turner Publishing Company. 206 pp. $39.95.

A set of almost 200 photographs are discussed in the context of Arizona history
History of the Friends of the San Pedro River
By Gerald R. Noonan. Friends of the San Pedro River. 77 pp. Index. .
The Friends of the San Pedro formed when local citizens pitched in to support the newly created San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area managed by the BLM in southeastern Arizona. This account covers the period from 1987-2007 and is a tribute to generous volunteers who donate time and money to public lands. Too often the histories of groups like this are lost, so this book is a valuable record. And, others intending to launch such friends groups will find it both cautionary and enlightening. []

Hummingbirds of Texas: With Their New Mexico and Arizona Ranges
By Clifford E. Shackelford. Texas A & M Univ Press. 112 pp. Index. $19.95.
Texas was awarded firs place in the title simply because the state could lay clam to regular visits to backyard feeders by 18 species of hummingbirds. Arizona and New Mexico were close seconds with 17 species observed and counted. Well writen and finely illustrated, this book should be in every car library, handy for travelers interested in these tiny, beautiful, and energetic birds. Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. is responsible for much of the material here wince it organized and encouraged a citizen-science backyard survey. The authors also discuss gardens that attract these little birds, the best of feeders, migratory behavior, and notes on identification along with spectacular photographs. To add to interest, each species is described in depth. A map shows location where birds are found along with a chart noting seasonal abundance. []
It won’t fit comfortably into your pocket or backpack, but this large-format book provides excellent coverage in both photos and terrific color drawings of the 20 species of hummers that populate Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. There distribution maps for each species as well as a time chart to show months of residence. More than half the book is devoted to photos and texts that cover everything from behavior to feeding, from habitat to predators. Fine book.

Husband Habit, The
By Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez. St. Martin's Press. 384 pp. $24.99.

After falling for a series of married men, chef Vanessa Duran takes a vow of celebacy -- at least until she meets Paul, who's marital status keeps her guessing till the end.
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