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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.

About a Mountain
By John D'Agata. W.W. Norton. 240 pp. $23.95.
D'Agata casts a wide loop in his rumination on Las Vegas, Nevada's Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site, linguistics, painter Gustav Muench, suicide, and the fate of Western Civilization. Introduced to the desert city and its surroundings when his mother moves there in 2005, D'Agata is fascinated (or perhaps appalled is the more accurate term) by the culture of a community hell-bent on growth, while at the same time he is haunted by the story of a young man who leaps to his death from a hotel roof. Posing the questions who, what, when, and why, he examines the self-destructive impulses that eat away at individuals and societies. D'Agata isn't the first writer to look at Las Vegas for signposts to the future, but few have delved so deeply and articulately into the moral and ethical fallout of its booster mentality. []
Yucca Mountain is some 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada and thought to be an ideal site for a nuclear waste storage facility. The project has been ongoing for 25 years costing billions, with continued bickering about the safety of the site and the possibility of radioactive contamination over the millenia. In 2005, the author thoroughly investigated the complexities of building a site and projected the consequences far into the future. Detracting from his main thesis is the attempt to solve the suicide of a young boy. An interesting read. []

Across the Great Divide: a Photo Chronicle of the Counterculture
By Roberta Price. University of New Mexico Press. 120 pp. $34.95.
Top Pick
While a graduate student at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Price visited communes in New Mexico and Colorado during the summer of 1969 and later in winter 1970, photographing members, buildings, scenery, and everyday life. Later she took up
residence at the Libre commune in Colorado where she stayed for six years and created more photographs. The photos and text in her volume triumphantly capture the hope, creativity and energy of the youth of that era. It is fascinating not only as a slice of history, but is also a testament to the power of the human spirit. Highly recommended with one small reservation: I wish Price had included a map showing locations of the various settlements.

Amexica: War Along the Borderline
By Ed Vulliamy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 320 pp. Index. $26.00.
The subtitle of this book – war along the borderline—is not hyperbole. Journalist Ed Vulliamy is a genuine war correspondent, having been one of the first reporters into the Iraq War and having covered Bosnia’s war firsthand. He knows a war when he sees one. He took a 2,000 mile trip to see the US-Mexico borderland battle zone for himself, and what he saw is a “country” unto itself, one he calls Amexica, and it is there that a real war rages. His vivid details and interviews connect the news headlines, and his style is as authentic as a battle report from the front lines. []
In 2009, British journalist Vulliamy traveled the U.S.-Mexico border from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas, interviewing people and collecting stories from the frontlines in the war involving police, the military, illegal immigrants, industrialists, workers, and drug cartels. The picture he paints, based on a decade covering border issues, is neither pretty nor reassuring, but his keen-eyed and level-headed book - rich in personal observation and anecdotal detail - should be required reading for everyone who struggles to make sense out of this seemingly senseless situation. []

Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire that Civilized the Wild West
By Stephen Fried. Bantam Books. 518 pp. Index. $27.00.
Top Pick
Harvey changed the culture of restaurants that catered to train travelers through his attention to food and service in what he called a “Harvey Worthy” environment. That environment included using the finest European linens, cutlery and glassware in his legendary establishments along the route of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroads. Also legendary were the famed “Harvey Girls,” created in the belief that women should tend to the restaurants’ customers. Harvey’s empire grew to include hotels, created by designer and architect Mary Jane Coulter, and Indian Detour Couriers, women trained in Southwestern history and lore, who guided travelers to spectacular sites. This is an enjoyable and well-researched history of food and travel through the Southwest! []
For six decades Fred Harvey restaurants, dining cars, and hotels provided the gold standard for quality and customer service in America, while shaping the popular image of the West in general and the Southwest in particular. In this appealing history, Fried follows the fortunes of the family business through three generations, highlighting the successive visions of fathers and sons, describing legendary innovations such as the Harvey Girls and indoor shopping malls, and assessing Fred Harvey's creative impact on the Grand Canyon, southwestern architecture, American Indian arts, and even Disneyland. A terrific read and a fascinating study of American entrepreneurship and culture. []

Arizona: Nations and Art
By Annica Benning. Walnut Canyon Press. 49 pp. $14.99.
At first glance, it is hard to believe that Annika Benning, a teenager, conceived, wrote and photographed this fact-filled book for children about Arizona Native Americans. The publishing information does credit Ani Benning, Annika’s mother, as editor/book designer, so understandably the teen had guidance in executing such a polished-looking publication. What admirably emerges is an earnest effort to honor and portray aspects of Native life, culture, art and history that Annika gleaned from her travels and reading. A glossary, museum list and other photo credits are included, but no bibliography/ reading list. []

Art Of Maynard Dixon, The
By Maynard Dixon, Donald J. Hagerty. Gibbs Smith. Index. $75.00.
This is a magnificent companion volume to Hagerty’s excellent biography of Dixon, published earlier this year by Gibbs Smith. The text here is fulsome, providing thorough background for an understanding of where Dixon was as his art evolved from illustration to painting, and why this evolution occurred. More than 200 vivid illustrations, many of them in the large format of this volume, remind us on page after page that Dixon was a master of both composition and color. []
This is a year to remember, whether you are a Maynard Dixon fan or just a lover of Western art. Donald Hagerty has given us two magnificent books about Dixon in one year. The second is The Life of Maynard Dixon. Essentially they are a set, this one featuring his art and the other, his life. In this volume, large format photos of Dixon’s paintings are effectively guided by detailed text about the works. The result is exceptionally satisfying, so save room for both on your bookshelf. []

Art of West Texas Women: a Celebration
By Laurie J. Churchill, Kippra D. Hopper. Texas Tech University Press. 196 pp. Index. $29.95.
What a beautiful book! The authors select twenty contemporary West Texas female artists and reproduce several of their works in full color and write interpretive essays on each. What could be a hodge-podge, since the artists and their art are very diverse, is unified by the strong themes of independence, feminism, and the all-abiding influence of the West Texas climate, landscape and ruggedness. This is a keeper. []
Take twenty women artists who live and work in west Texas, add full-color photos of their work, introduce them and their work with clear essays, and you have a book that commands you to turn every page. The art ranges from the paintings of Amy Winton to the miniature scenes of Pat Maines, the pottery of Marilyn Grisham to the painted hubcaps of Collie Ryan. My own favorites are the photographs by Tracy Lynch, or the sculptures of Dale Jenssen, or – heck, they’re all interesting. It is a cheery book, ripe with creativity. []

As a Farm Woman Thinks: Life and Land on the Texas High Plains, 1890-1960
By , Nellie Witt Spikes. Texas Tech University Press. 288 pp. Index. $34.95.
The text is selected features (early 1930s-1961) from several local Texas newspapers by Spikes (1888-1977), detailing remembrances and observations on life in West Texas. The unappealing title (it was the name of her column as well as earlier features by Laura Ingalls Wilder) belies the fascinating insights, history, and often lyrical writing in the collection. One gets a strong sense of the environment, weather extremes, the grit of the farm families, the spirit of community and optimism, and always the never-ending work. She shows a quiet sense of humor as in her observation on getting older about not feeling ready for the shelf but rather to lean on the shelf. This is an important contribution.


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