Books

Notable Books

These books, although not selected as Top Picks, are worthy of special notice.

F  indicates fiction.

About a Mountain
By John D'Agata. W.W. Norton. 240pp. $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. []
Amexica: War Along the Borderline
By Ed Vulliamy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 320pp. Index. $26.00.
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. []
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. []
Art Of Maynard Dixon, The
By Maynard Dixon, Donald J. Hagerty. Gibbs Smith. 0pp. Index. $75.00.
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. 196pp. Index. $29.95.
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. []
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. []
As a Farm Woman Thinks: Life and Land on the Texas High Plains, 1890-1960
By , Nellie Witt Spikes. Texas Tech University Press. 288pp. 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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Baboquivari Mountain Plants: Identification, Ecology, and Ethnobotany
By Daniel F. Austin. University of Arizona Press. 333pp. Index. $79.95.
The Baboquivari Mountains southwest of Tucson are renowned for their natural beauty, enchanting history, and fascinating plants and animals. The summit is sacred ground for the Tohono O’odham. Botanist Dan Austin shares his extensive romance with the mountain by describing 187 of the plants found there. His affection is contagious as he talks about their ecology, how people have traditionally used them, where they are found, and how to identify them. But the book is much more than an i.d. book: it’s a very engaging conversation about our world, our own history, and even our language, for Austin, with the help of linguist David Shaul, dazzles us with the history of plant names in dozens of languages. []
Butterfly Landscapes of New Mexico
By Steven J. Cary. New Mexico Magazine. 167pp. Index. $27.95.
This attractive book makes one want to hustle to New Mexico in search of butterflies. Organization, by major climate zones then by geographical regions, along with helpful maps, make it easy to follow. Cary approaches the subject from a big picture point of view: geography, ecology, climate, interrelationships of plants and animals, nature’s whole cycle. He intersperses descriptions of butterfly locations with relevant sidebars on history, ecology, and early lepidopterists. The photographs are gorgeous. This seems more of an inspirational book than a guidebook, for example it would be hard for an amateur to distinguish among Ellis', Spalding's or Rocky Mountain Dotted Blues from the photos. This book will go with me on my next New Mexico outing. []
California Odyssey: An Overland Journey on the Southern Trails, 1849
By William R. Goulding. Arthur H. Clark Co.. 356pp. Index. $45.00.
What a thrill to vicariously travel along with a 49er Argonaut 160 years later. During William R. Goulding’s seven month trip with the Knickerbocker Expedition in 1849, he went from New York to California, riding steamboats, trains, stagecoaches, horses, and wagons, and even relying on his own feet. Thanks to assiduous detective work by Patricia Etter, we now have a full account of his life and of his trip as he recorded it in a rich diary. His descriptions of southern New Mexico and the Gila River Trail in Arizona provide much fun and information. Especially entertaining are descriptions of early Tucson and crossing the Colorado River at Yuma. California Odyssey tells a remarkable story with exemplary scholarship. Excellent maps accompany the text and notes. []
The editor of William Goulding's diary written on his Gold Rush journey from New York to San Fracisco between February 18-September 18, 1849 has done an incredible job of researching and clarifying with copious explanatory notes a work whose authorship was previously unknown. Her introductory biography tells us about the man, who seems to have been intelligent, literate, ethical, and gregarious. This outstanding book is a great addition to our knowledge of this period of history and the hardships endured by early pioneers in the Southwest. []
Caprock Canyonlands: Journeys into the Heart of the Southern Plains
By Dan L. Flores. Texas A&M University Press. 232pp. Index. $24.95.
Tired of seeing the same old landscape? Try this eye-opening book by Dan Flores, where his alluring photos and thoughtful essays introduce us to the canyons and ridges and rivers of the Southern High Plains of Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. It is grand country, full of surprises, but places like the Canadian River gorge, upper Brazos, Caprock Escarpment, Edwards Plateau, Palo Duro, and Valley of tears are known to relatively few tourists and hikers. Portions of it are national park quality. This edition has a new introduction by Annie Proulx and afterword by Thomas Dunlap. Don’t read the book unless you’re willing to change your vacation plans. This book would be one of my top picks of the year except that it is a 20th anniversary edition. []
Here is the Twentieth Anniversary edition of Flores’ work with a new foreword and afterword. It features stunning photographs of a wondrous land of canyons and badlands in southeastern Texas and New Mexico. Often ignored in favor of places like the Grand Canyon, this country deserves attention to the area’s rich history and scenery that has been reflected in the works of numerous writers and artists. It makes one want to pack a suitcase and take off for what could be an unforgettable trip through some of Nature’s wonders.

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Carved by Time: Landscapes of the Southwest
By Jake Rajs. Monacelli. 255pp. $75.00.
Glorious is one term that describes this coffee table book loaded with magnificent southwestern views in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Color defines a myriad of sandstone formations set against the deep blue of the sky. Here we have both natural landscape carved by wind and rain, altered by prehistoric peoples' signatures in the form of rock drawings and ancient pueblos built with hand-hewn stone. Here are the various hues of green in a northern forest and in the lowlands, the saguaro standing tall with arms reaching in all directions. Here is the essence of the southwest by photographer, Jake Rais. []
Charles Bowden Reader, The
By Charles Bowden. University of Texas Press. 297pp. $24.95.
Fans of Bowden’s hard-hitting essays and reportage will relish this collection of some of his best pieces, at least partly to be reminded of his humor as well as his insights. Remember the rattlesnake he christened Beulah and left alone near his front porch even though he acknowledged a serious fear of snakes? There is much to absorb in this nicely edited collection for it contains pieces of books, pieces of essays, pieces of journal articles, even some speechifying. If by some chance you have never read any Bowden, this book could be your eye-opening introduction! []
History, I predict, will judge Charles Bowden to be one of America’s great writers. His literary voice is stirring and distinctive, reaching millions through magazines, books, newspapers, and NPR. His analyses pulse with fact and logic. He is a Picasso who with one uninterrupted pencil line can draw you a camel or a duck … or a personality or history. At heart he is a reporter who would die to bring you a story. His conscience yaps at our heels. Many times he says what we don’t want to hear, but he says it so well that we must listen. Here is an able collection of some of his very best work. In fact, the editors easily could have pulled material for six or eight volumes: Bowden’s nature writings (some coronated him as Ed Abbey’s successor), crime beat (murder, rape, savings and loan fraud), eco-history (where has our ground-water gone?), border politics and mayhem (remember Juarez?), and other insistent topics. If you haven’t already met him, now’s a good chance. If you have, you know the treat in store. []
Chief Loco: Apache Peacemaker
By Bud Shapard. University of Oklahoma Press. 376pp. Index. $34.95.
Thoroughly grounded in written documents and Apache oral tradition, this impressive volume chronicles the life and times of an Indian leader who for more than a half-century sought accommodation with advancing Anglo civilization and, more often than not, found himself wedged uncomfortably between two cultures. In the process, Shapard uncovers new facts, corrects old errors, and offers fresh perspectives on Loco's life and on the Indian wars in the Southwest. A welcome addition to the growing list of Native American biographies. []
Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century
By Michael A. Hiltzik. Free Press. 496pp. Index. $30.00.
Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, here presents a dramatic story about the workers responsible for building the Hoover Dam during the Great Depression. Men, desperate for work, risked injuries, often ignored or untreated, lived in makeshift conditions, worked for long hours with enforced labor, inadequate food, and little protection from the elements. The author tells how the building of the dam contributed to the development of Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and San Diego, ultimately becoming a symbol and monument to the workers who toiled to build it. We await a new story about the men who built the recently completed bridge that spans the river thus relieving traffic over Hoover Dam. []
Conservation of Shared Environments: Learning From the United States and Mexico
By Laura Lopez-Hoffman. University of Arizona Press. 320pp. Index. $24.95.
Can environmentalists be reasonable as well as passionate? In 17 chapters, this thoughtful volume proves they can. Experts on the US-Mexico borderlands share their analyses of the conservation problems and their suggestions for solution. The experts represent both countries and many concerned organizations. The bottom line for across-the-border conservation is cooperation among groups and between countries, because the many problems can only be addressed by partnerships. This is an important book, for it is both practical and hopeful, and heaven knows that we need both, especially now. []
Converging Streams: Art of the Hispanic and Native American Southwest
By . Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. 283pp. Index. $55.00.
This glorious book, just for starters, has over 100 figures and 179 color plates displaying the artifacts of daily life – tools, textiles, ceremonial objects, pottery, jewelry, and architecture – that show change over time as cultures adapt and interact. These form an exhibit comparing works from the Pueblos, Hispanos, and Athapaskans of New Mexico at the Museum of Spanish and Colonial Art in Santa Fe. Text is provided by eleven experts in the various fields, including Marc Simmons, Ann Lane Hedlund, and Cynthia Chavez Lamar. An example of this convergence is a set of Apache Playing Cards painted on rawhide and copied from 18th & 19th century Spain, probably used in the game of Monte, a very popular card game adopted in colonial New Mexico. A book by Virginia & Howard Wayland, Playing Cards of the Apache 18th & 19th Century Spain, was reviewed by Southwest Books in 2006. []
Country of Vast Designs, A: James K. Polk, The Mexican War, and the Conquest of the American Continent
By Robert W. Merry. Simon & Schuster. 592pp. Index. $30.00.
James K. Polk was President of the United States for one term. He presided over the war with Mexico and ultimately was responsible for establishing the continental United States as we now know it. It is interesting to note that the author does not mention that Polk in his final message to Congress on December 5, 1848 confirmed the truth of the rumor of enormous concentrations of gold in California, thus giving his blessing to hundreds of thousands of emigrants eager to seek their fortune in what was to become the Golden State.

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Death of Josseline, The: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands
By , Margaret Regan. Beacon Press. 221pp. $26.95.
Regan, a frequent contributor to Tucson Weekly, uncovers the human faces that are too often obscured behind a veil of statistics and rhetoric. In her sharply etched stories, readers come face to face with ranchers, border patrol agents, humanitarians, and illegal border crossers caught up in a web of policies and circumstances that seem to defy reason. This compelling book should be required reading for everyone concerned with border issues. []
Desert Islands of Mexico's Sea of Cortez, The
By Stewart Aitchison. University of Arizona Press. 120pp. $15.95.
Stewart Aitchison, who has kayaked or hiked most of the islands in the Sea of Cortez, brings us his enormous love and knowledge in a tidy little book filled with photos, stories, and plenty of information. How were the islands made? How did plants and animals get there? Do people live on them? Aitchison ably explains the ecology, geology, and biology, as well as the human history. Kayak anyone? []
Aitchison is a master at creating guidebooks, but there are no trail maps or checkpoints here. This readable text is personal and descriptive, helping us understand the plants, animals and geology of the 44 small islands/islets strung out from near La Paz (at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula) to the mouth of the Colorado River. Enjoyable reading by a writer who knows what he’s writing about. []
Drowning Tucson
By Aaron Michael Morales. Coffee House Press. 330pp. $15.95. F.
The Tucson that Morales introduces us to in this volume is a place of hardship, especially for Hispanics and more especially for young people. Murders and severe beatings are common, drunkeness is routine, escape is nearly impossible. Although the characters in one section appear in others, this book is not so much a novel as a linked set of disasters. But the author knows this city and those of us who have lived here awhile recognize the streets, the bars, the hotels and restaurants, even the alleys as places familiar to our lives. After reading this story perhaps we will see these familiar places in a different, not complimentary, light, at least for a time. []
Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days, An
By Susan Wittig Albert. University of Texas Press. 221pp. Index. $24.95.
Mystery writer Susan Wittig Albert is best known for her China Bayles series, but in this book she writes with the warmth and reflection of a close friend sharing her diary for 2008. She covers gardening at her homes in New Mexico and Texas, the fuel crisis and election, writing books, and the reasons we live. Gentle, thoughtful reading as refreshing as rain water. []
Flood Song
By Sherwin Bitsui. Copper Canyon Press. 73pp. $15.00. F.
Poet Sherwin Bitsui speaks in dense, esoteric images of tribal life and his Southwest. Some of his lines I think I understand, such as “Each flickering finger:/ a memory of a flashing yellow sign, / blinks between charcoal sheets of monsoon rain” (page 12), but others are beyond me, such as “Dinetah—scratched out/ from the eye with juniper bark—/ hunches with engine sweat / curling out of its collar…(page 59).” Maybe I need a guide, or maybe the images play on Navajo symbols and words. The undercurrent of despair and death is unsettling, but whatever it all means, Bitsui’s words are lingering and haunting. []
Forty Freedoms
By M. H. Salmon. High Lonesome Books. 239pp. $24.95. F.
This account of a trial is told by Harley Simmons III while he is in jail in the bootheel of New Mexico, being tried for murdering the sheriff. Simmons explains that he is using the Salmon nom de plume because it was the name of an ancient ancestor, a writer whose works are now all lost! This sly humor will not be lost of some readers since this novel is populated with many of the people from an earlier Salmon novel! Having lived, Salmon that is, in this area of NM for more than two decades, he gets the speech patterns and attitudes just right; an enjoyable read about the values of nature and defense of wild lands. []
Frederick Hammersley
By Frederick Hammersley, Dave Hickey, Charlotte Grey Jackson, Sarah S. King, David Pagel, Arden Reed, Joseph Traugott. Museum of New Mexico Press. 192pp. $65.00.
This large format, lavishly illustrated book is a tribute to the art and life of abstract painter Frederick Hammersley (1919-2009), who began his career on the West Coast but spent his last 40 years painting in Albuquerque. The book is organized chronologically with four interpretive essays by art critics and curators and a concluding interview with the painter. Positives of the presentation are clear colorful reproductions, literate essays and ultimately an understanding of the artist's creative process from idea to completion. This book should be in every modern art lover’s library. []
Friendly Fallout 1953
By Ann Ronald. University of Nevada Press. 231pp. $24.95.
Readers of southwestern literature will remember Ronald for outstanding works such as The New West of Edward Abbey and Reader of the Purple Sage, so this amazing tour de force may come as no surprise. Now Foundation Professor of English at the Reno campus, she takes dead aim at the events in 1953 during the various above-ground atomic bomb tests. She creates composite characters who were “on the ground” that spring. Through their eyes we see that series of tests from different perspectives: an old “prospector, who may be a spy; a bartender who eavesdrops on the customers; a staffer sent out to find out why thousands of sheep are shedding their wool in clumps; and nine others. For anyone with enough years to remember those tests, this will be a remarkable reminder of just how far scientists and the army were willing to go in the cause of developing nuclear weapons. []
Gem Trails of Arizona
By James R. Mitchell. Gem Guides Book Co.. 271pp. Index. $14.95.
This guidebook, the latest revised edition of a work that has been around for fifty plus years, is a gem in itself. It is a compendium of up to date information for rockhounds collecting in Arizona. An introduction gives a general overview of safety rules and commonsense guidelines. The bulk of the book is comprised of double face spreads with a map of the collection site on the right and a text description and usually a photograph on the left. Brightly colored photographs of specimens in the center section grab the viewer. Helpful additions include a glossary of gems; an alphabetical mineral locator cross-indexed to specific sites; and lists of gem shows, mineral and mining museums, and clubs in Arizona. []
Geology of Northern New Mexico's Parks, Monuments, and Public Lands, The
By L. Greer Price. New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. 372pp. Index. $24.95.
This wonderful blend of geology, scenery, and state history takes you to 44 special places in northern New Mexico ranging over the Jemez Mountains and Vidal Caldera, the southern Rockies, the Rio Grande Rift, the Great Plains, and the Colorado Plateau. A team of knowledgeable geologists clearly introduces and explains Bluewater Lake, Ship Rock, Ghost Ranch, Gilman Tunnels, Sandia Mountains, Tent Rocks, Wheeler Peak, Sugarite Canyon and fascinating features in-between. Maps and diagrams complement the gorgeous photos, making this a must-have book. It’s a beautifully designed and laudable volume, especially for a state agency. []
Grandest Ride, The
By Tom Brownold, Brad Dimock. Rio Nuevo Publishers. 44pp. $8.95.
Falling would be fatal, but Colorado River boatman Brad Dimock trades his oars for a saddle as he takes us on a mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon along a narrow, winding trail that skirts sheer cliffs. It’s the granddaddy of all trail rides for tourists and one that none of them will ever forget. Dimock shares what it is like to trust one’s life to a hopefully-sure-footed mule, and Tom Brownold’s dandy photos give us a wrangler’s eye view of the job and the canyon. This book is the next best thing to saddling up. []
Grandpa's Magic Tortilla
By , , Demetria Martínez, Rosalee Montoya-Read. University of New Mexico Press. 30pp. $18.95. F.
Award-winning Latina poet and author Demetria Martinez has teamed up with another Latina writer, Rosalee Montoya-Read to create her first children’s book which is also one in the publisher’s Children of the West series. Set in Chimayo, New Mexico, this is a sweet story of loving grandparents whose grandchildren come to visit, help with the chores, and play in the idyllic rural setting. When grandpa burns one of the tortillas he is heating up for breakfast, the youngsters each conjure an image of an animal that they see in the burnt area. But then something more magical than their imaginations apparently occurs. Even the neighbor children can see the magic that adults do not. When something happens to this special tortilla, the neighbor children attempt to make amends. Softly rendered watercolor illustrations convey the liveliness, warmth, and imagination of this bilingual story. []
Gulf of California, The: Biodiversity and Conservation
By Richard C. Brusca. University of Arizona Press. 354pp. Index. $75.00.
Twenty-four Gulf of California scholars from both sides of the U.S./Mexico border contributed expertise in discussing the diversity of some 6000 recorded animal species found in the Gulf (Sea of Cortez). They were also concerned with the origins of the gulf, its physical and chemical characteristics, and conservation. The book is highly technical and will be treasured by scholars interested in the study of the Gulf. []
This is a major contribution to our understanding of the Gulf of California. Eleven expert chapters describe fishes, whales, marine birds, algae, sea turtles, and invertebrates and then discuss their future in a changing environment. Especially interesting are chapters on the history of the Gulf and Colorado River delta, on strange rhodolith beds (red algae) that resemble corals, and on the chemistry and water movement in the Gulf. The final chapter, on ecological conservation, is exceptionally thoughtful and innovative. This is another outstanding book in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum nature series. []
Historical Atlas of the American West: With Original Maps
By Derek Hayes. University of California Press. 288pp. Index. $39.95.
Here is a selection of historic maps that honor the history of the west from prehistoric times. These are accompanied by historical vignettes, photographs, and sketches. The author neglected to note that the Oregon and California trails are National Historic Trails and that Philip St. George Cooke and his Mormon Battalion opened the first wagon road to the Pacific. Also missing is Juan Bautista de Anza's 1776 trail out of Tubac, Arizona to found the city of San Francisco. []
History Ahead: Stories Beyond the Texas Roadside Markers
By Cynthia J. Beeman, Dan K. Utley. Texas A&M University Press. 317pp. Index. $23.00.
Since the 1960s when the program was initiated, Texans have installed some 13,000 official historical markers around the state. The markers contain a brief description of the historical event that took place at the site. The authors carried out in-depth research on 19 historic markers scattered over Texas and discovered some interesting history of the places, people, institutions, and sites in the areas honored by the markers. Includes maps and photographs. []
History of the Ancient Southwest, A
By Stephen H. Lekson. School for Advanced Research Press. 439pp. Index. $39.95.
Stephen Lekson is a free-thinker who specializes in archaeology of the Southwest, and he has an opinion on everything. His rendition of human history has a spirited cast to it and you’ll learn something on every page, but this is the first book I’ve ever encountered where the notes were more exciting than the text. For example, his rebuttal to eminent Chaco authority Gwinn Vivian (pages 340-341) is like watching a sparring match. The notes run for 96 pages, and the bibliography is synoptic. Right or wrong, Lekson makes archaeology riveting. []
Homesteading Along the Creek: Pioneer Life in Cave Creek, Arizona, 1890-1940
By Patrick Grady. Arizona Pioneer Press. 170pp. $20.00.
Despite its proximity to Phoenix, the Cave Creek area was until the latter half of the 20th century a rural ranching community. And Grady’s attention, as the subtitle indicates, is on those early years. He provides an excellent summary history, then gives a chapter each to the ten homestead ranches along the creek, from the Linville Ranch west of Black Mountain at the south end to the Cartwright Ranch at Seven Springs. Excellent local history, well-written and with a thorough listing of sources. []
Hot Pots: Container Gardening in the Arid Southwest
By Scott Calhoun, Lynn Hassler. Rio Nuevo Publishers. 127pp. Index. $19.95.
This may be the cheeriest book of 2010. Its colorful pictures of potted desert plants and patios are sure to bring you a smile. Two well-spoken experts show you how to select plants and pots, how to prepare soil, how to care for your plants, and even how to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your doorstep. You’ll want a copy for yourself and a friend. []
I Know It’s Dangerous: Why Mexicans Risk Their Lives to Cross the Border
By Lynnaire M. Sheridan. University of Arizona Press. 206pp. Index. $24.95.
Why do some citizens of Mexico feel justified crossing into the US without papers or permission? This book explains their rationale, those wide-ranging personal reasons that compel some people to defy danger and death to illegally cross an international border. Some of the reasons will surprise you, just as some of the dangers will shock you. The author takes the side of the migrants, but she is factual and insightful. She notes that the US has created an incentive for migrants to take risks, for if they can just sneak past the Border Patrol they seem to be home free (page 22). []
Imaginary Lines: Border Enforcement and the Origins of Undocumented Immigration, 1882-1930
By Patrick Ettinger. University of Texas Press. 216pp. Index. $60.00.
America’s border policies evolved over the past century and a half, and particularly on its southern border with Mexico, it is still evolving. Patrick Ettinger presents a carefully documented history of changing national policies and needs that have involved sovereignty, commerce, labor, and security. However, lawmakers historically have failed to convince individual people to obey those policies. As a result, argues Ettinger, “An unrealistic border has created unrealistic expectations for an unrealistic and ever more expensive program of border enforcement” (page 176). The book is balanced, thoughtful, and quite readable. []
Indians of Arizona and New Mexico, The: Nineteenth Century Ethnographic Notes of Archbishop John Baptist Salpointe
By , John Baptist Salpointe. Rio Grande Books. 0pp. $19.95.
Resident for the last 30 years of his life in Tucson (1868-1898), Salpointe had become fascinated by Native American lifeways years before. The writings presented here, as well as earlier notes, were in the possession of Fray Angelico Chavez who gave them to ethnologist Charles H. Lange for use in his research on the Pueblo Indians. Here they are “pieced together” and published for the first time. The editors have done an excellent job of arranging the somewhat fragmentary pieces, as well as providing brief introductory sections of explanatory background. Salpointe was a man of his time, of course, and had no training in cultural studies, making his observations sometimes derogatory and demeaning of (as well as often totally wrong about) his Native American subjects. []
John Baptiste Salpointe succeeded Archbishop Lamy of Santa Fe and worked among the tribes of Arizona and New Mexico between 1860 and 1898. In addition to proselytizing among the Native tribes, he set up hospitals and schools, collected statistics and folk tales and wrote tribal history as he saw it. It has been heavily annotated by the three editors who reorganized the material into more readable form. Unfortunately they took literary license by deleting “gratuitous remarks” along with Salpointe’s “disrespectful comments toward Native people,” which may have left us with a different view of Salpointe’s personality.

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Introduction to Grand Canyon Fossils, An
By Dave Thayer. Grand Canyon Association. 63pp. Index. $9.95.
Fossils fascinate young and old alike, and here geologist Dave Thayer provides an array of color photos, maps, great metaphors, and detective work to give us a clear, lively account of fossils found in the Grand Canyon of Arizona. Well worth reading. []
Jeremy Jackrabbit Harvests the Rain
By Rodney Glassman, Sasha Glassman. Dandak Publishing. 28pp. .
This cleverly-rhymed picture book portrays the anthropomorphized desert life of Jeremy Jackrabbit and instructs the reader as Jeremy learns about simple rainwater harvesting techniques. Delightful illustrations by children artists are engaging and appealing to youngsters, and may even encourage some to value their own artwork. Tucsonans are already familiar with one of the authors, Rodney, as a former City Council member and politician. Locals may be less aware that both Rodney and co-author/wife Sasha have backgrounds in land use, conservation and other environmental concerns. []
Knifewing and Rainbow Man in Zuni Jewelry
By Toshio Sei. Schiffer Publishing Ltd.. 144pp. Index. $24.99.
This handsome volume has excellent color photos of overlay jewelry featuring the two Zuni figures, Knifewing Man and Rainbow Man. There are more than 200 photographs, clearly reproduced, and each piece is identified by name of the artist, approximate year of production, size (in inches) and an estimate of price/value. The text includes Sei's notes about when and where he acquired the piece as well as biographical information on the artists. Every collection featuring Native American jewelry will need to add this volume! []
Last of the Robbers Roost Outlaws: Moab's Bill Tibbetts
By Tom McCourt. Canyonlands Natural History Association. 141pp. $14.99.
Tough guy Bill Tibbetts, had run afoul of the law several times for stealing cattle and horses before turning over a new leaf with a fresh start and a new name in New Mexico in 1924. During most his 26 years in Southeastern Utah, he hid out in a vast area of mesas and deep canyons in what is now Canyonlands National Park. Butch Cassidy and his gang were known to hide out at Robbers’ Roost in Horsethief Canyon and that is where Bill Tibbetts managed to avoid the law. The author based his story on reminiscences of relatives and newspaper articles which are reproduced exactly as they appeared. Names of places and characters are real but the dialog is pure fiction. Original photographs of Tibbetts and his family are a nice addition as are modern photographs of the grandiose views of the canyonlands area, supposedly by the author. []
Living Waters of Texas, The
By Ken Kramer, Charles Kruvand. Texas A&M University Press. 164pp. Index. $30.00.
With chapters carrying titles like “Hooked on Rivers” and “Falling in Love with Bottomlands” by water experts and conservationists, you’d expect a lyric call for protection of living waters in Texas. You won’t be at all disappointed. As the inspiring texts and the gorgeous photos by Charles Kruvand show, the Lone Star State has many wonderful bays, streams, springs, lakes, and rivers worth knowing and protecting. This edition is one of the River Books series sponsored by Texas State University. []
Mata Ortiz Pottery Today
By Guy Berger. Schiffer Publishing Ltd.. 176pp. Index. $49.99.
Berger’s connection to Native American and regional craft arts is multi-generational. He presently owns a trading company in Albuquerque, and his knowledge of the breadth and depth of Mata Ortiz (the Casas Grandes area of Chihuahua) pottery is thoroughly demonstrated in this visually stunning book. More than 200 beautiful ceramic items are illustrated in color, many of them filling a single page of this large-format book. Seven brief texts introduce chapters on color, special shapes, miniatures, and etched types. One chapter points to the similarities between Mata Ortiz and its northern neighbor in New Mexico, Acoma Pueblo. []
Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush
By Luis Alberto Urrea. Cinco Puntos Press, Inc. 64pp. $17.95. F.
In a parable, of sorts, Urrea narrates a time in his youth when he and his friend Jaime saw Mr. Mendoza as a kind of all-knowing saint. For example, catching the boys spying on a naked woman, Mendoza tackles them, takes away their clothes, and paints slogans on their bodies announcing their sins. Identifying himself as “El Rey de Graffiti de Todo Mexico” Mendoza eventually defies burial in the local church by painting himself a stairway to heaven. Cardinale’s “graphic comic” illustrations perfectly document the Urrea text. []
Murder City: Cuidad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields
By Charles Bowden. Nation Books. 320pp. $27.50.
This should be required reading, not because it has answers, but because it graphically lays out the reality of crime, fear, and corruption in Juarez, unforgettably. Reading it is like being pounded by an AK-47, with short staccato sentences assaulting the reader with mounting death and mayhem. One of the memorable interviews is with a former professional killer, now in hiding, who details his journey from bright kid trained by CIA to honest cop to hit man. Even though now reformed he has a sense of pride in his skill as an assassin. This book is painful but important. []
Dante’s Inferno would need a tenth level of hell to describe the murderous mayhem of modern Juárez, Mexico. In Murder City, journalist Charles Bowden reports on the psychopathic slaughter of 1,607 people in 2008. A Sinaloan beauty queen loses her mind, a church pastor shepherds the hopelessly deranged, and the assassin himself is targeted for death. Bowden deserves a Nobel literature prize for his staunch work on this international story that has consumed a city and may consume him along with its other victims. In book after book, Bowden yells “Fire!” but no one can believe the savage inferno of cocaine on every corner and dead body on every street. As the fire spreads, it may soon engulf us all. We’ve been warned. []
N. Scott Momaday: Remembering Ancestors, Earth, and Traditions: an Annotated Bio-Bibliography
By Phyllis S. Morgan. University of Oklahoma Press. 400pp. Index. $60.00.
If you are bibliographically oriented you will love this book, even if you don’t know who Momaday is (unlikely) or don’t realize that nearly 25 years of his literary career have been spent at the University of Arizona. If you (including, of course, libraries and librarians) know and appreciate, and perhaps collect, N. Scott Momaday’s novels, poems, autobiographical writings and essays, this book will be an essential addition to your library. Morgan provides 60 pages of biography and chronology before launching into a listing of more than 1,875 annotated entries. The total includes 780 entries for works by Momaday (including such things as published interviews, forewords, afterwords, etc.,(the remainder, nearly 1300 items are critiques, reviews, biographies, and such). A bibliographical tour de force. []
Natalie Curtis Burlin: a Life in Native and African American Music
By Michelle Wick Patterson. University of Nebraska Press. 402pp. Index. $45.00.
Curtis grew up in educated affluence in NYC and was trained in classical music, but switched gears after being mesmerized by a Hopi song while visiting the Southwest in the early 1900s. It became her mission to interpret and promote Native American music to others as a remedy for the ennui caused by industrialism. She later did the same for African American music. She married "modern" artist Paul Burlin in 1917 and the couple moved to Paris in 1921, following the "return to normalcy" movement following WWI. She died after being run down after stepping off a streetcar the same year. This book is important as the first full length biography of a strong talented woman who contributed greatly to the interpretation of ethnic music. The Indians' Book is still in print. []
New Deal Art in Arizona
By Betsy Fahlman. University of Arizona Press. 240pp. Index. $49.95.
The New Deal was formed during the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to provide relief during the Great Depression by establishing a number of work programs. The Federal Art Program brought a group of artists to Arizona, among them, photographers Dorothea Lange and Russell Lee; muralists Gerald Nailor and Lew Davis; and sculptors Robert Kittredge and Emry Kopta. Many works were created in public buildings, including Post Offices and a number survive today. The author discusses how each was created. The book is heavily illustrated and Fahlman expertly interprets each photograph and how it fits into Arizona’s historic record during the New Deal period. A very good read.
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The Great Depression did bring some good and lasting things to Arizona: CCC buildings and New Deal artwork that captures those times and portrays Arizona’s soul. Photographers such as Ansel Adams, Dorthea Lange, Ben Gaha, and Russell Lee; muralists like Lew Davis and Lon Megargee; painters such as Maynard Dixon; and sculptors Emry Kopta and Raymond Phillips Sanderson each gave us lasting art and appreciation of the times and the state. This well-told book beats with a human heart and the images are indelible. []
One Nation, One Year
By Karyth Becenti. Rio Grande Books. 128pp. $24.99.
Photographer James, a staffer at Albuquerque, The Magazine and member of the Navajo Nation, spent a year (February to February, 2008-2009) traveling throughout the huge Navajo Reservation with camera in-hand. The result of his hundreds (no doubt) of rolls of film is presented here in monthly segments of glorious color. This is not high-image art photography but true representation of the modern Rez. He concludes with a panorama of more than 60 hogans, mostly traditional, 8-sided structures; there’s even a dog-size version. Wonderful browse! []
Don James, a photographer with Albuquerque Magazine, set out in February 2008 for a year of travel over the 26,000-square-mile Navajo reservation with the goal of photographing the people as they carried out daily routines whether it be sheep shearing, rodeos, beauty contests, music, art, and more. He ended up with some 105,000 color images that show the wonderful blending of the old and new. One particularly interesting segment is how a group of men created a golf course from weed choked terrain. []
Ópatas, The: in Search of a Sonoran People
By David Yetman. University of Arizona Press. 339pp. Index. $39.95.
Four centuries ago when the Spaniards came to Mexico the Opatas were the largest indigenous group in Sonora, but today few descendents claim that lineage. What happened and where did they go? Sleuth David Yetman searches the countryside and archives to track them down. The hunt is a maze of twists and turns, making the book as good as any detective story. His first-rate scholarship fills a void in our understanding not only the fate of these people, but also how people respond to “civilization”. []
Painted Light
By Kate Breakey. University of Texas Press. 126pp. $65.00.
This large format retrospective of artist Kate Breakey’s work includes full color plates from nine different suites. Breakey first photographs an object, perhaps a piece of fruit, a dead animal, or cactus; then she uses colored pencil and oil paint to bring the object to life and create the backdrop. The author highlights events of her life which influence her painting and helps explain the reverence which comes through in her paintings. It’s a beautiful book. []
Pio Pico: the Last Governor of Mexican California
By Carlos Manuel Salomon. University of Oklahoma Press. 256pp. Index. $24.95.
Pío de Jesus Pico, twice governor of Mexican California, spent the last 48 years of his long life under the American regime, one that he fought hard to prevent. Nevertheless, he became an American citizen and one of the wealthiest landowners in the state. Over the years he made many bad decisions and was embroiled in at least fifteen recorded lawsuits in an attempt to keep his holdings. His incredible drive to succeed, his stubbornness, and his innocence may have been his downfall since in the end he lost all and died penniless. He is not forgotten. During Cinco de Mayo celebrations in 2001, his building, the Pico House, in the old Los Angeles plaza had been restored and celebrants gathered to honor the old hotel as a state historic landmark.

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Prehistory, Personality and Place: Emil W. Haury and the Mogollon Controversy
By J. Jefferson Reid, Stephanie Whittlesey. University of Arizona Press. 0pp. Index. $19.95.
You’ll devour this book by two eminent archaeologists who, like you, love the thrill of discovery. They explain how professionals dug ruins in eastern Arizona and came to call their makers the Mogollon people. The pace is fast as Reid and Whittlesey eloquently recount the roar of a scholarly debate that pitted the University of Arizona’s Emil Haury against some of his mentors and close friends at Harvard; it became East vs. West, old institution vs. upstarts. At its heart, this is a book about how the Southwest affects people and how Haury’s gentlemanly debate guided a civil conclusion. []
Rattlesnake Rules
By Conrad J. Storad. Five Star Publications. 340pp. $16.95. F.
Thankfully, award-winning science author Storad teams up once again with illustrator Jenson to delight younger readers with another funny yet informative story about another Southwest critter. In rhyme and vibrant color, we learn the rules young rattlesnakes “learn” for hunting, eating and warning; conversely, there are even a few rules for humans to observe. This short rhymed tale concludes with four pages of interesting facts about rattlesnakes and another four pages of “curriculum guide.” Though perhaps not as hilarious as the duos’ prior tales about the desert tortoise, armadillo, and packrat, “Rattlesnake Rules” still charms and informs. []
Rival Rails: the Race to Build America's Greatest Transcontinental Railroad
By Walter R. Borneman. Random House. 388pp. Index. $28.00.
Almost as soon as the Central Pacific and Union Pacific joined at Promontory, Utah in 1869, the Big Four- Charles Crocker, Henry Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Leland Stanford were joined by Jay Gould and other prominent railroaders to set sights on a second transcontinental railway. This time, they turned their eyes south and competition for new lines began anew. It took just 39 years and the winner, Atchinson Topeka & Santa Fe, ultimately became the favored route to California. In the meantime, the competition between lines was tough and nasty. In spite of politics, money, and personalities, the job got done. The story doesn’t end here. Fred Harvey, restaurateur, introduced fine food and impeccable service that made the AT&SF a favorite among travelers eager to see the wonders of the West. Eventually the story comes to an end with the introduction of air travel, and a ride on the elegant rails was left to the history books. []
Railroad books can lose themselves in the minutiae of railroading, but this fine book balances big picture analysis with fun storytelling to give us a rousing history of the role that the transcontinental railroad system played in the settlement of America. Whether telling the adventures of Bat Masterson, the theft of the Colton “frog,” the ingenuity of the Belen cutoff, or the lure of the Harvey Houses, Borneman’s pace is crisp and entertaining. Excellent maps complement the text, which is bolstered by copious notes. The Southwest is prominently featured. []
Road from Frijoles Canyon, The: Anthropological Adventures on Four Continents
By William Yewdale Adams. University of New Mexico Press. 371pp. $45.00.
Adam’s first and only visit to Frijoles Canyon was in 1927, when he was eight years old and the memory fueled his determination to be an “Indianologist.” Thus his long road led him to Berkeley, Stanford, and ultimately the University of Arizona, where he obtained his PhD. Later roads took him to the Navajo Nation, the Sudan, and visiting lectureships in China, Kazakhstan, Germany, England and eventually a teaching position in the University of Kentucky. His sojourn on the Navajo reservation as a trader and livestock drive foreman is of Arizona interest. It is not indexed. []
Santa Fe House, The: Historic Residences, Enchanting Adobes, and Romantic Revivals
By Margaret Moore Booker. Rizzoli International Publications. 246pp. Index. $50.00.
Hundreds of color photos support chapters covering Santa Fe houses from a chronological perspective. Within each historical period one or more houses are highlighted and details of their history recounted. Some houses are shown in very early photos, black and white of course, with a contemporary photo for comparison. The text is a detailed historical survey of the seven periods covered showing Booker’s thorough research. Fine book. []
Southwestern Desert Resources
By Charles Van Riper, William L. Halvorson, Cecil R. Schwalbe. University of Arizona Press. 360pp. Index. $39.95.
I look forward to books like this because for years I’ve heard snippets about the work of these researchers in the desert Southwest and now I get to read the fuller stories of their projects. In this volume of 25 chapters, 55 scientists tell what they learned about topics as diverse as plants in Saguaro National Park, mineral dust drifting across the border, rodents in ironwood forests, black bears in the Sky Islands, and termites on healthy saguaros. The insights and conclusions are as interesting as they are important. Pick a chapter and dive in. []
Tamarind Touchstones: Fabulous at Fifty: Celebrating Excellence in Fine Art Lithography
By Marjorie Devon. University of New Mexico Press. 200pp. $29.95.
Tamarind Institute, an arm of the University of New Mexico, is celebrating fifty years of fine lithography with an exhibit of ninety prints from its archive of thousands. These are reproduced in full color in this handsome book. This is more than a catalog, however. Essays by contributors such as the director, curator, and master printer reveal the rigors of the training, the emphasis on collaboration by artist and printer, and the love and care that go into each piece, all of which have made Tamarind the outstanding lithography center it is. []
Texas Ranger Biographies: Those Who Served 1910-1921
By Charles H. Harris, Frances E . Harris, Louis R. Sadler. University of New Mexico Press. 454pp. $50.00.
Since 1835, exploits of the Texas Rangers as a fighting force are legendary. At the onset of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, the Texas State Ranger force set aside traditional role of fighting Indians and outlaws to protect border towns and cities. This is a companion volume to Texas Rangers and the Mexican Revolution: The Bloodiest Decade, 1900-1921. The volume contains a prodigious amount of research and we learn that there were Regular Rangers, Special Rangers, and Loyalty Rangers. The author particularly notes that the Mexican War gave the ranger force twenty-five more years as a separate entity. []
Those Days in December: a Frontier Family's Southwestern Journey
By Nancy Lucia Humphry. Camucille Press. 274pp. $14.95.
Although a historical novel, Those Days in December is filled with the places, people, and everyday life that the real-life ranch-wife, Maria Lucia Gonzáles, and her husband had known. This book is an admirable effort by her granddaughter, the author, to stitch together family documents and stories into a credible “autobiography” of a frontier couple finding its way from job to job through Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona between about 1870 and 1966. The result is a sympathetic portrait of a brave woman in a harsh frontier life. Even her last days in an old folks home were difficult, but make for thoughtful reading. []
Union of their Dreams, The: Power, Hope, and Struggle in Cesar Chavez's Farm Worker Movement
By Miriam Pawel. Bloomsbury Press. 372pp. Index. $28.00.
Cesar Chavez was no saint. The founder of United Farm Workers Union took on the world in his determination to protect farm workers from exploitation by owners of vineyards and farms. At the same time, he led with absolute power and micromanaged, often not listening to those who reported to him. Here is an amazing story of Chavez’ exploitation of three women and five men who believed in the struggle and wholeheartedly and selflessly dedicated years of their lives to help those who worked for little pay in deplorable conditions. Powell’s meticulous research has produced the untold story of eight people who were the backbone of the union and contributed to Chavez' success: Chris, Elesio, Jerry, Sandy, Ellen, Gretchen, Jessica, Sabino, each one devoted to Chavez, and each one ultimately unceremoniously tossed out long before Chavez’ death in 1993. This is a powerful work. []
University of New Mexico, The
By V.B. Price. University of New Mexico Press. 128pp. $34.95.
There is no doubt that students, graduates, and professors, past and present, will treasure a copy of this beautiful publication. Graduate Robert Reck, now an internationally known architectural photographer, filled the book with stunning photographs covering the four seasons. The author writes that the 120 year-old university has "querencia, a place in our hearts, like a homeland.” It serves a vast community of writers, poets, scientists, scholars, architects, musicians, painters, and sculptors. The buildings on campus show influence from Spanish, Pueblo style, and modern, each honoring past history. []
Women Who Live in Coffee Shops and Other Stories
By Stella Pope Duarte. Arte Publico Press. 192pp. $15.95. F.
Duarte’s stories are vignettes; this is what life is like on the mean streets of Phoenix. Poor but proud, tough but tender, her characters surely came, at least in part, from her own life on those streets. When a boy falls from a tree and dies, is his older brother responsible because he didn’t watch him more carefully, and does this taint the rest of his life? Often the lessons of today are juxtaposed against the morality tales of an aunt, a mother, a grandmother and modern life imitates the Bible. []
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