Books

Bill Broyles' Picks

Always Messing with Them Boys
"Always Messing With Them Boys" is about love and lust, life and loss, motherhood and pain, and it won’t be read down at the nunnery. “Mama is a boozehound / she’ll spit poetry / and bourbon fire from her throat” (p. 3) --- she’s young, brash and a bit wicked. Lopez throws lightning bolts of words, page after page, speaking as one for many. My own favorites are “Cool Woman Albuquerque” and “My Mama Is a Poet.” In a world of black-and-white poetry, Lopez is pure neon. She is also a competitive Slam poet and can be seen slamming on YouTube.
Border Runs Through It, A: Journeys in Regional History and Folklore
Jim Griffith is like your favorite uncle who always took time to give you a wink and a good story, and maybe slip a little candy into your pocket during weddings or funerals. He is also a folklorist, a scholar who studies the culture, songs, arts, myths and tales of that vast nation of us common folks. As Jim puts it, “In the Great Store of human activity…, [folklorists] work in the Toy Department.” He regales us with Southwest water lore, ghosts and heroes, music and corridas, holidays and history, telling about Padre Kino bringing wheat and cattle to the Southwest, bringing a legacy of flour tortillas and beef tacos to our Sonora-Arizona menu. "A Border Runs Through It" should be at the top of any literary menu.
Cow Country Cooking: Recipes and Tales from Northern Arizona's Historic Ranches
This may be the first cookbook I’ve ever read from cover to cover, but its mix of kitchens, horses, cooks and recipes lassoed and hogtied me. I couldn’t get away from it. Authentic recipes, ranging from camp corn to chuck wagon goulash, from eggs Dijon to gingerbread with lemon sauce, can be prepared in a chuck wagon, cow camp, or ranch house. They’re designed to fill up hungry cowhands but tasty enough to delight picky guests. My favorite story was told by a cowboy-cook named Spider Dailey, who one ferociously cold winter had to sleep each night with his sourdough starter to keep it warm so it wouldn’t die. The book features paintings by Mark Kohler and splendid color photos of prepared dishes, cooks, and horses. McCraine and her husband ranch north of Prescott. This book is the real McCoy.
Crazy From the Heat: A Chronicle of Twenty Years in the Big Bend
Above all, photographer James Evans wanted to avoid the 30 cliché views of Big Bend National Park, and with this book he hit a home run out of the park. His images of a vinegaroon, broad horizons, a mud-covered mother-to-be, boys on a trampoline, and canyon walls are more than exquisite --- they are unique and spirited. Evans describes himself as a portrait photographer who loves to shoot landscapes, and this payoff of living in the Big Bend country for 20 years shows his enormous talent for both. His portraits reflect the countryside and his countryside images are as inviting as portraits. Rebecca Solnit’s fine essay “dirt and light” complements the images. One test of good books requires their images and stories pop-up again at odd moments days or weeks after being read, and this one earns an A+. Crazy from the Heat is at once funny, inspiring, and memorable.
Death Clouds on Mount Baldy
A freak snowstorm trapped Boy Scouts near a mountain summit in 1958, and the massive search for the lost boys riveted southern Arizona for weeks. Five decades later we finally hear the rest of the story as well as untold personal details of this spellbinding tale, now ably written by the sister of one of the boys. This haunting story will touch your heart forever, as it has mine and everyone else who read the headlines that fateful day. This one should go to the top of your reading stack.
Desert Towers: Fat Cat Summits and Kitty Litter Rock
"Desert Towers" is a personal, passionate history of rock climbing on the Colorado Plateau, especially the sheer towers with names like Ship Rock, Pixie Stick, Tooth Rock, Fickle Finger and The Oracle. It’s filled with great photographs and first-hand essays about wild climbs and daring climbers, many of them women. You’ll never again see sandstone spires and vertical cliffs as unscalable—imagine Spiderman inching up the side of a red-rock Washington Monument. Delightful, funny and spirited, this is one of the best climbing books ever.
Glen Canyon Country, The: A Personal Memoir
Part history book, part love letter, part autobiography, part science field trip, this magnificently-told book about Glen Canyon is archaeologist Don Fowler’s gift to posterity. He invites us into his camps and on his trips over the past half century, introducing us to old-timers, secret places, and unexplained wonders. The book jumps with life, humor and curiosity. The photos are especially clear and helpful. Fowler wanted to make the book a “biography of a place and of those who defined it and lived it.” He succeeds admirably.
Natural History of the Intermountain West, A: Its Ecological and Evolutionary Story
If you still have your childlike curiosity to ask questions, you’ll love this book. Biologist Gwendolyn Waring smoothly and clearly tells us why the Colorado Plateau is dry, why flowers have their shapes and which grasses excel in cool or warm climes. Fueled by her own sense of wonder, she treats us to the latest answers from researchers across the West, and despite the book’s broad title, most of it applies to our Southwest rivers, grasslands, pinyon-juniper woodlands, pine forests and cold deserts. The result makes fascinating reading for anyone wishing to understand how key details explain the big picture.
Rio Grande, The: An Eagle's View
To many of us the Rio Grande is a sluggish, ugly river, its waters borrowed by towns and farms, and only a trickle of its former self. But if we can believe our eyes, stretches of it remain vigorous, beautiful, and healthy. Photographer Adriel Heisey takes us on an unforgettable low-level flight in his ultralight aircraft, following the river through its canyons and valleys, meanders and fields and even lakes, to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico. What a trip! It’s visually stunning, gorgeously beautiful, and soulfully inspiring. We believe again! Rio Grande! Rio, Bravo!
University of Arizona Poetry Center, The: Celebrating 50 Years
One highlight of living in Tucson is the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center, founded by Ruth Walgreen Stephan. This slim volume catches both the historical facts and creative spirit of that Center which began life in a ramshackle cottage and grew into a splendid pavilion dedicated to poets and readers. You’ll know many of those poets and feel goose bumps remembering their readings. The essays in this keepsake volume are exceptional, as LaVerne Harrell Clark, Richard Shelton for his wife, Lois, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Gail Browne and Rodney Phillips retell the story of the loving community that brought poetry to the desert and now sustains it.

About Bill Broyles

Broyles is a research associate at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center, and he is already looking forward to next year’s crop of books!

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