Books

W. David Laird's Picks

100 Years ~ 100 Quilts: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
This book is a perfect celebration, in brilliant color photographs, of the 100 Arizona quilts displayed in a special exhibition marking the state’s centennial at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson. The quilts are accompanied by brief statements from the quilters, usually a personal account of their reasons for quilting or an explanation of the meaning of their designs. Quilt themes range from cowgirls and cowboys to desert canyons and from the “Dove of the Desert” to Hopi kachinas.
100 Years ~ 100 Quilts: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
This book is a perfect celebration, in brilliant color photographs, of the 100 Arizona quilts displayed in a special exhibition marking the state’s centennial at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson. The quilts are accompanied by brief statements from the quilters, usually a personal account of their reasons for quilting or an explanation of the meaning of their designs. Quilt themes range from cowgirls and cowboys to desert canyons and from the “Dove of the Desert” to Hopi kachinas.
Arizona: A History
It is rare that a revised edition can also be a best book pick, but Sheridan’s effort has made his superb first effort into a “must-read” for anyone interested in the history of our state.
Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story about Copper, the Metal that Runs the World
Bisbee, AZ, once a copper boomtown, has been quiet (except for tourists) these past 30+ years. Between books (this is his third), journalist and former Bisbee resident Carter decided to plant a garden with his daughter, and nearly died from eating his own vegetables! Arsenic used in copper mining was the culprit, and the experience set him off on a research project to understand the copper industry. An excellent writer, Carter lets us understand both the history of copper extraction and the industry’s worldwide implications.
Continental Divide: Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall
Note the subtitle! This continental divide does not run down the spine of the Rockies. Schlyer’s account describes the problems created by the border fence and its impact on the desert, the grasslands and, most telling, the people, and doesn’t overlook its effect on the Rio Grande. Her photos, in excellent color, look closely at the non-human creatures in the divided landscape in which we now live in. Her final chapter, titled “Appalachian Rain,” may seem like a long stretch at first, but it is a reminder that any water, no matter where it “starts,” is connected to all water!
Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History
Nearly a decade ago a week-long manhunt by hundreds of police personnel in the Mojave Desert led to the death of desert-rat, loner and civilization-hater Donald Kueck. He had murdered a local sheriff’s deputy and then gone on the run and into hiding. Stillman’s research and presentation are simply superb. She presents a broad point of view and allows all the major players in the drama to speak for themselves. When we finish reading we may think either “tragedy” or “just-desserts”, but we won’t doubt that we understand who, why, when, where and how.
Driven
If you read and enjoyed Sallis’ "Drive," or saw the movie about his Hollywood stuntman-turned-getaway driver, this latest is definitely for your reading pleasure. It’s an exciting roller-coaster of a ride through the streets of Phoenix (and briefly, Tucson). The setting is graphically presented and the action is non-stop. The man piloting the car and dodging hitmen is known simply as Driver, and you can put an exclamation point after his name! A must-read for thoughtful fans of action fiction.
Landscape Dreams, A New Mexico Portrait
This large-format, black-and-white photographs (nearly 100 of them) demand attention–not because they are spectacular, no, but because they are thoughtful and filled with subtlety and nuance. A few people and a couple of horses hold the viewer’s attention, both because they are uncommon and because there are details that somehow draw the eye, as it were, to find out how the photographer did it. Viewed through his artistic lens, a fallen windmill, a horsewoman leaning on a porch pole, even two columns in Carlsbad Caverns, all represent the magic of New Mexico.
Last Water on the Devil's Highway: A Cultural and Natural History of Tinajas Altas
The Tinajas Altas, often called by the English designation “High Tanks,” are, as the desert rat might say, at least 30 miles from nowhere in the southwest corner of Arizona. Broyles and company have created a remarkably complete picture of the area based on a decade or so of in-depth research. This book is not just for scholars--every collection of desert literature, overland travel history and arid-lands botany should include it.
Shadows on the Mesa: Artists of the Painted Desert and Beyond
Fillmore, author of previous works on western art and owner of a gallery in tony Cave Creek, knows his subject: its background, its stars and its themes. His knowledge of western art and its history is prodigious. In "Shadows on the Mesa" he pays considerable attention to such artists as James Swinnerton and George Herriman (remember "Krazy Kat"?) as well as to Carl Eytel, Emry Kopta and others who rarely get adequate notice in such surveys. But he doesn’t ignore the stars; Maynard Dixon, Carl Oscar Borg and other notables are here as well. Lavishly illustrated in color.
With Blood in Their Eyes
Cobb’s clever dialog does not mask the fact that his characters, real historical figures, are crude, sometimes Quixotic, and uneducated men. Based on a 1918 shootout in remote southeastern Arizona, the event itself and the manhunt that followed are often so graphically described that you might think the author had been part of it. But not content to simply describe gruesome events, Cobb provides the background that lets us see how this murderous event came to be. If you like realism in your fiction, this novel is as good as historical fiction gets!

About W. David Laird

W. David Laird is the former head of libraries at the University of Arizona. He owns Books West Southwest, an online and mail order book service. He was on the first Southwest Books of the Year panel in 1977; after a few years off for good behavior, he came back on in 2001.

Pima County Website