W. David Laird's Picks

And We Danced: More Oral Histories from Yavapai County, Arizona
Anyone with even a slight interest in northern Arizona's Yavapai County and its population center, Prescott, will find this large book fascinating. It is loaded with more than 800 photographs of people and events, but the real substance of this volume is the memories it contains. McCroskey interviewed old-timers, sure, but she also reached out to those somewhat younger folks with something to say about this place they love, and the old-timers they knew. A browser's delight.
Baja California Missions: In the Footsteps of the Padres
More than 100 excellent color photographs (by author Burckhalter and Mina Sedgwick) supplement the fine text. The authors visited all eight of the still-functioning missions, from San Borja in Baja California Norte to San Luis Gonzaga, the southernmost, near Loreto in Baja California Sur. Photographs include both interiors and exteriors and, in one case, a group photo of a crew working on restoration at Santa Rosalia. Text are straightforward historical accounts mixed with contemporary descriptions. Fine book.
Border is Burning, The
Outstanding! About a dozen short pieces, not stories per se, but life, on the border. There are no innocent people, there is no “normal” life–normal is for fairytales. Enjoyable reading that is finished much too soon.
Crossing Purgatory
The year is 1858. The death of his wife and children while he is away trying to get funding from his father to expand his Indiana farm overwhelms Thompson Grey. Bewildered and haunted he takes to the Santa Fe Trail, not sure what the future might bring, or if he even cares. Schanbacher is an excellent storyteller who creates strong characters and sets them in a visible landscape faced with trials and dangers, both natural and man made.
Get Serious: New and Selected Poems
Filled with fun as well as thoughtful innuendo, Carter’s poetry is not geographical per se but is informed (if you will) by his 60+ year residence in Tucson, Arizona. And so...we are not surprised when a poem titled “An Apology for Wannabes” begins “Not one Apache/in the audience/listening to the/bearded white man/tell stories/about Cochise.” Wonderful humor, terrific images, hardly a rhyme in sight.
Natural History of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona, A
This spectacular book has many qualities and characteristics that make it outstanding, not the least of which is a text that describes the mountains north of Tucson in terms we can all understand. Side bars give us special insight into such things as tree rings and grasslands. The illustrations are in fine color. And the entire book is printed on heavy "slick" paper and bound with metal spiral "rings" for easy opening and many years of use.
Rules of Wolfe, The: A Border Noir
Readers who like mysteries that have a good “sense of place” will applaud Blake’s handling of scenes that range across the border from Mexico into Texas. But fans of action will be equally pleased as the graphic scenes of mayhem, high-speed auto chases, and a fast-moving plot keep us turning the pages at a rapid clip.

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.

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