As Told in Tucson Booklist

There's a special sort of pleasure attached to dipping into a book set in your own backyard. Tucson has provided grist for the mills of many authors over the years, and those authors have produced a body of work that is as unique as the Old Pueblo itself.

In honor of our city's literary past we offer a sampling of Tucson titles. We Tucsonans are lucky that the flora, fauna and desert charm of the Old Pueblo inspire so many authors; there are lots of Tucson-based titles to choose from.

Works of fiction were chosen for their Tucson-area setting and the varied perspectives they offer of the city and its environs. Nonfiction selection was based on each book's contribution to our overall understanding of this unique community. You can find many of these books at the public library and local bookstores, but some of them are old, hard-to-find and out-of-print. Their availability may be limited to special collections and rare book stores.

We hope these selections will entertain you, add to your sense of the significance of our landscape, make the past come alive for you, and underscore the value of our shared cultural inheritance. Happy reading, Tucson!

This list was last updated in August 2009. For more Southwest reads, see Reading Arizona: The Literary Landscape..


Church of the Old Mermaids
Kim Antieau
Mysticism meets compassion on Tucson's Fourth Avenue where Mayla has set up a table–the eponymous Church of the Old Mermaids – to sell stuff she finds in the desert. Inspired by the tales of the Old Mermaids (who washed ashore when the Old Sea dried up and became the New Desert). Mayla uses the money she makes selling other people's trash to support the refugees she shelters in an enclave of unoccupied vacation homes.
The Camp Grant Massacre: A Novel
Elliott Arnold
A fictional recreation of the tragic 1871 slaughter of a band of unarmed Apache Indians by Tucson settlers.
The Land of Rumbelow: A Fable in the Form of a Novel
Carlos Baker
Having taken to the highway to shake the unhappy memories of his dead wife and the friend he betrayed, a professor finds himself stranded in Tucson.
Yes is Better than No
Byrd Baylor
A small group of Papago Indians living off the reservation in a Tucson ghetto have specialized survival skills for coping in the white man's world.
Winter in the Sun
David Burnham
A guest ranch south of Tucson near Baboquivari Peak caters to the superficial whims of the leisure class in search of health and entertainment.
Thomas Cobb
To escape his shameful past, seventeen-year-old Ned Thorne joins the US Army in southeastern Arizona's Chiricahua Mountains–about a day's ride from Tucson in 1871–and is assigned to a ragtag cavalry troop in search of a woman kidnapped by the Apache.
The View from Frog Mountain
Rebecca Cramer
While helping a friend open a bed and breakfast on Mt. Lemmon, former forensic anthropologist Linda Bluenight discovers that the vicious killing of some local pets may have less to do with a ravening bear than with the looting of ancestral artifacts by a cold-blooded killer.
One True Theory of Love
Laura Fitzgerald
Meg, a single mom with a nine-year-old son, must overcome betrayal and past hurts and learn to live life to its fullest. A chance meeting with a handsome Iranian-American opens a new world of possibilities.
The Search for Maggie Ward
Andrew M. Greeley
A World War II Navy veteran, tortured by memories of warfare, finds love, loses it again, and embarks on an obsessive search in the Arizona hills for the mysterious Maggie Ward.
The Lost Pueblo
Zane Grey
The pampered millionaire's daughter from the East learns to love the untamed Arizona desert after helping to make an important archaeological discovery.
Cool in Tucson
Elizabeth Gunn
In this first of a series, Tucson police detective Sarah Burke tries to concentrate on a body found in a parking lot but is distracted when her young niece disappears. Sarah Burke fans will also want to sample New River Blues.
Once in a Promised Land
Laila Halaby
The lives of a Jordanian couple living in Tucson begin to unravel in the post-9/11 world.
Grey Pilgrim
J. M. Hayes
In 1940, when a Papago Indian chief refuses to register the young men of his tribe for the draft, U.S. Marshall J.D. Fitzpatrick is sent to Tucson to bring the renegades to heel.
The Gold of San Xavier
Bruce Itule
A journalist arrives at the 200-year-old San Xavier Mission Church to write an article on art conservation but instead is embroiled in the investigation of a murdered priest and purloined treasure.
Hour of the Hunter
J. A. Jance
Native American mysticism punctuates this thriller about a sociopath who, after his release from prison, goes on a murder spree in the course of tracking down the woman who helped put him behind bars.
A Garden of Aloes
Gayle Jandrey
To escape her abusive husband, Leslie and her two adolescent daughters leave their comfortable California home to start over in a roach-infested apartment on Tucson's Miracle Mile. They are befriended by an unlikely assortment of neighbors who offer hope and support.
The Dansing Star
Kirby Jonas
A Tucson deputy sheriff, seeking to avenge the death of his adoptive family, is torn between the white world into which he was born and the world of the Chiricahua Apaches who raised him from boyhood.
The Bean Trees
Barbara Kingsolver
Fleeing Kentucky and poverty, a young woman and an abandoned Cherokee baby get as far as Tucson where they start a new life together in the desert Southwest.
Call It Destiny
Jayne Ann Krentz
Businesswoman Heather Strand plans to marry Jake Cavendish so that he will be her partner in running her family's resort business, but the situation awakens unexpected and powerful emotions.
Bowman's Line
Brian Andrew Laird
Nate Bowman, a Tucson newspaperman, is embroiled in a controversy involving unscrupulous businessmen intent on taking over Native American land.
Elmore Leonard
A Cavalry officer and an Indian guide are on opposite sides of a conflict the newspapers call the Rincon Mountain War.
The Murderer's Club
P.D. Martin
FBI profiler Sophie Anderson is called in to help the Tucson police stop an elite group of serial killers called The Murderers' Club, who have created an underground reality TV show that kills off a contestant each week.
Amor Eterno: Eleven Lessons in Love
Patricia Preciado Martin
Short stories about the transcendent power of love set in the Mexican-American community.
Stranger at the Door
Gil Meynier
A drifter becomes involved with the Tucson underworld.
Detachment Fault
Susan Cummins Miller
A Tucson geologist is caught in a web of intrigue when she discovers a dead body while on a fishing trip to Mexico.
The Dividing Line
Richard Parrish
A recently-widowed Bureau of Indian Affairs lawyer moves to post-World War II Tucson to start a new life, and finds himself in the midst of a battle for mineral rights marked by corruption, intrigue and murder.
The 27 Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders
Nancy Pickard
Mayhem ensues when a guest at Eugenia Potter's Arizona ranch dies after eating the amateur detective's chili con carne, and she must discover who added the fatal ingredient.
Goats: A Novel
Mark Jude Poirier
This coming-of-age novel examines the relationship between a young man and the caretaker of his mother's Catalina Foothills home and culminates in a cross-border desert trek to move a herd of goats.
Stealing Faces
Michael Prescott
A serial killer returns to Tucson to take the intended victim who eluded him 12 years earlier, while she plays a deadly game of cat-and-mouse trying to gather enough evidence to expose him.
Almanac of the Dead
Leslie Marmon Silko
The secretary to a Native American TV talk show medicine woman transcribes an ancient manuscript that predicts the apocalyptic second coming of Quetzaocoatl and the violent end of white domination, played out against the backdrop of drug wars and corruption.
Dark Madonna
Richard Summers
A desperately poor Mexican family struggles to survive La Crisis in the barrios of Depression-era Tucson.
Chicken Every Sunday: My Life with Mother's Boarders
Rosemary Taylor
A fond and humorous look back on family life in Tucson in the innocent days of the early twentieth century
These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901
Nancy Turner
A fictionalized diary based on the true-life trials and tribulations of the author's great grandmother, a pioneer homesteading the inhospitable wilderness near Tucson in the Arizona Territory.
Liars Anonymous
Louise Ure
When roadside assistance operator Jessie Dancing takes a call from real estate tycoon Darren Markson, she thinks she hears him being killed while she's on the phone with him. Jessie travels from Phoenix to her hometown of Tucson to let Markson's wife hear that last communication from her husband. But according to Emily he's very much alive!
The Wood Wife
Terri Windling
A journalist inherits a home in the Tucson hills after the mysterious death of the poet who owned it, and soon discovers she is sharing the space with malevolent, alien creatures.
The Mine with the Iron Door: A Romance
Harold Bell Wright
This romantic tale about a rich mine located somewhere in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson is a thinly-veiled protest against the depredations wrought by civilization's encroachment on the unspoiled Southwest.


The Road to Mount Lemmon: A Father, a Family, and the Making of Summerhaven
Mary Ellen Barnes
Summerhaven was a sleepy cluster of summer cabins at the end of a dirt road up the mountain from Oracle when Tony Zimmerman first visited in 1937. In this memoir his daughter relates how he devoted himself to the mountain community he helped to create.
Nine months is a Year at Baboquívari School
Eulalia "Sister" Bourne
A school year in the life of the teacher and students of a remote, one-room "ranch" school in Altar Valley during the 1930s.
Frog Mountain Blues
Charles Bowden
The highest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains is called "Frog Mountain" by the Tohono O'odham. These essays recount the depredations inflicted by business interests on the fragile ecology of this area, and underscores the need to preserve this unique wilderness.
The Mountains Next Door
Janice Emily Bowers
The scientific findings and philosophical musings of a botanist who spent two years in the Rincon Mountains, cataloging the flora of the Saguaro National Monument for the U.S. Geological Survey. The area gained national park status three years after the book's publication.
Adventures in the Apache Country: A Tour through Arizona and Sonora
J. Ross Browne
Dublin-born Brown was a clerk by profession and a world traveler by avocation. In 1864 he traveled through Arizona and Sonora, a journey he described in a series of articles in Harper's New Monthly Magazine and later reprinted as a book.
Whiskey, Six-guns & Red-light Ladies: George Hand's Saloon Diary, Tucson, 1875-1878
Neil B. Carmony, transcriber and editor
The rowdy Wild West the way it actually happened, faithfully recorded in the diary of a Tucson saloon keeper. The editor provides a commentary and index, as well as photographs.
From Furrow to Fire: Recipes from the Native Seeds/SEARCH Community
Mary Ann Clark and Shannon Scott, editors
A collection of recipes utilizing desert plant foods, compiled by the Tucson organization dedicated to preserving the seeds of crops grown by Native Americans in the Southwest.
From Cowtown to Desert Metropolis: Ninety Years of Arizona Memories
Roy P. Drachman
A Tucson native and businessman relates behind-the-scenes developments that shaped the growth of Tucson in a volume that includes his recollections about local landmarks, technological advancements, and the always-lively political scene.
The Peacocks of Baboquívari
Erma J. Fisk
Part bird journal and part musings on life by a 73-year-old woman who spent five months alone in a cabin at the foot of Baboquívari Peak, recording and banding birds for the Nature Conservancy.
Above Tucson: Then & Now
James Glinski
Aerial views of Tucson from the 30s, 40s, and 50s, presented side-by-side with views of the same locales shot in 1995, give a bird's-eye view of the city's expansion.
Tucson: Portrait of a Desert Pueblo
John Bret Harte
A look back at Tucson's first 225 years.
Another Tucson
Bonnie Henry
A collection of 100+ reprinted columns recalling favorite memories of a bygone Tucson, by an Arizona Daily Star journalist and lifelong Tucsonan.
Desert Heat, Volcanic Fire: the Geologic History of the Tucson Mountains and Southern Arizona
David A. Kring
The processes that formed the rocks found in the Tucson Mountains, a summary of all the rock formations in the range, and a discussion of the state's numerous mineral deposits reveal the geologic history of this area.
The Desert Year
Joseph Wood Krutch
A noted writer, critic, and naturalist's account of his first year spent in the Sonoran Desert, told in a series of essays that examine how he had been affected by different aspects of desert living.
History of African Americans in Tucson: An Afrocentric Perspective. Volume 1, 1860-1960
Harry Lawson
This history of African Americans in Tucson is presented in two volumes; the second volume covers the years 1960-2000.
Tucson Hiking Guide
Betty Leavengood
A guide to hiking trails in and around Tucson, with directions, access information, elevations, topographic maps, historical notes, photographs, and the personal anecdotes of an experienced Tucson hiker.
Zeckendorfs and Steinfelds: Merchant Princes of the American Southwest
Bettina O'Neil Lyons
The Zeckendorf and Steinfeld families, who built Tucson’s landmark Pioneer hotel and Steinfeld’s Department Store, impacted economic development in Tucson and the Southwest for 130 years. The author is Albert Steinfeld’s granddaughter.
Recuerdos: Memories of Childhood in Tucson
Elizabeth McCauslin
Recollections of growing up in an extended Tucson family during the second half of the twentieth century.
Discovering the Desert: Legacy of the Carnegie Desert Botanical Laboratory
William G. McGinnies
An introduction to all facets of desert life in the Southwest.
Tucson at the Turn of the Century: The Archaeology of a City Block
Jonathan B. Mabry, James E. Ayres, and Regina L. Chapin-Pyritz
City life as it was lived in the Old Pueblo more than a century ago, recreated through historical photos and documents.
The Lamp in the Desert: The Story of the University of Arizona
Douglas D. Martin
The history of Arizona's first university, as related by a former newspaperman and journalism department faculty member
Kartchner Caverns: How Two Cavers Discovered and Saved One of the Wonders of the Natural World
Neil Miller
The amazing story of two amateur spelunkers, their startling discovery of the beautiful and pristine caves in Benson, and their heroic, twenty-five-year effort to protect a natural wonder.
Tucson's Most Haunted: A Collection of Ghostly Tales from the Old Pueblo
Katie Mullaly and J. Patrick Ohlde
According to the authors, Tucson is one of the most haunted cities in America. They offer thirty ghostly stories to back up their claim.
The Desert Smells like Rain: A Naturalist in Papago Indian Country
Gary Paul Nabhan
An ethnobotanist who has lived with the Papago people (now Tohono O'odham) observes how they live in balance with a desert environment that most would find inhospitable.
Borderman: Memoirs of Federico Jose Maria Ronstadt
Edward F. Ronstadt, editor
Ronstadt, a 19th century carriage-maker and musician, offers a unique perspective of life in urban Tucson as well as a portrait of the borderlands between Arizona and Mexico.
Los Tucsonenses: The Mexican Community in Tucson, 1854-1941
Thomas E. Sheridan
A history of the Mexicans in Tucson who made up the majority of the population until the early 1900s and established Tucson as a commercial center of the Southwest.
Tucson, the Life and Times of an American City
C.L. Sonnichsen
The story of Tucson, from its start as Don Hugo O'Conor's outpost up to its circa 1980 incarnation as a metropolis with a population nearing half a million, as told by an eminent historian and former senior editor of The Journal of Arizona History.
Trial and Triumph the Life and Accomplishments of Louise Foucar Marshall: Her First 67 Years
Patricia Peters Stephenson
Louise Foucar Marshall was the UA’s first female professor as well as a talented businesswoman; the foundation she established in 1930, continues to contribute to the UA and to Pima County nonprofits. She became notorious in 1931, however, when she shot and killed her unfaithful husband who had been trying to poison her with arsenic.
Tucson Audubon Society's Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona
Mark Stevenson, editor
A guide to birds and birding in Tucson and its environs.
Corrido de Cocaine: Inside Stories of Hard Drugs, Big Money, and Short Lives
Arturo Carrillo Strong
A former Tucson police officer's exposé of Tucson's drug culture, relayed in a series of interviews with locals involved in the trade.
Zero at the Bone: Rewriting Life after a Snakebite
Erec Toso
The narrative of the author's slow, painful, and ultimately revelatory recovery from a near-fatal snakebite.
A Beautiful, Cruel Country
Eva Antonia Wilbur-Cruce
A memoir about the seasons of ranching life on the Mexican border in early 20th-century Arivaca, punctuated with accounts of local characters, folk medicines and the customs of the day.
Home is the Desert
Ann Woodin
A transplanted easterner learns to survive, and then to love, the home in the desert that she shares with her husband, her four sons, and a constant parade of wildlife.
Pima County Website