Bookmans Entertainment Exchange (copy)

Cassidy Crone stocks books in the young adult section at Bookmans Entertainment Exchange. 

Turn on the A/C, get out your favorite blanket and break out the bookmarks — our 2022 Summer Reading Challenge is here!

Each summer, we publish a list of books that are written by local authors or are about regionally-relevant themes.

This year, we asked local bookshops — Antigone Books, Bookmans, Mostly Books, Barrio Books and the Pima County Library — what books they recommend. Most books on the list are written by Southern Arizona authors. Two children's books are included.

The above mentioned bookstores may have some Summer Reading Challenge books on their shelves — if they don't have the book you're looking for, they may be able to order it if you ask!

Download and print our Summer Reading Challenge PDF, and read more about the books below. Join the #ThisIsTucson Book Club on Facebook to chat about the books you read. We can't wait to see which ones you chose!

“Notitas: Select Columns from the Tucson Citizen” 

Author: Alva B. Torres, compiled by Lydia R. Otero

Regional connection: Local author

Summary, as written on the back of the book: "From 1984 to 1993, Alva B. Torres wrote close to 400 columns for the Tucson Citizen, one of Arizona’s major newspapers. In the journalistic world, she stands out as one of the first Mexican American women to write a weekly column for a key newspaper. In addition to recipes, Torres took this opportunity to share childhood memories and write about Mexican Americans who lived in Tucson, known as Tucsonenses. She also often made those active in local school programs, civic life, or operating small businesses the focus of her columns. Although never overtly political, Torres steadfastly reminded her readers that Mexican people and culture had always played a critical role in the city’s past."

Goodreads rating: No ratings yet

“The Desert Smells Like Rain”

Author: Gary Paul Nabhan

Regional connection: Local author

Gary Paul Nabhan’s nature-writing classic gets a 40th anniversary update later this year.

Summary, as published on The University of Arizona Press website: "Published more than 40 years ago, 'The Desert Smells Like Rain' remains a classic work about nature, how to respect it, and what transplants can learn from the longtime residents of the Sonoran Desert, the Tohono O’odham people. In this work, Gary Paul Nabhan brings O’odham voices to the page at every turn. He writes elegantly of how they husband scant water supplies, grow crops, and utilize edible wild foods. Woven through his account are coyote tales, O’odham children’s impressions of the desert, and observations of the political problems that come with living on both sides of an international border. Nabhan conveys the everyday life and extraordinary perseverance of these desert people."

Goodreads rating: 4.25 stars, 286 ratings

Fun fact: This year marks the book's 40th anniversary. On Aug. 30, the University of Arizona Press will publish a special 40th anniversary edition of the book, complete with a new introduction by Nabhan dedicated to the O’odham people who changed his life. The book is now available for preorder on the UA Press website.

“The Sting of the Wild” 

Author: Justin O. Schmidt

Regional connection: Local author 

Summary, as published on Goodreads: "Entomologist Justin O. Schmidt is on a mission. Some say it's a brave exploration, others shake their heads in disbelief. His goal? To compare the impacts of stinging insects on humans, mainly using himself as the gauge. In 'The Sting of the Wild,' the colorful Dr. Schmidt takes us on a journey inside the lives of stinging insects, seeing the world through their eyes as well as his own. He explains how and why they attack and reveals the powerful punch they can deliver with a small venom gland and a 'sting,' the name for the apparatus that delivers the venom. We learn which insects are the worst to encounter and why some are barely worth considering."

Goodreads rating: 4.07 stars, 588 ratings

“Beautiful Little Fools: A Novel” 

Author: Jillian Cantor

Regional connection: Local author

Author Jillian Cantor signs copies of her newly published novel, “Beautiful Little Fools” at Mostly Books on Tucson’s east side.

Summary, as published Cantor's website: "Jillian Cantor revisits the glittering Jazz Age world of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 'The Great Gatsby,' retelling this timeless American classic from the women’s perspective. 'Beautiful Little Fools' is a quintessential tale of money and power, marriage and friendship, love and desire, and ultimately the murder of a man tormented by the past and driven by a destructive longing that can never be fulfilled."

Goodreads rating: 4.08 stars, 4,810 ratings

“The House of Broken Angels”

Author: Luis Alberto Urrea

Regional connection: Relevant topic

Author Luis Alberto Urrea is full of expression as he speaks with Ernesto Portillo Jr., right, during the Tucson Festival of Books in 2011.

Summary, as published on Urrea's website: "Inspired by the death of his brother, Urrea’s novel mines his own family history to tell a once-in-a-lifetime tale, simultaneously intimate in its detail and grand in its scope. Miguel Angel De La Cruz, aka 'Big Angel,' is dying. The beloved and rapidly declining patriarch of the De La Cruz clan, he assembles his relatives for a final, epic birthday bash. Days before the party, however, his mother, nearly 100 herself, passes away, resulting in a hefty farewell fete. Over the course of one weekend, the family members reminisce under the San Diego sun and stars, sharing stories about growing up in Mexico, leaving Mexico, and making a home in the U.S."

Goodreads rating: 3.91 stars, 14,559 ratings

“Under the Whispering Door”

Author: Tj Klune

Regional connection: Author lived in Tucson for 15 years

Summary, as published on Goodreads: "When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead. And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead. But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days. Hilarious, haunting, and kind, 'Under the Whispering Door' is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home."

Goodreads rating: 4.2 stars, 75,582 ratings

“Girl in Pieces” 

Author: Kathleen Glasgow

Regional connection: Local author

Summary, as published on Glasgow's website: "A deeply moving portrait of a girl in a world that owes her nothing, and has taken so much, and the journey she undergoes to put herself back together. Kathleen Glasgow’s internationally bestselling debut is heartbreakingly real and unflinchingly honest. It’s a story you won’t be able to look away from."

Goodreads rating: 4.13 stars, 63,756 ratings

“Ain't That a Mother: Postpartum, Palsy, and Everything in Between” 

Author: Adiba Nelson

Regional connection: Local author

Adiba Nelson's memoir "Ain't That a Mother" was released on May 3.

Summary, as published on Indie Bound: "Mom to a new baby with high medical needs and with a slew of hardships that just won't quit, (Nelson) set out on a reckoning that was just as generational as it was personal. Along the way, Adiba never loses her heart or her humor. This is a true love story, but the kind about a woman loving herself enough to change the course of her life for herself, her child, and the women after her as well as before. From pasties to postpartum depression, 'Ain't That A Mother' is not your average motherhood memoir — and Adiba is not your average mother."

Goodreads rating: 4.27 stars, 30 ratings

“Black Love Matters: Real Talk on Romance, Being Seen, and Happily Ever Afters”

Author: Multiple essay writers, edited by Jessica P. Pryde

Jessica P. Pryde, creator and editor of "Black Love Matters: Real Talk on Romance, Being Seen and Happily Ever Afters," poses with her new book.

Regional connection: Local editor

Summary, as published on Goodreads: "Romantic love has been one of the most essential elements of storytelling for centuries. But for Black people in the United States and across the diaspora, it hasn't often been easy to find Black romance joyfully showcased in entertainment media. In this collection, revered authors and sparkling newcomers, librarians and academicians, and avid readers and reviewers consider the mirrors and windows into Black love as it is depicted in the novels, television shows, and films that have shaped their own stories. Whether personal reflection or cultural commentary, these essays delve into Black love now and in the past, including topics from the history of Black romance to social justice and the Black community to the meaning of desire and desirability."

Goodreads rating: 4.38 stars, 195 ratings

“In the Shadows of the Freeway: Growing Up Brown & Queer” 

Author: Lydia R. Otero

Lydia Otero’s book “In the Shadows of the Freeway” describes the displacement and division caused by Tucson public policies in the mid-20th century.

Regional connection: Local author

Summary, as published on Goodreads: "Born in 1955, Lydia R. Otero knew they were queer the moment their consciousness had evolved enough to formulate thoughts. Nicknamed La Butch by their family, Otero shares a unique perspective: displaced by their queerness, but rooted in place through their relationship with Tucson, Arizona. In this book, which combines personal memoir and the historical archive, Otero takes readers to a world that existed on the physical and social margins and describes how a new freeway created a barrier that greatly influenced formative aspects of Otero’s childhood. The author examines the multiple effects of environmental racism, while the lack of services and low expectations of the schools Otero attended are further examples of the discrimination directed at brown people."

Goodreads rating: 4.59 stars, 37 ratings

“The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border” 

Author: Francisco Cantú

Regional connection: Local author

Summary, as published on Indie Bound: "For Francisco Cantú, the border is in the blood: his mother, a park ranger and daughter of a Mexican immigrant, raised him in the scrublands of the Southwest. Driven to understand the hard realities of the landscape he loves, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. He and his partners learn to track other humans under blistering sun and through frigid nights. They haul in the dead and deliver to detention those they find alive. Plagued by a growing awareness of his complicity in a dehumanizing enterprise, he abandons the Patrol for civilian life. But when an immigrant friend travels to Mexico to visit his dying mother and does not return, Cantú discovers that the border has migrated with him, and now he must know the full extent of the violence it wreaks, on both sides of the line."

Goodreads rating: 3.97 stars, 12,837 ratings

“Sowing the Seeds of Change: The Story of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona”

Author: Seth Schindler

Regional connection: Local author

Summary, as published on Goodreads: "This is the story of a remarkable organization’s sustained, compassionate response to a problem of staggering proportions: there are about 35 million food-insecure people in America today. The numbers are no less shocking in Southern Arizona: one in six residents, and one in four children, are food insecure. How can this be in the richest country in the world? This book explores that paradox and the innovative solutions that one organization has developed to create a healthier, more secure tomorrow for the less fortunate among us. The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona (CFB) is one of the oldest and most respected food banks in America. It is a widely recognized leader not simply in providing hunger relief but in attacking the root causes of hunger and poverty through community development, education, and advocacy."

Goodreads rating: No ratings yet

“El Charro Cafe: The Tastes and Traditions of Tucson” 

Author: Carlotta Flores

Regional connection: Local author

El Charro Cafe owner Carlotta Flores authored “El Charro Cafe: The Tastes and Traditions of Tucson” in 1998.

Summary, as published on the Tucson City of Gastronomy website: "Recipes and lore from El Charro Café, a Tucson landmark famous for its vibrant, fresh Mexican food."

Goodreads ratings: 4.2 stars, 10 ratings

Fun fact: This book was published in 1998. This year, El Charro Cafe celebrates its 100th birthday.

“When It Rains” 

Author: Edited by Ofelia Zepeda

Regional connection: Local author 

University of Arizona professor of linguistics Ofelia Zepeda sees language as much more than a tool to communicate.

Summary, as published on The University of Arizona Press website: "When it was first released in 1982, 'When It Rains' was one of the earliest published literary works in the O’odham language. Speakers from across generations shared poems that showcased the aesthetic of the written word and aimed to spread interest in reading and writing in O’odham. The poems capture brief moments of beauty, the loving bond between family members, and a deep appreciation of Tohono O’odham culture and traditions, as well as reverent feelings about the landscape and wildlife native to the Southwest. A motif of rain and water is woven throughout the poetry in 'When It Rains,' tying in the collection’s title to the importance of this life-giving and sustaining resource to the Tohono O’odham people. With the poems in both O’odham and English, the volume serves as an important reminder of the beauty and changeability of the O’odham language."

Goodreads ratings: 4.71 stars, 14 ratings


Author: Eduardo C. Corral

Regional connection: Relevant topic

Summary, as published on the Gray Wolf Press website: "'Guillotine' traverses desert landscapes cut through by migrants, the grief of loss, betrayal’s lingering scars, the border itself — great distances in which violence and yearning find roots. Through the voices of undocumented immigrants, Border Patrol agents, and scorned lovers, award-winning poet Eduardo C. Corral writes dramatic portraits of contradiction, survival and a deeply human, relentless interiority. With extraordinary lyric imagination, these poems wonder about being unwanted or renounced. What do we do with unrequited love? Is it with or without it that we would waste away?"

Goodreads ratings: 4.34 stars, 558 ratings

“Secret Tucson: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure”

Author: Clark Norton

Regional connection: Local author

Clark Norton is author of “Secret Tucson: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure” and “100 Things to do in Tucson Before You Die.”

Summary, as published on Norton's website: "What’s 'Secret Tucson' about? The subtitle, 'A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure' says it all, though I would add you’ll find such nuggets as: What one-time New York crime boss spent his last decades in Tucson? Why does the Beatles’ classic song “Get Back” include a nod to Tucson? Why is Tucson a must stop on many treasure hunters’ maps — and where can you search for a fortune in gold? Where was John Dillinger captured in Tucson in 1934 after a series of blunders by his gang?"

Goodreads ratings: 3.75 stars, 8 ratings

“Natural Landmarks of Arizona”

Author: David Yetman

Regional connection: Local author

Summary, as published on The University of Arizona Press website: "'Natural Landmarks of Arizona' celebrates the vast geological past of Arizona’s natural monuments through the eyes of a celebrated storyteller who has called Arizona home for most of his life. David Yetman shows us how Arizona’s most iconic landmarks were formed millions of years ago and sheds light on the more recent histories of these landmarks as well. These peaks and ranges offer striking intrusions into the Arizona horizon, giving our southwestern state some of the most memorable views, hikes, climbs and bike rides anywhere in the world. They orient us, they locate us, and they are steadfast through generations."

Goodreads ratings: 4.17 stars, 6 ratings

“The Three Little Javelinas”

Author: Susan Lowell

Regional connection: Local author

Summary, as published on Lowell's website: "Everyone knows the story of the three little pigs, but now you’re going to meet the three little javelinas .. lovable, wild, southwestern cousins of pigs. Dressed in cowboy duds and prepared for life in the rugged desert, these characters are more than any coyote bargained for."

Goodreads ratings: 4.14 stars, 1,646 ratings. (This is a children's book.)

“Raulito: The First Latino Governor of Arizona” 

Author: Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford

Regional connection: Relevant topic

Summary, as published on Goodreads: "This bilingual biography for kids ages 8-14 follows the dreams and achievements of Raul H. Castro, who was the first Latino governor of Arizona and US Ambassador to El Salvador, Bolivia and Argentina."

Goodreads ratings: No ratings yet

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