Challenge yourself to read local this summer with a book from one of these Arizona-inspired categories. Read them all or pick one from each section and share your progress in the #ThisIsTucson Book Club on Facebook.
Note: Goodreads ratings were taken on May 13.
Prickly plates: Food
Food from the Radical Center: Healing Our Land and Communities
Author: Gary Paul Nabhan
Goodreads rating: 3.5 stars; 32 ratings
Arizona connection: Southern Arizona author
Summary (from the Pima County Public Library catalog): "America has never felt more divided. But in the midst of all the acrimony comes one of the most promising movements in our country's history. People of all races, faiths, and political persuasions are coming together to restore America's natural wealth: Its ability to produce healthy foods. In 'Food from the Radical Center,' Gary Nabhan tells the stories of diverse communities who are getting their hands dirty and bringing back North America's unique fare: Bison, sturgeon, camas lilies, ancient grains, turkeys, and more. These efforts have united people from the left and right, rural and urban, faith-based and science-based, in game-changing collaborations. Their successes are extraordinary by any measure, whether economic, ecological, or social. In fact, the restoration of land and rare species has provided, dollar for dollar, one of the best returns on investment of any conservation initiative. ..."
Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona
Author: Jackie Alpers
Goodreads rating: 5 stars; 3 ratings
Arizona connection: Tucson author; Tucson food
Summary (from the library catalog): "A cookbook dedicated to the foods inspired by the region’s beauty and diversity, 'Taste of Tucson' discovers through recipes and photos the unique mix of cultures that create Southern Arizona’s incredible cuisine. Award-winning photographer and cookbook author Jackie Alpers shares her own inspired food creations in this book as well as her favorite restaurants’ dishes, while incorporating the history of the Sonora region, the mysticism and lore, and how it has contributed to the food of the people who live there. Building from tried-and-true basics and tutorials on tacos, enchiladas, carne asada, and huevos rancheros, she divulges secrets to making Sonora’s most unique savories and sweets, including Chicken Mole Amarillo, Adobo Pulled Pork, Red Pozole, Dark Chocolate and Coffee Figgy Pudding Cakes, and more. For cooks of all levels, from anywhere in the world who love to dine on this Southwestern region’s foods, this cookbook welcomes you to bring Sonora’s best and most iconic tastes into your own kitchen."
SPF 20 and under: Middle grade / YA
Race to the Sun
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Goodreads rating: 4.12 stars; 950 ratings
Arizona connection: Set in the Southwest; features Navajo heritage by a Navajo author.
Summary (from the library catalog): "Guided by her Navajo ancestors, seventh-grader Nizhoni Begay discovers she is descended from a holy woman and destined to become a monsterslayer, starting with the evil businessman who kidnapped her father. Includes glossary of Navajo terms."
Author: Jerry Spinelli
Goodreads rating: 3.76 stars; 285,345 ratings
Arizona connection: Set in Arizona
Summary (from the library catalog): "In this story about the perils of popularity, the courage of nonconformity, and the thrill of first love, an eccentric student named Stargirl changes Mica High School forever."
Hot hot hot: Bestsellers
Such a Fun Age
Author: Kiley Reid
Goodreads rating: 3.82 stars; 78,564 ratings
Arizona connection: Author Kiley Reid grew up in Tucson
Summary (from the library catalog): "Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right. But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix's past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other. With empathy and piercing social commentary, 'Such a Fun Age' explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone 'family,' and the complicated reality of being a grown up. It is a searing debut for our times."
Author: Téa Obreht
Goodreads rating: 3.45 stars; 6,964 ratings
Arizona connection: Set in Arizona
Summary (from the library catalog): "In the lawless, drought-ridden lands of the Arizona Territory in 1893, two extraordinary lives collide. Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman, alone in a house abandoned by the men in her life—her husband, who has gone in search of water for the parched household, and her two older sons, who have gone in search of their father after his return is delayed. Nora is biding her time with her youngest son, a boy with a bad eye who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home, and a 17-year-old maid named Josie, her husband's cousin who communes with spirits. Lurie is the son of a dead dockworker, a former outlaw, and a man haunted by ghosts — he sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires an epic journey across the West. The way in which Nora and Lurie's stories intertwine is the surprise and suspense of this brilliant novel. Mythical, lyrical, and sweeping in scope, Inland showcases all of Téa Obreht's talents as a writer, as she subverts and reimagines the classical American genre of the Western, making it entirely —and unforgettably — her own."
It came from the swamp (cooler): Dystopian / Post-apocalyptic
The Lightest Object in the Universe
Author: Kimi Eisele
Goodreads rating: 3.66 stars; 1,338 ratings
Arizona connection: Kimi Eisele is a Tucson author
Summary (from the library catalog): "What if the end times allowed people to see and build the world anew? This is the landscape that Kimi Eisele creates in her surprising and original debut novel. Evoking the spirit of such monumental love stories as 'Cold Mountain' and the creative vision of novels like 'Station Eleven,' 'The Lightest Object in the Universe' tells the story of what happens after the global economy collapses and the electrical grid goes down. In this new world, Carson, on the East Coast, is desperate to find Beatrix, a woman on the West Coast who holds his heart. Working his way along a cross-country railroad line, he encounters lost souls, clever opportunists, and those who believe they'll be saved by an evangelical preacher in the middle of the country. Meanwhile, Beatrix and her neighbors begin to construct a cooperative community that suggests the end could be, in fact, a bright beginning. Without modern means of communication, will Beatrix and Carson reach each other, and what will be left of the old world if they do? The answers may lie with a 15-year-old girl who could ultimately decide the fate of the cross-country lovers."
The Water Knife
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Goodreads rating: 3.83 stars; 19,832 ratings
Arizona connection: Set in Arizona/Phoenix
Summary (from the library catalog): "The American Southwest has been decimated by drought. Nevada and Arizona skirmish over dwindling shares of the Colorado River, while California watches, deciding if it should just take the whole river all for itself. Into the fray steps Las Vegas water knife Angel Velasquez. Detective, assassin, and spy, Angel 'cuts' water for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, ensuring that lush, luxurious arcology developments can bloom in the desert and that anyone who challenges her is left in the gutted-suburban dust. When water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only truth in the desert is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink."
Sun and games: Sports
Canyon Dreams: A Basketball Season on the Navajo Nation
Author: Michael Powell
Goodreads rating: 3.91 stars; 241 ratings
Arizona connection: Set in Arizona
Summary (from the library catalog): "Deep in the heart of northern Arizona, in a small and isolated patch of the vast 17.5-million-acre Navajo reservation, sits Chinle High School. Here, basketball is passion, passed from grandparent to parent to child. Rez Ball is a sport for winters where dark and cold descend fast and there is little else to do but roam mesa tops, work, and wonder what the future holds. The town has 4,500 residents and the high school arena seats 7,000. Fans drive 30, 50, even 80 miles to see the fast-paced and highly competitive matchups that are more than just games to players and fans. Celebrated Times journalist Michael Powell brings us a narrative of triumph and hardship, a moving story about a basketball team on a Navajo reservation that shows how important sports can be to youths in struggling communities, and the transcendent magic and painful realities that confront Native Americans living on reservations. This book details his season-long immersion in the team, town, and culture, in which there were exhilarating wins, crushing losses, and conversations on long bus rides across the desert about dreams of leaving home and the fear of the same."
The Cactus League
Author: Emily Nemens
Goodreads rating: 3.62 stars; 1,273 ratings
Arizona connection: Set in Arizona
Summary (from the library catalog): "Jason Goodyear is the star outfielder for the Los Angeles Lions, stationed with the rest of his team in the punishingly hot Arizona desert for their annual spring training. Handsome, famous, and talented, Goodyear is nonetheless coming apart at the seams. And the coaches, writers, wives, girlfriends, petty criminals, and diehard fans following his every move are eager to find out why—as they hide secrets of their own."
Tumble(weed)ing back in time: History
El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America
Author: Carrie Gibson
Goodreads rating: 3.96 stars; 203 ratings
Arizona connection: Regional topic
Summary (from the library catalog): "Because of our shared English language, as well as the celebrated origin tales of the Mayflower and the rebellion of the British colonies, the United States has prized its Anglo heritage above all others. However, as Carrie Gibson explains with great depth and clarity in 'El Norte,' the nation has much older Spanish roots — ones that have long been unacknowledged or marginalized. The Hispanic past of the United States predates the arrival of the pilgrims by a century, and has been every bit as important in shaping the nation as it exists today. 'El Norte' chronicles the sweeping and dramatic history of Hispanic North America from the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century to the present — from Ponce de Leon's initial landing in Florida in 1513 to Spanish control of the vast Louisiana territory in 1762 to the Mexican-American War in 1846 and up to the more recent tragedy of post-hurricane Puerto Rico and the ongoing border acrimony with Mexico. Interwoven in this stirring narrative of events and people are cultural issues that have been there from the start but which are unresolved to this day: Language, belonging, community, race, and nationality. ..."
Light Changes Everything
Author: Nancy E. Turner
Goodreads rating: 4.11 stars; 809 ratings
Arizona connection: Set in Arizona, Arizona author
Summary (from the library catalog): "It's the summer of 1907 and the sun is scorching down on Mary Pearl in the Arizona Territory. Mary Pearl and her sister Esther take their minds off the heat by sneaking banned Jane Austen novels from Aunt Sarah Elliot's lively bookshelf. Whispered read-alouds preoccupy their nights, and reveries of getting hitched to their own Mr. Darcy a la Pride and Prejudice swirl through their day dreams. In walks old-fashioned old-money suitor Aubrey Hanna, here to whisk 17-year-old Mary Pearl off her feet with a forbidden kiss and hasty engagement. With the promise of high society outings and a rich estate, Aubrey's lustful courtship quickly creates petty tension among the three generations of Prine women. As autumn approaches all too quickly, Mary Pearl's Wheaton College acceptance counters quick marriage preparations. Days of travel by horse and by train carry her deep into a sophisticated new world of Northern girls' schooling. Seeking friendship but finding foes, Mary Pearl not only learns how to write, read, and draw, but also how to act, dress, and be a woman."
Wide open pages: Nature / Garden
The Tucson Garden Handbook
Author: Pima County Master Gardeners
Goodreads rating: No ratings
Arizona connection: Tucson authors; Tucson subject
Summary (from master gardeners website): "The Tucson Garden Handbook is a guide for helping people successfully garden in our desert environment. This guide can be used by gardeners at all levels of expertise, but is especially helpful to gardeners new to desert gardening. The Handbook includes how to grow: Cacti and agave, desert adapted trees, vegetables and herbs, citrus, flowers and roses. It also contains guidelines for watering, working with your soil, integrated pest management, and much more."
(The master gardeners website also has information on where you can purchase the handbook.)
The Saguaro Cactus: A Natural History
Author: David Yetman, Alberto Búrquez, Kevin Hultine and Michael Sanderson
Goodreads rating: 4 stars; 3 ratings
Arizona connection: Arizona authors; Saguaros are native to Arizona
Summary (from the library catalog): "The saguaro, with its great size and characteristic shape, its arms stretching heavenward, its silhouette often resembling a human, has become the emblem of the Sonoran Desert of southwestern Arizona and northwestern Mexico. The largest and tallest cactus in the United States, it is both familiar and an object of fascination and curiosity. This book offers a complete natural history of this enduring and iconic desert plant. Gathering everything from the saguaro's role in Sonoran Desert ecology to its adaptations to the desert climate and its sacred place in Indigenous culture, this book shares precolonial through current scientific findings. The saguaro is charismatic and readily accessible but also decidedly different from other desert flora. The essays in this book bear witness to our ongoing fascination with the great cactus and the plant's unusual characteristics, covering the saguaro's history of discovery, place in the cactus family, ecology, anatomy and physiology, genetics, and ethnobotany. ..."
Spilling the sun tea: Memoir
The Road to Mount Lemmon: A Father, a Family and the Making of Summerhaven
Author: Mary Ellen Barnes
Goodreads rating: 4 stars; 9 ratings
Arizona connection: Tucson author; Tucson loves Mount Lemmon
Summary (from the library catalog): "As you wind your way up the Catalina Highway, it doesn't matter whether you're a first-time visitor or a native Tucsonan; you know you're on the way to someplace special. The Santa Catalina Mountains first captivated Tony Zimmerman on a 1937 hunting trip. Regard for the alpine beauty must have been in his genes. He was the son of Swiss German immigrants and by 1940, the Tucson schoolteacher had begun taking his family to Mount Lemmon to spend the summer. Back then, the road up the mountain was a rough two-track dirt road from Oracle, and Summerhaven was nothing but a sleepy cluster of summer cabins. But Tony Zimmerman was to help change all of that. 'The Road to Mount Lemmon' is a beguiling memoir of the Catalina Mountains told by the daughter of one of the pioneers in the life and development of Mount Lemmon's communities. Mary Ellen Barnes tells how her father Tony resigned from teaching in 1943 to devote his career to the development of this mountain oasis. He not only sold real estate for long time landowner Randolph Jenks, he even bought the village's, tiny two-room store, installing a sawmill to build a larger store, and built the Mount Lemmon Inn. ..."
In the Shadows of the Freeway: Growing Up Brown and Queer
Author: Lydia R. Otero
Goodreads rating: 5 stars; 1 rating
Arizona connection: Tucson author; Tucson setting
Summary (from 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. ..."
Throwing shade: True crime
The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd
Author: Jana Bommersbach
Goodreads rating: 3.81 stars; 583 ratings
Arizona connection: Arizona author; Arizona topic
Summary (from the library catalog): "If history is right, a 26 year-old beauty named Winnie Ruth Judd murdered her two best girlfriends one hot Phoenix night in 1931. Then she hacked up their bodies, stuffed the pieces into a trunk, and took them by train to Los Angeles as her baggage. If history is right, she was sentenced to die but 'cheated the gallows' by acting insane. She spent nearly 40 years in Arizona's insane asylum-flummoxing officials by escaping six times. If history is right, she only got her freedom at age 66-after serving more time than any other convicted murderer in the history of the nation — because Arizona was finally tired of punishing her. But if history is wrong, Winnie Ruth Judd's life was squandered in a horrible miscarriage of justice. Award-winning journalist Jana Bommersbach reinvestigates the twisted, bizarre murder case that has captivated the nation for decades. She not only uncovers evidence long hidden, but gets Winnie Ruth Judd to break her life-long silence and finally speak. In telling the story of this American crime legend, Bommersbach also tells the story of Phoenix, Arizona — a backwater town that would become a major American city-and the story of a unique moment in American history filled with social taboos.But most of all, she tells the story of a woman with the courage to survive."
I, a Squealer: The Insider's Account of the 'Pied Piper of Tucson Murders'
Author: Richard Bruns
Goodreads rating: 3.69 stars; 88 ratings
Arizona connection: Tucson author; Tucson topic
Summary (from the library catalog): "The year was 1965. The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and The Righteous Brothers filled the airwaves. Television shows like 'The Adventures of Ozzy and Harriett' and 'The Andy Griffith Show' mirrored the innocence of life in the dusty city of Tucson, Arizona. But the sunbaked desert surrounding Tucson was hiding a sinister secret. A psychopath names Charles Schmid, later nicknamed the 'Pied Piper of Tucson' by Life Magazine, would steal that innocence away, along with the lives of three beautiful teenage girls. In this firsthand account written in 1967, Richard Bruns shares the evolution of his friendship with Schmid, the details of getting involved way in over his head, and how he finally summoned the courage to blow the whistle to end the deadly rampage that shocked the nation and changed the city of Tucson forever."