Our 2021 #ThisIsTucson Summer Reading Challenge is here!
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.
Come see us Saturday, May 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bookmans Midtown, 3330 E. Speedway, to pick up a beautiful color print of the list and shop for some of our picks. We'll also have free stickers and bookmarks and #ThisIsTucson tees and totes for sale. Face masks are required.
If you can't make the event, you can also pick up a list and find select titles starting today from other reading challenge partners:
Find out a little more about this year's picks below!
Bacon-wrapped reads: Food
A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson's Culinary Heritage
Author: Carolyn Niethammer
Goodreads rating: 4.6 stars; 5 ratings
Arizona connection: Tucson author, Tucson food
Summary (via Goodreads from the Pima County Public Library catalog): "Drawing on thousands of years of foodways, Tucson cuisine blends the influences of Indigenous, Mexican, mission-era Mediterranean, and ranch-style cowboy food traditions. This book offers a food pilgrimage, where stories and recipes demonstrate why the desert city of Tucson became American's first UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Both family supper tables and the city's trendiest restaurants feature native desert plants and innovative dishes incorporating ancient agricultural staples. Award-winning writer Carolyn Niethammer deliciously shows how the Sonoran Desert's first farmers grew tasty crops that continue to influence Tucson menus and how the arrival of Roman Catholic missionaries, Spanish soldiers, and Chinese farmers influenced what Tucsonans ate. It's fair to say, Tucson tastes like nowhere else."
The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard
Author: John Birdsall
Goodreads rating: 3.35 stars; 423 ratings
Arizona connection: Tucson author
Summary (provided by publisher from the library catalog): "The definitive biography of America's best-known and least understood food personality, and the modern culinary landscape he shaped. After World War II, a newly affluent United States reached for its own gourmet culture, one at ease with the French international style of Escoffier, but also distinctly American. Enter James Beard, authority on cooking and eating, his larger-than-life presence and collection of whimsical bow ties synonymous with the nation's food for decades, even after his death in 1985. In the first biography of Beard in twenty-five years, acclaimed writer John Birdsall argues that Beard's struggles as a closeted gay man directly influenced his creation of an American cuisine. Starting in the 1920s, Beard escaped loneliness and banishment by traveling abroad to places where people ate for pleasure, not utility, and found acceptance at home by crafting an American ethos of food likewise built on passion and delight. Informed by never-before-tapped correspondence and lush with details of a golden age of home cooking, The Man Who Ate Too Much is a commanding portrait of a towering figure who still represents the best in food"
Babbling books: Nature
The Secret Knowledge of Water
Author: Craig Childs
Goodreads rating: 4.3 stars; 2,122 ratings
Arizona connection: Regional topic
Summary (from the library catalog): "The travels that Childs recounts in this vivid narrative take him from places sometimes parched, sometimes swimming, from the depths of the Grand Canyon to the dry limestone tanks of the lava-strewn Sonoran Desert. As he travels, Childs gives a close reading of the desert landscape."
The Nature of Desert Nature
Author: edited by Gary Paul Nabhan, various contributors
Goodreads rating: 3.75 stars; 8 ratings
Arizona connection: Regional topic; Tucson and Arizona writers
Summary (from Goodreads): "In this refreshing collection, one of our best writers on desert places, Gary Paul Nabhan, challenges traditional notions of the desert. Beautiful, reflective, and at times humorous, Nabhan’s extended essay “The Nature of Desert Nature” reveals the complexity of what a desert is and can be. He passionately writes about what it is like to visit a desert and what living in a desert looks like when viewed through a new frame, turning age-old notions of the desert on their heads.
"Nabhan invites a prism of voices — friends, colleagues, and advisors from his more than four decades of study of deserts — to bring their own perspectives. Scientists, artists, desert contemplatives, poets, and writers bring the desert into view and investigate why these places compel us to walk through their sands and beneath their cacti and acacia. We observe the spines and spears, stings and songs of the desert anew. Unexpected. Surprising. Enchanting. Like the desert itself, each essay offers renewed vocabulary and thoughtful perceptions."
Prickly Prose: Poetry
Postcolonial Love Poem
Author: Natalie Diaz
Goodreads rating: 4.43 stars; 1,928 ratings
Arizona connection: Arizona author
Summary (from the library catalog): "Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz's brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages-bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers-be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness."
Beyond Earth's Edge: The Poetry of Spaceflight
Author: Edited by Julie Swarstad Johnson and Christopher Cokinos
Goodreads rating: 4.50 stars; 2 ratings
Arizona connection: Tucson editors, regional topic
Summary (provided by publisher from the library catalog): "Beyond Earth's Edge vividly captures the violence of blast-off, the wonders seen by Hubble, and the trajectories of exploration to Mars and beyond through poetry. The anthology offers a fascinating record of both national mindsets and private perspectives as poets grapple with the promise and peril of U.S. space exploration across the decades, and into the present"
Saguaroscura: Graphic novels
La Voz de M.A.Y.O: Tata Rambo Vol.1
Author: Henry Barajas
Goodreads rating: 3.81 stars; 74 ratings
Arizona connection: Tucson author, Tucson history
Summary (from the library catalog): "La Voz De M.A.Y.O: Tata Rambo is based on the oral history of Ramon Jaurigue, an orphan and WWII veteran who co-founded the Mexican, American, Yaqui, and Others (M.A.Y.O.) organization, which successfully lobbied the Tucson City Council to improve living and working conditions for members of the Pascua Yaqui tribe. Thanks to this period of activism, the Yaquis were federally recognized as one of the remaining Native American tribes. Meanwhile Ramon's home life suffered as his focus was pulled from family to wider community, and from domesticity to the adrenaline of the campaign. A resonant, neglected slice of American history is told for the first time with art by J. Gonzo, letter art by Bernardo Brice, edited by Claire Napier, and La Voz de M.A.Y.O boasts a script by Henry Barajas the great-grandson of Ramon Jaurigue, a.k.a. Tata Rambo."
In Real Life
Authors: Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Goodreads rating: 3.81 stars; 30,700 ratings
Arizona connection: Set in Arizona
Summary (from Goodreads): "Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It's a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It's a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends.
"But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer--a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person's real livelihood is at stake."
Jave a helping hand: Expert Guidance
Neon Words: 10 Brilliant Ways to Light Up Your Writing
Authors: Marge Pellegrino and Kay Sather
Goodreads rating: 3.5 stars; 4 ratings
Arizona connection: Tucson author, Pima County Public Library 2021 Writer in Residence
Summary (from the library catalog): "Neon Words is a book that will illuminate the writer in you. By using the tools and activities here, you’ll connect the word-organizing part of your brain with your free-ranging imagination—and you’ll love what you’ve captured on the page! It’s an exciting, confidence-boosting, and deeply satisfying experience. Whether you want to be a writer, or just want to explore what it’s like to create with language, you’ll discover that playing with words can help you be more present in your life and, best of all, it’s lots of fun. Who knew writing could be so enlightening?"
How to Weave a Navajo Rug and Other Lessons from Spider Woman
Authors: Lynda Teller Pete and Barbara Teller Ornelas
Goodreads rating: 4.67 stars; 3 ratings
Arizona connection: Navajo authors and weavers who write about Navajo culture
Summary (from the library catalog): "Navajo blankets, rugs, and tapestries are the best-known, most-admired, and most-collected textiles in North America. There are scores of books about Navajo weaving, but no other book like this one. For the first time, master Navajo weavers themselves share the deep, inside story of how these textiles are created, and how their creation resonates in Navajo culture. Want to weave a high-quality, Navajo-style rug? This book has detailed how-to instructions, meticulously illustrated by a Navajo artist, from warping the loom to important finishing touches. Want to understand the deeper meaning? You'll learn why the fixed parts of the loom are male, and the working parts are female. You'll learn how weaving relates to the earth, the sky, and the sacred directions. You'll learn how the Navajo people were given their weaving tradition (and it wasn't borrowed from the Pueblos!), and how important a weaver's attitude and spirit are to creating successful rugs."
Cactus spine tinglers: Thrillers
A Children's Bible
Author: Lydia Millet
Goodreads rating: 3.75 stars; 17,155 ratings
Arizona connection: Tucson author
Summary (provided by the publisher from the library catalog): "An indelible and haunting new novel that explores the loss of childhood, intergenerational conflict, and humanity's complacency in the face of its own demise. Lydia Millet's multilayered new novel — her first since the National Book Award Longlist Sweet Lamb of Heaven — follows a group of children and their families on summer vacation at a lakeside mansion. The teenage narrator Eve and the other children are contemptuous of their parents, who spend the days and nights in drunken stupor. This tension heightens when a great storm arrives and throws the house and its residents into chaos. Named for a picture Bible given to Eve's little brother Jack, A Children's Bible is loosely structured around events and characters that often appear in collections of Bible stories intended for young readers. These narrative touchstones are imbedded in a backdrop of environmental and psychological distress as the children reject the parents for their emotional and moral failures-in part as normal teenagers must, and in part for their generation's passivity and denial in the face of cataclysmic change. In A Children's Bible, Millet offers brilliant commentary on the environment and human weakness and a vision of what awaits us on the other side of Revelations."
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Goodreads rating: 3.70 stars; 133,116 ratings
Arizona connection: Regionally adjacent
Summary (from the library catalog): "After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemi Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She's not sure what she will find — her cousin's husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemi knows little about the region. Noemi is also an unlikely rescuer: She's a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she's also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin's new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemi; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi's dreams with visions of blood and doom. Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family's youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemi, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family's past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family's once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemi digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness."
Nonsoon novels: Fiction
Author: Jillian Cantor
Goodreads rating: 4.05 stars; 482 ratings
Arizona connection: Tucson author
Summary (from the library catalog): "A reimagining of the life of Marie Curie is told through two parallel timelines, including one that reflects her real-world achievements and another that explores how the world might be different had she made other choices."
Author: Hannah Lillith Assadi
Goodreads rating: 3.61 stars; 674 ratings
Arizona connection: Set in Arizona
Summary (provided by the publisher from the library catalog): "Ahlam, the daughter of a Palestinian refugee and his Israeli wife, grows up in the arid lands of desert suburbia outside of Phoenix. In a stark landscape where coyotes prowl and mysterious lights occasionally pass through the nighttime sky, Ahlam's imagination reigns. She battles chronic fever dreams and isolation. When she meets her tempestuous counterpart Laura, the two fall into infatuated partnership, experimenting with drugs and sex, and watching helplessly as a series of mysterious deaths claim high school classmates. The girls flee their pasts for New York City, but as their emotional bond heightens, the intensity of their lives becomes unbearable. In search of love, ecstasy, oblivion, and belonging, Ahlam and Laura's drive to outrun the ghosts of home threatens to undo them altogether."
Desert roots: Biography
First: Sandra Day O'Connor
Author: Evan Thomas
Goodreads rating: 4.24 stars; 2,890 ratings
Arizona connection: Arizona subject
Summary (from the library catalog): "She was born in 1930 in El Paso and grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona. At a time when women were expected to be homemakers, she set her sights on Stanford University. When she graduated near the top of her law school class in 1952, no firm would even interview her. But Sandra Day O’Connor’s story is that of a woman who repeatedly shattered glass ceilings — doing so with a blend of grace, wisdom, humor, understatement, and cowgirl toughness.
"She became the first ever female majority leader of a state senate. As a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals, she stood up to corrupt lawyers and humanized the law. When she arrived at the United States Supreme Court, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, she began a quarter-century tenure on the Court, hearing cases that ultimately shaped American law. Diagnosed with cancer at 58, and caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s, O’Connor endured every difficulty with grit and poise.
"Women and men who want to be leaders and be first in their own lives—who want to learn when to walk away and when to stand their ground—will be inspired by O’Connor’s example. This is a remarkably vivid and personal portrait of a woman who loved her family, who believed in serving her country, and who, when she became the most powerful woman in America, built a bridge forward for all women."
From Dunbar to Destiny: One Woman's Journey Through Desegregation and Beyond
Author: Shirley Robinson Sprinkles
Arizona connection: Tucson author, set in Tucson
Summary (from the author's website): "In her book, 'From Dunbar to Destiny; One Woman’s Journey Through Desegregation and Beyond,' Shirley nostalgically relives a time when people of color wrestled their identity and their dignity from a callous and largely indifferent Jim Crow system. Shirley credits the positive outcomes of her life to the solid foundation she acquired from strong family values, and a caring community of teachers, administrators and friends in a school called “Dunbar” where the principal, Morgan Maxwell, constantly admonished her to: “Be the best!” In an epic journey from her humble Texas birthplace, through formative years in Tucson, to a dazzling life of work, marriage and family life in the Los Angeles area, and, ultimately, a return to Texas, Shirley leads the reader on a fascinating life-safari characterized by unexpected twists and turns."
Sunny stories: Children's books
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
Author: Kevin Noble Maillard
Goodreads rating: 4.45 stars; 3,511 ratings
Arizona connection: Regional topic
Summary (from the library catalog): "Using illustrations that show the diversity in Native America and spare poetic text that emphasizes fry bread in terms of provenance, this volume tells the story of a post-colonial food that is a shared tradition for Native American families all across the North American continent. Includes a recipe and an extensive author note that delves into the social ways, foodways, and politics of America's 573 recognized tribes."
Meet ClaraBelle Blue
Author: Adiba Nelson:
Goodreads rating: 4.33 stars; 12 ratings
Arizona connection: Tucson author
Summary (from the library catalog): "Meet ClaraBelle Blue, a snazzy little preschooler with major moxie — and a hot pink wheelchair! ClaraBelle Blue faces the naysayers in her class, and shows them all the things she can do, like play jump rope and go down the slide, and how like them she really is, regardless of her challenges."