Three young people standing and enjoyed reading books together

If reading is your escape from the day-to-day world, and COVID-19 social-distancing is keeping you at home, you might be looking for books to add to your list. 

These books are from our 2019 Summer Reading Challenge. You can find the books from our 2018 challenge here. And we are already working on the list for 2020. 

All of these books have a local connection — the author is from Tucson or Arizona, the topic is relevant to our region or the book is set here.

You can also join the #ThisIsTucson Book Club on Facebook to connect with other local readers and share your recommendations.

Course of nature: Sense of place

Pure Land: A True Story of Three Lives, Three Cultures, and the Search for Heaven on Earth

Author: Annette McGivney

Goodreads rating: 4.26 stars

Tucson connection: Arizona author; set in Arizona

Summary (from the library catalog): Nonfiction. “Tomomi Hanamure, a Japanese citizen who loved exploring the rugged wilderness of the American West, was killed on her birthday May 8, 2006. She was stabbed 29 times as she hiked to Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Indian Reservation at the bottom of Grand Canyon. Her killer was a distressed 18-year old Havasupai youth. Pure Land is the story of this tragedy. But it is also the story of how McGivney's quest to understand Hanamure's life and death wound up guiding the author through her own life-threatening crisis. On this journey stretching from the southern tip of Japan to the bottom of Grand Canyon, and into the ugliest aspects of human behavior, Pure Land offers proof of the healing power of nature and the resiliency of the human spirit.”

The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir

Author: Leslie Marmon Silko

Goodreads rating: 3.51 stars

Tucson connection: Tucson author; set in Arizona

Summary (from the library catalog): Nonfiction. Leslie Marmon Silko's book "combines memoir with family history and reflections on the creatures and beings that command her attention and inform her vision of the world, taking readers along on her daily walks through the arroyos and ledges of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Silko weaves tales from her family's past into her observations, using the turquoise stones she finds on the walks to unite the strands of her stories, while the beauty and symbolism of the landscape around her, and of the snakes, birds, dogs, and other animals that share her life and form part of her family, figure prominently in her memories.”

Dust in the wind: Historical fiction

In Another Time

Author: Jillian Cantor

Goodreads rating: 3.74 stars

Tucson connection: Tucson author

Summary (from the library catalog): Fiction. “Germany, 1931: Bookshop owner Max Beissinger meets Hanna Ginsberg, a budding concert violinist, and immediately feels a powerful chemistry. Soon they fall in love and plan for the future. But Hanna is Jewish and Max is not, and as their love affair unfolds over the next five years, their love is tested when Hitler rises to power. Unbeknownst to Hanna, however, Max has a secret—a secret that Max is convinced will help him save Hanna if Germany becomes too dangerous for her. Germany, 1946: Hanna Ginsberg awakens in a field outside Berlin. Disoriented and afraid, she has no memory of the past ten years. With no information as to Max's whereabouts—or if he is even still alive—she moves to London to live with her sister where she throws herself into her music, chasing her lifelong dream of becoming a concert violinist. But as the days, months, and years pass, taking her from London to Paris to Vienna to America, she continues to be haunted by her forgotten past, and the fate of the only man she has ever loved and cannot forget.”

Invitation to a Bonfire

Author: Adrienne Celt

Goodreads rating: 3.5 stars

Tucson connection: Tucson author

Summary (from the library catalog): Fiction. "In the 1920s, Zoya Andropova, a young refugee from the Soviet Union, finds herself in the alien landscape of an elite all-girls New Jersey boarding school. Having lost her family, her home, and her sense of purpose, Zoya struggles to belong, a task made more difficult by the malice her peers heap on scholarship students and her new country's paranoia about Russian spies. When she meets the visiting writer and fellow Russian émigré Leo Orlov—whose books Zoya has privately obsessed over for years—her luck seems to have taken a turn for the better. But she soon discovers that Leo is not the solution to her loneliness: He's committed to his art and bound by the sinister orchestrations of his brilliant wife, Vera. As the reader unravels the mystery of Zoya, Lev, and Vera's fate, Zoya is faced with mounting pressure to figure out who she is and what kind of life she wants to build. ..."

Saguaro-verse: Poetry

Blue Horses Rush In: Poems and Stories

Author: Luci Tapahonso

Goodreads rating: 4.04 stars

Tucson connection: Tucson author; set in ancient Hohokam village

Summary (from the library catalog): Poetry. “The Navajo author presents a collection of stories and poems celebrating the joys and sorrows of everyday life.”

Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert

Author: Ofelia Zepeda

Goodreads rating: 4.25 stars

Tucson connection: Tucson author; set in Arizona

Summary (from the library catalog): Poetry. “A prominent poet presents a collection centering on her experiences growing up in a Tohono O'Odham family, and her profound appreciation for the seasons and desert climate.”

Arizona superstars: Famous Arizona authors


Author: Diana Gabaldon

Goodreads rating: 4.22 stars

Tucson connection: Arizona author

Summary (from the library catalog): Fiction. “Hurtled back through time more than two hundred years to Scotland in 1743, Claire Randall finds herself caught in the midst of an unfamiliar world torn apart by violence, pestilence, and revolution and haunted by her growing feelings for James Fraser, a young soldier.”

The Host

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Goodreads rating: 3.84 stars

Tucson connection: Arizona author

Summary (from the library catalog): Fiction. “The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed. But Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Wanderer, the invading 'soul' who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: The overwhelming emotions, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: The former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves—Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.”

Frontera: Border stories

Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire

Author: Margaret Regan

Goodreads rating: 4.26 stars

Tucson connection: Arizona author; set in Arizona

Summary (from the library catalog): Nonfiction. “The United States is detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants at a rate never before seen in American history. Hundreds of thousands languish in immigration detention centers, separated from their families, sometimes for years. Deportees are dropped off unceremoniously in sometimes dangerous Mexican border towns, or flown back to crime-ridden Central American nations. Many of the deported have lived in the United States for years, and have U.S. citizen children; despite the legal consequences, many cross the border again. ..."

Crossing the Line: A Marriage Across Borders

Author: Linda Valdez

Goodreads rating: 4.27 stars

Tucson connection: Arizona author; set in Arizona

Summary (from the library catalog): Nonfiction. “Crossing the Line is told by a middle-class American woman who falls in love with the son of an impoverished family from rural Mexico—a man who crosses the border illegally to be with her. Married in 1988, Linda and Sixto Valdez learn to love each other’s very different families and cultures, raising their child to walk proudly in both worlds.”

Blinded by science: Science

Vaquita: Science, Politics, and Crime in the Sea of Cortez

Author: Brooke Bessesen

Goodreads rating: 4.41 stars

Tucson connection: Arizona author

Summary (from the library catalog): Nonfiction. “In 2006, the last of China's Yangtze river dolphins—baiji—succumbed to extinction, and la vaquita marina, a diminutive porpoise endemic to the Upper Gulf of California, quietly and without fanfare inherited the title of world's most endangered marine mammal. Unlike many other critically endangered species, the vaquita is not hunted. Nor is its habitat disappearing or degraded. The species is even protected by law. Why then have its numbers plummeted to near extinction when few humans have seen it live in the wild? The answer lies in a shadowy mix of international cartels, fishermen entrapped by politics and culture, and an unlikely fish called the totoaba. In this haunting story, Brooke Bessesen sets out to Mexico's Upper Gulf region to untangle the intricacies of the biology, acoustical science, and international intrigues behind the vaquita's decline. She interviews townspeople, fishermen, politicians, scientists, and activists, teasing apart a complex story filled with villains and heroes, a story whose outcome is unclear. When diplomatic and political efforts to save the little porpoise fail, Bessesen follows a team of veterinary experts in a binational effort to capture the last remaining vaquitas and breed them in captivity—the best hope for their survival.”

Under Desert Skies: How Tucson Mapped the Way to the Moon and Planets

Author: Melissa L. Sevigny

Goodreads rating: 4.38 stars

Tucson connection: Tucson author; University of Arizona setting

Summary (from the library catalog): Nonfiction. “The book tells the story of how an upstart planetary laboratory in Tucson, the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL), would help create the field of planetary science, breaking free from traditional astronomical techniques to embrace a wide range of disciplines necessary to study planets.”

It's a dry humor: Light reads

This. by Kristen Cook


Author: Kristen Cook

Goodreads rating: 5 stars

Tucson connection: Tucson author

Summary (from Amazon): Nonfiction. “Former, award-winning newspaper writer Kristen Cook tackled everyday topics (confiscating her daughter's cell phone but then forgetting where she hid it, needing reading glasses but refusing to admit it) in a regular column. Her humorous musings led readers to call her "Tucson's Erma Bombeck." Now she brings her modern-day take of finding the ha-ha in the humdrum to this collection of essays about life's little moments that really aren't that little. It's a book for readers with 21st century attention spans and precious little free time but who could always use a laugh — especially at Cook's expense, like the time Bobby Flay tried to poison her or her deep hatred of throw-pillow shopping or that almost, kinda-sorta, near-death experience that actually made the carpool schedule flash before her eyes.”

Mesquite: An Arboreal Love Affair

Author: Gary Paul Nabhan

Goodreads rating: 3.5 stars

Tucson connection: Arizona author

Summary (from the library catalog): Nonfiction. “In his latest book, Mesquite, Gary Paul Nabhan employs humor and contemplative reflection to convince readers that they have never really glimpsed the essence of what he calls 'arboreality.' As a Franciscan brother and ethnobotanist who has often mixed mirth with earth, laughter with landscape, food with frolic, Nabhan now takes on a large, many-branched question: What does it means to be a tree, or, accordingly, to be in a deep and intimate relationship with one? To answer this question, Nabhan does not disappear into a forest but exposes himself to some of the most austere hyper-arid terrain on the planet—the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts along the US/Mexico border—where even the most ancient perennial plants are not tall and thin, but stunted and squat. ..."

Desert magic: Fantasy

The Wood Wife

Author: Terri Windling

Goodreads rating: 4.2 stars

Tucson connection: Set in Tucson

Summary (from the library catalog): Fiction. “When poet Davis Cooper dies mysteriously, leaving his Tucson home to her, Maggie Black leaves her comfortable, secure life in California and begins a journey of spiritual self-discovery in the Arizona desert.”

Trail of Lightning

Author: Rebecca Roanhorse

Goodreads rating: 4.06 stars

Tucson connection: Features Navajo mythology

Summary (from the library catalog): Fiction. “While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinetah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a Dinetah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine. Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology. As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.”

A walk down memory stravenue: Biography/memoir

Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir

Author: Linda Ronstadt

Goodreads rating: 3.55 stars

Tucson connection: Tucson author

Summary (from the library catalog): Nonfiction. “In this memoir, iconic singer Linda Ronstadt weaves together a captivating story of her origins in Tucson, Arizona, and her rise to stardom in the Southern California music scene of the 1960s and '70s.”

A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport

Author: Kate Stewart

Goodreads rating: 3.35 stars

Tucson connection: Tucson author

Summary (from the library catalog): Nonfiction. “Books were the one constant in a life full of trauma and turmoil, and she always turned to them for reassurance, renewal, and solace when she had no one and nothing else ... Above all, this book is a tribute to a teenage girl who understood the power of forbidden books: That by reading them she would find a way to liberate herself. She devoted the rest of her long life to liberating them for the readers of the world. That includes you.”

NOTE: Cover thumbnails from 

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