January 18, 2024
It’s always exciting when University of Arizona Press authors are recognized for their work, but it’s especially meaningful to know that our books resonate with local readers in Tucson and the wider Southwest.
Each year, the Pima County Public Library releases their Southwest Books of the Year list, honoring “titles published during the calendar year that are about Southwest subjects, or are set in the Southwest.”
“The Southwest Books of the Year panel of reviewers—subject specialists and voracious consumers of Southwest literature all—are pleased to offer up their personal favorite titles of the year, complete with brief reviews to whet your appetite and leave you wanting more. Books selected by two or more panelists become Southwest Books of the Year Top Picks, our designation for the best of the best. Their choices are published in our annual publication, Southwest Books of the Year.”
Below, read about our books that were selected for 2024, or visit the Pima County Public Library website to see the full list.
Southwest Book of the Year – Top 10
Light As Light is acclaimed poet Simon J. Ortiz’s first collection in twenty years. The poems in this volume celebrate the wonders and joy of love in the present while also looking back with both humorous and serious reflections on youth and the stories, scenes, people, and places that shape a person’s life. Written in Ortiz’s signature conversational style, this volume claims poetry for everyday life as the poems find the speaker on a morning run, burnt out from academic responsibilities, missing his beloved, reflecting on sobriety, walking the dog, and pondering the act of poem making, making for a well-rounded collection that blends the playful and the profound.
Tom Zoellner walked across the length of Arizona to come to terms with his home state. But the trip revealed more mountains behind the mountains. In Rim to River, Zoellner does for Arizona what Larry McMurtry did for Texas in In a Narrow Grave and what Wallace Stegner did for Utah in Mormon Country: paint an enduring portrait of a misunderstood American state. An indictment, a love letter, and a homecoming story all at once.
Other University of Arizona Press Southwest Book of the Year Picks
The stunning photographs in Desert Jewels allow us to appreciate the spectacular range of color and form cactus flowers have to offer. For the cactus enthusiast, the book offers a comprehensive collection of high-quality flower photographs unlike any other. The photographs cover more than 250 cactus species organized by genus. The book starts with an introduction by John P. Schaefer that is both autobiographical and informative, offering a glimpse into his process for capturing these elusive desert gems, resulting in photographs so beautiful they were featured as a book of stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service.
In this delightful biography, we gain insight into a time when there were few women establishing full-time careers in anthropology, archaeology, or museums. Shelby Tisdale successfully combines Marjorie F. Lambert’s voice from extensive interviews with her own to take us on a thought-provoking journey into how Lambert created a successful and satisfying professional career and personal life in a place she loved (the American Southwest) while doing what she loved. Women’s voices have long been absent throughout history, and No Place for a Lady adds to the growing literature on feminist archaeology.
Sabino Canyon, a desert canyon in the American Southwest near Tucson, Arizona, is enjoyed yearly by thousands of city residents as well as visitors from around the world. Picturing Sabino tells the story of the canyon’s transformation from a barely known oasis, miles from a small nineteenth-century town, into an immensely popular recreation area on the edge of a modern metropolis. Covering a century of change, from 1885 to 1985, David Wentworth Lazaroff rejoices in the canyon’s natural beauty and also relates the ups and downs of its protection and enjoyment.
In Sonoran Desert Journeys ecologist Theodore H. Fleming discusses two remarkable journeys. First, Fleming offers a brief history of our intellectual and technical journey over the past three centuries to understand the evolution of life on Earth. Next, he applies those techniques on a journey of discovery about the evolution and natural history of some of the Sonoran Desert’s most iconic animals and plants. Fleming details the daily lives of a variety of reptiles, birds, mammals, and plants, describing their basic natural and evolutionary histories and addressing intriguing issues associated with their lifestyles and how they cope with a changing climate. Finally, Fleming discusses the complexity of Sonoran Desert conservation.
Bringing Home the Wild follows a two-decade journey in ecologically guided gardening on a four-acre irrigated parcel in Phoenix, Arizona, from the perspective of a retired botanist and her science historian partner. Through humor and playful use of language, Juliet C. Stromberg not only introduces the plants who are feeding them, buffering the climate, and elevating their moods but also acknowledges the animals and fungi who are pollinating the plants and recycling the waste. Some of the plants featured are indigenous to the American Southwest, while others are part of the biocultural heritage of the cityscape. This book makes the case for valuing inclusive biodiversity and for respectful interactions with all wild creatures, regardless of their historical origin.
Congratulations to all!