Friday, May 17, 2019
Summer Reading 2019
The heat of summer usually forces Valley residents to spend more time indoors. With all that extra indoor time, why not catch up on some reading - historical reading that is. The following list of books will not be found on today’s New York Times Best Seller list, but if you have an interest in Arizona and of learning about its history and natural environment, here is a list of historic books that you might find interesting. Some of these books are over 100 years old but they will give you a tremendous insight into how Arizona was established and became the amazing state in which we all live today. Many of these books can be found online or ordered through the Maricopa County Library system. In my opinion, they are the classic books in learning and understanding Arizona. Enjoy!
1. Arizona: A Panoramic History of a Frontier State, 1977 - Marshall Trimble is the guru of Arizona historians. “The greatest ever” according to Barry Goldwater. Any Marshall Trimble book is an excellent read in learning about Arizona. Arizona’s Official Historian since 1997, go see Marshall speak and/or entertain while you still have the chance. We all are growing old.
2. History of the Conquest of Mexico, 1843 - William Hickling Prescott - yep, the man for whom the City of Prescott is named. Since the history of Arizona begins in the Valley of Mexico, Prescott’s magnificent epic of Hernan Cortés's conquest of Motecuhzoma (Montezuma) and the Mexica People (Aztecs) between 1519 - 1521 is a must read for all who want to understand the origins of modern Arizona.
3. Rim of Christendom: A Biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino, 1936 - Herbert Eugene Bolton - the classic biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino by the leading American historian of his time. Father Kino first brought the world of Spain and Christianity to what would become Arizona in 1687. He is honored to this day by the Native People with whom he once worked and the governments of both Arizona and Mexico. Bolton’s history of this Arizona legend is the best rendition available.
4. Coronado - Knight of the Pueblos and Plains, 1949 - another classic history written by Herbert Eugene Bolton but this one dealing with Francisco Vázquez de Coronado’s search for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold in 1539 - 1541- just 20 short years after Cortés conquered the Mexica . Coronado and his army were the first group of Europeans to enter Arizona. Members of his army were also the first Europeans to gaze into the depths of the Grand Canyon, first to dine on the meat of the American buffalo and the first to walk across the vast plains of today’s Kansas. If you love Arizona’s history, you will love this book!
5. Fire and Blood: A History of Mexico, 1973 - T.R. Fehrenbach - Learning the history of Mexico helps us understand the history of Arizona and all of the American Southwest and California. T.R. Fehrenbach, a son of Texas, does a superb job in helping us grasp Mexico’s role in the past, present and probably the future of this region of the North American continent.
6. Conquest - Moctezuma, Cortés and the Fall of Old Mexico, 1993 - Hugh Thomas - A modern look at the 1519 Conquest of Mexico through newly discovered artifacts, translations and writings by English author Hugh Thomas. If when you finished
Prescott’s book and wanted more about those two great empires locked in an epic battle, Hugh Thomas will expand your knowledge of the events with 150 more years of historical research and perspective.
7. The Gila - River of the Southwest, 1951 - Edwin Corle - Once upon a time, it was Gila River that crosses Arizona from New Mexico to California that was the most important river of settlement. Even though today it is mainly a dry bed of rocks, the Gila once flowed across the state allowing explorers, armies and families to move into and across Arizona. The first recorded birth of an Anglo child occurred while floating down the Gila River to the Howard family. Appropriately, the child was named Gila Howard. Corle’s book is a classic to understanding a once great river and the settlement of modern Arizona.
8. The Voice of the Desert - A Naturalist’s Interpretation, 1954 - Joseph Wood Krutch - I do believe that this book changed my life. As a young science teacher arriving to Arizona in 1971 from the farmlands of Illinois, I was immediately fascinated by the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert. I knew little to nothing about this Arizona desert - then I came across Dr Krutch and The Voice of the Desert. His book began to teach me some of the simple knowledge I needed to know about the Sonoran Desert but more importantly, it taught me how to feel about and understand and cherish living in the Sonoran Desert. I love this book and the impact it made in my life. For me it was one of the “game-changers” of my professional and personal life.
9. The Desert, 1904 - John C. Van Dyke - One of the first books written by an American author dealing with the magnificence of the Great American Deserts. He had crossed the deserts of Colorado, Arizona, California and Old Mexico mostly alone for three years then wrote of his experiences in this book with insightful, sensitive and thought provoking text. Early writers had a unique way with words and Van Dyke’s narrative about the desert he came to love is special.
10. Vanished Arizona: Recollections of the Army Life of a New England Woman, 1908 - Martha Summerhayes - “I have written this story of my army life at the urgent and ceaseless request of my children” - so wrote Martha Summerhayes in the preface of her classic book documenting the American settlement of Arizona after the Civil War. A most amazing story told through the eyes and perspective of a brave and bold army wife.
11. Arizona’s Names: X Marks the Place, 1983 - Byrd Howell Granger - There are several great books explaining just how the towns, mountains, canyons and remote places of Arizona all got their names and we like one the best because the Arizona places are listed in simple alphabetical order. Dr. Granger expanded on the first such work by Will C. Barnes who had spent thirty years collecting information about the names of Arizona and published his classic Place Names of Arizona in 1935. Both books are treasures and a must for anyone wanting to know, “Why did they name it that?”
12. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, 1968 - Edward Abby - Who can know the desert without reading Edward Abby? - no one. A rebel to the depths of his soul, Abby had an limitless passion for his desert home.
13. The Desert Smells Like Rain, 1987 - Gary Paul Nabham - A more modern day look by a naturalist at the Sonoran Desert habitat and the native people who have always called it home. “His eyes assure those of a scientist, his prose and vision a poets: spare evocative, respectful of both facts and mysteries” wrote a reviewer of Dr. Nabham’s portrayal of the Papago’s (Tohono O’odham) desert world.
14. The Buried Mirror: Reflection on Spain and the New World, 1992 - Carlos Fuentes - An award winning novelist and essayist, Mexican author Carlos Fuentes was ready for the 500th anniversary of Spain’s contact and conquest of the Americas with his 1992 release of the BBC TV series and book, The Buried Mirror: Reflection on Spain and the New World. Acknowledged as “A sweeping history of Hispanic culture on both sides of the Atlantic, set in the context of Spain's own multicultural roots. "The freshest and most inspiring . . . history in this year of a thousand Columbian offerings. . . “. There is no better resource anywhere that helps understand the many challenges that the 500+ year old Spanish conquest of the Americas caused and continues to present to the modern world. If you want to understand the Hispanic cultures of Arizona, California and all the American southwest, Carlos Fuentes The Buried Mirror is a must see/read.
15. Rain of Gold, 1991 - Victor Villaseñor - The Rain of Gold has been called by critics the Hispanic-American Roots. In this book Villaseñor traces three generations of his family’s struggle to become a part of the American dream. With all the political rhetoric that occurs today over the southern border, reading Rain of Gold will offer new understanding and insight into the issue.
So there you have them - my 15 suggestions for gathering an understanding and knowledge of our wonderful Arizona. Most of the books are still available through the public library, online or even from Kindle. So many other books deserve to be on this list as these are just one ol’ man’s opinions and favorites. One thing for sure, reading these books will keep you out of the summer heat! Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I once did.