10 Books Every Arizonan Should Read
Inspired by Business Insider's map of the most famous book from every state, we put together our own list of 10 books every Arizonan should read, or at least have on the nightstand. We can get number one out of the way right up front -- it's Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees, which, according to the map, is the book our state is most famous for. Below are the other 9 selections, for your reading pleasure:
Tom Story/Arizona State University
The Trunk Murderess Winnie Ruth Judd by Jana Bommersbach If you live here and you don't know the name Winnie Ruth Judd, you're in for a gruesome treat. Not only does Bommersbach's book offer up the bloody and mysterious story of Arizona's answer to Lizzie Borden, it also paints a vivid portrait of life in Arizona in the early part of the 20th century.
Capirotada by Alberto Álvaro Rios Rios' memoir of growing up in Nogales, Arizona, and its mirror city, Nogales, Mexico, just across the border, would be required reading even if the man weren't our state's first poet laureate: Like the dish for which it's named, this uniquely Arizonan book is an improbable but delicious combination that defies categorization.
The Devil's Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea Extra points for reading this true story of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, not only because it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a national bestseller, but because it's on the reading list for the now banned Ethnic Studies course in Tucson public schools.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie This kickass collection includes the story "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona," on which the movie Smoke Signals is based. Like Urrea, Alexie is an author whose work was part of the Ethnic Studies course that was banned in Tucson, about which Alexie had this to say: "In the effort to vanish our books, Arizona has actually given them enormous power. Arizona has made our books sacred documents now."
The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey This wild romp about angry young environmentalists in the West made its author a counterculture hero. The Dream Garden Press edition, which was first published in 1985 (to celebrate the book's 10th anniversary), includes illustrations by R. Crumb, plus a full-page photograph of Abbey and R. Crumb in Arches National Park. Can't go wrong there.
Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest by Sandra Day O'Connor and H. Alan Day O'Connor wrote this book with her brother, and it's at least as much the story of the sprawling Arizona cattle ranch where she grew up, and the people who made it work, as it is a book about the girl who grew up to become the first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Various titles by Tony Hillerman and J.A. Jance Arizonans need to at least skim some of the best-selling mystery novels by Tony Hillerman and J.A. Jance that are set in our state, if only for a glimpse of how the rest of the country reads us. Joanna Brady, who stars in a Jance series that takes place in here, is the sheriff of Cochise County, and a reflection in many ways of Jance herself, who grew up in southeastern Arizona. Hillerman, who set most of his books in the Four Corners area, uses that backdrop to explore the interaction of traditional Navajo culture and white culture.
These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 by Nancy Turner This fictionalized diary is based on the life of the author's great-grandmother, and tells the story of a young woman coming of age on her family's settlement near Tucson in the latter part of the 19th century. Sarah Prine is a tough and interesting narrator in a tough and interesting time, prone to honesty and observations like, "That man makes me feel like I have my bonnet on backwards."
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