When Susan Lang isn’t pouring wine at Peregrine events, working on her latest novel, or foraging in the forest for wild foods, you might find her grinding mesquite pods, sneaking in a read, or teaching writing at either Prescott or Yavapai Colleges.
Can one go back in time and prevent one’s own birth? Does time travel create “forks” in the universe with alternate events? If you want to bend your mind into a pretzel, this is the book that will do it.
In her memoir, How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran wonders why so many of today’s modern young women don’t think of themselves as feminists, and, in fact, disassociate themselves from that word and concept. This memoir is meant to be an argument against that attitude, albeit an argument with wit and humor.
If you’re putting together or adding to your summer reading list, you might want to put Emma Cline’s Girls on it–if you haven’t already. Girls is not light reading, but it is compelling. The book is not for everyone, but it is a book that will haunt you whether or not you do like it. You will not forget it.
I not only thoroughly enjoyed reading this book - for its insights as well as its humor - but I intend to keep it close by to re-enjoy and to remind me of its insights.
The Painter is a very rich novel indeed, chock full of suspense while Stegner is chased by men set on retribution, quiet moments in nature while fly fishing, and insights into the darks and lights of human nature. A warning, though: Don't pick this book up without understanding that you might just give up a night's sleep to finish it.
Thomas Collins's new book, Arizona on Stage: Playhouses, Plays, and Players in the Territory 1879-1912, is a marvelously researched and passionately written history of a surprisingly lively era for theater-goers during a period that many of think consisted of gunfights, brothels and saloons.
One New York Times reviewer (Dwight Garner) calls the book an examination of "the middle-aged man in free fall." This book, with all its humorous pathos, is not for everyone. But if you're in the mood for something interesting and challengingly original, Moody's book might be your ticket. I know I sure enjoyed it.
Just reading the prologue of this haunting memoir, Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West, by Bryce Andrews, joining him while he sits "alone in the cold, crystalline night, thirty miles from a town of any consequence, staring out across the seldom-traveled track [they] on the Sun Ranch called Badluck Way," was enough to tell me I had found a story that would hold me fast until I finished.
I had no idea how much of a Western drama - studded with indelible characters and considerable violence - the early Whiskey Row actually was until I picked up the brand new History Press edition of Prescott's Original Whiskey Row, by Bradley G. Courtney, a local resident. The book covers the original Whiskey Row from its birth in 1864 through several minor fires to its death in the Great Fire of 1900.
I've never read a book anything like The Enchanted, by Rene Denfeld. I picked up the book with some hesitation. Did I want to read a book filled with magic that was narrated by someone on death row in an ancient prison? How was I supposed I believe such a thing? Still, there were these golden horses on the cover - and I could always put it down again, couldn't I? Well the truth is that I could not put the book down at all and indeed savored every word. I loved every single place this amazing work took me.
Reading When Women Were Birds in many ways is like holding a kaleidoscope up to the light and being awestruck over the lovely ever-changing patterns - except that the patterns stay with you and call up patterns of your own.
This is ... an intricate and moving story, filled with unique and memorable characters that make the novel a real page turner. Nothing here is quite as it seems and readers can count on many satisfying surprises throughout.
Jane Goodall calls Steven Druker's book, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth, "one of the most important books of the last 50 years," and urges those who care about life on earth to read it. Several well-known scientists also validate its content, calling it "well reasoned and scientifically solid." And I can attest to the fact that it is also, for the most part, as compelling as a true crime page-turner, despite its density of fact and scientific explanation.
In this rich book, David Gessner explores the portrayals of the West by two extraordinary men "who have left their (very large) footprints all over the western landscape," Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner. On the surface, these two men seem diametrically opposed in nature, the proper and "buttoned-down" Stegner, and the archetypal wild man, Abbey.
It is hard to miss the nature around us here in Prescott; it is the reason that many of us are here. We are lucky. But how many of us will take the time to walk out to where the Gambel Oaks put on their golden cloaks during their fall finale, pick up a green leaf infused with scarlet to study? Or walk out into the forest and breathe in the vanilla-butterscotch between cracks in the bark of an old growth ponderosa. Leslie's book is here to remind us how of how essential it is for us to stay in touch with these wonders, in touch with our own wonder.
If for some reason you have not yet read Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, you have a magnificent read ahead of you, hours and hours of losing yourself in a world you will not want give up when the pages run out. And even when they do, that world will stay with you for days and weeks, remaining nearly as real as the one you normally live in, the characters still alive inside you but strangely missing from view. Or so it was with me.
Michaela Carter also recommends this book. Visit her Staff Picks page »
Finding information about an unknown woman who lived in a rather unpopulated area at a time when records were erratically kept, was not an easy task. For instance, there was not even a record of Mattie's death. But Weber's determination to uncover this unknown life, to rescue it from obscurity drove her forward. —Susan
Nagasaki is a stunning book. Despite the brilliant writing, or maybe because of it, some parts are difficult to read-but I am very glad I did. I came away deeply moved and inspired by these hibakusha. I will never forget them. —Susan
Pick up a copy of Shona Patel's latest novel, Flame Tree Road, and be transported to a small village outside of Calcutta in 1870s India. Patel's writing is graceful, even lyrical, as she paints a vivid portrait of this land and its people still under the hold of a caste system just as it begins to change. —Susan
This lovely, quietly complex book, Our Souls at Night, was a joy to read. Its author, Kent Haruf was the recipient of multiple awards for his five other novels, and this one will be no different. Ursula K. Le Guin calls him a "stunningly original writer." Haruf's writing style is deceptively sparse so that readers hardly notice as they are drawn into the enigmatic and delicate intricacies of ordinary human relationships that will stay with them long after the novel ends.
After reading Mojave Natalie Diaz's intense and sharp-edged book of poetry, "When My Brother Was an Aztec," I understood why she and her work have won so many prizes - the Nimrod/hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship from Bread Loaf, to name just a few - even though it is her first published book, a book that kept me spellbound throughout. Her voice is distinctive, darkly humorous and sensual, her vivid imagery shading into the mythological.
Lovers of animals, wild or domestic, will enjoy Deming's reverent accounts and philosophic musings in this, her "secular prayer for the beauties and beasts of the Earth."
The first edition of Wilderness and the American Mind was published in 1967, and the most-recent updated fifth edition published in 2014. The many updated editions testify to the fact that this was and is an important book. It has, indeed, become a classic. The Los Angeles Times lists it among the 100 most influential books of the last 25 years; Outside Magazine included it in "one hundred books that changed our world.
I thoroughly enjoyed Jan MacKell Collins's book, "Wild Women of Prescott," which not only presents factual information, gleaned from extensive research, concerning the underbelly of Prescott's history, but also gives it to readers in the form of colorful and fascinating stories surrounding the events. Mackell Collins is not only a historical researcher, but a wonderful storyteller, piecing together from archives, interviews and records, the characters and plot lines behind the many historical dramas that took place in saloons, brothels, courtrooms of our area.
What a joy to open Hillerman’s Rock with Wings and be back in the world of Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police, caught up in a mystery as it unfolds–and I do mean caught up, because this mystery, just as Anne Hillerman’s first mystery, Spider Woman’s Daughter, will keep you turning pages until you get to its satisfying conclusion. At least it did me. I kept finding excuses to put off anything that took me away from this book.
One of my favorite works by Spokane/Couer d'alene Indian Sherman Alexie is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a book written for young adults—but one that can be enjoyed by young and old and readers in between. The book has won many awards, including the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and the School Library Journal Award. Despite all this deserved critical praise, the book is among the most banned books in the schools of several states, ranking close to Huckleberry Finn. This is because, in its darkly humorous way, the book deals with some real, and at times, rough subject matter: Alcoholism, domestic violence, poverty and teenage sexual frustration. The fact that its teenage protagonist mentions masturbation three times seems to be at the heart of the banning issue.
It might surprise readers to know that The Big Seven in Jim Harrison's latest, and darkly comic novel, refers to the good old Seven Deadlys, which retired detective Sunderson is struggling to understand, even as he remains caught in the middle of them. And as Sunderson meditates on the evil going on around him, he can't help but notice his own willing participation in some of his favorite seven deadlys, especially one concerning women that has cost him the wife he loves and still longs for.
Deadbeat Dams, subtitled, Why We Should Abolish the Bureau of Reclamation and Tear Down Glen Canyon Dam, is not a radical book written to incite Earthfirst!-ers to pick up axes and sticks of dynamite and head out toward Lake Powell and the cement wall that holds back the Colorado River. It is instead an insightful book, written by a former Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, that begins with a brief history of dam building in this country and goes on to reveal, documented with facts, how this outdated, incredibly expensive industry and its promoters are costing each of us, as taxpayers, huge amounts of money in subsidies in order to continue what has become a colossal failure: A waste of water that results in the destruction of our natural resources for the benefit of a small Water Nobility wielding the power.
Greene takes on tough issues that some naturalists shy from. "[Even] John Muir," Greene says, "claimed never to have seen a drop of blood in all his hiking." But Greene's chapters are replete with images of lizards swallowing lizards, rattlers ingesting cottontails, to say nothing of his jaguar diets.
Two buddies and band members who left their hometown and became successful in the larger world reunite with the two who stayed, married high-school sweethearts and melded into small town life. But wait, lives are not that simple, and leave it to Carlson to delve into the depths and show us why. Return to Oakpine is heartbreaking and wholly reassuring at the same time.
Carlson is funny, poignant and penetrating in these "poems, meditations, outcries and remarks" — often at the same time.
What is truly rare about the stories Wolfkiller tells is that he not only tells the content of the traditional stories, stories such as how the raven got its coat and what happened when the people broke their promise, but that he also explains the lessons they are meant to convey - and tells also how they helped him made decisions for the rest of his life. He does this, he tells Louisa Wetherill, so that he might "help the younger people along their way." His telling is done in a purposeful philosophic manner that even those of us from another culture can clearly understand.
This is definitely a story not to miss. I'm certainly glad I didn't, and you will be as well. OneBookAZ did well to choose this unique novel by the Arizona author who also wrote, I Am the Grand Canyon.
This is novel impossible to put down (or to get out of your mind, if you have to put it down) until the last page, and even then you wish there were more—which there will be. Aslan is working on a sequel now.
Novelist, memoirist, writing mentor, teacher and NPR commentator, Mary Sojourner, writes with fierce love and passion about the Mojave Desert she loves in her newest novel, 29, a compelling story that teaches readers even as it keeps them turning pages.
J.S. Kierland's 15 Stories is a book not to be missed. Kierland's impressive background in theater (winning the NYC playwright award, studying at Yale and founding the LA Playwright's Group) contributes to his creation of vivid and memorable characters. The book is structured around lyrics from the American folk song: "Sometimes I live in the country/Sometimes I live in the town," so that settings for his stories range from Tuba City on the Navajo reservation to tenements in New York City and apartments in Hollywood.
In Spirit Walk, we are treated to wonderfully memorable characters: Kevin's boyhood companion, O'odham Mondy; Amanda Monahan and her sister, Yolanda, old Conchillo and others. Place, too, is so vivid that it can almost be considered a character. The sights, smells and sound of the Sonoran landscape saturate every page.
De Granade's book, published by the literary press Milkweed editions, is far more than an account of wrestling tough cattle in a tough land, it is an account of her coming into a relationship with that land. When you read this beautiful book, you too, may find yourself transformed by sharing her experience.
Melanie Bishop’s My So-Called Ruined Life is a page-turner with substance. Readers young and older will fall in love with smart and witty Tate McCoy as she struggles through more adversity than any one person should have, gaining strength and wisdom from what could have broken her. This poignant and inspiring book will fly off the shelf.
James Sallis's new novel, Others of My Kind, is a compelling read, and hard to put down. Jenny Rowan, the novel's protagonist, had been abducted at age 8 and kept in a box under her captor's bed when he wasn't home. On a "second anniversary" trip to the mall, she escaped and managed to live in the mall for 18 months before being found out, which earned her the notoriety as the Mall Girl before she was put into the state child-care system.
Now Jenny works as a respected production editor for a local public TV station. The same resilience and strength of spirit that allowed her to escape and survive helped her to put her past in a hidden box, which she keeps secret from all but a few people in her life. Then one day she finds a detective at her door who wants her to help with another of her kind, a young woman who'd been abducted as a girl and held captive for years. Her gradual acceptance of this duty to another begins a journey into her own hidden memories that will change her life forever. —Susan
Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver's latest novel, delivers readers into a world where orange-black flakes of Monarch butterflies cover every tree with "trembling flame," and where the air itself "glows golden" whenever they take flight. It is a world where Appalachian culture itself shines so brightly it makes putting down the book to get back to "the real world" nearly impossible. Kingsolver's characters, too, are real and alive, filled with delightful surprises as they grow and change-and as readers change with them. I fell in love with them and the world they inhabit, and kept them with me long after the novel ended. And, as a writer, I was astounded at how much I learned, at how much Kingsolver could teach about the world and people in it while at the same time taking my breath away and bringing me to tears. Flight Behavior is a stunning novel. Readers shouldn't miss it. —Susan