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A 2017 Reading List 

10 Great Books From Local Authors This Year

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click to enlarge Spent Saints
  • Spent Saints

Spent Saints and Other Stories

By Brian Jabas Smith

The Ridgeway Press

If you read Brian Smith's Tucson Salvage column in these pages, then you know his ability to find the beauty and strength in Southern Arizonans who live on the margins. Smith's debut collection of short stories likewise examines the lives of damaged men and women traveling dark roads. Bob Mehr, the author of Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements, says it better than we could in his review: "A gimlet-eyed chronicler of subterranean scenes, Brian Jabas Smith has spent a career finding both truth and beauty among those who've been consigned to the narrow margins of society. At last we're given a collection that captures the essence of his vintage neon prose. But Spent Saints is more than just glorious guttersnipe poetry—it's a work of deep empathy and trenchant wit, a humanist drama that seeks to understand the lives of the artistic demimonde and the unglamorous working masses at once." We'll keep it simple: It's a great read, so pick up a copy.



click to enlarge Storming the Wall
  • Storming the Wall

Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security

By Todd Miller

City Lights Books

Journalist Todd Miller (Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security) makes the connection between climate change and border security around the world in Storming the Wall. Miller notes that natural disasters and new weather patterns are already driving "climate refugees" from their longtime homelands, with more trouble in the forecast. As he told the Weekly earlier this year: "The most common projection is that 250 million people will be on the move by 2050 because of climate change. People most likely to be on the move are people in vulnerable situations, living in poverty. What's predicted is more extreme weather, hurricanes, super hurricanes." It's a grim prediction, but he added a note of hope in his interview with TW's Margaret Regan: "The future is unwritten right now. It's not inevitable. There are things we still can do, serious mitigation efforts on greenhouse gas. We can continue with a militarized enforcement solution for people migrating—or we can we rethink what we're doing."



click to enlarge Mars
  • Mars

Mars: The Pristine Beauty of the Red Planet

By Alfred S. McEwen, Candice Hansen-Koharcheck and Ari Espinoza

UA Press

For more than a decade, the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab has been snapping photos of the surface of Mars via a remarkable camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, has spotted dust devils on the Martian surface, helped map out landing spaces for different Mars landers (including the 2008 UA-led Phoenix mission to the arctic plains and the current mission with the Curiosity rover), has snapped photos of spacecraft descending to the Martian surface and has taken pictures of Earth, other planets and comets. It has even given us the best evidence that we have that there's water beneath the surface of our neighboring planet. Now the best of the best have been assembled in a handsome and heavy volume that will delight any space lover on your holiday shopping list.



click to enlarge Kill the Gringo
  • Kill the Gringo

Kill the Gringo

By Jack Vaughn

Rare Bird Books

Before he retired to Tucson, diplomat Jack Vaughn had a colorful life: A college boxer; U.S. Marine in WWII; ambassador to Panama and Colombia; and second director the Peace Corps, to name just a few. His journals form the basis for this biography, which was assembled by his daughter, Jane Constantineau. It's an engrossing read about a remarkable man who was nicknamed "the Peasant Ambassador." Journalist Tom Brokaw's review: "Before there was Indiana Jones there was Jack Vaughn, the fearless Peace Corps executive plunging into some of the most dangerous territory on earth to spread the story of American values. Jack's life story is at once inspirational and terrifying, such a compelling combination for this modest man who looked like a country doctor and lived like a poster for a Harrison Ford movie."



click to enlarge Cuba, Hot and Cold
  • Cuba, Hot and Cold

Cuba, Hot and Cold

By Tom Miller

UA Press

Travel writer Tom Miller has been visiting Cuba for some three decades and in his latest book, Cuba Hot and Cold, he digs into untold stories about the explosion of the USS Maine, Hemingway's house and how the Buena Vista Social Club helped warm diplomatic relations between the United State and Cuba. Jon Lee Anderson, the author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, says the books is a "wryly engaging romp through the extraordinary Caribbean island nation that Tom Miller knows so well. For the uninitiated, it's all here: Havana, the music, the Malecón, the '50s Chevys, Hemingway, Che and Fidel and 'Remember the Maine.' But beyond all that, there is a real sense here of the Cubans in all their larger-than-lifeness and smartass wit. If you are going to read one book before you go to Cuba, make it this one."



click to enlarge Double Wide
  • Double Wide

Double Wide

By Leo W. Banks

Brash Books

Longtime Tucson Weekly contributor Leo W. Banks pens a sizzling debut novel about Prospero Stark, a former big-league ballplayer who is minding his business as the operator of a desert trailer park when his former catcher's hand ends up in a box on his porch. Stark sets up to find out what happened to his erstwhile teammate and gets drawn into a web of drug smugglers and other bad hombres. Banks, a longtime lover of classic mystery writers such as Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson, told the Weekly he set out to "to write the kind of book I like to read. Plenty of humor, nothing too deep, nobody rattling on about the human condition—a book that can make you believe in murder again. Most importantly, I followed the one unbreakable rule, the four-word secret ingredient—stuff has to happen." Banks succeeds in emulating the classics—much to our delight. More, please.



click to enlarge Dark Signal
  • Dark Signal

Dark Signal

By Shannon Baker

Tom Doherty Associates

Tucson mystery author Shannon Baker, who was named the 2017 Author of the Year by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers earlier this year, delivers the second book of her Kate Fox series with Dark Signal, which find Fox, a newly elected Nebraska sheriff, stumbling across a murder scene while investigating a railroad accident. Fellow mystery author Anne Hillerman raves: "Welcome to a world of danger, action, and complicated relationships. Shannon Baker has created a finely crafted mystery that moves to its powerful climax like the rush of an oncoming train. This book kept me reading too far into the night."



click to enlarge Proof of Life
  • Proof of Life

J.A. Jance

Proof of Life

William Morrow

J.A. Jance's legendary sleuth J.P. Beaumont is back in Proof of Life. Although Beaumont is retired, he finds himself pulled back into the investigation racket after his longtime nemesis, newspaper crime reporter Maxwell Cole, is killed. As Jance told the Weekly earlier this year, Cole "knew he was in trouble, and he asked someone to be sure that, if anything bad happened to him, ask J.P. to investigate. So he's pulled into the investigation at the express wishes of the victim." The result is another engrossing tale from the New York Times bestselling master of the genre.



click to enlarge A New Form of Beauty
  • A New Form of Beauty

A New Form of Beauty: Glen Canyon Beyond Climate Change

Photography by Peter Going

Essays by Peter Friederici

UA Press

Photography Peter Goin has been taking pictures of Glen Canyon for nearly three decades—and in the process, he has tracked how climate change is steadily draining the man-made Glen Canyon Lake. As Friederici writes in one of his essays: "So, here is the real unwritten reason Tim and I were there: to immerse ourselves for a spell in a place of mystery where we would not know what to expect, where in fact the central organizing principle of place was a fundamental unknowability, just as (Western explorer John Wesley) Powell surely knew he was only scratching the surface of the canyon country with his wanderings, his note-takings, his scribblings." The lush photos are extraordinary—and often disturbing—in this spectacular collection.



click to enlarge No Species Is an Island
  • No Species Is an Island

No Species Is an Island: Bats, Cacti, and Secrets of the Sonoran Desert

By Theodore H. Fleming with illustrations by Kim Kanoa Duffek

UA Press

If you're interested in the ecology of Southern Arizona, No Species Is an Island is the book for you. University of Miami biology professor Theodore H. Fleming explains why the Sonoran Desert is the most biologically diverse in the world, while Arizona-Sonora Desert Musuem horticulturist Kim Kanoa Duffek's illustrations give you a good idea of what the flora and fauna look like. This slim volume is the perfect gift for the naturalist on your list.


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