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Reading Your Way Through Arizona
A new exhibit at the UA shares 100 essential books for the Arizona Centennial.
A new exhibition at Special Collections showcases 100 essential books that define the cultural, historical, environmental and political landscape of the Grand Canyon State.
"Arizona 100: Essential Books for the Centennial" is a diverse bibliography of must-reads that, according to the selection committee, when reviewed collectively, shout "This is Arizona."
The exhibit, "Arizona 100," is on display through Dec. 14 in the gallery at Special Collections, 1510 E. University Blvd.
An opening lecture will be held Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. in Special Collections.
"Arizona 100" was curated in conjunction with a special edition of The Journal of Arizona History, published quarterly by the Arizona Historical Society.
Inspired by the state's Centennial, last year a group of seven bibliophiles set out to develop a list of fiction and non-fiction books essential to Arizona.
Surveying works from Spanish times to the present, the final 100 titles were "selected on the basis of their historical importance and literary merit."
The special edition of The Journal of Arizona History is the culmination of this yearlong effort and offers an in-depth bibliography of the selected titles with a summary, assessment of significance and suggestions for further reading for each title.
Among the titles selected is "The Personal Narrative of James O. Pattie," published in 1833 – the oldest book on the list. The adventurous tale of a young fur trapper, the book "captures readers' imaginations with its vibrant description of the western wilderness viewed through the romantic lens of American expansionism," according to selector Bruce Dinges.
The most recently published title, the 2010 book is "A Gift of Angels: The Art of Mission San Xavier del Bac" by Bernard Fontana and Edward McCain. The book offers an identification of nearly 200 saints and angels that adorn San Xavier del Bac.
Arizona's often turbulent path to statehood is well represented in the bibliography. Of the 100 books selected as essential Arizona reading, 24 titles were published before 1912 and 20 published by the UA Press.
Other titles, including 14 authored or co-authored by women, include:
- "Life Among the Apaches," published in 1868 and written by John Cremony
- "Memoir of the Proposed Territory of Arizona," published in 1857 by Sylvester Mowry
- "Romance of the Colorado River," published in 1902 by Frederick S. Dellenbaugh
- "The Bean Trees," published in 1988 and written by Barbara Kingsolver
- "Yes is Better Than No," published in 1977 and written by Byrd Baylor
- "Vanished Arizona: Recollections of my Army Life," published in 1908 by Martha Summerhayes
- "Ghosts of the Adobe Walls, published in 1964 and written by Nell Murbarger
- "Going back to Bisbee," published in 1992 and written by Richard Shelton
- "Me and Mine: The Life Story of Helen Sekaquaptewa," published in 1969 and co-authored by by Helen Sekaquaptewa and Louise Udall
Summerhayes' book paints "a rare portrait of Arizona during the Indian Wars told by someone equipped with a discerning eye, a fluid pen and endless curiosity," according to selector Bruce Dinges.
Regarding Murbarger's book, selector W. David Laird said it is "still readily available to take along on a weekend jaunt" to Arizona's ghost towns.
The bibliography is the result of more than a year of rereading, reviewing and lengthy discussion by the seven reviewers, all of whom have deep connections with the literature of the Grand Canyon State.
Reviewers are: Bill Broyles, Southwest Books of the year contributor and a research associate at the UA's Southwest Center; Steve Cox, director emeritus of the UA Press; Bruce Dinges, director of publications and editor of The Journal of Arizona History at the Arizona Historical Society; Alfredo Gonzales, bookseller and owner of the Chiricahua Book Company; W. David Laird, Southwest Books of the Year contributor and former director of the UA Libraries; Roger Myers, a UA Special Collections librarian; and James J. Owens, antiquarian book dealer and the owner of Thorn Books in Tucson.