Twelve books for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or just ’cuz
By Lisa Lenard-Cook
This year's compilation focuses exclusively on books with New Mexico connections. Unlike the stock market, each of these books provides a guaranteed return on investment and will keep on giving throughout the year.
Ana Castillo is back in New Mexico, and so is her most recent novel. Multi-voiced and multi-threaded, The Guardians follows the middle-aged-but-still-beautiful Regina as she searches for her missing brother Rafa along la frontera between New Mexico and Mexico. Assisting in her quest are Rafa’s 16-year-old son Gabo, who’s staying with Regina; lothario schoolteacher Miguel; Miguel’s ancient uncle El Abuelo Milton; and a motley crew that includes gangbangers, a priest and his girlfriend. Castillo’s wise, funny and, most important, believable characters will keep you turning pages long after lights-out.
Gloria Dyc’s first book of poetry was a finalist in its category for a New Mexico Book Award. Its deceptively simple narratives consistently reach deep into readers’ psyches. Dyc, who's an English professor at UNM–Gallup, takes the reader from the ice of her native Michigan to the Black Hills, where she explores Lakota traditions firsthand, ending with themes of connection and longing.
The Painted Clock: Memoirs of a New Mexico Ghost Town Bride
Phyllis Hoge Thompson
Award-winning poet Phyllis Hoge Thompson’s tale of moving with her second husband to the mostly abandoned ghost town of Mogollon, New Mexico, is drawn with a loving and honest hand. It’s a testament to Thompson’s abilities that, despite the difficulties such a lifestyle choice engenders, her depiction made me want to pack up and move to Mogollon myself.
Thanks to Corrales Librarian Edwina Tafoya for this delightful suggestion. The Legend of Thunderfoot is the story of a young roadrunner whose encounter with a rattlesnake gives him a name that becomes a legend.
Books with large pictures are meant to be read aloud again and again. This beautifully painted offering succeeds in firing up both old and young imaginations with its many answers to the title question. The last page asks what you can do with a rebozo, inviting readers to join the fun.
Jan Haley's photos of the Gila River provide calming respites for those of us stuck behind our city desks. Free Flow: The Gila River of New Mexico would only be lovelier if the publisher had included a map of its subject river, but don’t let that minor quibble keep you away. Haley will be at the UNM Bookstore on Friday, Dec. 5, at noon to sign copies of Free Flow.
A River Apart: The Pottery of Cochiti & Santo Domingo Pueblos
Edited by Valerie K. Verzuh
Museum of New Mexico Press
In conjunction with the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture's exhibition of American Indian pottery, the Museum of New Mexico Press has issued several important new books about Pueblo pottery and potters. A River Apart brings together anthropologists, artists and art historians, both Native and non-Native, in a series of essays that explore the pueblos’ histories, their myths and legends, and artists’ responses to a changing world.
Born of Fire: The Life and Pottery of Margaret Tafoya
Charles S. King
Museum of New Mexico Press
Born of Fire places the pottery of Santa Clara matriarch Margaret Tafoya in context with the pueblo’s history and as part of the continuum of her family’s pottery tradition. The book is filled with full-color photos and detailed discussions.
Song for the Horse Nation: Horses in Native American Cultures
Edited by George P. Horse Catcher and Emil Her Many Horses
Vintage photographs of American Indians and their horses complement stories collected by Frances Densmore more than 100 years ago, along with the work of contemporary poets including Sherman Alexie, Linda Hogan and Luci Tapahonso. Song for the Horse Nation was originally published in conjunction with the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in 2006.
First published in 1978, the fifth edition of this kitchen staple celebrates 30 years in continuous print. My now spotted and dog-eared copy has been one of three go-to cookbooks ever since I lived in southwest Colorado in the '90s. This book includes every standby you’ll ever need with easy-to-read instructions. All recipes are adjusted for high altitude cooking, and the spiral binding allows you to fold the book open while you’re working.
Natural by Design: Beauty and Balance in Southwest Gardens
Museum of New Mexico Press
Whether you’ve just started your New Mexico garden or are an old hand, Judith Phillips is the absolute must-consult authority when it comes to Southwest gardening books. The longtime columnist for Su Casa magazine continues to use her own garden as a living laboratory for what does and doesn’t grow here, and her readers are the lucky recipients of her hard-won knowledge. With its no-nonsense discussions of local ecology, patterns and processes, planting, maintenance, and restoring natural biodiversity, Natural by Design continues to be my favorite.
It’s hard to imagine a New Mexico literary scene without Tony Hillerman at its helm. But do you remember the first Hillerman mystery you read? For me, it was The Blessing Way, published in 1970. Joe Leaphorn must bring all his logical skill to bear when Luis Horseman is found killed by what seems to be a Navajo wolf. Sound familiar? Hillerman’s early novels are wondrous to re-read all these years later. What better tribute to a New Mexico legend than to read them again?