Before you visit Tucson and Southern Arizona, you might want to read up on some of our weird plants and strange critters, and our extraordinary history and cultural heritage. Below are some suggestions. Hundreds of other useful books, maps, and brochures are available locally at our National Park Visitors’ Centers, book stores such as Antigone Books on 4th Avenue. Also, most of the destinations recommended in SouthernArizonaGuide.com have gift shops with excellent books on local topics. We love books about Arizona. Here are some local places to find a great assortment of Arizona titles.
Critters and Plants
Speaking of critters that inhabit our Southern Arizona neighborhoods, I just finished reading a very insightful and well-written book entitled: There’s a Bobcat in My Backyard: Living with and Enjoying Urban Wildlife (Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Guides) This is an Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Guide written by Jonathan Hanson. Highly recommended.
Wildlife of the Southwest Deserts by James W. Cornett. 3rd Edition. Lots of good pictures and useful information. DESERTS – The Audubon Society Nature Guides by James A. MacMahon Ms. Karen’s favorite reference book.
Arizona’s Salsa Trail – A Foodie’s Guide to Culinary Tourism in Southeastern Arizona by Christine Maxa & David A. James. Published by Graham County Chamber of Commerce (2009). Thirty-seven original recipes for great Mexican dishes. Plus maps, photographs, & descriptions of more than a dozen Mexican restaurants, a tortilla company, & a chili farm you can and should visit.
Best Hikes with Dogs Arizona by Renee Guillory. Published by The Mountaineers Books (2006). Most of our friends and family like to hike with their dogs. And while this book specializes in hikes with dogs, many of these same trails are good hikes without Sparky.
Arizona Trails South Region by Peter Massey, Jeanne Wilson, & Angela Titus. Published by Alder Publishing (2007). This book describes in serious detail 33 individual hiking trails, including good maps, GPS coordinates, photos, and local history.
Best Easy Day Hikes Tucson (Best Easy Day Hikes Series)This book has some of the more popular hikes due to its accessibility and relative ease and beauty.
History & Heritage
Empire Ranch (Images of America (Arcadia Publishing) Preserving our Cowboy Heritage the Empire Ranch is a conservation effort for a lifestyle that is disappearing.
Tucson: The Life and Times of an American City By C.L. Sonnichsen A comprehensive history of Tucson. San Xavier Text by Kathleen Walker. Published by Arizona Highways Books. Many fine photographs and a very good introduction to the finest example of Spanish mission architecture anywhere.
Historic Photos of Tucson Text and captions by Mike Speelman. Hard cover. Turner Publishing Company. Dozens of historic photos that chronicle the evolution of Tucson from Spanish colonial days through 1970.
Images of America: Early Tucson Anne I. Woosley and the Arizona Historical Society. Paperback. Arcadia Publishing. An inexpensive but useful orientation to Tucson’s history. Lots of old photos.
Images of America: The Tohono O’odham and Pimeria Alta Allan J. McIntyre and the Arizona Historical Society. Paperback. Arcadia Publishing. A picturesque look at our local Native Americans and their relationship to their land and those who invaded their land.
Images of America: Tombstone Jane Eppinga. Paperback. Arcadia Publishing. Lots of historic photos with informative captions make for a quick read about the “Town too tough to die”. Some historians have suggested that her captions are not always accurate, however.
Florence (AZ) (Images of America) Published by Pinal County Historical Society (2007). Florence is a small town north of Tucson on old Highway 79 which used to be the main road from Phoenix to Tucson. The silent Western movie star, Tom Mix, was killed when he crashed his luxury car just south of Florence. There’s a roadside monument to the man at the site of the accident. A few miles west of Florence is a major Hohokam archeological site run by our National Park Service. Casa Grande Ruins: Excellent. But Florence itself has an interesting history and a small but fascinating museum at the intersection of Main & Gressinger Street.
Look to the Mountains: This is an in-depth look at Mt. Lemmon and the people who shaped its human history. A fascinating read, if you love Mt. Lemmon. See our review: here.
A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire This is a compelling read about the history of the color red. Trust me.
History of the Apaches
Their Struggle Against American & Mexican Conquest of Their Land & People
In the Days of Victorio; Recollections of a Warm Springs Apache By Eve Ball. Paperback. The University of Arizona Press. 1970. James Kaywaykla tells the fascinating, tragic story of his people to Eve Ball. He was a young lad during the last of the Apache Wars. He and his people were herded onto reservations where they died of exposure, malnutrition, and disease. Those who left the misery and death of the reservations were hunted down by the U.S. and Mexican Armies and killed like vermin. Women and children survivors of these massacres were often sold into slavery in Mexico, and even to prominent Tucson families.
Kaywaykla’s story is the story of gross injustices, savagery on both sides, imprisonment, unbelievable hardship and courage and cunning in the face of overwhelming odds. In Kaywaykla, we have the good fortune to see the ferocious Apaches through the eyes of one who knew them personally: Geronimo, Cochise, Naiche (son of Cochise), Juh, Nana, and most of all, Victorio and his beautiful younger sister, Lozen, who became a powerful medicine woman, warrior, and a major asset to her people in their wars of survival.
Geronimo: The True Story of America’s Most Ferocious Warrior By Geronimo. As told to S.M. Barrett in 1905. Paperback. Published most recently by Penguin Group in 1970 with a new Introduction and Notes by Frederick Turner. You can’t get closer to the fascinating life of “the worst Indian who ever lived” than to read his own words. Geronimo, like anyone who writes his own history is sometimes self-serving, and sometimes confuses one event with another, but all in all, a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the Apaches and the bloody history of Southeastern Arizona.
Indeh: An Apache Odyssey, with New Maps By Eve Ball. Interviews with aged survivors of the Apache Wars, old men and women who, as children, lived through the horrific suffering and bloodshed and later decades of humiliating imprisonment and poverty. Most of this fascinating book focuses on the remembrances of the aged Asa Daklugie, son of Juh, chief of the Nednhi band of Chiricahua Apaches. This is primarily his story. And what a story it is. If you want a glimpse into the Apache mindset, Eve Ball’s Indeh is a must-read.
From Cochise to Geronimo: The Chiricahua Apaches, 1874-1886 (Civilization of the American Indian Series) By Edwin Sweeney. This is a work of serious historical importance. No one today could possibly understand the history of Southern Arizona without reading it. Be warned. It is not light reading. The fact that the hardback version has 586 pages plus about 80 pages of detailed notes, will scare off most armchair historians. But if you are seriously interested in Arizona history, From Cochise To Geronimo is invaluable.
History of the Old West
including Tombstone, Wyatt Earp, and The Gunfight at the OK Corral.
The Gunfight at OK Corral and the Incidents Following by Ben T. Traywick. Published by Red Marie’s Bookstore (Tombstone) 1994.
Wyatt Earp: The Showdown in Tombstone by Marshall Trimble (Official Arizona State Historian). Published by Golden West Publishers (2008). If you want the short version about the Gunfight, either of the above two books will serve. No two books about the shootout agree in every particular. But armchair historians can have a lot of fun discovering the differences and why those differences exist. On the other hand, if you want a fuller, richer understanding of (a) the Old West, (b) Tombstone, (c) The Gunfight, & (d) the aftermath, I highly recommend the following two volumes.
The Last Gunfight by Jeff Guinn. Published by Simon & Schuster (2011). The sub-title is: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral – And How It Changed the American West.
Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend by Casey Tefertiller. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (1997). Both are exceptionally well-written, well-researched, & well-documented. Both illustrate what most people never understand. The facts are far more interesting than the myths.
Behind the Red Lights (History of Prostitution in Tombstone) by Ben T. Traywick. Published by Red Marie’s Bookstore (1993). Mr. Traywick is the resident historian of Tombstone. This book gives readers a view of the Town Too Tough To Die from the perspective of the hundreds of working girls in the 1880’s. Here you’ll meet Big Nose Kate, China Mary, and many others, including little-known photos of some of the more prominent women. Pricing was based on desirability. Mexican: ¢25. Chinese, Japanese, Negro, & Indian: ¢50. French: ¢75. American: $1.00.
Going Back to BisbeeNot solely about Bisbee this is about the area of Southern Arizona between Tucson and Bisbee. Richard Sheldon writes about going back to Bisbee after years of being away, and the territory between here and there. A lovely book.
Desert Heat (Joanna Brady Mysteries) J.A. Jance. This is the first in a fiction series about the Sheriff of Cochise County, a woman. It is fun to read about places you may have been and the stories are pretty darn good.
Images of America: Bisbee Ethel Jackson Price. Paperback. Arcadia Publishing. Many historic photos and useful captions tell the story of a little mining town in the middle of a vast desert that grew to become the largest and most prosperous city between St. Louis and San Francisco in 1907.
Ruby, Arizona: Mining, Mayhem, & Murder by Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon, Bob & Al Ring. Published by U.S. Press & Graphics; Tucson, Arizona (2005). There is no finer ghost town in Arizona than Ruby. I had the pleasure of doing an on-camera interview with one of the town’s owners, Howard Frederick. See the Ruby videos. Read the book. Go to Ruby.
The Coming of the Railroad
Tucson Was A Railroad Town. The Days of Steam in the Big Burg on the Main Line by William D. Kalt III. Published by VDT Rail Publishing (2007). No one can understand the history of Tucson without understanding the enormous impact the Southern Pacific had on what was then a dusty little Mexican village.
Day Trips® from Phoenix, Tucson & Flagstaff: Getaway Ideas for the Local Traveler (Day Trips Series)Should you decide to stay awhile in our lovely state, this is the book for you.
Buy Our Book!
We’ve written a book posted with an assortment of wonderful stories gleaned from the pages of our website.
You can find it on our site in PDF format here or you can find it in one of Tucson’s local bookstores, including Antigone on 4th Avenue.
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- Arizona Highways Magazine publishes many fine books about the 48th state. Scenic Drives; Backroads; Hiking Trails, etc. These cover all of Arizona, but do have useful information about places to go and things to do in Southern Arizona as well.
Read some of our Reviews below.