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ASU librarian emeritus offers picks for best Southwest books

January 22, 2009

What were the best books about the Southwest published in 2008?

Patricia Etter, librarian emeritus and member of the Emeritus College, serves on the Southwest Books of the Year Panel, and each year submits her favorites to the sponsoring organization, Friends of the Pima County Public Library.

Etter’s top five choices for 2008 include books about the Grand Canyon, Navajo weavers, and the Civilian Conservation Corps:

• “Law on the Last Frontier: Texas Ranger Arthur Hill,” by S.E. Spinks.

• “Patterns of Exchange: Navajo Weavers and Traders,” by Teresa Wilkins.

• “Reflections of Grand Canyon Historians: Ideas, Arguments, and First-Person Accounts,” edited by Todd. R. Berger.

• “With Picks, Shovels & Hope: The CCC and Its Legacy on the Colorado Plateau,” by Wayne K. Hinton and Elizabeth A. Green.

• “The Pottery of Zuni Pueblo,” by Dwight P. Lanmon and Francis Harvey Harlow.

Her second five picks were “Fragile Patterns”; “The Hohokam Millenium”; “Silver and Stone”; “Wings in the Desert”; and “Zuni Origins.”

"One of the delightful aspects of reading so many books is to meet with members of the panel and discuss the merits of a particular volume. We are presented with about 300 books each year, but of course, it is impossible for each one of us to read every one,” said Etter, who has been on the panel since 2003.

“But the group has its experts – some prefer science, while others do well with fiction. I prefer non-fiction on almost any historical topic but as an anthropologist, I naturally lean toward material about Native peoples of the Southwest.

Since there are varied reading tastes within our small group, we come up with good variety so there is something for all readers, including children.”

Helene Woodhams, coordinator of Southwest Books of the Year, said of the program, “Southwest literature has fascinated readers since the mid-1800s, when intrepid writers, braving the forbidding frontier, captivated Eastern audiences with their remarkable tales of an exotic land few readers would ever see.

“Since that time our world has gotten smaller and travel speedier, but readers’ fascination with the legends, culture and improbable landscape of the Southwest is unabated.”

For more information about Southwest Books of the Year, contact Etter at

To see the complete list of panel members’ picks, go to