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Etter's picks for Southwest books of the year

December 22, 2011

She’s done it again. Patricia Etter, professor emeritus, Labriola Center at Arizona State University, has come up with another great list of the year’s best books about the Southwest.

This year, four books made the cut as Etter’s recommendations for “Southwest Books of the Year 2011” – books about an early expedition, a look at the Santa Fe Trail, one on wildlife, and another on wild horses of the Southwest.

Etter, one of six members of the Southwest Books of the Year panel sponsored by the Pima County Public Library, has been making her picks for the past 10 years.

Panel members start with a field of 212 titles, and each chooses up to six favorite books. Books selected by ore than one of the reviewers become “Top Picks.”

Books considered for inclusion in Southwest Books of the Year must be set in the Southwest, or deal with a Southwestern subject.

Etter’s picks for 2011 are:

• “In Search of Dominguez and Escalante: Photographing the 1776 Expedition Through the Southwest,” by Greg MacGregor and Siegfried Halus.

Synopsis: What would Francisco Dominguez and Silvestre Escalante think today if they saw a coal delivery train chug by their old campsite at the Utah-Colorado border, the pleasure boats on Lake Powell, a field of wind turbines or an auto traveling to Second Mesa on a paved road? Using Escalante’s journal, two photographers retraced the 1776 expedition through the Four Corners region and recorded the present-day condition of the expedition’s campsite.

• “Tracing the Santa Fe Trail: Today’s Views, Yesterday’s Voices,” by Ronald Dulle.

Synopsis: With this volume, readers can enjoy a vicarious journey of some 1,200 miles along the Santa Fe National Historic Trail between Old Franklin, Mo., and Santa Fe, N.M., and relive some of the excitement and drama of the commercial and trading enterprises of the 1800s. It all began when Mexico declared its independence from Spain, and William Becknell, Josiah Gregg and the Bent brothers opened communication with their trading expeditions.

• “Vanishing Circles: Portraits of Disappearing Wildlife of the Sonoran Desert Region,” by Linda M. Brew and Richard C. Brusca.

Synopsis: Sixty-seven works of art illustrate 93 endangered species found in seven Sonoran Desert habitats. The collection was commissioned and acquired for the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum by the Priscilla and Michael Baldwin Foundation. The splendid reproductions could be mistaken for photographs, and their artful descriptions make the book a sheer treasure.

• “Wild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America’s Mustangs,” by Edward De Steiguer.

Synopsis: Here is history on the hoof that traces the origins of the horse in America from prehistory to the present. Included are details of years of politics involving ranchers, farmers, environmentalists, hunters, and yes, even those who track and capture horses to turn into cat and dog food. First-rate maps trace the introduction and spread of the Spanish horses from the Caribbean through Mexico into the Southwest and ultimately North America.

The Southwest Books of the Year program has been in existence since 1977. All of each year’s titles are listed on the Pima County Public Library’s website

Printed brochures are available on ASU’s Tempe campus at several locations, including the University Club, Emeritus College (lower level of Old Main) and the Labriola Center in Hayden Library. For more information contact Etter at