Book reviews by Larry Cox
‘Arizona Birds: From Backyard to the Backwoods’
By Jim Burns (University of Arizona Press, $16.95)
Burns is a Scottsdale-based writer and photographer whose work has appeared in such publications as Birder’s World, Outdoor Photography and Valley Nature. His new book focuses on the habits and habitats of 75 species of birds that frequent our state. These feathered creatures have made Arizona a destination for bird watchers from throughout the world because this is a region where even the rarest species can occasionally be seen.
Burns has divided his book into 25 chapters dedicated to various varieties of our feathered friends. In addition to an informative text, there are 75 illustrations by the author, all in full-color.
One of my favorite features of this book is the five-level rating system, beginning with the birds you are more likely to spot by just looking out into your backyard. The Yellow-eyed Junco, for example. The book ends with such elusive birds as the Streak-backed Oriole, only a few of which have actually been seen.
Whether you’re a dedicated birder or just someone who is just curious about the wildlife that shares our little corner of the world, this delightful book might just inspire you to invest in a pair of binoculars and, perhaps, a better camera. Bird enthusiasts throughout the country have a reason to rejoice. This delightful blend of field guide, site locator and scientific survey is an absolute joy.
‘Fragile Patterns: The Archaeology of the Western Papagueria’
Edited by Jeffrey H. Altschul and Adrianne G. Rankin (SRI Press, $49.95)
The idea for this book began in a bar. Several years ago, while
sipping beers in a tavern, Altschul and Rankin pulled together what
would eventually become the third national workshop or symposium on the
archaeology of Western Papagueria, the desert that straddles southwest
Arizona and northwest Sonora. Even though numerous papers had been
given on the archaeology of the area, few had actually found their way
into print. Altschul and Rankin decided it was time to combine those
papers in a book so that the findings would be more accessible.
The result of that determination is a 731-page book that attempts to
preserve the history of the Western Papagueria as encoded in its
archaeology and the beliefs of its native people. This book is
comprehensive, detailed and complex, but don’t let the word complex
discourage you from examining this seminal work. Although it is
obviously not written for the casual reader, even those with a basic
foundation in archaeology will find it rewarding. “Fragile Patterns” is
divided into seven basic sections: The History of Archaeology,
Environment and Culture, Regional Archaeology, Rock Art &
Geoglyphs, Trade and Travel, Material Culture and Archaeological
Methods, and Management of Cultural Resources.
Supplemented with hundreds of maps, illustrations and graphs, the
book is an overview that should help us better understand the
multilayered history of this incredible area. As the authors explain,
their book is not just the story of survival in a harsh land but rather
the exploration of a culture that managed to endure despite the
Altschul is the founder and chairman of Statistical Research Inc., a
cultural resource management firm based in Tucson. His co-editor is an
archaeologist for the Barry M. Goldwater Range East, Luke Air Force
Base. Their book may be purchased at University of Arizona bookstores
or through SRI’s Web site, www.sripress.com.
Recommended Arizona travel guides
With gasoline prices and air fares climbing and the dollar in
freefall, this is the perfect summer to find a vacation destination in
Arizona. Five books from Countryman Press make the decision easy as
well as fun.
‘Great Escapes: Arizona’
By Teresa Bitler (Countryman Press, $16.96)
When Arizona-based travel writer Bitler set out to write her book,
she was determined to list anything and everything that made her home
state a great place to visit. She began with stacks of colored note
cards that detailed unique festivals and points of interest, pages of
notes from the Internet, and a haphazard pile of travel brochures and
pamphlets. The result is a breezy little book that is divided into five
main parts: Northern Arizona, North Central Arizona, the Phoenix and
Tucson areas, and Southern Arizona. This is the perfect guide for those
planning quick trips. In addition to the major destinations, there are
lists of the best places to eat and stay while traveling throughout the
‘Arizona Trout Streams and Their Hatches: Fly Fishing in the High Deserts of Arizona and Western New Mexico’
By Charles R. Meck and John Rohmer (Countryman Press, $18.95)
Meck, who has written 12 books about fly fishing, and Rohmer,
co-owner of the pro shop Arizona Fly Fishing in Tempe, have written a
comprehensive guide to the trout waters of our state, from rivers and
streams to the fertile high desert creeks.
In this revised, updated and expanded edition, the authors examine
the state’s trout waters and how they have been impacted in recent
years by floods, drought and forest fires. Coverage of many of the
lakes have also been revised and several new ones have been added.
This guide reveals when and where to go and how to get to some of
the better fishing spots in Arizona. In addition to the informative
text, there are comprehensive maps, local fly patterns and hatch charts.
‘The Photographer’s Guide to the Grand Canyon: Where to Find Perfect Shots and How to Take Them’
By John Annerino (Countryman Press, $14.95)
Annerino, who has logged more than 5,000 miles as a Grand Canyon
boatman, has spent much of his adult life capturing images of the Grand
Canyon, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It is, without a
doubt, one of the most photographed sites in the world.
Many aspiring amateur photographers are often overwhelmed by the
canyon. Annerino reveals where to go and how to go about shooting some
of the most remote and scenic vistas in the region. His book is divided
into four major sections – the South Rim, the North Rim, Canyons of the
Colorado River and the Colorado River. There is detailed access and
resource information in addition to a trip and expedition planner that
is essential for visitors.
‘Arizona: An Explorer’s Guide’
By Christine Maxa (Countryman Press, $18.95)
This is one of my favorite Arizona guide books.
Maxa, an Arizona-based writer, provides visitors with her personal
recommendations for the best lodging, eating, shopping, day trips and
sights that the Grand Canyon State has to offer. Her detailed guide
features everything from remote backcountry lodges to top-of-the-line
five-star resorts. In addition, she reveals the best things to see,
what to do, the special events and festivities that are not to be
missed and even selected shopping destinations.
With up-to-date maps and handy icons that point out places of extra
value, family- and pet-friendly establishments, having fun in Arizona
has never been easier. There are even recommendations of where to host
the perfect wedding.
Twenty-five pages are devoted to Tucson. Maxa obviously loves our
city and describes the Old Pueblo as “one of the state’s most livable
cities full of personality and a lot of soul.” Take that, Phoenix!
‘The Four Corners Region: Where Colorado, Utah, Arizona & New Mexico Meet’
By Sara J. Benson (Countryman Press, $18.95)
‘Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sedona & Central Arizona’
By Christine Bailey (Countryman Press, $18.95)
These two titles in the “Great Destinations” series are readable,
informative and fun. Both capture the color and spirit of the featured
areas in addition to providing brief histories, recommended lodging and
dining, a cultural overview and where the best recreation, shopping,
and attractions can be found. Benson, a syndicated columnist and travel
writer, and Bailey, a Tempe-based writer, showcase the very best that
the Four Corners and Central Arizona have to offer.