Because what do book people want if not more books? 

To shop for the book-lover in your life, we suggest thinking local. 

Over the summer, we worked with the Pima County Public Library, Antigone Books, Bookmans and Mostly Books to put together a Tucson-inspired reading challenge. 

With 12 categories and three recommendations in each, our Summer Reading Challenge for Grown-Ups has enough books to keep you and your bookish friends reading for months. 

(Click here to see the book list. These titles are worthy of your to-be-read list any time of the year. You can also join our #ThisIsTucson Book Club on Facebook). 

We're recommending the most-read titles this summer from each category. With 12 genres to choose from, we expect you can find something to suit any kind of reader on your Christmas list. All of these books have something to do with Tucson, Arizona or the Southwest. But a small disclaimer first: Most-read does not necessarily mean most-loved.

Go to thisistucson.com/readingchallenge for the full list of Summer Reading picks. 

Also, note the summaries come from the Pima County Public Library catalog

Tucson famous / memoir, biography: 

+12 

Author: Barbara Kingsolver

Recommended by: Mostly Books and Antigone Books

Goodreads rating: 4.04 stars

Tucson connection: Kingsolver lived in Tucson.

Summary: Nonfiction. "Twenty-six original essays explore themes of family, community, and the natural world while considering such specific topics as modern motherhood, paper dolls, and high-tide oysters."

Too hot to handle / romance: 

+12 

Author: Jillian Cantor

Recommended by: This Is Tucson staff

Goodreads rating: 4.18 stars

Tucson connection: Tucson author

Summary: Fiction. "Austria, 1938. Kristoff is a young apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver. When his teacher disappears during Kristallnacht, Kristoff is forced to engrave stamps for the Germans, and simultaneously works alongside Elena, his beloved teacher's fiery daughter, and with the Austrian resistance to send underground messages and forge papers. As he falls for Elena amidst the brutal chaos of war, Kristoff must find a way to save her, and himself. Los Angeles, 1989. Katie Nelson is going through a divorce and while cleaning out her house and life in the aftermath, she comes across the stamp collection of her father, who recently went into a nursing home. When an appraiser, Benjamin, discovers an unusual World War II-era Austrian stamp placed on an old love letter as he goes through her dad's collection, Katie and Benjamin are sent on a journey together that will uncover a story of passion and tragedy spanning decades and continents, behind the just fallen Berlin Wall."

Take me away / sense of place: 

+12 

Author: T.C. Boyle

Recommended by: Mostly Books / Pima County Public Library

Goodreads rating: 3.33 stars

Tucson connection: Um... Biosphere 2, anyone? 

Summary: Fiction. "Sealed inside a glass enclosure designed as a prototype for a possible off-Earth colony, eight Terranauts in the 1990s Arizona desert test their skills in five biome environments that they must protect from skeptics who would sabotage the mission." 

Cactus classics / local must-reads: 

Author: Barbara Kingsolver

Recommended by: Pima County Public Library

Goodreads rating: 3.96 stars

Tucson connection: Set in Tucson

Summary: Fiction. "Young, bright Taylor Greer leaves her poverty-stricken life in Kentucky and heads west, picking up an abandoned Native American baby girl whom she names Turtle and finds a new home in Tucson with Mattie, an old woman who takes in Central American refugees."

Smells like rain / nature

+12 

Author: Kevin Fedarko

Recommended by: Pima County Public Library

Goodreads rating:  4.4 stars

Tucson connection: Set in Arizona

Summary: Nonfiction. "Documents the 1983 Colorado River flood that threatened the region with a catastrophic dam failure and prompted oarsman Kenton Grua's near-suicidal effort to navigate the turbulent waters of the Emerald Mile on a small wooden dory to achieve a world speed record."

The food desert / food 

+12 

Author: Laura Esquivel

Recommended by: This Is Tucson staff

Goodreads rating: 3.94 stars

Tucson connection: Celebrating our city's Mexican influences.

Summary: Fiction. Also in Spanish. "Despite the fact that she has fallen in love with a young man, Tita, the youngest of three daughters born to a tyrannical rancher, must obey tradition and remain single and at home to care for her mother. A combination fairy tale, melodrama, romance, Mexican cookbook, and home remedy handbook." 

Once upon a time in the West / history 

+12 

Author: Paulette Jiles

Recommended by: This Is Tucson staff

Goodreads rating: 4.09 stars

Tucson connection: Set in the Southwest 

Summary: Fiction. "In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence. In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna's parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows. Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act civilized. Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land..."

Honk if you ❤️ La Llorona / mystery 

+12 

Author: Sylvia Nobel

Recommended by: Bookmans Northwest

Goodreads rating: 3.49 stars

Tucson connection: Set in Arizona

Summary: Fiction. "Beautiful, strong-willed reporter, Kendall O'Dell, is drawn into an evil web of conspiracy beyond anything she could have ever imagined when she accepts a position at a small newspaper in isolated Castle Valley, Arizona."

Hot topics / current events 

+12 

Author: Luis Alberto Urrea

Recommended by: Pima County Public Library / Bookmans Northwest / Antigone Books / Mostly Books 

Goodreads rating: 4.05 stars

Tucson connection: Nonfiction in Southern Arizona

Summary: Nonfiction. "In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, the 'Devil's Highway.' Three years later, Luis Alberto Urrea wrote about what happened to them. The result was a national bestseller, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a 'book of the year' in multiple newspapers, and a work proclaimed as a modern American classic."

Jave laugh / fun reads 

+12 

Author: Dusti Bowling

Recommended by: Mostly Books

Goodreads rating: 4.36 stars

Tucson connection: Set in Arizona + look at that cover. ❤️

Summary: Fiction. "New friends and a mystery help Aven, 13, adjust to middle school and life at a dying western theme park in a new state, where her being born arm-less presents many challenges."

Saguaro you today? / self help

+12 

Author: Melody Warnick 

Recommended by: This Is Tucson staff

Goodreads rating: 3.67 stars

Tucson connection: Lots of community-building principles we could apply here.

Summary: Nonfiction. "Recounts how, after several moves around the country, the author decided to adopt their latest town as a permanent home by identifying reasons to love it, sharing her findings about the psychology of place attachment and the motivations of people dedicated to improving their cities." 

the desert sun sets, beauty fills the sky tonight, so many pictures / poetry

+12 

Author: Ofelia Zepeda

Recommended by: Pima County Public Library / Bookmans East

Goodreads rating: 4.13 stars

Tucson connection: Written by a University of Arizona professor

Summary: Poetry. "A Native American poet explores aspects of language, Native American culture, and the land." 


Want to shop at a local book store? Check out our list of seven independent, Tucson book stores.