PAGES

Best regional books of 2019

Our book critic takes a look at the works that filled our Pages this year

Johanna DeBiase
Posted 1/3/20

The Pages column for the Tempo reviews books that are either by local authors, are set regionally or are by authors who have a reading hosted in Taos. This makes for a wonderfully diverse reading …

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PAGES

Best regional books of 2019

Our book critic takes a look at the works that filled our Pages this year

Posted

The Pages column for the Tempo reviews books that are either by local authors, are set regionally or are by authors who have a reading hosted in Taos. This makes for a wonderfully diverse reading list. This year, I reviewed 16 books. The year 2019 was a big one for memoirs, comprising half of my list. I also read three short story collections, two biographies, two novels and one book of spiritual writing. My New Year's resolution is to review even more books for Pages in 2020.

Below is a list of my top five favorite books from this year's Pages column. It was challenging to pick only five as there are so many talented regional authors, as well as the amazing authors that SOMOS and local bookstores bring in from afar. I hope that this column has inspired you to read some of these books and even review them on social media or online marketplaces. Leaving reviews helps spread the word to other readers about great books and helps writers to sell more books.

I feel the need to add that this is my subjective opinion. The literature we love is so personal to each individual and truly a reflection of our values. Taking that into consideration, here are my faves in the order in which I reviewed them this year:

WILD MERCY

Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics

By Mirabai Starr

Readers of all genders are invited into a secret gathering where the paradigm of male-dominated faith traditions is disrupted and feminine wisdom reigns. Each chapter, following a theme, introduces women mystics past and present. The stories of these exemplary women are linked and entwined with the author's own reflections and personal anecdotes. Chapters conclude with a suggested practice, such as meditation or writing, holding space for the reader to reflect on how the teachings pertain to their personal journey.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS

Life and Love in 1970s New Mexico

By Phaedra Greenwood and Jim Levy

Many young subversives moved to Taos County in the 1960s and '70s where hippie communes converged. While there are plenty of books that document that fascinating era, none do so as intimately as this memoir. Both writers, Greenwood and Levy, recorded their experiences through letters and journal entries and, amazingly, saved them all, which they compiled into this book. Through a great feat of beautifully crafted structuring, the ephemera is placed end-to-end in a cooperative collage. The effect is a complement of parallel lives, at times intersecting and at times at odds. Like a secret treasure, this memoir gives the thrilling sensation of reading a diary found buried inside an old trunk in a thrift store.

THE GARLIC PAPERS

A small garlic farm in the age of global vampires

By Stanley Crawford

Written in vignettes, this work juxtaposes the life of an American farmer with government corruption and economic injustice. As the reader learns more than they ever thought they wanted to know about U.S. trade laws, Crawford offers many spaces to breathe and take in the hard but rewarding life of a small farmer. While Crawford is embroiled in a bureaucratic, juridical mess, the farm remains at the heart of his life. Seasons don't stop turning and plants don't stop growing just because he's amid a legal battle. Though this is a memoir of one man's experiences in one industry, it speaks to a larger issue in our modern world - the struggle for small local businesses to survive against Goliath corporations.

DEEP CREEK

Finding Hope in the High Country

By Pam Houston

When author Houston uses the royalties from her debut book, "Cowboys Are My Weakness," to make a down payment on a 120-acre ranch outside of Creede, Colorado, she is daring herself to make it work. At the time, she is living a life of daring - feeding the state of hypervigilance that her traumatic childhood left her accustomed to. Over the course of two decades, Houston discovers the tenuous significance of putting down roots and having a home. She writes about her ranch and what it means to care for the land and the animals on it all while showing us that home is a greater metaphor for humanity and for our planet.

THE LINE BECOMES A RIVER

Dispatches from the Border

By Francisco Cantú

In 2008, Cantú, a Mexican American, joins the United States Border Patrol and witnesses many people suffer and die trying to cross the desert in the summer. After four years, he decides to leave the Border Patrol when the stress and violence become too much for him. A few years later, he befriends an undocumented immigrant from Oaxaca named José. When José crosses the border to see his dying mother one last time, he is detained while trying to return. Cantú steps in and attempts to help him. For the first time, Cantú sees another side to the immigration process. "The Line Becomes a River" asks readers to see migrants and asylum seekers not as a faceless group, but as one man or one woman trying to help their family and make a better life for themselves.

If your book fits the criteria, you can submit it to the Taos News Tempo editor to be considered for review in 2020. While we can't review all the great books that come in, we try to. Either drop it off at the Taos News office at 226 Albright Street or mail it to PO Box 3737 Taos, NM 87571.

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