The 2024 Summer Reading Challenge is here, featuring 28 books with Tucson ties (2024)

Gloria Knott

After a brief hiatus, #ThisIsTucson's Summer Reading Challenge is back — and it might be the best one yet.

If you've been a #ThisIsTucson reader for a while, you might know that the news organization, which is the Arizona Daily Star's sister site, curates a reading list most summers, centered around local authors and books with topics relevant to our area.

This year, #ThisIsTucson teamed up with the lovely people at Tucson-loving shopWhy I Love Where I Live to put together the ultimate summer reading list, packed with more than two dozen reads. The goal of the Summer Reading Challenge is to encourage the community to read local, all while supporting independent bookstores and libraries.

Win prizes for the books you read

Throughout the month of August, you'll have the chance to win some fun prizes for the books you check off the list:

People are also reading…

  • If you read one book on the list, you'll get a free bookish sticker from #ThisIsTucson and 10% off any in-store purchase at Why I Love Where I Live.
  • If you read 2-4 on the list, you'll get a free bookish sticker from #ThisIsTucson, 10% off any in-store purchase at Why I Love Where I Live and a free bookish sticker from local artist Turtle's Soup.
  • If you read five or more on the list, you'll get a free bookish sticker from #ThisIsTucson, 20% off any in-store purchase at Why I Love Where I Live, a free bookish sticker from Turtle's Soup and a free bookmark from Turtle's Soup.

Here's how to redeem your prize:

  • Bring one of the books (e-books are acceptable!) on the list to Why I Love Where I Live in the MSA Annex, 267 S. Avenida del Convento, during the month of August. Show the book to an employee and let them know how many books you've read from the list. Just like that, the prize is yours! (Your Why I Love Where I Love discount is only redeemable the same day you show your book.)

No matter which milestone you hit, you can leave your email with a store employee and be entered into a raffle to win goodies like bookstore gift cards and tickets to local attractions. We'll pick winners in September.

Also in September, the two organizations plan to host an informal happy hour where book lovers can gather to chat about their summer reads. More info on that to come!

Where to pick up books

We're almost to the part where we tell you what books are on our Summer Reading Challenge, but before that, here's a quick shoutout to a few special shops where you'll be able to find a hard copy of our reading list:

The bookstores might not have all the Summer Reading Challenge books on their shelves, but they'll have some of them—if they don't have the book you're looking for, they may be able to order it if you ask!

Our 28 book selections

While you can find physical copies of the Summer Reading Challenge at the above locations, we're attaching the PDF if you prefer printing it from home. You'll also find summaries of each of our picks below.

Download PDF

"Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest"

Regional connection: about the Southwest; printed by The University of Arizona Press

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads:"'Ladies of the Canyons' is the true story of remarkable women who left the security and comforts of genteel Victorian society and journeyed to the American Southwest in search of a wider view of themselves and their world."

"The Forgotten Botanist:Sara Plummer Lemmon's Life of Science and Art"

Regional connection: local author;Mount Lemmon is named after Sara Plummer Lemmon

The 2024 Summer Reading Challenge is here, featuring 28 books with Tucson ties (2)

Summary, as pulled fromGoodreads:"'The Forgotten Botanist'is the account of an extraordinary woman who, in 1870, was driven by ill health to leave the East Coast for a new life in the West — alone. At thirty-three, Sara Plummer relocated to Santa Barbara, where she taught herself botany and established the town’s first library. Ten years later she married botanist John Gill Lemmon, and together the two discovered hundreds of new plant species, many of them illustrated by Sara, an accomplished artist. Although she became an acknowledged botanical expert and lecturer, Sara’s considerable contributions to scientific knowledge were credited merely as 'J.G. Lemmon & wife.'"

The 2024 Summer Reading Challenge is here, featuring 28 books with Tucson ties (3)

"In the Arms of Saguaros: Iconography of the Giant Cactus"

Regional connection:author studied in Tucson; regional topic

Summary, as pulled fromGoodreads:"'In the Arms of the Saguaros' shows how, from the botanical explorers of the nineteenth century to the tourism boosters in our own time, saguaros and their images have fulfilled attention-getting needs and expectations. Through text and lavish images, this work explores the saguaro’s growth into a western icon from the early days of the American railroad to the years bracketing World War II, when Sun Belt boosterism hit its zenith and proponents of tourism succeed in moving the saguaro to the center of the promotional frame.'"

"A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert"

Author: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, edited bySteven J. Phillips and Patricia Wentworth Comus

Regional connection: regional topic; published by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "The Sonoran Desert is one of the most wildly diverse and fascinating regions in the world. Covering southeastern California, the southern half of Arizona, most of Baja California, and much of the state of Sonora, Mexico, this vast area is home to an amazing variety of plants and animals. Its terrain varies dramatically, from parched desert lowlands to semiarid tropical forests and frigid subalpine meadows. 'A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert' provides the most complete collection of Sonoran Desert natural history information ever compiled and is a perfect introduction to this biologically rich desert of North America."

"Under Desert Skies: How Tucson Mapped the Way to the Moon and Planets"

Regional connection: about Tucson; author is a Tucson native

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "'Under Desert Skies' tells the story of how a small corner of Arizona became Earth’s ambassador to space. From early efforts to reach the Moon to the first glimpses of Mars’s bleak horizons and Titan’s swirling atmosphere to the latest ambitious plans to touch an asteroid, LPL's (the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona)history encompasses humanity’s unfolding knowledge about our place in the universe."

The 2024 Summer Reading Challenge is here, featuring 28 books with Tucson ties (4)

"Bennu 3-D: Anatomy of an Asteroid"

Regional connection: about the University of Arizona-led mission

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "This book, the world’s first complete (and stereoscopic) atlas of an asteroid, is the result of a unique collaboration between OSIRIS-REx mission leader Dante Lauretta and Brian May’s London Stereoscopic Company. Lauretta’s colleagues include Carina Bennett, Kenneth Coles, and Cat Wolner, as well as Brian May and Claudia Manzoni, who became part of the ultimately successful effort to find a safe landing site for sampling. The text details the data collected by the mission so far, and the stereo images have been meticulously created by Manzoni and May from original images collected by the OSIRIS-REx cameras."

"Sharing the Desert: The Tohono O'odham in History"

Regional connection: regional topic

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "This book marks the culmination of fifteen years of collaboration between the University of Utah's American West Center and the Tohono O'oodham Nation's Education Department to collect documents and create curricular materials for use in their tribal school system."

"La Quinta Soledad"

Regional connection: local author

Summary, as pulled from Aztlan Libre Press: "The novel, part fiction/part memoir, is narrated by 62-year-old Quinta Soledad who lives in Tucson, Arizona. It tells a multigenerational Mexicana/Chicana family story that centers on her abuela, Nana Conchita, her mother, Lola, and her four sisters: Dalia (Dolly), Orquidea (Orky), Azucena (Susie Mae), and Magnolia (Maggie)."

"Solito: A Memoir"

Regional connection: local author

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "Javier'sadventureis a three-thousand-mile journey from his small town in El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, and across the U.S. border. He will leave behind his beloved aunt and grandparents to reunite with a mother who left four years ago and a father he barely remembers. Traveling alone except for a group of strangers and a coyote hired to lead them to safety, Javier'stripis supposed to last two short weeks."

"A Dream Called Home: A Memoir"

Author: Reyna Grande

Regional connection: relevant topic

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "'A Dream Called Home'tells the story of Reyna’s pursuit to become the first in her family to earn a college degree and to find her place and a home in her adoptive country. At UC, Santa Cruz and on her own for the first time, Reyna faces new struggles and learns to forge ahead toward her dreams despite the alienation and estrangement from her family and her new community. Back in Los Angeles after graduation, Reyna attempts to parlay her creative writing degree into a full-time job only to discover she knows nothing about the publishing business. Through it all, Reyna holds fast to her dreams and makes the impossible possible — she goes from being an undocumented immigrant to an award-winning author."

"Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands"

Regional connection: Ronstadt is a Tucson native; regional topic

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Linda Ronstadt takes readers on a journey to the place her soul calls home, the Sonoran Desert, in this candid new memoir. In 'Feels Like Home,' Grammy award-winning singer Linda Ronstadt effortlessly evokes the magical panorama of the high desert, a landscape etched by sunlight and carved by wind, offering a personal tour built around meals and memories of the place where she came of age."

"My Lost Brothers: The Untold Story by the Yarnell Hill Fire's Lone Survivor" (also known as "Granite Mountain")

Regional connection: Arizona author; regional topic

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads:"A 'unique and bracing' (Booklist) first-person account by the sole survivor of Arizona's disastrous 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire, which took the lives of 19 'hotshots'— firefighters trained specifically to battle wildfires."

Rim to River: Looking into the Heart of Arizona

Author: Tom Zoellner

Regional connection: Arizona author; regional topic

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "Tom Zoellner walked across the length of Arizona to come to terms with his home state. But the trip revealed more mountains behind the mountains.'Rim to River'is the story of this extraordinary journey through redrock country, down canyons, up mesas, and across desert plains to the obscure valley in Mexico that gave the state its enigmatic name. The trek is interspersed with incisive essays that pick apart the distinctive cultural landscape of Arizona."

The 2024 Summer Reading Challenge is here, featuring 28 books with Tucson ties (5)

"Agave Spirits: The Past, Present, and Future of Mezcals"

Regional connection: Nabhan is a Tucson author; regional topic

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "The agave plant was never destined to become tasteless, cheap tequila. All tequilas are mezcals; all mezcals are made from agaves; and every bottle of mezcal is the remarkable result of collaborations among agave entrepreneurs, botanists, distillers, beverage distributors, bartenders, and more. How these groups come together in this 'spirits world' is the subject of this fascinating new book by the acclaimed ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan and the pioneering restauranteur David Suro Piñera."

"A Desert Feast:Celebrating Tucson's Culinary Heritage"

The 2024 Summer Reading Challenge is here, featuring 28 books with Tucson ties (6)

Regional connection: local author; regional topic

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "Tucson cuisine blends the influences of Indigenous, Mexican, mission-era Mediterranean, and ranch-style cowboy food traditions. This book offers a food pilgrimage, where stories and recipes demonstrate why the desert city of Tucson became American’s first UNESCO City of Gastronomy."

"Demon Copperhead"

Regional connection: author spent two decades in Tucson

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, this is the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father's good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, relayed in his own unsparing voice, he braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities."

"Birding with Benefits"

Regional connection: local author

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "Newly divorced, almost-empty-nester Celeste is finally seeking adventure and putting herself first, cliches be damned. So when a friend asks Celeste to “partner” with his buddy John for an event, Celeste throws herself into the role of his temporary girlfriend. But quiet cinnamon roll John isn’t looking for love, just birds—he needs a partner for Tucson’s biggest bird-watching contest if he’s ever going to launch his own guiding business. By the time they untangle their crossed signals, they’ve become teammates...and thanks to his meddling friends, a fake couple."

The 2024 Summer Reading Challenge is here, featuring 28 books with Tucson ties (7)

"Good Night, Irene"

Regional connection: author has attended every Tucson Festival of Books

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "In 1943, Irene Woodward abandons an abusive fiancé in New York to enlist with the Red Cross and head to Europe. She makes fast friends in training with Dorothy Dunford, a towering Midwesterner with a ferocious wit. Together they are part of an elite group of women, nicknamed Donut Dollies, who command military buses called Clubmobiles at the front line, providing camaraderie and a taste of home that may be the only solace before troops head into battle.After D-Day, these two intrepid friends join the Allied soldiers streaming into France. Their time in Europe will see them embroiled in danger, from the Battle of the Bulge to the liberation of Buchenwald. Through her friendship with Dorothy, and a love affair with a gallant American fighter pilot named Hans, Irene learns to trust again. Her most fervent hope, which becomes more precarious by the day, is for all three of them to survive the war intact."

The 2024 Summer Reading Challenge is here, featuring 28 books with Tucson ties (8)

"Such a Fun Age"

Author: Kiley Reid

Regional connection: author grew up in Tucson

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young Black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help."

"The Consequences: Stories"

Regional connection: local author

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "Delfina has moved from Texas to California’s Central Valley with her husband and small son, and her isolation and desperation force her to take a risk that ends in profound betrayal.These exquisite stories are mostly set in the 1980s in the small towns that surround Fresno. With an unflinching hand, Muñoz depicts the Mexican and Mexican American farmworkers who put food on our tables but are regularly and ruthlessly rounded up by the migra, as well as the quotidian struggles and immense challenges faced by their families. The messy and sometimes violent realities navigated by his characters — straight and gay, immigrant and American-born, young and old — are tempered by moments of surprising, tender care."

"In the Lives of Puppets"

Author: T.J. Klune

Regional connection: authorlived in Tucson for 15 years

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots—fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sad*stic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled 'HAP,' he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio— a past spent hunting humans.When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming."

The 2024 Summer Reading Challenge is here, featuring 28 books with Tucson ties (9)

"Well Met"

Author:Jen DeLuca

Regional connection:local author

Summary, as pulled fromGoodreads:"Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?"

"Bless Me, Ultima"

Regional connection: In honor of Barrio Books ownerSyrena Arevalo-Trujillo

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima enters his life. She is a curandera, one who heals with herbs and magic. 'We cannot let her live her last days in loneliness,' says Antonio's mother. 'It is not the way of our people,' agrees his father. And so Ultima comes to live with Antonio's family in New Mexico. Soon Tony will journey to the threshold of manhood. Always, Ultima watches over him. She graces him with the courage to face childhood bigotry, diabolical possession, the moral collapse of his brother, and too many violent deaths. Under her wise guidance, Tony will probe the family ties that bind him, and he will find in himself the magical secrets of the pagan past — a mythic legacy equally as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America in which he has been schooled. At each turn in his life there is Ultima who will nurture the birth of his soul."

"The Agathas"

Regional connection: Glasglow is a local author

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "Last summer, Alice Ogilvie’s basketball-star boyfriend Steve dumped her. Then she disappeared for five days. She's not talking, so where she went and what happened to her is the biggest mystery in Castle Cove. Or it was, at least. But now, another one of Steve’s girlfriends has vanished: Brooke Donovan, Alice’s ex–best friend. And it doesn’t look like Brooke will be coming back..."

"The Giving Tree of the Desert" (children's book)

The 2024 Summer Reading Challenge is here, featuring 28 books with Tucson ties (10)

Regional connection: local author

Summary, as pulled from Why I Love Where I Live's website: "A lonely palo verde becomes the nurse tree for a tiny black saguaro seed. It protects the baby saguaro from animals, heat, monsoon storms, and many other dangers in the desert. What will happen to the nurse tree as the saguaro grows big and tall?"

The 2024 Summer Reading Challenge is here, featuring 28 books with Tucson ties (11)

"I'm in Charge of Celebrations" (children's book)

Author: Byrd Baylor

Regional connection: local author

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "From the highly acclaimed team of Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall comes the story of a girl who shares her love for desert life as she tells of treasured experiences like dancing in the wind on Dust Devil Day or sleeping outside on a hot summer night during The Time of the Falling Stars. Baylor's radiant prose-poem and Parnall's exquisite illustrations combine to create a joyous celebration of the human spirit."

"Don't Make Me Rattle!" (children's book)

Regional connection: local author

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "People fear rattlesnakes because they don’t understand them. Come inside and learn about these amazing snakes, how they help people, and why they should be respected, not exterminated."

"When Clouds are Formed"

Regional connection: local author

Summary, as pulled from Goodreads: "Ofelia Zepeda is a Native American poet who possesses a kind of double vision. She sees the contemporary world through her own highly observant eyes and, at the same time, through the eyes of her Tohono O’odham ancestors. Seeing this way infuses her poetry with a resonance and depth that makes it a delight to read — and re-read."

The 2024 Summer Reading Challenge is here, featuring 28 books with Tucson ties (12)

In loving memory of Syrena Arevalo-Trujillo

September 9, 1990 - April 1, 2024

Syrena Arevalo-Trujillo was a lover of books and the owner of local shop Barrio Books. Her vision was to highlight books in which BIPOC readers could see themselves and their cultures represented. One of her favorite books, “Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya, is mentioned on this list. The book inspired her, sparking her interest in BIPOC literature at a young age.

Gloria was born and raised in Tucson and is a 2018 University of Arizona grad. From wildflowers to wildlife, she loves all things Tucson and hopes to share her love of the city with readers ✨

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The 2024 Summer Reading Challenge is here, featuring 28 books with Tucson ties (2024)
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