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A Short Reading List for Civic Leaders

Past experience often informs present public-policy choices. As a result, current civic leaders need a working knowledge of historical circumstances, people, and events. A Short Reading List for Civic Leaders is put forth, not as a professional historian’s recommendation or the end all and be all of books about the state, but as a resource for Arizonans who want to expand their knowledge to increase their service.

These publications are highlighted for their quality, timelessness, and readability. The short list favors biographies and autobiographies of 20th-century figures because of the books’ continuing value for civic leaders. In classic and contemporary volumes, it also features an appreciation for the state’s landscapes, location, and special aspects of its population and art. Most works are by Arizona experts whose work has been widely recognized inside and outside of the state.

It is hoped that this list will:

  • provide Arizonans who are interested in civic leadership with an understanding of our collective past
  • foster dialogue about the state’s future
  • be a catalyst for exploring the many more books worthy of attention.

Comments about these works and suggestions of other books are welcome and can be submitted via email to Emily Rajakovich at erajakovich@flinn.org.

The Long View

Arizona: A History Thomas Sheridan, University of Arizona Press, 2nd Ed., 2012

Anthropologist Thomas Sheridan’s overview of state history from the prehistoric period through the 2000s focuses particularly on the interactions among people, the environment, and economic growth. Updated for Arizona’s centennial, this provocative volume offers many insights about the state.

Understanding the Arizona Constitution Toni McClory, University of Arizona Press, 2nd Ed., 2010

This in-depth yet accessible look at the development and application of the Arizona constitution describes the statehood-era debates, the functions of the three branches of state government, and real-life examples of its impact on residents’ lives. The second edition provides valuable updates.

Arizona Goes to War: The Home Front and the Front Lines During World War II Brad Melton and Dean Smith, University of Arizona Press, 2003

The events of World War II transformed Arizona and set the stage for decades of population growth in the second half of the 20th century. This book describes how and why the state changed during the 1940s.

Arizona Politics: The Struggle to End One-Party Rule Stephen C. Shadegg, Arizona State University, 1986

Written by a long-time political insider, this book tracks shifts in Arizona politics over time from the Democratic domination of statehood through World War II, the growing Republican influence of the post-war period, and the dramatic 1980s.

Leaders’ Lives and Experiences

Arizona Politicians: The Noble and the Notorious James W. Johnson and David Fitzsimmons, University of Arizona Press, 2002

This broad look at the leaders who have made headlines nationally and in the state in recent decades offers a primer of sorts on Arizona’s public figures.

Vision in the Desert: Carl Hayden and Hydropolitics in the American Southwest Jack L. August, Texas Christian University Press, 2009

Much of Arizona’s water history, particularly the struggle for passage of the Central Arizona Project, is told through the life and career of legendary Arizona statesman Carl Hayden.

Ernest W. McFarland Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Governor and Chief Justice of the State of Arizona James E. McMillan, University of Arizona Press, 2006

This biography covers the career and life of the only Arizona public servant to have been a senator, governor, and state chief justice. Known as the “father of the GI Bill,” McFarland’s career spanned many changes in Arizona, including significant changes in water policy, and the nation.

Barry Goldwater: Native Arizonan Peter Iverson, Western Biography Series, University of Oklahoma Press, 1997

One of the first formal biographies written about the Arizona senator and onetime presidential candidate, the work traces Goldwater’s careers as a retailer, pilot, soldier, and politician.

John J. Rhodes, Man of the House J. Brian Smith, American Traveler Press, 2005

Being Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives capped a 30-year House career that began in 1953. Rhodes brought influence to Arizona during high-growth decades.

Mo: The Life and Times of Morris K. Udall Donald W. Carson, University of Arizona Press, 2004

Udall, a one-time basketball pro, attorney and 35-year member of the U.S. House of Representatives, continues to be remembered for his sense of humor, championing wilderness, and Arizona’s water security, among many other issues.

Senator Dennis DeConcini: From the Center of the Aisle Dennis DeConcini and Jack L. August, Jr., University of Arizona Press, 2006

From Pima County attorney to an 18-year career as a U.S. senator, this memoir tells DeConcini’s behind the scenes stories and provides insights into Arizona and other notable leaders of recent decades.

Sandra Day O’Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice Joan Biskupic, ECCO, 2005.

O’Connor’s early life on the Lazy B Ranch in southeastern Arizona, her law-school years at Stanford University, and her professional life practicing in Phoenix and serving in the Arizona State Legislature are the backdrop for her Supreme Court service. See also Justice O’Connor’s memoir, authored with her brother Alan Day, Lazy B: Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest for the story of her early years in her own words.

Isabella Greenway: An Enterprising Woman Kristie Miller, University of Arizona Press, 2004

A businesswoman and Arizona’s first woman in Congress, Greenway played an important role in many aspects of state history and national politics. This account of Greenway’s life and professional pursuits offers a view into Arizona’s early political history and development pre- and post-World War II.

Race Work: The Rise of Civil Rights in the Urban West Matthew Whitaker, University of Nebraska Press, 2005

The life and experiences of Phoenix businessman and civic leader Lincoln Ragsdale provide the setting for the civil-rights struggle in Arizona.

Adversity is My Angel: The Life and Career of Raul H. Castro Raul Castro and Jack L. August, Jr., Texas Christian University Press, 2009

Former Arizona Governor Raul Castro tells of the struggles and accomplishments of rising to the highest echelons of state and national government after arriving in the United States as a Mexican immigrant in 1926.

Cesar Chavez: A Triumph of Spirit Richard Griswold del Castillo and Richard A. Garcia, University of Oklahoma Press, 1997

Arizona native Cesar Chavez spent decades at the center of labor and political activities that affected economic opportunities and civil rights in Arizona and the U.S.

Picturing Arizona in Words and Photographs

Jack Dykinga’s Arizona Jack Dykinga, 2010

An internationally acclaimed nature photographer and author, Dykinga captures through his photographs much of Arizona’s unique, fragile beauty.

“50 Greatest Photos” Arizona Highways, December 2011

Arizona Highways mined its 10,000-image archive for a special centennial collection. It includes photos from past decades by many world-famous photographers.

Sonoran Desert Spring John Alcock, University of Arizona Press, 1994

The desert insights provided by this university professor and naturalist convey the beauty and diversity of one of the state’s iconic landscapes.

New Deal Art in Arizona Betsy Fahlman, University of Arizona Press, 2009

From Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams to painters and muralists, the artists working in Arizona under New Deal programs were a notable group whose art served a public purpose. This work tells much about Arizona’s communities, people, and culture.

Warriors: Navajo Codetalkers Kenji Kawano, Benis Frank, and Carl Gorman, 1st ed., 1990

Photographs of Navajo service personnel tell the story of the code talkers whose language and creativity made a different in World War II.

Communities and Experiences

Troublesome Border (Rev. Ed.) Oscar J. Martinez, University of Arizona Press, 2006

The U.S. border with Mexico is a complex place that has changed dramatically in recent decades. This update tells how the border’s communities and issues have shifted and describes many of today’s issues.

Paths of Life: American Indians of the Southwest and Northern Mexico Thomas E. Sheridan and Nancy J. Parezo, University of Arizona Press, 1996

Portraits of most of the Native American groups of Arizona and northern Mexico are provided in this volume.

Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Experiences, 1879-2000 Heard Museum, 2nd. Ed. 2000 Margaret Archuleta, Brenda J. Child, and K. Tsianina Lomawaima

The boarding school era affected thousands of Arizonans. The experiences and their meaning continue to shape the lives of individuals and communities.