Illustration by Megan Dailey

AN AVID READER LIVES MANY LIVES. Ink on paper becomes a means to travel, to take on magic powers or learn about events that shaped our world. Given that we could all probably use an extra escape, we asked a few New Mexicans for a book they’d recommend for time by the pool, on the back porch, or wherever you enjoy a good tome. 

The New Mexico native has earned six James Beard nominations for his Río Grande Valley cuisine at Los Poblanos Historic Inn’s restaurant, Campo. The farm-to-table supporter is also a beekeeper, butcher, and farmer lauded for his teaching skills. His pick: The Walk, by William DeBuys. A conservationist and nature writer who has penned nine books, DeBuys lives and tends a farm in El Valle. His 2007 memoir is a love letter to the Sangre de Cristos, and the plot of land he’s worked for more than 40 years. “The way he talks about the northern part of the state is so spot-on, but it also bleeds into the whole of the state, which is even cooler,” Perno says. “Anything that helps reconnect you with where you’re from is a
really good thing.”

The inaugural poet laureate of Albuquerque and the city’s current deputy director of cultural services, Bellamy is enmeshed in the local literary scene. His pick: Among God & Other Drugs, by Matthew Brown.  Bellamy met Brown at a poetry slam in February. A young, queer man of color who works as an HIV/AIDS prevention coordinator, Brown writes poetry with the unique insight of someone who deals with depression. Through this pandemic, when many people are experiencing extreme anxiety or fighting depression for the first time, Brown’s writing is especially resonant. “It is interesting how he questions life, and it doesn’t feel despairing,” says Bellamy. “It has some melancholy, but it also has really sharp writing. I like writing that makes you feel something.”   

A third-grade teacher at Placitas Elementary School, Torrez was recognized as Teacher of the Year 2020 by the state Public Education Department. She says education must be a priority throughout this pandemic. Her pick: George I. Sánchez: The Long Fight for Mexican American Integration, by Carlos Kevin Blanton. This 2015 book follows the life and work of Sánchez, an activist and education professor at the University of Texas who fought for social justice against racial prejudice through education reform starting in the 1930s. “We continue to see the inequities that students across the entire world face when it comes to access to education,” says Torrez. “Sánchez’s message offers an important perspective as well as solutions that could be just as relevant today as they were 80 years ago.”

As the owner of Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Massey brings people together at the 40-year-old independent shop for readings, talks, workshops, or just a cup of joe. Located just off the historic Plaza, the store has shelves stuffed with books about local travel, the Southwest, Native Americans, history, poetry, and fiction. Her pick: Coyote America, by Dan Flores. New Mexicans can easily relate to Flores’s stories of coyote encounters, which happen almost daily in the Land of Enchantment. The 2016 book reads like a novel, telling the history of coyotes’ spread through urban America, including unsuccessful efforts to eradicate them, and exploring their role in Native American culture. “The coyote has lived on this planet for millennia,” Massey says. “This book is difficult if not impossible to put down.”

Garrett became executive director of the New Mexico History Museum in March. With 26 years at the National Park Service, he takes the helm as the museum’s Palace of the Governors undergoes renovation and the Campaign for New Mexico History kicks into gear. His pick: So Long for Now: A Sailor’s Letters from the USS Franklin, by Jerry L. Rogers. Through a series of letters, this 2017 history tells the story of Elden Rogers, the author’s older brother, who served in World War II aboard the USS Franklin, where he died on his 19th birthday. “It’s instructive in helping us understand how fast things really can change, and the relationship between individual lives and the larger things that are going on around us in the country and in the world,” Garrett says. “It’s about how people from the Southwest deal with change in many different ways.”