Building Your Western Library: Jim Turner Arizona Historian’s Favorite Western Travelogues

Jim Turner
Jim Turner

Jim Turner was the eighth generation living in the family’s Connecticut home until they moved to Tucson in 1951 because of his asthma. He has been teaching, presenting and writing for forty years. Turner earned his master’s degree in 1999 and began working as a historian for the Arizona Historical Society in 2001. Retiring in 2009 to write Arizona: A Celebration of the Grand Canyon State, he became an editor for Rio Nuevo Publishers and a presenter for Arizona Humanities. He recently wrote The Mighty Colorado River and his next book, Crater Lake and Beyond, will be out in April. His favorite travel books reflect his eclectic tastes.

1. The Innocents Abroad (Mark Twain, Wordsworth Classics): Recounting his 1867 trip to Europe and the Holy Land, this was Twain’s first best seller and an all-time top travel book. His jibes at previous travel books and tourists who see what they’ve read about, instead of what is actually there, are hilarious.

2. People’s Guide to Mexico (Carl Franz, Lorena Havens, Avalon Travel Publishing): First published in 1972, this book epitomizes the era’s free spirit philosophy, indicated in its cover slogan, “No matter where you go, there you are!” Harper’s called it “the best guidebook to adventure in the
whole world.”

3. The Santa Fe Trail Revisited (Gregory Franzwa, Patrice Press): Experts consider this the most complete guide to almost every known historic trail site. As a bonus, Franzwa’s tongue-in-cheek writing style and his tribulations with flat tires and missed directions make this a delightful read.

4. On the Border: Portraits of America’s Southwestern Frontier (Tom Miller, Open Road Distribution): Miller has an eye for the quirky, and the New York Times says this collection of stories about the border from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific is “deftly written…a lively sketch of this unruly, unpredictable place.”

5. Native Roads: A Complete Motoring Guide to the Navajo and Hopi Nations (Fran Kosik, Rio Nuevo Publishers): Kosik’s thirty years’ experience in the area create a comprehensive coverage of geology, geography, archaeology, history and American Indian culture and lore. It is truly a labor of love.

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