Saturday, May 23, 2015

State-ing the Facts

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If your limited memory of third-grade Arizona history lessons just isn’t cutting it at all those Arizona Centennial parties you’ve been attending, a new book by historian Jim Turner is sure to bring your cocktail conversation up to par. 


Arizona: A Celebration of the Grand Canyon State ($40, Gibbs Smith) charts the Arizona experience from prehistory to present. While massive, the book flows easily through time, lingering in each era long enough to share amusing anecdotes and fascinating archival photos. Turner presents history through memorable oddities and quirky tales that go beyond standard lore. To wit: Fossils from southern Arizona show that mammoths, giant bison, ground sloths and saber-tooth tigers roamed the area around 10,000 B.C., when Paleo-Indians hunted in what was then a tropical swamp.

Turner also dispels many Arizona legends and tall-tales, vigilantly defending a history that has often been “more ‘fakelore’ than fact,” he writes in the introduction.

Snowbirds and seasoned residents alike should find much to enjoy in Turner’s coffee-table-appropriate book, from mere picture-skimmimg to factoid-collecting. Be sure to check out the section on “sky islands” – they’re sure to be the most fascinating tidbit in your party-chat repertoire.