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Essential Arizona Reading List

The best books about the Grand Canyon and Arizona's desert landscapes


Arizona’s breathtaking natural landscapes and wild rivers have captivated everyone from adventure seekers to scientists—and there’s no shortage of incredible books based on their experiences. Here are a few of Martin’s favorites.

The Emerald Mile

by Kevin Fedarko

This compelling, meticulously-researched, poetically written book tells the greater story of the Grand Canyon through the adventure of a trio’s illegal, record-breaking expedition down the Colorado River in 1983.

The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons

by John Wesley Powell

A must-read for anyone journeying down the river through Grand Canyon, this first-hand narrative of the 1874 scientific expedition through the Green and Colorado rivers is true adventure at its finest.

Sunk Without A Sound

by Brad Dimock

Sunk is a historical mystery/adventure book portraying newlyweds Glen and Bessie Hyde in their attempt to run the Colorado River through Grand Canyon alone in 1927—on their honeymoon. Their disappearance in the lower canyon is ghost-story fodder to this day.

The Anthropology of Turquoise

by Ellen Meloy

A poetic, intimate investigation into humanity’s connection to the natural world through the examination of the rock and color turquoise. Meloy, who married a river ranger, meditates on our environments, granting permission to stop, observe, and contemplate our landscapes.

The Secret Knowledge of Water

by Craig Childs

An expose into the extremes of water in the Southwest, Childs, a storm chaser, adventurer, and desert native, writes, “There are two easy ways to die in the desert: thirst and drowning.” His solitary sojourn thrusts readers into devastating flash floods and the secret microcosm of desert potholes.

Desert Solitaire

by Edward Abbey

Abbey’s irreverent persona and fierce passion for desert landscapes have made him an iconic character in the fight for conservation of Southwest wildlands. Desert Solitaire is both an unapologetic, unpolished love letter and a forewarning against development.