By Patrick Whitehurst

Habits fluctuated in 2020, from daily exercise to home snacking, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Among those changes is that of grabbing a book to find inspiration, education, and escapism in these trying times. Book sales surged in April according to a recent article in the World Economic Forum. Literary sales in the United Kingdom also climbed to record numbers, the report indicated. And here in Tucson, those bookstores that have reopened to the public such as Barnes & Noble and Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, see a steady daily stream of masked customers coming in and out of their doors.

When it comes to self-quarantine reads, Tucson itself has plenty offer, from weird stories and cold-blooded true crime, to historical photographs. It seems there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to the Old Pueblo.

Three great Tucson reads are highlighted below for those looking to add local books to their coronavirus reading list.

“Tucson, Arizona” by Jane Eppinga

Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series covers a ton of ground across the United States, from the histories of cities and towns to the storied backgrounds of museums, waterways, and more. Tucson got their entry to the long-running series in 2000 thanks to author Jane Eppinga. The book, like all in the Images of America titles, features a wide array of historic photographs from the early 1900s to the start of the new millennium. Eppinga’s books tells the story of the area’s first inhabitants, the Hohokam, through the First World War, which saw many veterans moving to the area to recuperate from tuberculosis, and makes a great starting point for those interested in Tucson’s amazing history.

“I, a Squealer” by Richard Bruns

In 1967, Richard Bruns put pen to paper to share his side of a story that would rock Tucson to its core. For just a couple years before writing his story, “I, a Squealer,” his one-time friend Charles Schmid committed multiple murders. In all Schmid killed three girls, eventually earning him the nickname of “The Pied Piper of Tucson.” The killings riveted not just Tucson residents but the entire nation. For Tucsonans who crave true crime, this is a must-add read. Written in first-person narrative form, Bruns details his relationship with Schmid from its beginning to its eventual destruction. Bruns himself went to the authorities with his story and used his unique vantage point to write his highly personal account.

“Secret Tucson: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure” by Clark Norton

Who knew there was a reference to Tucson in the old Beatles song “Get Back?” What about former President Bill Clinton’s choice for Mexican dining while in town or why there’s a lumberjack statue here? Author Clark Norton knows the answer to these questions and more. In his book “Secret Tucson” he shares those answers with readers. Published in 2019, Norton delves into every corner of the town to dig up a bevy of fascinating material, including Tucson mafioso Joe Bananas, bank robber John Dillinger, Pearl Harbor’s Tucson connection, and even the best spot for bird watchers. Secret Tucson has a little bit of data for every member of the literary family. 

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