The best books set in New Mexico

H.L. Cherryholmes Author Of The Reminisce
By H.L. Cherryholmes

Who am I?

I was born and raised in New Mexico and it’s a part of me. New Mexicans will tell you that it’s impossible to describe its uniqueness, that you must experience it for yourself. That may be partially true, but writers have done a great job incorporating the majesty of the landscape, the earthiness of the people, the eclectic nature of its values, and ultimately the spell it casts. I’ve set quite a few books in New Mexico and have tried to show how these layers fit together for me. Ultimately, it’s called The Land of Enchantment for many reasons and we do our best to share them with our readers. 

I wrote...

The Reminisce

By H.L. Cherryholmes,

Book cover of The Reminisce

What is my book about?

Curtis has literally dodged a bullet when he heads for Coronado, New Mexico to borrow money from his sister. The dilapidated desert town’s only mansion belongs to 92-year-old Veronica Meeks, in the final stages of what locals call “the reminisce,” for whom Curtis’s sister and her partner are live-in caretakers. Soon Curtis sees things no one else does and is convinced the unresponsive woman isn’t as disconnected as everyone thinks. Tales of Veronica’s associations with the occult lead him to believe she’s manifesting ghosts. As people from the past, including Veronica herself, appear in phantom rooms —he’s no longer certain she’s the cause. Each vision pulls Curtis further into Veronica’s world, until he fears he could become lost in her past.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Milagro Beanfield War

Why did I love this book?

This is book one of John Nichols’ wonderful New Mexico trilogy and what I enjoyed about it the most was the humor - because New Mexicans can find humor in the most absurd or sad or irritating or even banal situations. Pursuit of wealth versus preservation of culture is at the center and Nichols does a great job of depicting the pride and quirks of the small-town poor farmers and wealthy developers as they battle over water rights. Of course, magic realism creeps in – or actually crawls in, as a long- dismembered arm allegedly bears the responsibility for the townspeople’s woes. Through and through these characters were all reminiscent of people I knew growing up.  

By John Nichols,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Milagro Beanfield War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Milagro Beanfield War is the first book in John Nichols's New Mexico Trilogy (“Gentle, funny, transcendent.” ―The New York Times Book Review)

Joe Mondragon, a feisty hustler with a talent for trouble, slammed his battered pickup to a stop, tugged on his gumboots, and marched into the arid patch of ground. Carefully (and also illegally), he tapped into the main irrigation channel. And so began-though few knew it at the time-the Milagro beanfield war. But like everything else in the dirt-poor town of Milagro, it would be a patchwork war, fought more by tactical retreats than by battlefield victories.…


By Rudolfo Anaya,

Book cover of Alburquerque

Why did I love this book?

I was a fan of Anaya’s well-known novel, Bless Me, Ultima, and was intrigued that this title’s spelling itself was significant, returning the first ‘r’ to the city name a century after it was dropped by a white station owner. Anaya blends fantasy with history, examining the myth of racial purity and offering a different take on being a New Mexican and our connection to the land. He also departs from a familiar depiction of Albuquerque as a sleepy western town and paints it as a vibrant metropolis with all the associated political machinations. Mostly though, I felt a strong connection with the protagonist, an up-and-coming boxer who learns he was adopted and questions the definition of identity. 

By Rudolfo Anaya,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Alburquerque as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is a winner of PEN Center West Award for Fiction. Abran Gonzalez is a homeboy from the barrio, a young boxer whose world is shattered forever the night he is summoned to his mother's deathbed. He learns he is the son of an unknown Mexican man - a man he is desperately compelled to find. His quest will bring him in contact with many unpleasant characters.

Book cover of A History of the Jews in New Mexico

Why did I love this book?

This is a nonfiction book and typical of New Mexico, as there are whole chapters of its history nobody really knows about. The (probably) first white American woman to come into the territory was a Jewish woman who accompanied her merchant husband and brothers. Even more interesting, merchants and traders weren’t even the first Jewish people - “Crypto-Jews” who were fleeing the inquisition came to New Mexico long before it was part of the US and kept their identity secret to assimilate. This is depicted with a character in Alburquerque and that perfectly encapsulates one of the overriding things about New Mexico and its tales – a deep sense of connectedness, across people, across the land. 

By Henry J. Tobias,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of the Jews in New Mexico as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this first history of the Jews in New Mexico--from the colonial period to the present day--the author continuously ties the Jewish experience to the evolution of the societies in which they lived and worked. The book begins with one of the least known but most fascinating aspects of New Mexico Jewry--the crypto-Jews who came north to escape the Mexican Inquisition. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the story is more familiar: German merchants settling in Las Vegas and Santa Fe and then coming to Albuquerque after the railroad arrived. To these accounts the author adds considerable nuance and detail,…


By Tony Hillerman,

Book cover of Skinwalkers

Why did I love this book?

Tony Hillerman created one of the most original detective series I’ve ever come across - Navajo tribal mystery novels. A Thief of Time is probably my favorite of his books but I chose Skinwalkers because it was the first of Hillerman’s novels I had read and skinwalkers are witches who turn themselves into animals, so there’s that. It was a great introduction to his universe of Navajo mysticism and the otherworldly elements that pervade New Mexico, particularly among, but certainly not limited to, its indigenous people. I loved delving into the Navajo history and legends and Police Lieutenant Leaphorn and Tribal Officer Chee are both unique yet very familiar in what could almost be described as a buddy-cop story.  

By Tony Hillerman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Skinwalkers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Don’t Miss the AMC television series, Dark Winds, based on the Leaphorn, Chee, & Manuelito novels, coming this summer! 

From New York Times bestselling author Tony Hillerman, Skinwalkers is the seventh novel featuring Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee—a riveting tale of sorcery, secrets, and murder.

Three shotgun blasts rip through the side of Officer Jim Chee’s trailer as the Navajo Tribal Policeman sleeps. He survives, but the inexplicable attack has raised disturbing questions about a lawman once beyond reproach.

Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn wonders why Chee was a target and what connection the assault has to a series of…

Book cover of Death Comes for the Archbishop

Why did I love this book?

Cather’s love of the land here is apparent here as missionary Father Jean arrives from France in the 1800s following the annexation of New Mexico to bring his faith to the reluctant indigenous people, Spanish settlers, and skeptical Mexican priests set in their own hybrid ways. I had to read this book in high school and as an adult in 2021 I have a wholly different take on its whole colonialism thing. But, by the end, even after he retires Father Jean chooses to stay in New Mexico than go back to France (!!) which truthfully speaks to how New Mexico grabs a hold of you. Plus his life’s dream was to build a grand church in Santa Fe like those he knew in Europe and then when he dies he gets to lie in state, right there, in his dream. 

By Willa Cather,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Death Comes for the Archbishop as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of the most highly acclaimed novelists of the twentieth century—"a truly remarkable book" (The New York Times),an epic—almost mythic—story of a single human life lived simply in the silence of the southwestern desert.

In 1851 Father Jean Marie Latour comes to serve as the Apostolic Vicar to New Mexico. What he finds is a vast territory of red hills and tortuous arroyos, American by law but Mexican and Indian in custom and belief. In the almost forty years that follow, Latour spreads his faith in the only way he knows—gently, all the while contending with an unforgiving landscape,…

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