16+ Great New Mexico Books for Jolabokaflod | SantaFe.com
Grandmother reads a book to two kids at Christmas.

Because you’re reading this article, I know you’re a reader. And you probably don’t just read magazines or web posts, but books as well! Sharing your love of reading is a wonderful holiday gift. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Icelandic tradition of jolabokaflod, which translates to a “flood of books.” It centers around giving the gift of a book on Christmas Eve, then snuggling up to read together. I envision new books, cozy blankets, a glowing fireplace, and hot chocolate! What could be a more enchanted evening?

I thought some books by New Mexico authors and books about New Mexico would be perfect to kick off your jolabokaflod. I asked some author friends for suggestions and dove into books that have been sent to me to review. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Books for Adults

Award-winning biographer James McGrath Morris, whose most recent work is a biography of Tony Hillerman and which would make a great gift for readers of the late mystery writer, suggested checking out John Nichols’ new memoir, I Got Mine: Confessions of a Midlist Writer. Nichols has written 13 novels and 10 nonfiction books, including the Milagro Beanfield War, which was turned into a film directed by Robert Redford.

James also pointed out that New Mexico author Cormac McCarthy, whom the New York Times described as “widely revered as one of the greatest living American writers,” has had not one but two long-anticipated books released this year. His previous novel, The Road, was published in 2005 and received the Pulitzer Prize. The Passenger was released in October, to be followed in November by a companion work, Stella Maris. Fans of McCarthy will be thrilled to have these books to open and read on Christmas Eve.

Anne Hillerman, who has continued her father’s legacy with eight books of her own featuring Navajo tribal police officers Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, and Bernadette Manuelito, has some suggestions,Send a Runner book cover too. The first is Send a Runner by Edison Esketts and Jim Kristofic. UNM Press describes the book this way, “Both exhilarating and punishing, Send a Runner tells the story of a Navajo family using the power of running to honor their ancestors and the power of history to explain why the Long Walk happened. From these forces, they might also seek the vision of how the Diné — their people — will have a future.”

She also suggests The Devil’s Highway: On the Road in the American West, a collection of photographs by Joan Myers accompanied by a short story by Pulitzer Prize finalist William deBuys. Myers’ photographs document the changing landscape and culture of the American West.

Another book that caught Anne’s attention is Wild New World by Dan Flores, who lives in Santa Fe and has written best sellers Coyote America and American Serengeti. The book is co-written by part-time Santa Fean Sara Dant, whose work focuses on environmental politics in the United States.

While it won’t be out in time for the holidays, fans of Anne Hillerman’s best-selling novels wouldn’t object to a pre-order gift of the eighth book in her series, The Way of the Bear, which will launch on April 25, 2023. Another great gift would be the seventh book in her series, The Sacred Bridge. The paperback edition will be released in January 2023. A longtime Santa Fe resident, Anne now lives part of the year there and the rest in Tucson, Arizona.

Michael McGarrity is a New Mexico author with another popular series of books featuring New Mexico law enforcement professionals. While the most recent book in the series, Head Wounds, came out in 2020, with 17 books featuring the Kerney family, there’s plenty to read on cold winter nights. McGarrity has announced that his next book, The Long Ago, will be released in July 2023. He warned readers through his Facebook page that it is not a Kerney novel, and it’s not set in New Mexico. He described it with a draft description that says, “In the early 1960s, a soldier returns from Vietnam to his Montana home in search of his missing kid sister.” Fans responded with comments that showed they are eager for a new book by McGarrity, no matter the main character or location.

The Pot Thief is a book series you could read for jolabokaflod.This next book series wasn’t written by a New Mexico author nor is it about New Mexico, however, the television series was mostly filmed in the Land of Enchantment, featuring locations like Santa Fe, Red River, Las Vegas, Eagle Nest, and Valles Caldera. Craig Johnson’s eighteenth title in the Walt Longmire series, Hell and Back, won’t show up on your streaming service because the series ended in 2017, but fans of the crusty Wyoming sheriff will be glad to get their hands on this title which came out in September.

Mike Beckett, owner of COAS Books in Las Cruces, recommends the Pot Thief series. Michael Orenduff, former president of New Mexico State University, has written nine books in his Pot Thief series, the most recent being last year’s The Pot Thief Who Studied the Woman at Otowi Crossing. The main character, Hubert Schuze, solves crimes, digs up pots, and is now an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico. Orenduff has received a variety of awards for this series, including the Lefty at the Left Coast Crime Conference for the best humorous mystery of the year for The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein, the third book in the series.

For women and those who love them, a self-help book’s second edition by Santa Fe author Nina Simons was released in 2022. Nature, Culture & The Sacred garnered praise from folks like Gloria Steinem and was written to help readers “shed self-limiting beliefs, lead from the heart, and discover beloved community as you cultivate your own flourishing and liberation.”


Hazel Pacheco has embarked on a series of colorfully illustrated picture books featuring Gambel’s quails as the heroes of the stories. Her most recent is Federico Exaggerated, subtitled “A story about tall tales, honesty . . . and the boldest berry!” It’s a book about a quail who loves to tell stories, some a bit tall, and who has to convince his covey that he has found the boldest berry of all. The book was illustrated by Kim Sponaugle and includes a glossary. The previous book in the series is Henry Wondered, and the third book, Gloria Smiled, will come out in the summer of 2023.

Older readers might enjoy Super Cities! Albuquerque by Michael Burgan. This illustrated book would be perfect for a child who is going to be visiting New Mexico’s largest city as it is filled with history, places to visit, factoids, and plenty of information to share with family about the Duke City (like why it is called that!).

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz was released last year and is a sequel to 2012’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a young adult novel that was turned into a movie about two teens who fall in love. School Library Journal wrote, “This literary romance will woo hearts and minds alike.” Sáenz was born and raised near Las Cruces and now lives in El Paso. He was the first Latino to win the PEN/Faulkner Book Award for Fiction for his short story “Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club.” He writes poetry, short stories, novels, young-adult novels, and children’s books, such as The Dog Who Loved Tortillas.

Popular New Mexico author J.C. Cervantes has a brand-new young adult book, Rick Riordan Presents The Lords of Night, which was released in October. Another young adult novel, Flirting with Fate, was released in spring of 2022. The award-winning author’s young adult books include The Storm RunnerThe Fire Keeper, and The Shadow Crosser.

I could go on and on, but this should give you and yours plenty to read for your New Mexico jolabokaflod.

Story by Cheryl Fallstead | Courtesy photos

Originally published in Neighbors magazine

This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead

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