Inside the Capitol

Saturday, July 09, 2005

7-13 Reading List #1

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- A recent column's passing comment about the Jay Miller Book Club brought some inquiries about why no one has ever heard of it. The answer is that I only mentioned it that one time, and that was in jest.
Although there isn't such a club, there could be. I try to read a book a day when I am on business trips or vacations, both of which are becoming more frequent these days.
But too many other irons are already in the fire. Sunstone Press, in Santa Fe, has graciously consented to do a series of books using my columns on several different subjects.
The first book will be about the Billy the Kid exhumation controversy of the past two years. The next will be on New Mexicans in the Pacific Theater of World War II. And the third is scheduled to be about New Mexico being the birthplace of rocket science and still on the cutting edge.
As I recall, just about all the books I have recommended during the past 18 years are non-fiction, since that is about all I read. My wife gets after me for seldom relaxing and reading a fun book.
But to me, non-fiction is fun because it informs me about subjects in which I am intensely interested. And besides, I find a great deal of fiction in some of my non-fiction readings.
In the next few columns, I'll cover some of the books I have recommended over the years. Most relate to New Mexico or New Mexico politics in one way or another and many are by New Mexico authors. Some can be found in bookstores, but others will require a library or used books from the Internet, one of my favorite sources.
For an outstanding summary of our state's history and an understanding of its character, read "Marc Simmons New Mexico: An Interpretive History." Simmons is a great Southwest historian and the best I've read at presenting complex subjects in a very easy-to-read style. And he can point you to further reading.
"New Mexico's Troubled Years," by Calvin Horn, tells of our state's first 10 territorial governors. From James Calhoun in 1851 to Lew Wallace, in 1881, the book gives a picture of life during New Mexico's first 30 tumultuous years as a territory.
Horn made his money in oil, but his compelling interest was in New Mexico history and politics. He served in the state House and Senate for 10 years and rose to speaker of the House. But he always wanted to be governor. But the time was never quite right.
This book was the closest Horn came to the governor's office. He put a lot into it. Through his political connections, he persuaded then-President John F. Kennedy to write the foreword. Then-Gov. Jack Campbell wrote a tribute for the dust jacket.
Horn also formed a publishing company to reprint out-of-print books about New Mexico and its history. Wouldn't it be great if someone would do that again?
"Cowboy in the Roundhouse" covers the last 50 years of New Mexico politics from the perspective of former Gov. Bruce King, the longest-serving chief executive in the state's 400-year history. It is a fascinating view into New Mexico political life with keen insights into how government works.
Another treasure chest of New Mexico politics is former Sen. Louise Coe's lively and passionate look at the trials and triumphs of women wanting to get into the game during the 1920s, '30s and '40s.
"Lady and the Law Books ," takes us through her political career, beginning with election as a county school superintendent and continuing through 16 years as a state senator.
Her final four years in the Senate were as president pro tem, a position it is difficult for New Mexicans to imagine could be held by a woman today. But Coe did it almost 70 years ago.
WED, 7-13-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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