Nonfiction: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
By Joel LeCuyer
The Alchemist, first published over thirty years ago, has proven to be one of the most influential and widely translated novels of the modern era. Paolo Coehlo’s allegorical fable mixed with a dash of the Hero archetype has affected multiple generations of readers all over the world.
The story follows a young man who dreams of a journey he must undertake and that a treasure of the greatest value awaits him at the end of his pursuit. The Alchemist is a quest for purpose and the power of self-belief and self-actualization. It contains such a depth and breadth of wisdom that it is as much a philosophical text as a novel. The enduring success of The Alchemist suggests these ideas should not be thought of as mutually exclusive.
Coehlo’s writing is fluid and fantastical, and the Arabian scenery transports readers. Each character the protagonist encounters serves as an instrument for him to attain a higher state of understanding and enlightenment. There is meaning in human interaction if we approach it as a chance to learn about ourselves and others.
Fiction: Village by STANLEY Crawford
By Joel LeCuyer
The backroads and byways that crisscross Northern New Mexico are strewn with remote, incredibly tight-knit communities. Scattered along the Rio Grande and Chama River valleys, they slumber in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and bake under the hot summer sun, each one deeply steeped in distinct tradition and history.
Inhabited by personas loud and quiet, dreamers, realists and those who just want to get as far away from it all as possible, these communities exist in their own slice of time, caught between unique pasts and an encroaching future.
Village, a novel from local author Stanley Crawford, takes place over the three phases of one day in the small (fictional, although there is a real one) town of San Marcos in Northern New Mexico. Told through a “dawn” prologue, a siesta-esque reflective “noon” and finally a recharging, melodic “sleep,” the village is as much a living entity as its inhabitants, subject to its own daily rhythms and idiosyncrasies.
The histories and stories of San Marcos and its residents are varied yet warmly familiar. We’ve met them at their shops, bars and restaurants. We’ve heard their stories. They are our neighbors. We share their sorrows, dreams and aspirations. Village is quintessential small-town New Mexico on full display.
Children’s Book: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña (writer) and Christian Robinson (illustrator)
By Christian Nardi
After church, as young CJ and his grandmother, Nana, take the bus across the city, CJ asks, “Nana, how come we don’t got a car?” Nana responds by pointing out the wondrous things on the bus: a guitar player plucking the strings; an old woman with curlers in her hair holding a jar full of butterflies; and a blind man who closes his eyes to experience the magic of the music. When they get to the last stop, on Market Street, to go to the soup kitchen where they are volunteer, CJ asks, “How come it’s always so dirty over here?” Nana’s thoughtful reply reminds us that there is beauty everywhere and something to be thankful for in everything. The lengthy list of awards this #1 New York Times Bestseller book has won includes a Newbery Medal (given annually for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children) and being selected as a Caldecott Honor Book (given for outstanding illustrations in a children’s book). Both adults and children will find this a satisfying book to enjoy together.
Cookbook: The Maverick Cookbook Iconic Recipes & Tales from New Mexico by Lynn Cline
By Meg Peralta-Silva
Lynn Cline’s The Maverick Cookbook Iconic Recipes & Tales from New Mexico is part cookbook and part historical fiction, with richly imagined scenes from the various mavericks’ lives. Each of the dozen men and women portrayed represents a historic period in New Mexican history and reveals something about the unique character of the state. Moreover, each of their recipes is based on the era in which the person lived, the culture, local ingredients and the traditional ways of cooking of the time.
Recipes cover classic dishes, such as blue corn atole, bizcochitos, carne adovada and green chile stew, as well as surprises, such as pajarito watermelon pickles. Accompanied by hunger-inducing photographs, the recipes are unintimidating, fresh and inspiring. From a Pueblo woman and a teenage bride on the Santa Fe Trail to artists, outlaws, a movie star and an onion farmer, the mavericks and their recipes their recipes will inspire you to blaze your own trail– in the kitchen or beyond.
Meg Peralta-Silva was born in Baltimore and lived in many states and countries before moving to New Mexico three years ago. She has worked as a youth advocate, creative expression instructor, program director and farm intern. She enjoys learning from others’ perspectives and challenging her own biases.