Tom Zoellner is the author of nine non-fiction books and editor-at-large for the Los Angeles Review of Books — where his latest book, Rim to River: Looking into the Heart of Arizona, has just been reviewed by Craig Childs.
TO UNDERSTAND a place, belong to it. Walk it from end to end, crossing canyons, mesas, and vast horizons with your own locomotion. Drink from its creeks. Sleep under seas of stars. Also, work as a beat reporter in that area’s largest city and know cops by name. Follow stories from their ignition points to their smoldering ends. Sharpen your writing chops on bigger global books, then come back and write about the place where you belong.
This is what Tom Zoellner has done in his most recent book, Rim to River: Looking into the Heart of Arizona (2023), a rigorous political and personal study that he hangs on a backpacking trip from the top of the state to the bottom, passing through the Grand Canyon, the forested highlands of Central Arizona, and the low desert down to the Mexican border. This is an excellent way to assemble such a book. Half the story would be missing if he wrote without covering such distances. Arizona, with its complex and wildly changing geography, insists that the land play a significant role.