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Going Back to Bisbee

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  173 ratings  ·  40 reviews
One of America's most distinguished poets now shares his fascination with a distinctive corner of our country. Richard Shelton first came to southeastern Arizona in the 1950s as a soldier stationed at Fort Huachuca. He soon fell in love with the region and upon his discharge found a job as a schoolteacher in nearby Bisbee. Now a university professor and respected poet livi ...more
Paperback, 329 pages
Published May 1st 1992 by University of Arizona Press
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Aug 17, 2012 Susan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Susan by: Local book club selection
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Shelton's lovely non-fiction book never travels in a straight line, and the reader isn't going to get back to Bisbee any time soon. He rambles, digresses, and describes, explains and reflects, and throws in his own personal philosphy for good measure. And he anthropomorphizes. Boy, does he anthropomorphize, and not just animals but also his old van, buildings, plants, about anything that crosses his path. Since I tend to do that myself, I don't have a problem with it. And
Absolutely, positively, one of my favorite books about the West. Beautifully written and emotionally compelling. I won't soon forget this one.
Richard Jespers
In this long-heralded memoir, Shelton accomplishes many things. For one, he takes the reader on an extended journey, not only over his life on this earth, but, citing sources, he also brings an awareness to us of the fascinating town that is Bisbee, Arizona. He achieves a certain paradox by seemingly moving forward through time and backward at the same time. Shelton seems to know so much. He knows botany.

“The popular, as opposed to scientific, names for plants and animals are often based on figu
Poet Richard Shelton has invited the reader to ride along with him in Blue Boy as Shelton travels through southeastern Arizona, from Tucson to Bisbee. Like a true educator and born storyteller he simply opens up a world that he loves to the reader, sharing the history, people, geography and his own experiences as we ramble along, sometimes in the present, sometimes in the past. I happen to be in southeastern Arizona visiting a friend for a couple of weeks, and the passages have allowed me to mor ...more
This meander through time and Southern Arizona is filled with reminiscence of the author's life, select pieces of history and tidbits of natural history. I loved it. It makes me want to go back to Bisbee, too. I have been to some of the places he mentions and I am familiar with Arizona's history and natural history, but I was amazed at how much I didn't know. I would love to tour Arizona with Richard Shelton as my guide - and I guess that is what I have just done. I heard about this book on one ...more
Earl McGill
If you were to read only one book about what it's like to live in Southern Arizona, this is the one--a classic in every sense of the word.
Shelton's years of teaching poetry at the University of Arizona come through in every paragraph. But it's not only the beautifully written prose; it's also rich in both history and environment. Even if you've spent a lifetime in the Sonora Desert you a bound to learn a lot you didn't know in Going Back to Bisbee.
I've lived in Arizona (Tucson) and have visited Bisbee several times. Shelton description of the area and the history along the way to Bisbee confirms why I am falling in love with Arizona. His depiction of the once-booming mining town and it's geography, the struggles for the community to remain vital and the art community it has become, gives insight into how a small town near the Mexican border is making its way.
I really learned a lot about SE Arizona from this book. I love learning the histories of places I visit or live in.
Anda Manteufel
Extremely good and creatively written. Probably because the author is a creative writing professor at U of A. Love the Southwest; love this book!
What a lovely book! I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of southern Arizona geography and ecology.
This book is part travelogue, part natural history, part regional history, and part personal memoir. After many years as a writer, poet, and university professor, the author takes an 80-mile journey from his home in Tucson to the old mining town of Bisbee in the southeast corner of Arizona. Just a stone's throw from the Mexican border, Bisbee has been the site of copper mines, starting in the 1880s and lasting until the 1970s, when conglomerate Phelps Dodge finally ceased operation, having creat ...more
I think I'm off of memoirs. Sheldon's book is a combo memoir/travel writing piece that is at base pretty pedestrian. There are some interesting snippets of history about the San Pedro Valley and that's all well and good, but I found myself not really engaged in the author's solipsistic reveries about "place." He's also a poet, and the several excerpts of his poetry woven into the text are just terrible. Trite musings I can handle, but bad poetry, well, that just eclipses any enjoyment from the t ...more
Am loving this work! Simple, yet full of interesting anecdotes. It also contains some nice historical information on recent (1958---on) Southeast Arizona history. Mr. Shelton is/was an English teacher/Professor and this book tells of his entry into the teaching profession and documents the special relationships between "teachers that truly care" and their human subjects. It also has a lovingly portrayed account of his encounter with a long established teacher at his first school and a fantastic ...more
David Feela
A good read, especially if you're familiar with Southern Arizona. Shelton fills his narrative about returning to his first teaching gig in Bisbee with a thorough (sometimes a bit too thorough) history of Arizona, roughly from the 1800s mining booms to the more contemporary permutations of how towns have and haven't survived. His history chronicles his own personal journey from Tucson back to Bisbee, and all points along the route between. He mixes personal history with cultural history. And yes, ...more
i started reading this in the chiracahua mountains, driving on many of the stretches of road that shelton writes about, and nearly every beautiful, intimate sentence about these familiar/semi-familiar desert places made me cry. there were times when the tangents veered too far off course to hold my interest, but for the most part, the personal and natural histories were so true to their places that i really supplemented my travels through southern arizona. the book lost me while i was in colorad ...more
A very interesting book.Part travel log with a lot of history thrown in. A little hard to follow at times only that the chapters are long, descriptive and goes at a slow pace…I am used to reading and enjoying page turner books. It was informative and very well written. It is obvious Richard Shelton is a poet as he lingers on words and makes each character come to life.
Okay. Not the best book I've ever read.
I read this as an introduction to the Tucson area, and loved it just as a book. Shelton is a good storyteller, so he makes both natural history and human history come alive. I found his stories of the children he taught in Bisbee, AZ, a copper mining town in the 50s to be the most affecting, although I love natural history, so I was fascinated by the stories of native and explorer life along the Arizona rivers.. Shelton captures atmosphere really well, and is a skilled at depicting the fascinati ...more
Patrick O'Connell
Frankly I don't remember much about this book other than I enjoyed it at the time I read it.

One of the other reviewers on this site (who didn't like the book) summed it up pretty well "a memoir/travelogue". It describes a corner of the Southwest that I was unfamiliar with, and it tempted me to visit sometime.

The other reviewer described it as "pedestrian" and perhaps that is exactly why I liked it.
It's easy to see Shelton's love of words, and his poet's ability to get to the clear heart of things, despite the fact that it takes him more than 300 pages to describe a 100 mile journey. His love of the desert, as well as his enormous admiration and respect for its creatures, whether vegetable, mineral, or animal, is indelible, and his story is strong and purely told. A gift, this book.
Emily Detrick
Jan 10, 2010 Emily Detrick rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who live in or travel to the area he writes about
Recommended to Emily by: Bette Levy, bless her
So far I really like it, mainly and simply for the reason that I am living right where he is writing. I am new to the area, and always try to read what's been written, in a variety of genres, about an area when I go there. His in an enjoyable, if slightly dated perspective, and provides the kind of details I'm looking for: descriptions of climate, fauna and flora, local history, etc.
May 23, 2007 Fran rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who loves local histories and the southwestern landscape
this book combines two topics that are close to my heart...the landscape of the american southwest, and the history of a small town over the course of the century. the author masterfully handles the subject, and creates an engaging, heartfelt, and humorous memoir. definitely well worth the read.
Michael Peiffer
Totally enjoying this book. Great writing by an author that obviously loves the southwest. I particularly enjoy the wealth of knowlege about desert plants and animals as well as historical data going back to native peoples. Its the kind of book you want to read slowly so it won't end.
Steve Zeoli
I loved this personal essay, part travelog, part memoir. It focusses on the desert country between Tucson and Bisbee, Arizona. The writer is a poet, and his lovely prose reflect this. If you like stories of place, this is a book to hunt up.
I thought this book was well written. I especially enjoyed the botanical and historical asides that the author took on his way to Bisbee. Having lived in Arizona all my life, I found it very enjoyable.
Winner, Western States Book Award. I loved this memoir-style account of a trip from Tucson to Bisbee, Arizona. It is full of natural history and contains one of the funniest squirrel stories I have ever read!
This brings together so much of what I value: beautiful prose (the writer is a poet), the value of writing, the rights of prisoners, the perils of first year teaching, and the Sonoran desert.
This is a wonderfully nostalgic look at Shelton's travels as he returns to the place of his youth. He includes a lot of southern Arizona history as he unwinds the tale of his travels.
One of my favorite books! This was a joy to read. Funny, clever, historical....I ended up taking the Drive to Bisbee after reading this book. Awesome. I could read this one again.
I love this book. anone with an interest in Southern Arizona, will like it. A combination of essay, and history, it is well written. Highly recommended.
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