Mar 6, 2023 - News

Author walked across Arizona for new book

A hardcover book titled Rim To River on a gray wood-grained surface.

Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

Tom Zoellner, a fifth-generation native and former Arizona Republic reporter, walked across the state from north to south for his new book.

Driving the news: Zoellner's book, "Rim to River: Looking into the Heart of Arizona," hit shelves in late February.

  • It consists of 17 essays that are part love letter, part indictment of Arizona, which Zoellner called a "magical place" that's often a disappointment.

What he's saying: "I grew up here. My family's been here since territorial days. I thought I knew Arizona. I wanted to go in deeper by walking across it," he told Axios Phoenix. "I tried to pack 40 years of writing and thinking about Arizona into a single, slim volume, and say everything that I thought needed to have been said about the state."

The big picture: Zoellner roughly followed the Arizona Trail, starting near Buckskin Mountain at the state line with Utah and trekking south to the Mexican border.

  • From there, he journeyed into Sonora to explore the Valley that's said to have given Arizona its name.
  • The author explained that Arizona is the only state where there's "real scholarly argument" about the source of its name, which he said has Basque origins and comes from a valley where there was a silver rush in the 1730s.
  • "I can still kind of feel it in my bones," he said of his walk across the state, which took 46 days and cost him about 30 lbs.

Zoom in: The essays cover the state's culture and history, including literary and food culture, politics — he followed a lobbyist around the Capitol to describe the lobbying culture there and tracked 70 years of the Arizona Republican Party — and border crossings, "the issue that will not go away."

The latest: Zoellner has upcoming events across the state, so check out the schedule on his website if you're interested.

Of note: Zoellner is a prolific author, and "Rim to River" is his 11th book.

  • Most of his books cover more worldly topics, such as the Jamaican uprising against slavery in the British empire, the history of uranium and diamonds, and the life of Paul Rusesabagina, the hero of the Rwandan genocide whose autobiography Zoellner helped write.
  • He also wrote, "A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America."

Our thought bubble: As an Arizona native who loves his state's history, I can't wait to read "Rim to River" for myself.


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