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Our guest on this week’s BOOKCHAT is environmental journalist Laura Paskus. Laura is the producer of the series “Our Land: New Mexico’s Environmental Past, Present and Future” featured on New Mexico in Focus. Laura’s new book is At the Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate (UNM Press), essential reading for anyone interested in the coming climate catastrophe.

Laura Paskus in front of snow covered mountains

When were you happiest?

I try to feel happy and thankful every day, usually by spending time outside (even if it’s just strolling or biking around my neighborhood in Albuquerque’s North Valley) and appreciating my loved ones. As the past five months have reminded me: Every good day matters. A lot.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

I love cookies. Really, I love them. I love the way they taste. I love their texture. I. Love. Cookies. It’s kind of a problem. The sugar high/sugar crash is real. And I will stress-eat more cookies than you can probably imagine.

What book(s) are you reading now?

I just finished Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup, which is so, so good. Right now, I’m reading Robert MacFarlane’s The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot and Diana Davis’s The Arid Lands. Because I recently became addicted to the Libby app, I’m also listening to Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth, the second in his Book of Dust series.

Which writers working today do you admire most? Why?

My favorite contemporary writers include Terry Tempest Williams, Louise Erdrich, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Luis Alberto Urrea. I love the ways in which they love their communities. And that love comes through in all of their work.

Which genres do you read? Which do you avoid? Why?

I really enjoy novels, especially those with some element of the unknown, the magical, or the unknowable inside of everyday life. Books like Latitudes of Longing, The Overstory by Richard Powers, and The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. I also enjoy science fiction—books like Seveneves by Neal Stephenson and anything by Ursula LeGuin—and reportage from journalists like Ryszard Kapuściński, Martha Gellhorn, Michael Herr, and Sy Hersh. Lately, I’ve been finding a lot of new-to-me fantasy and speculative fiction writers, thanks to the podcast LeVar Burton Reads. I’m a fan of non-fiction, too, especially anything having to do with the U.S. Southwest or New England. And poetry, especially Mary Oliver, Joy Harjo and Layli Long Soldier.

What book(s) “should” you have read but haven’t, or what “classic” couldn’t you finish?

I haven’t read many of the classics. Or, I read them when I was too young to understand why they were supposed to be important or interesting. I don’t have it in me these days to go back to the same writers who’ve been canonized. I’m craving new voices—and especially new voices that challenge the old ones.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Honestly, I’m so shy that I prefer lingering along the edges, even of my own parties. But I’d be mad with delight to eavesdrop on Martha Gellhorn, Chuck Bowden, and Mikhail Bulgakov.

Tell us about your latest book in no more than 50 words.

At the Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate is based on about 14 years of reporting on our state’s changing forests, rivers, aquifers, and communities.

Where can we find this book?

You can order it directly from the University of New Mexico Press. You can also order from stores like Bookworks in Albuquerque or Collected Works in Santa Fe. Or you can ask your local independent bookstore to order it for you.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

Enriching Life Through Learning in Community

We respectfully acknowledge that the entirety of southwestern New Mexico is the traditional territory, since time immemorial, of the Chis-Nde, also known as the people of the Chiricahua Apache Nation. The Chiricahua Apache Nation is recognized as a sovereign Native Nation by the United States in the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Friendship of 1 July 1852 (10 Stat. 979) (Treaty of Santa Fe ratified 23 March 1853 and proclaimed by President Franklin Pierce 25 March 1853).

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Mimbres Press of Western New Mexico University is a traditional academic press that welcomes agented and unagented submissions in the following genres: literary fiction, creative non-fiction, essays, memoir, poetry, children’s books, historical fiction, and academic books. We are particularly interested in academic work and commercial work with a strong social message, including but not limited to works of history, reportage, biography, anthropology, culture, human rights, and the natural world. We will also consider selective works of national and global significance.