As Nevada’s 150th anniversary year comes to a close, there’s at least one way to stretch out the celebration for a bit longer —by reading one or more of the several fine Nevada history books published in the past year or so to tie into the state’s sesquicentennial.
One of the best of these works is “A Short History of Virginia City,” written by Ron and Susan James. Ron James is a former Nevada State Historic Preservation Officer and recent inductee into the Nevada Writer’s Hall of Fame.
In this work, published earlier this year by the University of Nevada Press, the co-authors outline the rich and colorful history of a place once called the “Richest City on the Earth” because of the fabulous silver wealth extracted from its mines.
They describe the great wealth, technological innovations and celebrated citizens, such as Mark Twain, associated with Virginia City as well as the community’s steep economic decline in the early 20th century and subsequent rebirth as a tourist destination.
Another noteworthy addition to any Nevada-phile’s library is Richard O. Davies’ “The Main Event: Boxing in Nevada from the Mining Camps to the Las Vegas Strip.” Davies, distinguished professor of history, emeritus at the University of Nevada, Reno, has crafted a comprehensive look at the history of pugilism in the Silver State.
The book, also published by the University of Nevada Press, is jammed with information about the state’s evolution from national pariah—particularly after Nevada legalized prizefighting in the late 19th century—to international boxing mecca by the 1970s.
The official Sesquicentennial publication is “Nevada: 150 Years in the Silver State,” a coffee-table book collection of photographs, essays and profiles by a who’s who of Nevada journalists, novelists, writers and photographers, and edited by Geoff Schumacher, who also wrote the excellent “Sun, Sin, and Suburbia: The History of Modern Las Vegas.”
Published by Stephens Press, “Nevada: 150 Years in the Silver State” features the work of more than 70 contributors including John L. Smith, Michael Green, Guy Clifton, Frank Mullen and Carolyn Dufurrena.
Another official 150th book produced in late 2013 was Nevada Magazine’s “Historical Nevada: 150 Memorable Images in Celebration of the Silver State’s Sesquicentennial.” The coffee-table book collects historic images that have appeared in the magazine’s popular Historical Nevada calendars over the past decades,
A book of a different sort is “Christmas in Nevada,” published by the University of Nevada Press and written by Patricia D. Cafferata, author of short histories of the Mapes Hotel and the Goldfield Hotel.
Cafferata, a former state legislator who was also first woman elected to a statewide office (State Treasurer in 1982), has collected dozens of fun and fascinating historic anecdotes and stories on how Christmas has been celebrated in a variety of Nevada communities and in a number of Nevada families.
An eagerly awaited Nevada book that was actually released in mid-2013 was “Robert Laxalt: The Story of a Storyteller” by Warren Lerude, former publisher of Reno Newspapers and a longtime journalism educator at the University of Nevada Reno.
Lerude, a close personal friend of Laxalt’s, has written a touching tribute to his friend and colleague, The book, published by University of Nevada Center for Basque Studies, offers new insights into Laxalt’s life and influences, and shows his evolution from newspaper reporter to beloved Nevada author.
In 1957, Laxalt wrote the acclaimed novel, “Sweet Promised Land,” a portrait of his father, a Basque sheepherder who emigrated to the American West. The book resonated with critics with its evocative but sparse language describing the immigrant experience.
With the exception of “Nevada: 150 Years in the Silver State,” which is in short supply (although still available on the Barnes and Noble website), all of the books remain in print and are available at local bookstores such as Sundance Books in Reno.
In Fallon, the Arcadia Publications Book, “Images of America: Fallon,” by Michon Mackedon and Valerie Serpa, gives a glimpse of Americana through words and old photographs.
“A State that Made a Nation Great” was written to help children understand the importance Nevada played in creating the nation when the state was admitted into the Union as the 36th state on Oct. 31, 1864. Elementary school teacher Linda Rasmussen organized the effort.
Many residents brought in their photographs to be included in “Churchill County Memories,” reflections of life from the early 1940s to the present time. Also included are many recent newspaper color photographs in this joint project between the Churchill County Museum and the Lahontan Valley News. LVN Editor Steve Ranson, who supervised the final production, wrote the narratives.
These books are available at the Churchill County Museum.
Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.