The best books that capture the poignant beauty of the American West

Emily Hayse Author Of These War-Torn Hands
By Emily Hayse

Who am I?

Ever since I can remember, I've been captivated by the American West. Was it that cowboys were brave and if you had integrity it was most certainly put to the test? Was it that everyone rode horses and I was a horse crazy girl? Whatever it was that struck me, it stayed. I have treasured the West ever since, through books, film, art, and most recently, a fantasy western trilogy of my own. 

I wrote...

These War-Torn Hands

By Emily Hayse,

Book cover of These War-Torn Hands

What is my book about?

They say this land is bound, cursed since the beginning of the world. And it’ll be freed one day by a man with war-torn hands.”

Rosamund Lacey has crossed a continent to marry Archer Scott because she believes he is a man set apart—a man with a destiny. But Alexander Mortimer, Outlaw King of the western territory, believes in only one kind of destiny: winner takes all. Determined to reign supreme, Mortimer kidnaps the governor’s bride and wreaks havoc on the land around Glory Mesa. But when Archer refuses to choose between the woman he loves and the land he has sworn to protect, he is forced into a showdown that may cost more than his life.

The books I picked & why

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San Domingo: The Medicine Hat Stallion

By Marguerite Henry, Robert Lougheed (illustrator),

Book cover of San Domingo: The Medicine Hat Stallion

Why this book?

I read this book for the first time when I was probably nine or ten and I think this was one of the books that really started it all. It put words to what I felt about the West...the glory of the wide plains, the kind of guts it took to survive, the love of a boy and a horse, and the lengths they would go for each other. It's a perfectly wistful and beautiful western. 


By Louis L'Amour,

Book cover of Conagher

Why this book?

Louis L'Amour wrote dozens of novels about the West but this one I loved because of the sweet wistfulness that was contrasted with the harsh reality of frontier living. Evie Teal is a widow whose husband rode out for cattle and never came back, leaving her alone in the wilderness with two children and only guesses as to how he could have died. Conn Conagher is a poetry-loving, quiet cowboy who hasn't much but his integrity and good name. Neither thinks the other could possibly be interested in them, and the quiet, understated love story just draws you in. 

Where the Lost Wander

By Amy Harmon,

Book cover of Where the Lost Wander

Why this book?

This book follows a young widow traveling westward with her extended family and her journey to find love and purpose again. It takes a hard and honest look at the kind of challenges that people in that time period faced, but through hardships and staggering loss she finds hope and belonging in a beautiful and deadly landscape. 

Moccasin Trail

By Eloise Jarvis McGraw,

Book cover of Moccasin Trail

Why this book?

This historical fiction novel features nineteen-year-old Jim Keath, born white, but rescued and adopted by the Crow when he was badly wounded by a bear. He lives as a trapper now, avoiding both sides of his life, but when his younger siblings write to him, asking for his help in staking a land claim, he can't run from his past anymore. The story deals beautifully and honestly with human nature, the harsh realities of survival in Oregon Territory, and the importance of family. And the stark western landscape plays a large part in the story.

Land of Hills and Valleys

By Elisabeth Grace Foley,

Book cover of Land of Hills and Valleys

Why this book?

A slightly more modern take, this book is set in the 1930s, in the perspective of a girl who inherits an ailing Wyoming ranch and she falls in love with the land and the people who inhabit it. What I loved about this one was the discovery of the land and the lifestyle through the eyes of the main character. Throw in a mystery and a lovely romance and you'll be breathless by the end. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the American West, romantic love, and Wyoming?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the American West, romantic love, and Wyoming.

The American West Explore 93 books about the American West
Romantic Love Explore 416 books about romantic love
Wyoming Explore 21 books about Wyoming

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Terms of Endearment, A Cowboy for Keeps, and Rock Springs if you like this list.