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

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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of San Domingo: The Medicine Hat Stallion

Emily Hayse Why did I love 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 Marguerite Henry, Robert Lougheed (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked San Domingo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


Book cover of Conagher

Emily Hayse Why did I love 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. 

By Louis L'Amour,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Conagher as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As far as the eye can see is a vast, empty horizon. Evie Teale has finally accepted that her husband won’t be coming home. To make ends meet she runs a temporary stage station. But though she is diligent and careful, Evie must prepare for the day when the passengers no longer come and she must protect her children in an untamed country where’s it’s far easier to die than to live.

Miles away, another solitary soul battles for survival. Conagher is a lean, dark-eyed drifter who is not about to let a gang of rustlers push him around. While…


Book cover of Where the Lost Wander

Emily Hayse Why did I love 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. 

By Amy Harmon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where the Lost Wander as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this epic and haunting love story set on the Oregon Trail, a family and their unlikely protector find their way through peril, uncertainty, and loss.

The Overland Trail, 1853: Naomi May never expected to be widowed at twenty. Eager to leave her grief behind, she sets off with her family for a life out West. On the trail, she forms an instant connection with John Lowry, a half-Pawnee man straddling two worlds and a stranger in both.

But life in a wagon train is fraught with hardship, fear, and death. Even as John and Naomi are drawn to each…


Book cover of Moccasin Trail

Emily Hayse Why did I love 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.

By Eloise Jarvis McGraw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Moccasin Trail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

A pioneer boy, brought up by Crow Indians, is reunited with his family and attempts to orient himself in the white man's culture.


Book cover of Land of Hills and Valleys

Emily Hayse Why did I love 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. 

By Elisabeth Grace Foley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Land of Hills and Valleys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Her inheritance came with an unsolved mystery.

If she can’t find out the truth, she may lose more than she gained.

Lena Campbell never knew her grandfather—but she always dreamed of visiting Wyoming, where her mother was born and raised. When she receives word that her grandfather is dead and his Wyoming ranch belongs to her, she jumps at the chance.

Only later does she learn that Garth McKay was murdered, and the murder is still unsolved.

Despite this shadow hanging over her, Lena thrives in her new life—and unexpectedly finds love there. And then a new revelation breaks the…


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Coyote Weather

By Amanda Cockrell,

Book cover of Coyote Weather

Amanda Cockrell Author Of Coyote Weather

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Reader Dog walker Lapsed academic

Amanda's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Coyote weather is the feral, hungry season, drought-stricken, and ready to catch fire. It’s 1967, and the American culture is violently remaking itself while the country is forcibly sending its young men to fight in a deeply unpopular war.

Jerry has stubbornly made no plans for the future because he doesn’t think that, in the shadow of Vietnam, the Cold War, and atomic bomb drills, there is going to be one. Ellen is determined to have a plan because nothing else seems capable of keeping the world from tilting. And the Ghost, who isn’t exactly dead, just wants to go home to a place that won’t let him in, the small California town where they all grew up.

Coyote Weather

By Amanda Cockrell,

What is this book about?

Coyote weather is the feral, hungry season in California, when everything is drought-stricken and ready to catch fire. It's 1967 and the American culture is violently remaking itself while the country is forcing its young men to fight in a deeply unpopular war. Jerry has stubbornly made no plans for the future because he believes that, in the shadow of Vietnam, the Cold War and atomic bomb drills, there won't be one. Ellen's determined to have a plan, because nothing else can keep the world from tilting. And the Ghost just wants to go home to a place that won't…


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

10,000+ 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 121 books about the American West
Romantic Love Explore 797 books about romantic love
Wyoming Explore 41 books about Wyoming