The best books about the Old West from people who actually lived in the Old West

Who am I?

Born in Texas, raised in Colorado, I’ve always had one foot in the working cowboy world and the other in the Rocky Mountains. I’m a member of the Western Writers of America, and I’ve summited all 54 fourteen-thousand foot peaks in Colorado. For a number of years, I worked with horses at a therapeutic riding center, as a barn manager. After that, I worked as an equine veterinary assistant, driving around with the vet in a pickup truck to doctor horses. Following that, I pursued the arts. Over the years, I’ve recorded and performed western/folk music (find me on Bandcamp), acted in western films (check my YouTube channel), and written western novels (Sunbury Press/Milford House).


I wrote...

Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave

By Mark Mitten,

Book cover of Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave

What is my book about?

It is 1887. Snow is falling in the high country of Colorado. Bill Ewing led a bank heist in the small mountain town of Kinsey City — but just woke up tied to the back of a mule. Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave is an epic novel chronicling Bill’s gang of thieves and the posse that takes after them, the cowhands of the B-Cross-C, and the unexpected turns of life which bring them all together.

The books I picked & why

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Bob Fudge: Texas Trail Driver

By Jim Russell,

Book cover of Bob Fudge: Texas Trail Driver

Why this book?

Bob Fudge worked for the famous XIT, a large cattle outfit based in the Texas Panhandle, during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Bob Fudge lived an iconic cowboy life, driving cattle from Texas to Montana. He told his life story in 1932, a year before his death. I first heard about this rare book during a song intro, by western singer Ian Tyson on his Live At Longview album. Before he plays the song “Bob Fudge,” Tyson tells a story of how someone left this book on his guitar case during an earlier performance—and it captivated him. The book captivated me, too, and served as inspiration for my own western novels. Another Canadian western singer, Colter Wall, recorded a live cover version (watch it on YouTube) that is quite cool.

Bob Fudge: Texas Trail Driver

By Jim Russell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hardcover book, no dust jacket as issued, 1981.


6000 Miles of Fence

By Cordia Sloan Duke, Joe B. Frantz,

Book cover of 6000 Miles of Fence

Why this book?

In 1886, the XIT became the largest cattle brand in Texas. They ran 150,000 head of cattle on three million acres—that’s most of the Texas Panhandle. The author, Cordia Duke, was married to one of the division managers. Over the years, she asked the cowboys to write down their memories and experiences, which she eventually published. For me, as a western author, these stories were (and still are) vital for authenticity, and I keep going back for inspiration. The cowboys’ voices are crystal clear, and we get to read firsthand descriptions of cattle roundups, branding, prairie fires, rustlers, fine cowhorses (good horses), spoilt gotch-eared outlaws (bad horses), and even a recipe for “son-of-a-gun stew,” straight from the mouth of a chuckwagon cook.

6000 Miles of Fence

By Cordia Sloan Duke, Joe B. Frantz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 6000 Miles of Fence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The fabulous XIT Ranch has been celebrated in song, story, and serious history. This book of reminiscences of old XIT cowmen puts on record the everyday life of the individuals who made the ranch run. Their forthright, yet picturesque, discussion of ranching hardships and dangers dissipates Hollywood and TV glamorizing. They relate in honest cowboy language what actually happened inside the XlT's 6,000 miles of fence. Cordia Sloan Duke, wife of an XIT division manager, Robert L. Duke, many years ago realized that only those who had experienced ranch life could depict it with deep understanding. As the young wife…


Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian

By Don C. Talayesva,

Book cover of Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian

Why this book?

A Hopi Indian named Don Talayesva was born in 1890 in the northeastern desert of Arizona. This is his personal life journey on the Sun Trail. I’ve never read anything quite like this. Every sentence immerses you into his mind’s eye, and you’ll see life through the lens of the Hopi worldview. Legends and myths run through every experience–yet everything feels real. The Spider Woman, Guardian Spirit, Katcina dancers, Six-Point-Cloud-People, Masau’u the bloody-headed Fire Spirit who wanders the mesa at night, and the secret society of Two-Hearts, who cast spells to take lives, to prolong their own. Don’s personal joys, opinions, and flaws are all part of the mix. In my own novel, I created a Hopi character with a vivid inner dialogue, thanks to Sun Chief.

Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian

By Don C. Talayesva,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

First published in 1942, Sun Chief is the autobiography of Hopi Chief Don C. Talayesva and offers a unique insider view on Hopi society. In a new Foreword, Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert situates the book within contemporary Hopi studies, exploring how scholars have used the book since its publication more than seventy years ago.


Tomboy Bride: One Woman's Personal Account of Life in Mining Camps of the West

By Harriet Fish Backus,

Book cover of Tomboy Bride: One Woman's Personal Account of Life in Mining Camps of the West

Why this book?

I’ve been to the Tomboy Mine. All that’s left of the camp are old foundations in a rocky basin above timberline, surrounded by high peaks, 3,000 feet above Telluride. The only gold left behind is in the rich hues of a Colorado sunset. While the Tomboy may be gone, it’s the same view Harriet Fish Backus saw every day. Life at a remote mountain mine was full of “mishaps and makeshifts,” and she kept a diary of daily events. Nothing she writes is a dull description, nor is it the soaring purple prose of Victorian-era romanticism. Her account of mining life in 1906, from a woman’s perspective, detailing daily routines, friendships, and fears, is invaluable as a western author, to create believable female characters in the Old West.

Tomboy Bride: One Woman's Personal Account of Life in Mining Camps of the West

By Harriet Fish Backus,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Colorado favorite, Tomboy Bride presents the first-hand account of a young pioneer woman and her life in a rough and tumble mining town of the Old West.


In 1906 at the age of twenty, Harriet Fish hopped on a train from Oakland, California, to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado in search of a new life as the bride of assayer George Backus. Together, the couple ventured forth to discover mining town life at the turn of the twentieth century, adjusting to dizzying elevation heights of 11,500 feet and all the hardships that come with it: limited water, rationed…


The Klondike Stampede

By Tappan Adney,

Book cover of The Klondike Stampede

Why this book?

This is the go-to book to learn about the Klondike Gold Rush. Tappan Adney was a journalist sent by a magazine to chronicle what was going on, and he did a good job. In 1897, he took a steamship to Skagway, then made the long trek into Canada over Chilkoot Pass, to Dawson, and on to the Klondike River. Because Adney was a trained newswriter, it doesn’t have quite the warmth of a personal diary, but there’s all kinds of good stuff. Especially, detailed descriptions of the hard journey on foot, daily disillusionment of the average stampeder, descriptions of gold mining techniques, Yukon era saloons, claim jump squabbles, and the common struggle for a decent meal, when supplies have run low.

The Klondike Stampede

By Tappan Adney,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Klondike Stampede as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. To ensure a quality reading experience, this work has been…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in American frontier, Texas, and the Klondike Gold Rush?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about American frontier, Texas, and the Klondike Gold Rush.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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