The best books on the Wild West and the ladies who rule it

Who am I?

My love for both the Weird and the Wild West started somewhere in the 90s. I watched many movies and adored playing Deadlands (TTRPG) with my friends. I picked this theme because most Western-themed books and movies were very male-orientated, yet I always found myself drawn to the heroines in these stories. While I loved characters like Billy the Kid and Wild Bill Hickok, I could better relate to Calamity Jayne or Belle Starr. During our Role Play game nights, I often played female gunslingers. That’s how I ended up creating Coyote, who inspired me to write her story in a series of novels. 


I wrote...

Coyote: The Outlander

By Chantal Noordeloos,

Book cover of Coyote: The Outlander

What is my book about?

No one knows where or when the mysterious rips will appear, but from them, Outlanders walk the earth, leaving chaos in their wake.

Coyote, a charismatic bounty hunter, travels the land with her enigmatic partner, Caesar. Together – with the help of magic and technology the unlikely duo tracks down these dangerous criminals from different worlds. Along the way, Coyote discovers a secret that threatens to shatter everything she believes about herself, her father, and her sworn enemy, James Westwood. Whether Outlander or inner demons, some things can't be solved with a six-shooter.

The books I picked & why

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Wake of Vultures

By Lila Bowen,

Book cover of Wake of Vultures

Why this book?

If you are up for a little journey into the Weird West, let Nettie Lonesome be your guide. She is anything but the traditional ‘Cowboy’ being a queer, biracial, young woman. This book is a different kind of coming-of-age story—a tougher one, which really takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride. For me, the biggest appeal of this book is the main character. Nettie is a special breed of Ranger who discovers there is more to this world than heaven and earth. There are monsters hiding in the shadows, and Nettie finds she has a particular talent for dealing with them. When it comes to queens of the Weird West, Nettie belongs to be among them. Even if she does prefer to dress as a man.

Wake of Vultures

By Lila Bowen,

Why should I read it?

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


Serenity: Those Left Behind

By Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad (illustrator), Adam Hughes (illustrator)

Book cover of Serenity: Those Left Behind

Why this book?

Being a really big fan of the TV Show Firefly, I felt a need to mention at least one of the comics that were written after it was canceled. Perhaps not the most conventional recommendation, but I thought Cowboys in Space was a good fit for my list. And where would I ever find more well-rounded strong female characters? Zoe, Inara, Kaylee, and even River all embody different elements of strength in women who try to survive in a futuristic frontier world. These four fierce ladies take us on adventures full of hijinks and shenanigans through space. Serenity: Those Left Behind is a well-written and beautifully illustrated story about a lovable band of intergalactic scoundrels. 

Serenity: Those Left Behind

By Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad (illustrator), Adam Hughes (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

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


Six-Gun Snow White

By Catherynne M. Valente, Charlie Bowater (illustrator),

Book cover of Six-Gun Snow White

Why this book?

Not every fairytale ends with the Prince swooping in to save the troubled maiden. Six-Gun Snow White is no damsel in distress. Valente took a traditional children’s story and turned it into a very dark Western Tale. The biracial heroine, who neither belongs in the white world of her father nor in the Native American world of her mother, struggles to keep one step ahead of the wicked witch stepmother. The flowery unique tone of the writing still gives the novel a hint of the children’s tale it was based on, and might not be for everyone. To me, Snow White—who was ironically named for her dark skin—is one of the strong women in the Wild West that definitely deserves a mention.

Six-Gun Snow White

By Catherynne M. Valente, Charlie Bowater (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Six-Gun Snow White as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Heresy

By Melissa Lenhardt,

Book cover of Heresy

Why this book?

Margaret Parker and Hattie LaCour never intended to turn outlaw,” but sometimes life just hands you a rough deal. Especially if you are a woman in the Wild West. This novel is an interesting journey of strong women choosing to take fate into their own hands. They don’t want to end up on their backs to make money, and decide they rather take the money they feel the world owes them. Heresy is a classical Wild West tale with a bit of a female twist. A good read for any lover of this genre.

Heresy

By Melissa Lenhardt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Parker-LaCour Gang. The first and only all-female band of outlaws in the American West. Ignored during their time. Written out of history.

Margaret Parker and Hattie LaCour never intended to turn outlaw.

After being run off their ranch by a greedy cattleman, their family is left destitute. As women alone they have few choices: marriage, lying on their backs for money, or holding a gun. For Margaret and Hattie the choice is easy. With their small makeshift family, the gang pulls off a series of heists across the West.

Though the newspapers refuse to give the female gang credit,…


Lonesome Dove

By Larry McMurtry,

Book cover of Lonesome Dove

Why this book?

I’ll tell you a secret… I wasn’t sure if I was going to recommend this book when I first started it. I only recently read it, and it took me a looooong time to get into the story. The writing didn’t draw me in, to begin with, but eventually, it grabbed me and I decided this novel belonged on my list. The characters are really well-rounded and it was Clara Allen who stood out for me. If I wanted to mention the strong women of the Wild West, I could not leave her out. She is clever, brave, and down-to-earth. The whole novel is a rather epic adventure, and though it is written from a very masculine perspective, the women do shine in their own way.

Lonesome Dove

By Larry McMurtry,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Lonesome Dove as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a powerful, triumphant portrayal of the American West as it really was. From Texas to Montana, it follows cowboys on a grueling cattle drive through the wilderness.

It begins in the office of The Hat Creek Cattle Company of the Rio Grande.
It ends as a journey into the heart of every adventurer who ever lived . . .

More than a love story, more than an adventure, Lonesome Dove is an epic: a monumental novel which embraces the spirit of the last defiant wilderness of America.

Legend and fact, heroes and outlaws,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in multiracial people, American frontier, and Snow White?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about multiracial people, American frontier, and Snow White.

Multiracial People Explore 39 books about multiracial people
American Frontier Explore 53 books about American frontier
Snow White Explore 12 books about Snow White

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like News of the World, True Grit, and A Troublesome Berth if you like this list.