The best westerns to read if you don’t read westerns

Who am I?

My grandfather introduced me to Westerns at a young age—he always had a Louis L’Amour or a Zane Grey in hand. I also grew up watching Westerns with my father, especially the classics with John Wayne, or Lee Marvin, James Garner, or Clint Eastwood. There’s just something about stories dealing with good vs. evil that pulls me into the genre. Besides, we all could use a hero/heroine these days. All of my books are heavy on action adventure, mainly because I enjoy keeping myself and the reader entertained. As Elmore Leonard wrote in his 10 rules for writing, “Skip the boring parts.” I hope you enjoy exploring these great books!


I wrote...

Retribution: A Claire Whitcomb Western

By D.V. Berkom,

Book cover of Retribution: A Claire Whitcomb Western

What is my book about?

Retribution: They took everything. Now she wants revenge. Claire Whitcomb's gunning for the men who destroyed her life—and won't settle for anything less than retribution. Gunslinger: On her way to start a new life in tough-as-nails Tombstone, Claire meets Isabella, an actress and a railroad magnate’s mistress. When Isabella’s security man is killed, Claire’s hired to take his place and finds that Isabella is a target—making Claire one too… Legend: In the aftermath of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Claire accepts a job transporting a convicted murderer to prison. The only catch? She and Harry, a hotheaded bounty hunter, need to bring him in alive. Will the convict’s gang kill Claire and Harry to rescue their leader, or can the two gunfighters bring the outlaw to justice?

The books I picked & why

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True Grit

By Charles Portis,

Book cover of True Grit

Why this book?

This is one of those classic books you remember for a long time after reading. Great characters and a great story. I especially enjoyed Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn’s interactions, and appreciated the young female protagonist.  Mattie is one of the bravest kids I’ve ever run across in literature. 

True Grit

By Charles Portis,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked True Grit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There is no knowing what lies in a man's heart. On a trip to buy ponies, Frank Ross is killed by one of his own workers. Tom Chaney shoots him down in the street for a horse, $150 cash, and two Californian gold pieces. Ross's unusually mature and single-minded fourteen-year-old daughter Mattie travels to claim his body, and finds that the authorities are doing nothing to find Chaney. Then she hears of Rooster - a man, she's told, who has grit - and convinces him to join her in a quest into dark, dangerous Indian territory to hunt Chaney down…

News of the World

By Paulette Jiles,

Book cover of News of the World

Why this book?

After all the hubbub surrounding the movie with Tom Hanks, I was curious to read the source material. The book doesn’t disappoint, and, I thought, was better than the film (although the film was good, too.) Yet again, a female protagonist (hmmm… I sense a theme here ☺) the wild, former Kiowa captive Johanna, and her mentor, Captain Kidd, the traveling news reader. My heart was in my throat as I traveled with the two of them through 1870 Texas, and cheered for them both as they fulfilled their character arcs.

News of the World

By Paulette Jiles,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked News of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust. In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his…

Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories

By Elmore Leonard,

Book cover of Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories

Why this book?

I love me some Elmore Leonard, and 3:10 to Yuma was no exception. Although a short story, it’s a classic Western in the sense that it’s good vs. evil, and of course, there’s a shootout. A deputy marshal escorts a train robber/fugitive (another Kidd, this time Jimmy) who is headed to Tucson to be tried for his crimes. I love the dialogue and the fact that it takes place in a small town named “Contention.” Leonard was indeed a master storyteller.

Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories

By Elmore Leonard,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Lonesome Dove

By Larry McMurtry,

Book cover of Lonesome Dove

Why this book?

What can you say about this fabulous story that hasn’t been said? You can’t beat cattle drives, Texas Rangers, strong women, and a wagon-load of action and adventure. I only wish I could read it for the first time again! The miniseries was great, and introduced so many of us to Larry McMurtry’s enduring story, but the book has nuances and scenes that can’t be duplicated on screen. A must-read!

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,…


Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

By Dee Brown,

Book cover of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

Why this book?

Although it’s non-fiction, if you want to get a sense of what the Native American population endured during the settlement of the Old West, this is the book to read. Heartbreaking, yes, but this shameful era in America’s history deserves to be told. Brown does so with finesse, focusing on specific tribes including the Navajo Nation, the Sioux, the Utes, the Apache, and the Kiowas, among others. Definitely a must-read if you’re interested in the history of the Old West.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

By Dee Brown,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The American West, 1860-1890: years of broken promises, disillusionment, war and massacre.

Beginning with the Long Walk of the Navajos and ending with the massacre of Sioux at Wounded Knee, this extraordinary book tells how the American Indians lost their land, lives and liberty to white settlers pushing westward. Woven into a an engrossing saga of cruelty, treachery and violence are the fascinating stories of such legendary figures as Sitting Bull, Cochise, Crazy Horse and Geronimo.

First published in 1970, Dee Brown's brutal and compelling narrative changed the way people thought about the original inhabitants of America, and focused attention…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in American frontier, the American West, and revenge?

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

American Frontier Explore 53 books about American frontier
The American West Explore 99 books about the American West
Revenge Explore 63 books about revenge

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Cold Mountain, and The Invention of Wings if you like this list.