True Grit

By Charles Portis,

Book cover of True Grit

Book description

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…

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Why read it?

12 authors picked True Grit as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I discovered True Grit in my twenties, three years after my father’s death. I’d been living on my own for a year and was recovering from depression. Life was forcing me to learn resourcefulness, and this book came to me at the right time. I remember reading it with delight, wishing I’d known about it before. Mattie Ross’ pragmatic voice as she describes her father’s murder and her quest to avenge his blood resonated with me, not because we are alike, but because I needed a lesson in toughness. But beyond all this, I needed a good laugh, and True…

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. 

I watched the 2010 remake of this movie starring Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld and just had to read the book. Farmgirl Mattie Ross teams up with a hired gun, seeking someone with “true grit” to help her avenge her father’s murder. At turns comedic and somber, Mattie was everything I wanted my main character to be—gutsy, stubborn, and pragmatic, but also vulnerable and prone to be led astray by her own naivete.

After my first book came out, I was interviewed by a local reporter. When he asked what influenced me to write western fiction, I told him I really didn’t know. Why had I been compelled to write a story told by an old man about his younger days spent chasing those who murdered his brother? Then, I remembered, at eleven years old, I had read True Grit. A tale of revenge; a teen-aged girl, strong-willed, saddled up with an old, one-eyed codger of a US marshal hellbent on finding her father’s killer, as told through the voice of an…

From Mark's list on influential western literature.

Buddies in the Old West are not a male-only club. Nor do they need to be age similar. True Grit proves both of these points. Rooster Cogburn is an aging U.S. Marshal hired by Mattie Ross, a fourteen-year-old girl. Mattie insists Rooster finds her father’s murderers. Two more different characters are hard to imagine, but the trail melds the two into a Yin and Yang dual that can accomplish the impossible.

Who can’t love the main character Mattie Ross? Young Mattie has one of the best voices in fiction. She’s just fourteen when a coward shoots her dad dead and takes his horse and $150. Mattie’s not going to let that go unpunished. She leaves home to take revenge, teams up with tough US Marshal Rooster Cogburn, and pursues the killer into Indian Territory. Mattie should be way in over her head and is. But Mattie’s always the boss. Charles Portis tells the headstrong Mattie’s quest in an engaging first-person style and fills the story with great historical details. 

From Steve's list on underdogs on a doomed mission.

Though it was published back in 1952, True Grit features one of my all-time favorite fierce heroines, Mattie Ross. Though she’s only fourteen, Mattie sets off on a journey through the old west to avenge the death of her father. She’s smart, no-nonsense, incredibly courageous, and truly the embodiment of grit. Bonus tip: the audiobook is extraordinary, narrated by bestselling author Donna Tartt, and no exaggeration, I listened to it twice in a row.

From Veronica's list on fierce young women.

For all of those lovers of old Westerns, I recommend True Grit. Mattie Ross, a fourteen-year-old girl from Dardanelle, Arkansas, sets out to avenge her Daddy who was shot to death. Mattie convinces one-eyed Rooster Cogburn, the meanest U.S. marshal in the land, to ride along with her. 

If this sounds familiar, there have been two movies based on this book. My grandfather and I always debate which version is better. Rooster Cogburn is played by John Wayne in the original and Jeff Bridges in the remake. Nothing against the Duke, but Jeff Bridges is my favorite. Either way,…

From Michelle's list on western historical fiction.

I did a Facebook post asking people for the best book starring a female main character by a male author. The number one response was True Grit. It’s a Western set in the 1860s about 14-year-old Mattie Ross, who seeks justice for the murder of her father by an outlaw. She’s incredibly capable and steely-willed, like Hermione. The world she inhabits is a bleaker one than the Wizarding World and the book isn’t marketed as a middle grade book. However, the character of Mattie carries the reader through the harsh world she inhabits. Mattie’s not a friendly person but…

I chose all the books on this list because they helped me create a voice for Cathy alive with the intelligence, strength, humor, and resilience that allowed her both to make her heroic decision and to survive the harshest duty the Army could dish out. That voice also had to feel 19th Century and be far more Western than Southern.

There was no better place to start than, True Grit by the writer’s writer, Charles Portis. Renowned as an exemplar of voice, True Grit gives us two indelible characters, fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross, who is hunting the hired hand who murdered…

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