100 books like Against the Wall

By Jenn Budd,

Here are 100 books that Against the Wall fans have personally recommended if you like Against the Wall. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security

Michael Blake Author Of Justice, Migration, and Mercy

From my list on understanding what’s happening at the border.

Who am I?

I’m a political philosopher who lives in Seattle. I teach and write about political ethics, and the ways in which moral concepts change when they get applied to the relationships between states—and to the complicated borders that define where states end. I tend to write about what puzzles me, and many of these puzzles come from my personal life; I’m a migrant myself, and the experience of migrating to the United States led me to write about what sorts of values a country can rightly pursue through migration policyand what sorts of things, more generally, it can and can’t do to migrants themselves.  

Michael's book list on understanding what’s happening at the border

Michael Blake Why did Michael love this book?

The insistence that migration is a ‘crisis’ has led to a greater willingness to take enforcement as more urgent than human rights. Todd Miller’s book is a moral argument about the costs of that bargain. He argues that the powers given to those who enforce borders have led to abusive and violent practices at the border—and, increasingly, within the United States itself. The book is sobering, but important—and it should worry all of us, citizen and migrant alike.

By Todd Miller,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Border Patrol Nation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"In his scathing and deeply reported examination of the U.S. Border Patrol, Todd Miller argues that the agency has gone rogue since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, trampling on the dignity and rights of the undocumented with military-style tactics...Miller's book arrives at a moment when it appears that part of the Homeland Security apparatus is backpedaling by promising to tone down its tactics, maybe prodded by investigative journalism, maybe by the revelations of NSA leaker Edward Snowden...Border Patrol is quite possibly the right book at the right time ..."--Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times "At the start of his unsettling and…


Book cover of Migra! A History of the U.S. Border

Reece Jones Author Of Nobody Is Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States

From my list on US Border Patrol.

Who am I?

I first came face to face with the expansive and unchecked authority of the Border Patrol about a decade ago when I was stopped five times in less than an hour while driving on a Texas country road. Could the Border Patrol really stop any vehicle they want without any reason whatsoever deep inside the United States? That day set me off on a journey through the borderlands and into the history of the Supreme Court in order to tell the untold story of how the Border Patrol became the most dangerous police force in the United States.  

Reece's book list on US Border Patrol

Reece Jones Why did Reece love this book?

This one takes us back to the founding of the Border Patrol to look at its Wild West origins. The first agents were plucked from frontier law enforcement and the Texas Rangers, whose earlier tasks included slave patrols and the violent removal of Native Americans. Lytle Hernandez shows how those racist and violent origins shaped the practices of the early Border Patrol. 

By Kelly Lytle Hernandez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Migra! A History of the U.S. Border as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the untold history of the United States Border Patrol from its beginnings in 1924 as a small peripheral outfit to its emergence as a large professional police force. To tell this story, Kelly Lytle Hernandez dug through a gold mine of lost and unseen records stored in garages, closets, an abandoned factory, and in U.S. and Mexican archives. Focusing on the daily challenges of policing the borderlands and bringing to light unexpected partners and forgotten dynamics, "Migra!" reveals how the U.S. Border Patrol translated the mandate for comprehensive migration control into a project of policing Mexicans in the…


Book cover of The Devil's Highway: A True Story

Louis Mendoza Author Of (Re)constructing Memory, Place, and Identity in Twentieth Century Houston: A Memoir on Family and Being Mexican American in Space City USA

From my list on Mexican migration to the United States.

Who am I?

As a second-generation immigrant, I knew very little of my family’s migration story. My grandparents never really learned English despite living in the US sixty or more years. In my twenties when the country was undergoing turmoil about immigration reform once again, I began looking at the immigrants all around me (and in literature) and identifying what we had in common—how our lives intertwined and were mutually dependent on one another. In 2007 I traveled 8,500 miles around the perimeter of the US by bicycle on a research trip to collect stories from immigrants and those whose lives they impacted. I wrote two books based on that experience.

Louis' book list on Mexican migration to the United States

Louis Mendoza Why did Louis love this book?

The Devil’s Highway is the 2001 story of the tragedy that befell 26 men and boys from Veracruz who cross the Mexico/Arizona border led by human smugglers who get lost on a stretch of desert known as the Devil's Highway.

Urrea is known for his direct and clear reportage style of writing. As he depicts what happened to these men seeking a chance at the American Dream, Urrea does not lose sight of the broken system of immigration, the border patrol, the smugglers or the criminal enterprise of which they are part.

The actual walk and the deadly mistakes made by their “guide” are not shared until Part Three of the book. Through the recollections of walkers and creative non-fiction he recreates dialogue that captures the motives and dreams of these ill-fated men.

By Luis Alberto Urrea,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Devil's Highway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A widely-praised piece of investigative reporting examining the journey of 26 men who in May 2001 attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of Southern Arizona through the region known as the Devil's Highway. So harsh and desolate that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through it, the Highway has claimed the lives of countless men and women - in May 2001 it claimed 14 more. History of high acclaim from the author of The Hummingbird's Daughter.


Book cover of The Ins on the Line: Making Immigration Law on the Us-Mexico Border, 1917-1954

Reece Jones Author Of Nobody Is Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States

From my list on US Border Patrol.

Who am I?

I first came face to face with the expansive and unchecked authority of the Border Patrol about a decade ago when I was stopped five times in less than an hour while driving on a Texas country road. Could the Border Patrol really stop any vehicle they want without any reason whatsoever deep inside the United States? That day set me off on a journey through the borderlands and into the history of the Supreme Court in order to tell the untold story of how the Border Patrol became the most dangerous police force in the United States.  

Reece's book list on US Border Patrol

Reece Jones Why did Reece love this book?

While writing my own book, this is the book that I had to keep going back to for all the historical detail on the early Border Patrol. It’s an academic book, but it does a great job of explaining the story of the early Border Patrol from the perspective of the people in the borderlands. 

By S. Deborah Kang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ins on the Line as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For much of the twentieth century, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials recognized that the US-Mexico border region was different. Here, they confronted a set of political, social, and environmental obstacles that prevented them from replicating their achievements on Angel Island and Ellis Island, the most restrictive immigration stations in the nation. In response to these challenges, local INS officials resorted to the law, nullifying,
modifying, and creating the nation's immigration laws and policies for the borderlands.

In The INS on the Line, S. Deborah Kang traces the ways in which the INS on the US-Mexico border made and remade…


Book cover of My Boy Will Die of Sorrow: A Memoir of Immigration from the Front Lines

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Author Of Migrating to Prison: America's Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants

From my list on turning immigration policies into human stories.

Who am I?

As an immigration legal scholar and lawyer, I read about immigration a lot. From laws that seem written to confuse to articles in academic journals written for an audience of experts, I’m lucky to love what I do—and so I enjoy most of what I read. But these books are special. They drew me in and wouldn’t let go until the last page. Whether fiction or non-fiction, they are written by storytellers who bring laws and policies to life.

César's book list on turning immigration policies into human stories

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Why did César love this book?

On the ground in courtrooms and jail cells when the Trump administration began separating migrant families, Efrén Olivares’s memoir is more than just the story of a lawyer fighting for his clients.

Olivares is also a migrant who knows what it’s like to have his family split apart by immigration laws. Read it for the play-by-play account of family separation in 2018 but enjoy it because in Olivares the future of migration breathes, walks, and fights back.

By Efrén C. Olivares,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Boy Will Die of Sorrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INTERNATIONAL LATINO BOOK AWARD WINNER - The Raul Yzaguirre Best Political/Current Affairs Book

This deeply personal perspective from a human rights lawyer—whose work on the front lines of the fight against family separations in South Texas intertwines with his own story of immigrating to the United States at thirteen—reframes the United States' history as a nation of immigrants but also a nation against immigrants.

In the summer of 2018, Efrén C. Olivares found himself representing hundreds of immigrant families when Zero Tolerance separated thousands of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Twenty-five years earlier, he had been separated…


Book cover of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Author Of Migrating to Prison: America's Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants

From my list on turning immigration policies into human stories.

Who am I?

As an immigration legal scholar and lawyer, I read about immigration a lot. From laws that seem written to confuse to articles in academic journals written for an audience of experts, I’m lucky to love what I do—and so I enjoy most of what I read. But these books are special. They drew me in and wouldn’t let go until the last page. Whether fiction or non-fiction, they are written by storytellers who bring laws and policies to life.

César's book list on turning immigration policies into human stories

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Why did César love this book?

Much of “the line,” as Border Patrol agents and migrants sometimes call the border, is far from big cities and curious journalists. And a lot of what happens there, happens under cover of darkness or behind the secured doors of Border Patrol stations.

As a former Border Patrol agent, Cantú saw what happened when no one else was looking. His memoir shares it with the rest of us.

By Francisco Cantú,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Line Becomes a River as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2019, an electrifying memoir from a Mexican-American US Border Patrol guard

'Stunningly good... The best thing I've read for ages'
James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd's Life

Francisco Cantu was a US Border Patrol agent from 2008 to 2012.

In this extraordinary account, he describes his work in the desert along the Mexican border. He tracks humans through blistering days and frigid nights. He detains the exhausted and hauls in the dead. The line he is sworn to defend, however, begins to dissolve. Haunted by nightmares, Cantu abandons the Patrol for civilian…


Book cover of All the Pretty Horses

Mark Warren Author Of Indigo Heaven

From my list on Westerns that don’t thrive off of gunfights.

Who am I?

Because I grew up in the 1950s and ’60s, my supply of heroes was liberally doled out by the 130+ Western series that dominated nighttime television in those decades. My parents allowed me one program per week. It was a Western. I was soon interested in history, to know what really did happen in the American West, and so I came to understand the great discrepancies between fact and TV. The truth, for me, is so much more interesting than the myth. As a Western historian, I've done my share of historical research, but I still gravitate toward fiction as a writer. I love the freedom to engage my characters’ thoughts and emotions.

Mark's book list on Westerns that don’t thrive off of gunfights

Mark Warren Why did Mark love this book?

The dialogue and immersion into Southwestern culture is so immediate and authentic, one might as well have signed up for a secret journey into the heart of the borderlands.

Every paragraph reads like a masterpiece of literature, and taken together they comprise the kind of story that the reader wants never to end. McCarthy has the rare ability to entertain and edify at the same time. 

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

John Grady Cole is the last bewildered survivor of long generations of Texas ranchers. Finding himself cut off from the only life he has ever wanted, he sets out for Mexico with his friend Lacey Rawlins. Befriending a third boy on the way, they find a country beyond their imagining: barren and beautiful, rugged yet cruelly civilized; a place where dreams are paid for in blood.

The first volume in McCarthy's legendary Border Trilogy, All The Pretty Horses is an acknowledged masterpiece and a grand love story: a novel about the passing of childhood, of innocence and a vanished American…


Book cover of Luz

Judith Teitelman Author Of Guesthouse for Ganesha

From my list on exploring the search for sanctuary.

Who am I?

I have always been a seeker, fascinated by all cultures, philosophies, and spiritual perspectives. Although the concept is often different—for some, it’s a place of refuge, feeling safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble; for others, it’s a state of being, an inner peace, I’ve found that the search for sanctuary—safe-haven—elsewhere—has ancient roots and contemporary reverberations. My novel, Guesthouse for Ganesha, further heightened my interest in this subject, for my protagonist, Esther Grünspan, both deeply wounded and unsafe, was compelled to seek sanctuary. As a first-time novelist with an 18-year journey to publication, I fully immersed myself in this topic’s study and comprehension.

Judith's book list on exploring the search for sanctuary

Judith Teitelman Why did Judith love this book?

In Debra Thomas’s compassionately rendered Luz, her protagonist’s (Alma) border crossing from Mexico into the United States is relayed in painful, harrowing, and often shocking detail. It is a powerful and, at times, difficult read. Yet an important one. I often forgot that this is a work of fiction, as the story Thomas so deftly portrays is all too common and all too real, especially for a resident of Southern California, which I am. However, it is one filled with hope and determination and the unwavering spirit of a young, passionate girl in search of answers.

By Debra Thomas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Alma Cruz wishes her willful teenage daughter, Luz, could know the truth about her past, but there are things Luz can never know about the journey Alma took to the US to find her missing father. In 2000-three years after the disappearance of her father, who left Oaxaca to work on farms in California-Alma sets out on a perilous trek north with her sister, Rosa. What happens once she reaches the US is a journey from despair to hope. Timeless in its depiction of the depths of family devotion and the blaze of first love, Luz conveys, with compassion and…


Book cover of Valleyesque: Stories

Scott Semegran Author Of To Squeeze a Prairie Dog: An American Novel

From my list on surreal, bizarro, funny fiction fix.

Who am I?

I'm a writer of humorous fiction living in Austin, Texas. I enjoy writing novels about unusual friendships and the healing power that comes when people just shut up and listen to each other. Many of my stories have the odd-couple dynamic on full display and I love to explore what would happen if people with very different backgrounds and opinions are forced to deal with each other. I do have a couple of novels that wouldn’t seem to be humorous on the surface, but there is an element of humor or comedy that runs through all of my work. My next novel, The Codger and the Sparrow, will be published by TCU Press in 2024.

Scott's book list on surreal, bizarro, funny fiction fix

Scott Semegran Why did Scott love this book?

These stories are all surreal, trippy, and many are quite funny. Sort of a mashup of Márquez, Burroughs, and Bukowski, trying to pin down Flores’ actual style is difficult as it is wholly unique: the ultimate compliment for a writer. One story is about a couple who make a sculpture of a baby using their ear wax while the male partner is a writer who also is paid to be a life coach to other writers of lesser talent. Another story is about two men who are neighbors, one of which owns an extraterrestrial shape-shifting cloth, the other is a philosophizing writer prone to drink too much. This collection of short stories is top-notch as well as bizarre and humorous.

By Fernando A. Flores,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

No one captures the border-its history and imagination, its danger, contradiction, and redemption-like Fernando A. Flores, whose stories reimagine and reinterpret the region's existence with peerless style. In his immersive, uncanny borderland, things are never what they seem: a world where the sun is both rising and setting, and where conniving possums efficiently take over an entire town and rewrite its history.

The stories in Valleyesque dance between the fantastical and the hyperreal with dexterous, often hilarious flair. A dying Frederic Chopin stumbles through Ciudad Juarez in the aftermath of his mother's death, attempting to recover his beloved piano that…


Book cover of Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

Baron Birtcher Author Of South California Purples

From my list on discovering a great new thriller series.

Who am I?

I’ve been a traditionally published author of thrillers and mysteries for nearly 20 years. I grew up in rural southern California (yes, it was rural then) surrounded by open spaces, riding horseback through the rolling cattle pastures of San Juan Capistrano. My recollections of those experiences, and the culture shift that inevitably arises out of every generation is a deep and fascinating well from which to draw stories and the characters who flesh them out. My thrillers have won a number of literary awards, and have been bestsellers—for which I am profoundly grateful. I hope you’ll join to relive the ethos, the passion, and the challenges faced when the Old West meets the New.

Baron's book list on discovering a great new thriller series

Baron Birtcher Why did Baron love this book?

While more manageable in size, this novel hits on every cylinder.

Spectacular insights into the Old West and the New are told with language that somehow manages to be both elegant and gritty at the same time. 

Sometimes the scene descriptions are rendered sparely, other times with a nearly poetic hand, but at all times create a durable and memorable backdrop for the drama.

If you are a writer, this is a book you’ll want to read more than once or twice, just as you will likely find yourself re-reading entire paragraphs just to experience the language for a second time.

This book was a significant catalyst in my career, and proved foundational in my pursuing the crafting of a new contemporary western thriller series of my own. 

There is a reason Cormac McCarthy is considered a modern treasure, and this book is one of his most (in my opinion)…

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Blood Meridian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West. Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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