10 books like All the King's Men

By Robert Penn Warren,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like All the King's Men. Shepherd is a community of 6,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Refuge

By Terry Tempest Williams,

Book cover of Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

Finishing out the nonfiction—though I leave thousands undiscussed here—is Terry Tempest Williams’ seminal Refuge: An Unnatural History of Place. Bold and original in its direct comparisons between the personal and the ecological, the memoir chronicles the deterioration of Williams’ beloved mother, Diane Tempest, to ovarian cancer at the same time their shared landscape, the Bear River marshes of the Great Salt Lake where three generations of the Tempest had gloried in birding expeditions, were succumbing to record flooding. The memoir also details the exposure of Williams and her mother—her entire family—to radioactive fallout from the U.S. government’s atomic testing in the 1950s. Passionate, eloquent, fiery, informative, and wise, it’s a must-read.

Refuge

By Terry Tempest Williams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the spring of 1983 Terry Tempest Williams learned that her mother was dying of cancer. That same season, The Great Salt Lake began to rise to record heights, threatening the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and the herons, owls, and snowy egrets that Williams, a poet and naturalist, had come to gauge her life by. One event was nature at its most random, the other a by-product of rogue technology: Terry's mother, and Terry herself, had been exposed to the fallout of atomic bomb tests in the 1950s. As it interweaves these narratives of dying and accommodation, Refuge transforms…

Grizzly Years

By Doug Peacock,

Book cover of Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness

Doug Peacock’s Grizzly Years is revolutionary on two counts. The tale of a Green Beret medic devastated from his tours trying to sew soldiers and civilians back together in the killing fields of Vietnam, who seeks—and finds—recovery in the American wilderness: Wyoming’s Wind Rivers, the desert Southwest, and, always, the mountains of Montana—particularly Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. That wilderness can save our lives is a beautifully simple and revolutionary concept for many—that it is not a thing to be frightened of, but celebrated, preserved, defended.

In Montana’s backcountry, Peacock was drawn to the grizzlies, observed them at a distance, respectfully, and began filming them. His portraits of them playing show them to be what they are, but what not many had thought—incredibly social, certainly incredibly intelligent, but most of all, incredibly playful sentient beings. What’s revolutionary about this is also so simple: observation, and keen attention to detail, is…

Grizzly Years

By Doug Peacock,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For nearly twenty years, alone and unarmed, author Doug Peacock traversed the rugged mountains of Montana and Wyoming tracking the magnificent grizzly. His thrilling narrative takes us into the bear's habitat, where we observe directly this majestic animal's behavior, from hunting strategies, mating patterns, and denning habits to social hierarchy and methods of communication. As Peacock tracks the bears, his story turns into a thrilling narrative about the breaking down of suspicion between man and beast in the wild.


One of Us

By Barrie Gilbert,

Book cover of One of Us: A Biologist's Walk Among Bears

Dr. Barrie Gilbert’s memoir, One of Us: A Biologist’s Walk Among Bears, is nothing if not a magnificent portrait and case study of humility. A half-century of incisive study and research into the baits, and needs and, perhaps most importantly, social complexity and intense attachments and intelligence of grizzly bears should be the lede here—not a single incident from Gilbert’s youth, when he surprised a mother grizzly with cubs while coming over a ridge into the wind. But so goes storytelling. Imbued with the compassion and generosity of the forgiven, Gilbert’s acute and intimate knowledge of the animal Indigenous cultures referred to as “the Real Bear” is unprecedented and unequaled in the tattered and impoverished remains of contemporary society in which so many have lost—are bereft of—any attachment to the wilderness from which we were birthed.

One of Us

By Barrie Gilbert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Barrie Gilbert's fascination with grizzly bears almost got him killed in Yellowstone National Park. He recovered, returned to fieldwork and devoted the next several decades to understanding and protecting these often-maligned giants. He has spent thousands of hours among wild grizzlies in Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks, Alberta, coastal British Columbia, and along Brooks River in Alaska's Katmai National Park, where hundreds of people gather to watch dozens of grizzlies feast on salmon. His research has centered on how bears respond to people and each other, with a focus on how to keep humans and bears safe.

Drawn from his…

Joe

By Larry Brown,

Book cover of Joe

Fiction as literature of the resistance? Larry Brown’s Joe is a top candidate for what I’d call The Great American Novel. There are many entries, of course: as many stories as there are communities, past, present, and even future. 

What I love about Joe is the simplicity of metaphor. A backwoods ne’er-do-well, Joe Ransom makes his living killing—literally—the great wild biodiversity hardwood powerhouse forests of the Mississippi bottomlands by injecting them with poison so that they die, and the rich forest can be converted to the homogenous, fast-growing, essentially sterile monoculture of southern yellow pine. His way of life—wild, reckless, dangerous—is disappearing as well, and as he kills the thing he loves most, he drinks himself ever-deeper into harm’s way and seeks a violence commensurate with the one he is inflicting upon the forest. Worse yet, he begins to train a young acolyte, an orphan disciple, Gary Jones. The sentences…

Joe

By Larry Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Brilliant . . . Larry Brown has slapped his own fresh tattoo on the big right arm of Southern Lit.” ―The Washington Post Book World

Now a major motion picture starring Nicolas Cage, directed by David Gordon Green.

Joe Ransom is a hard-drinking ex-con pushing fifty who just won’t slow down--not in his pickup, not with a gun, and certainly not with women. Gary Jones estimates his own age to be about fifteen. Born luckless, he is the son of a hopeless, homeless wandering family, and he’s desperate for a way out. When their paths cross, Joe offers him a…


Plunkitt of Tammany Hall

By William L. Riordan,

Book cover of Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics

Plunkitt infected me with “the political bug.” George Washington Plunkitt’s “very plain talks on very practical politics” showed me the joys of playing the political game, of devising and executing strategies and tactics, of outwitting opponents. I first read Riordon’s classic for grade school and loved its gritty romp through turn-of-the-century New York. I reread the book for a college history course and came to appreciate politics as the art of the possible – and to see the innate conflict between ambition and conscience. After seven years in journalism, I “crossed to the dark side” and became a political operative, partly because Plunkitt had shown me that playing politics can be far more rewarding – and fun – than watching it.

Plunkitt of Tammany Hall

By William L. Riordan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Plunkitt of Tammany Hall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A political machine member describes its operations

Blood Meridian

By Cormac McCarthy,

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

If you’ve never read this book, fair warning, you’ll want to throw it across the room in the first five pages. It notoriously eschews all punctuation and most established narrative rules in its telling of a nameless Kid falling in with a vicious band of Indian scalp hunters (by that I mean they hunt Native Americans for a bounty laid on their scalps by the Mexican government). I laid it aside for months before I returned to it. Somewhere around page thirty or so though, I believe the book truly hypnotizes you. Reading it becomes a mystical experience, and you are steadily immersed in an apocalyptic revelation of surreal, otherworldly horror, wherein characters become dream archetypes and every scene vividly paints itself on the mind in strokes of blood.

Its supernatural aspect is undeniable in the timeless character of The Judge, a towering, philosophical albino who metes out life and…

Blood Meridian

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

8 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.

To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee,

Book cover of To Kill a Mockingbird

Once again, I read this book as my children studied it in school. I especially liked the story since I belong to a visible minority community and this story posed the fundamental question: how do I get along with people who are different from me?

The book was published in America in 1960 but the story is set in the mid-1930s in the small town of Maycomb in the state of Alabama. The story is told by Scout Finch, a six-year-old girl who lives with her lawyer father, Atticus, and her ten-year-old brother Jem. Their father, Atticus, defends a Black man falsely accused of rape. Scout and Jem view the residents of their town with compassion and understanding, rather than bitterness and anger. They empathise with Tom Robinson, the accused black man, and the recluse Boo Bradley.

I especially liked how the author used mockingbirds to symbolize innocence. In the…

To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked To Kill a Mockingbird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'

Atticus Finch gives this advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of this classic novel - a black man charged with attacking a white girl. Through the eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Lee explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with compassion and humour. She also creates one of the great heroes of literature in their father, whose lone struggle for justice pricks the conscience of a town steeped…


Pop. 1280

By Jim Thompson,

Book cover of Pop. 1280

I was introduced to this book through Tavernier’s brilliant adaptation, Clean Slate (Coup de Torchon, 1981). Set in Texas, Thompson’s novel was published in 1964, during the Civil Rights Movement, and it offers a portrait of petty-minded racism in the continuing aftermath of slavery. Tavernier’s adaptation transposes the story to 1930s French colonial West Africa. I remain haunted by the ways the two settings illuminate each other. Tavernier’s blending of a deadly serious historical crisis with touches of comedy—slapstick even—brings both eras and the novel itself to life in enjoyable and instructive ways.

Pop. 1280

By Jim Thompson,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Pop. 1280 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A classic crime novel from 'the best suspense writer going, bar none' New York Times

Nick Corey likes being the high sheriff of Potts County. But Nick has a few problems that he needs to deal with: like his loveless marriage, the pimps who torment him, the honest man who is running against him in the upcoming elections and the women who adore him.

And it turns out that Nick isn't anything like as amiable, easy-going or as slow as he seems. He's as sly, brutal and corrupt as they come.


Look Homeward, Angel

By Thomas Wolfe,

Book cover of Look Homeward, Angel

Another Southern cultural landmark, this North Carolina tour de force comes, like Faulkner, out of a tradition steeped in Shakespeare and the King James Version of the Bible. Some people think you can appreciate this one only when you’re young. Not true. I read it for the second time in my 40s and got caught up again in the Gant family saga and those wonderful, rolling sentences, exploding like thunder all around.

Look Homeward, Angel

By Thomas Wolfe,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Look Homeward, Angel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The spectacular, history-making first novel about a young man’s coming of age by literary legend Thomas Wolfe, first published in 1929 and long considered a classic of twentieth century literature.

A legendary author on par with William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Wolfe published Look Homeward, Angel, his first novel, about a young man’s burning desire to leave his small town and tumultuous family in search of a better life, in 1929. It gave the world proof of his genius and launched a powerful legacy.

The novel follows the trajectory of Eugene Gant, a brilliant and restless young man whose…

The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton

By Jane Smiley,

Book cover of The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton

This is a historical saga, but it becomes a crime novel because of what its highly articulate 20-year-old heroine Lidie must deal with in 1850s bleeding Kansas, when she goes on the hunt for her abolitionist husband’s murderer. Back country America can sometimes be a place most torn apart by historical change, with the quarter-century ravaging of Missouri and Kansas over the conflict of slavery. I especially love Smiley’s realism of place—the intimate, vivid detail of pre-Civil War river travel, St. Louis, Kansas City, and finally Bleeding Kansas. She never avoids contradiction. By allowing the paradoxes of history and place, as well as character, she can sometimes be shocking. No one is either purely good or bad, not the Free Staters, not the Border Ruffians. It is a fantastically real story set at a key historical moment in the heart of the country. 

The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton

By Jane Smiley,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lidie joins the pioneering Westward migration into America's heartland. It is harsher, more violent and more disorientating then Lidie could ever have imagined. They find themselves on a faultline - forces crash against each other, soon to erupt into the he American Civil War.

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