100 books like Empire Express

By David Haward Bain,

Here are 100 books that Empire Express fans have personally recommended if you like Empire Express. 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 Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water

Laurie Marr Wasmund Author Of My Heart Lies Here

From my list on why the American West always will be the "Wild West”.

Why am I passionate about this?

Raised in the American West, I have watched the explosive growth in Colorado with dismay. In my lifetime, metro Denver has grown from a population of about 500,000 people to more than 5.5 million. The Colorado of large ranches and wide, open spaces is disappearing. I have named my publishing company “lost ranch books,” in honor of the ranch where I grew up, which was sold and developed with cookie-cutter houses. I’ve now set out to recapture historic Colorado by writing about it. My award-winning books center on Colorado’s and the American West’s history, for not only is it fascinating and, often, troubling, but it still resonates today.

Laurie's book list on why the American West always will be the "Wild West”

Laurie Marr Wasmund Why did Laurie love this book?

Water, water everywhere—but not in the American West. I first read Reisner’s book soon after its publication in 1986, when it presented a haunting, frightening future for the western United States that is being realized today. The book reveals the inadequacy of the management of water in the western states that began as soon as there was settlement, and it takes an especially hard look at the treaties surrounding the Colorado River, which has all but disappeared in the past few years, causing panic at the Hoover Dam and in Las Vegas, Arizona, and Mexico. Reisner amply demonstrates why major cities should not be built in semi-arid and arid climes—and still, the western states’ populations continue to explode. 

By Marc Reisner,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Cadillac Desert as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The definitive work on the West's water crisis." --Newsweek

The story of the American West is the story of a relentless quest for a precious resource: water. It is a tale of rivers diverted and dammed, of political corruption and intrigue, of billion-dollar battles over water rights, of ecological and economic disaster. In his landmark book, Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner writes of the earliest settlers, lured by the promise of paradise, and of the ruthless tactics employed by Los Angeles politicians and business interests to ensure the city's growth. He documents the bitter rivalry between two government giants, the Bureau…


Book cover of Buried Unsung: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre

Laurie Marr Wasmund Author Of My Heart Lies Here

From my list on why the American West always will be the "Wild West”.

Why am I passionate about this?

Raised in the American West, I have watched the explosive growth in Colorado with dismay. In my lifetime, metro Denver has grown from a population of about 500,000 people to more than 5.5 million. The Colorado of large ranches and wide, open spaces is disappearing. I have named my publishing company “lost ranch books,” in honor of the ranch where I grew up, which was sold and developed with cookie-cutter houses. I’ve now set out to recapture historic Colorado by writing about it. My award-winning books center on Colorado’s and the American West’s history, for not only is it fascinating and, often, troubling, but it still resonates today.

Laurie's book list on why the American West always will be the "Wild West”

Laurie Marr Wasmund Why did Laurie love this book?

The Ludlow Massacre in Trinidad, Colorado in 1914 is a shameful event in Colorado, U.S., and labor history. Zeese Papanikolas has created a portrait of the United Mine Workers of America’s battle for labor rights in the southern coalfields. Drawn from interviews and letters of survivors and witnesses, he captures the Greek immigrant experience in the United States. He also relates the story of the charismatic Greek organizer of the UMWA, Louis Tikas, who became a martyr in the battle for the union. Buried Unsung inspired me so much that I used it as a reference for my novel, in which I explore the bitterness of the strike and the tragedy of those whose lives were forever altered by the greed and cruelty of those in power.

By Zeese Papanikolas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Louis Tikas was a union organizer killed in the battle between striking coal miners and state militia in Ludlow, Colorado, in 1914. In Buried Unsung he stands for a whole generation of immigrant workers who, in the years before World War I, found themselves caught between the realities of industrial America and their aspirations for a better life.


Book cover of Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917

Laurie Marr Wasmund Author Of My Heart Lies Here

From my list on why the American West always will be the "Wild West”.

Why am I passionate about this?

Raised in the American West, I have watched the explosive growth in Colorado with dismay. In my lifetime, metro Denver has grown from a population of about 500,000 people to more than 5.5 million. The Colorado of large ranches and wide, open spaces is disappearing. I have named my publishing company “lost ranch books,” in honor of the ranch where I grew up, which was sold and developed with cookie-cutter houses. I’ve now set out to recapture historic Colorado by writing about it. My award-winning books center on Colorado’s and the American West’s history, for not only is it fascinating and, often, troubling, but it still resonates today.

Laurie's book list on why the American West always will be the "Wild West”

Laurie Marr Wasmund Why did Laurie love this book?

Punke’s book chronicles a story of heroism and company greed that isn’t that far in the past of America’s labor battles. It tells of a fire that spread through the underground tunnels of the copper mines belonging to J.D. Rockefeller’s Anaconda company and others. The book centers on the men trapped underground who exhaust every possible option in a dire bid to survive, including some ingenious methods and some which hasten their demise. Punke touches as well on political, labor, and business wranglings that put the workers at risk. He also follows Butte’s history to present day, demonstrating that the Montana city has never quite recovered from its past as a copper city.

By Michael Punke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, The Revenant -- basis for the award-winning motion picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio -- tells the remarkable story of the worst hard-rock mining disaster in American history.

A half-hour before midnight on June 8, 1917, a fire broke out in the North Butte Mining Company's Granite Mountain shaft. Sparked more than two thousand feet below ground, the fire spewed flames, smoke, and poisonous gas through a labyrinth of underground tunnels. Within an hour, more than four hundred men would be locked in a battle to survive. Within three days, one hundred and…


Book cover of Riding the White Horse Home: A Western Family Album

Laurie Marr Wasmund Author Of My Heart Lies Here

From my list on why the American West always will be the "Wild West”.

Why am I passionate about this?

Raised in the American West, I have watched the explosive growth in Colorado with dismay. In my lifetime, metro Denver has grown from a population of about 500,000 people to more than 5.5 million. The Colorado of large ranches and wide, open spaces is disappearing. I have named my publishing company “lost ranch books,” in honor of the ranch where I grew up, which was sold and developed with cookie-cutter houses. I’ve now set out to recapture historic Colorado by writing about it. My award-winning books center on Colorado’s and the American West’s history, for not only is it fascinating and, often, troubling, but it still resonates today.

Laurie's book list on why the American West always will be the "Wild West”

Laurie Marr Wasmund Why did Laurie love this book?

Jordan’s memoir strikes close to my heart: parents, like mine, who encourage their children to better their lives by leaving their homes, going to college, working at fulfilling jobs, and building loving families. But where does that leave the family ranch? As in my own family, Jordan’s parents sell it when there is no one to return and take over the hard, often unrewarding work. In this beautifully written, poignant work, Jordan explores her ancestors, neighbors, and her own time on the ranch, and she makes the reader feel just how deep her grief is over the loss of her heritage and, especially, the land. Be ready to cry.

By Teresa Jordan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Riding the White Horse Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The daughter and granddaughter of Wyoming ranchers, Teresa Jordan gives us a lyrical and superbly evocative book that is at once a family chronicle and a eulogy for the land her people helped shape and in time were forced to leave. Author readings.


Book cover of The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu

Julie Bozza Author Of Writ in Blood

From my list on set in the weird Wild West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love a good story that crosses genres; seeing where they mesh together, playing with where they differ, and letting the various parts spark into a whole that’s greater still. Though my writing usually takes place in the “real” everyday world, I often introduce supernatural elements. Partly because, while I’m an atheist, I still believe there are more things in the universe and on earth than we yet know. And partly because these elements, whether real or imagined on the part of the character, can act as splendid metaphors – or help to understand a state of mind. 

Julie's book list on set in the weird Wild West

Julie Bozza Why did Julie love this book?

A new Western novel that already feels classic in its ready use of all the key elements of the genre. Interestingly, the eponymous main character is Chinese, proving that our Western heroes and antiheroes are perfectly open to diversity. Intriguing fantasy elements are found in Ming’s Chinese guide, The Prophet, and in the circus performers with whom Ming travels across the harsh Western landscape. A wonderful read! 

By Tom Lin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Orphaned young, Ming Tsu, the son of Chinese immigrants, is raised by the notorious leader of a California crime syndicate, who trains him to be his deadly enforcer. But when Ming falls in love with Ada, the daughter of a powerful railroad magnate, and the two elope, he seizes the opportunity to escape to a different life. Soon after, in a violent raid, the tycoon's henchmen kidnap Ada and conscript Ming into service for the Central Pacific Railroad.
Battered, heartbroken, and yet defiant, Ming partners with a blind clairvoyant known only as the prophet. Together the two set out to…


Book cover of The Hanging Tree and Other Stories

Steve Hockensmith Author Of Holmes on the Range

From my list on Westerns that will take you to the frontier.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although I grew up with a fondness for Western movies thanks to my John Wayne-loving dad, I never seriously explored the genre until I began writing my Holmes on the Range mystery series. What I discovered when I began regularly reading books about the West took me a bit by surprise: I loved them! Since then I’ve read dozens of history books, novels, and short story collections that bring the Old West to life.

Steve's book list on Westerns that will take you to the frontier

Steve Hockensmith Why did Steve love this book?

Once upon a time, writers could make a good living selling short stories to American magazines. Those days are almost as long gone now as the Wild West. But the stories live on…provided you find the right used book store. First published in 1957, The Hanging Tree and Other Stories collects some of the best work by a prolific specialist in short fiction about the frontier: Dorothy M. Johnson. Years before Little Big Man, she was writing sympathetically and convincingly about Native Americans. Her stories could also be funny, thrilling, and surprising. It’s no wonder Hollywood turned to her for inspiration so often: The classic Westerns The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and A Man Called Horse are based on Johnson stories.

By Dorothy M. Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hanging Tree and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The title story, The Hanging Tree, is based on a true episode in Montana's gold-mining past. Three amazing characters meet: the cynical Doc Frail; the boy robber named Rune, whom Doc saves and enslaves; and Elizabeth, the young easterner who survives an Indian assault and comes under the care of Doc and Rune. In the gold-mining camp of Skull Creek Elizabeth becomes the mysterious Lucky Lady. A vigorous, psychological western, The Hanging Tree was made into a movie starring Gary Cooper. The stories in this book consolidate Dorothy M. Johnson's reputation for authenticity and artistic integrity. "Lost Sister" is based…


Book cover of Roughing It

Fedora Amis Author Of Have Your Ticket Punched by Frank James

From my list on that bring a touch of humor to the Old West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love history and I love to laugh. That’s why I brand myself as a writer of Victorian Whodunits with a touch of humor. I’ve spent decades learning about 1800s America. I began sharing that knowledge by performing in costume as real women of history. But I couldn’t be on stage all the time so I began writing the books I want to read, books that entertain while sticking to the basic facts of history and giving the flavor of an earlier time. I seek that great marriage of words that brings readers to a new understanding. As Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” 

Fedora's book list on that bring a touch of humor to the Old West

Fedora Amis Why did Fedora love this book?

Mark Twain is my writing idol. Before Roughing it, I’d never read a book written during the Civil War era which didn’t take sides and grind axes. From it, I learned detachment, that personal adventures can live side-by-side with even the most earth-shattering events. And that hilarious stories like “Bemis and the Buffalo” are the best antidote for the chaos and pain of war.

By Mark Twain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The celebrated author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn mixes fact and fiction in a rousing travelogue that serves as “a portrait of the artist as a young adventurer.”*
 
In 1861, young Mark Twain found himself adrift as a newcomer in the Wild West, working as a civil servant, silver prospector, mill worker, and finally a reporter and traveling lecturer. Roughing It is the hilarious record of those early years traveling from Nevada to California to Hawaii, as Twain tried his luck at anything and everything—and usually failed. Twain’s encounters with tarantulas and donkeys, vigilantes…


Book cover of The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard

Thomas Leo Ogren Author Of Cowboys Don't Shoot Magpies

From my list on that are packed with action.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am best known for my books on allergies and horticulture. But my first love was always writing fiction, and the first two books I ever sold, were both novels. I know a lot about exciting historical novels because I’ve read so many of them. I read; I don’t watch TV. I love history, and historical fiction that has good, strong characters that I can give a hoot about. And I love books that are full of action, where something exciting is always happening or just about to. A plug: I believe I’ve now written some books myself that fit that bill.

Thomas' book list on that are packed with action

Thomas Leo Ogren Why did Thomas love this book?

Elmore Leonard wrote a ton of books, and almost all of them were darn good. He’s most famous for his more modern books, Get Shorty, etc. His stories are raw, edgy, and exciting. Toward the very end of his career, he did crank out some novels that were, I thought, junk. But for the most part, his writing is terrific, easy to read, page-turning books. What many don’t know is that when he was young, he was writing Westerns. And wow, what fabulous Westerns, too! If you’re lucky enough to get a copy of this collection, you’ll both love it, and feel kind of bad when you get to the end. One of the very best Western writers of them all.

By Elmore Leonard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A bull's-eye of a short fiction collection that spans the master's career.

In 1950, fresh out of college and keen to make his name as a writer, Elmore Leonard decided he needed to pick a market, a big one, which would give him a better chance to be published while he learned to write. In choosing between crime and Westerns, the latter had an irresistible pull - Leonard loved movies set in the West. As he researched deeper into settings, Arizona in the 1880s captured his imagination: the Spanish influence, the stand-offs and shoot-outs between Apache Indians and the US…


Book cover of Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend

Mark Warren Author Of The Long Road to Legend: Wyatt Earp, an American Odyssey Book One

From my list on Wyatt Earp by the top researchers in the field.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a teacher of primitive survival skills. As a young boy, I was fascinated with the concept of courage. At seven, I read the pseudo-biography of Wyatt Earp, a wonderfully written account of a courageous man. This book began my lifelong interest in Mr. Earp. Eventually, I met many of the giants in Western history research and accompanied them into the field. After 65 years of collecting the facts, I wanted to use my novelistic skills to portray the life and times of Wyatt Earp as best as the record shows.

Mark's book list on Wyatt Earp by the top researchers in the field

Mark Warren Why did Mark love this book?

The public was introduced to Wyatt Earp’s story by Walter Noble Burns and Stuart Lake around 1930, but the novelistic liberties taken by these two writers produced two books of fantasy. Other writers who reacted to this fiction swung to the other end of the spectrum and wrote damning indictments against Wyatt Earp. Tefertiller gives us the facts and leaves it to the reader to parse Wyatt Earp, the man.

I have visited many a Sonoran Desert site with Mr. Tefertiller—places where events in the Earp saga took place. There we have engaged in conversations and batted around ideas. I judge him to be a most reliable and dedicated researcher/writer.

By Casey Tefertiller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Quite impressive. I doubt if there has been or will be a more deeply researched and convincing account." --Evan Connell, author Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn "The book to end all Earp books--the most complete, and most meticulously researched." --Jack Burrows, author John Ringo: The Gunfighter Who Never Was "The most thoughtful, well-researched, and comprehensive account that has been written about the development and career of an Old-West lawman." --The Tombstone Tumbleweed "A great adventure story, and solid history." --Kirkus Reviews "A major contribution to the history of the American West. It provides the first…


Book cover of Alcohol and Opium in the Old West

Randi Samuelson-Brown Author Of Market Street Madam

From my list on the dark side of the Wild West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I recall the exact moment when my interest sparked about frontier prostitution and Denver’s underbelly — a friend mentioned the ‘bad blood’ in her family — an ancestor who was a second-rate madam and who employed her own daughters. The quest started. Who were these women, and why did they make the choices they did? I’ve spent years chasing down traces of the old west’s prostitutes, fascinated by their identities and lives. The west had opportunities for women who were willing to take chances. As a fifth-generation Coloradoan, I hoped to capture the story of these enterprising and overlooked women, their lives, and the world around them.

Randi's book list on the dark side of the Wild West

Randi Samuelson-Brown Why did Randi love this book?

By now, readers can get a sense of where my recommendations are going with all of this. Life in the West was hard, and alcohol and drugs were turned to (often) to help reduce the pain, discomfort, and loneliness of living in the western United States. Whiskey tended to be of poor quality, drugs were not known to be addictive, and a lot of the stereotypical old west behavior stemmed from the use of liquor and drugs – often to the detriment of the users…and innocent bystanders.

By Jeremy Agnew,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Alcohol and Opium in the Old West as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book explores the role and influence of drink and drugs (primarily opium) in the Old West, which for this book is considered to be America west of the Mississippi from the California gold rush of the 1840s to the closing of the Western Frontier in roughly 1900. This period was the first time in American history that heavy drinking and drug abuse became a major social concern.

Drinking was considered to be an accepted pursuit for men at the time. Smoking opium was considered to be deviant and associated with groups on the fringes of mainstream society, but opium…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the American West, American frontier, and pioneers.

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