100 books like How to Read the American West

By William Wyckoff,

Here are 100 books that How to Read the American West fans have personally recommended if you like How to Read the American West. 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 Atlas of the Invisible: Maps and Graphics That Will Change How You See the World

Eric Magrane Author Of The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide

From my list on looking at field guides and atlases in a new way.

Who am I?

I love field guides. I can vividly picture my first copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds, tattered and weather-beaten. I also love poetry and literature, so it seemed natural to me to bring the two together in my work. I’m from New England, but I've lived in the U.S. Southwest for over twenty years. Place is important to me: I think a lot about how we get to know and care for the places we live and call home and how we can work to be good neighbors. I worked for about a decade as a hiking guide and have also taught environmental education. I now teach geography at New Mexico State University. 

Eric's book list on looking at field guides and atlases in a new way

Eric Magrane Why did Eric love this book?

This atlas beautifully demonstrates how geography is crucial to making sense of patterns and relationships in the world. I sat down and read it cover to cover, though it also would work well as a coffee table book. If you dig maps and data, this book is for you. If you’re interested in design, this book is for you. If you want to really visualize how putting interesting data on a map can help you to look at the world in new ways, this book is for you. Heck, if you’re curious about the world, this book is for you. 

By James Cheshire, Oliver Uberti,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Award-winning geographer-designer team James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti transform enormous datasets into rich maps and cutting-edge visualizations. In this triumph of visual storytelling, they uncover truths about our past, reveal who we are today, and highlight what we face in the years ahead. With their joyfully inquisitive approach, Cheshire and Uberti explore happiness levels around the globe, trace the undersea cables and cell towers that connect us, examine hidden scars of geopolitics, and illustrate how a warming planet affects everything from hurricanes to the hajj. Years in the making, Atlas of the Invisible invites readers to marvel at the promise…


Book cover of A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia

Eric Magrane Author Of The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide

From my list on looking at field guides and atlases in a new way.

Who am I?

I love field guides. I can vividly picture my first copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds, tattered and weather-beaten. I also love poetry and literature, so it seemed natural to me to bring the two together in my work. I’m from New England, but I've lived in the U.S. Southwest for over twenty years. Place is important to me: I think a lot about how we get to know and care for the places we live and call home and how we can work to be good neighbors. I worked for about a decade as a hiking guide and have also taught environmental education. I now teach geography at New Mexico State University. 

Eric's book list on looking at field guides and atlases in a new way

Eric Magrane Why did Eric love this book?

I remember talking with Laura-Gray Street when they were planning this book, and I love how it turned out! A beautiful mixture of natural history, poetry, and artwork featuring species of the Southern Appalachians. If you live in or care about Southern Appalachia, I’d especially recommend this to you (and it makes a great gift for anyone you know who lives there). 

By Rose McLarney (editor), Laura-Gray Street (editor), L. L. Gaddy Jr. (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Getting acquainted with local flora and fauna is the perfect way to begin to understand the wonder of nature. The natural environment of Southern Appalachia, with habitats that span the Blue Ridge to the Cumberland Plateau, is one of the most biodiverse on earth. A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia-a hybrid literary and natural history anthology-showcases sixty of the many species indigenous to the region.

Ecologically, culturally, and artistically, Southern Appalachia is rich in paradox and stereotype-defying complexity. Its species range from the iconic and inveterate-such as the speckled trout, pileated woodpecker, copperhead, and black bear-to the elusive and…


Book cover of A:shiwi A:wan Ulohnanne, The Zuni World

Eric Magrane Author Of The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide

From my list on looking at field guides and atlases in a new way.

Who am I?

I love field guides. I can vividly picture my first copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds, tattered and weather-beaten. I also love poetry and literature, so it seemed natural to me to bring the two together in my work. I’m from New England, but I've lived in the U.S. Southwest for over twenty years. Place is important to me: I think a lot about how we get to know and care for the places we live and call home and how we can work to be good neighbors. I worked for about a decade as a hiking guide and have also taught environmental education. I now teach geography at New Mexico State University. 

Eric's book list on looking at field guides and atlases in a new way

Eric Magrane Why did Eric love this book?

In the introduction to this book and catalog that features map art by Zuni artists, Jim Enote writes, “these maps are like relatives, like aunts and uncles that entrance us with narrations of places they have been to or heard about.” I love this way of thinking about maps as relational. As a non-Indigenous person viewing these maps, they help me to think about mapping and representations of place in new ways, and they challenge Western and colonial mapping traditions and cartographic practices that have often historically been put to the use of empire, land grabs, and greed.

By Jim Enote (editor), Jennifer McLerran (editor),

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry

Eric Magrane Author Of The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide

From my list on looking at field guides and atlases in a new way.

Who am I?

I love field guides. I can vividly picture my first copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds, tattered and weather-beaten. I also love poetry and literature, so it seemed natural to me to bring the two together in my work. I’m from New England, but I've lived in the U.S. Southwest for over twenty years. Place is important to me: I think a lot about how we get to know and care for the places we live and call home and how we can work to be good neighbors. I worked for about a decade as a hiking guide and have also taught environmental education. I now teach geography at New Mexico State University. 

Eric's book list on looking at field guides and atlases in a new way

Eric Magrane Why did Eric love this book?

Ever since I heard about how the editors are organizing this book around “kinship clusters” and Indigenous classification rather than Western taxonomies, I’ve been so looking forward to this book being published! If you have a connection to the Cascadia region and an interest in the environment, keep an eye out for this one.

By Elizabeth Bradfield (editor), CMarie Fuhrman (editor), Derek Sheffield (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Have you ever been so filled up with the wonder of a place that it wants to spill out as a song? Well, here is the songbook. I imagine walking through a forest and pausing to read these illuminating pages aloud to a listening cedar or a dipper. There are field guides that help us to see, and to name, and to know; Cascadia Field Guide does all of that and more. This is a guide to relationship, a gift in reciprocity for the gifts of the land. – Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass

Cascadia stretches from Southeast…


Book cover of A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Mike Errico Author Of Music, Lyrics, and Life: A Field Guide for the Advancing Songwriter

From my list on non-songwriting books for songwriters.

Who am I?

People come to songwriting from all different directions. Some have wanted to do this since they were little kids. Some like to make their parents mad. Some are wildly talented but crippled with doubt. All I can say is that no matter which way you’re facing, I think I can help you. I say this because I’ve been teaching college-level songwriting for years now, and every semester I have students who want to meet with me for office hours. They’re all repeat customers and I’ve noticed that many of them ask repeat questions. The point of my book, Music, Lyrics, and Life, is to try to address those repeat questions because chances are good that you have them, too. 

Mike's book list on non-songwriting books for songwriters

Mike Errico Why did Mike love this book?

Feeling lost as a writer—or as a person? Good! Instead of having an anxiety attack, it helps to reimagine that feeling as a kind of diving board into the deep end of transformation. Solnit: “Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration—how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?” Which is all a fancy way of saying: It’s our job to be lost. Solnit inspired the line in my book, “If you suddenly feel like you’re walking in the dark, then you’re in the right room.” 

By Rebecca Solnit,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Field Guide to Getting Lost as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this investigation into loss, losing and being lost, Rebecca Solnit explores the challenges of living with uncertainty. A Field Guide to Getting Lost takes in subjects as eclectic as memory and mapmaking, Hitchcock movies and Renaissance painting.

Beautifully written, this book combines memoir, history and philosophy, shedding glittering new light on the way we live now.


Book cover of Hard Road West: History & Geology Along the Gold Rush Trail

David B. Williams Author Of Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology

From my list on geology that aren’t really about rocks.

Who am I?

For the past two decades, I have written about the intersection of people and place, particularly as viewed through the lens of geology and how it influences our lives. My nine books include Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography, Cairns: Messengers in Stone, and Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound. All of them have a goal of helping people develop a better connection with the natural world around them.

David's book list on geology that aren’t really about rocks

David B. Williams Why did David love this book?

A simple, yet profound idea forms the basis for geologist Keith Meldah’s first book: how did geology influence the gold rush pioneers. Weaving pioneer accounts, modern science, and field exploration, he paints a unique and compelling picture of western migration and how the vagaries of the dramatic landscape played out in both small and large ways. Although gold was what drove many of the argonauts, they soon learned that the rocky world would affect them far before they reached their hoped-for destination.

By Keith Heyer Meldahl,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1849, news of the discovery of gold in California triggered an enormous wave of emigration toward the Pacific. Lured by the promise of riches, thousands of settlers left behind the forests, rain, and fertile soil of the eastern United States in favor of the rough-hewn lands of the American West. The dramatic terrain they struggled to cross is so familiar to us now that it is hard to imagine how frightening - even godforsaken - its sheer rock faces and barren deserts seemed to our forebears."Hard Road West" brings their perspective vividly to life, weaving together the epic overland…


Book cover of The Old Ways

Jim Leary Author Of Footmarks: A Journey Into our Restless Past

From my list on walking and the magic of paths.

Who am I?

I am an archaeologist, writer, and university lecturer, who spends his days dreaming of being on the move. I was filled with life-long wanderlust from a peripatetic childhood living in Malaysia, Fiji, and Cyprus, and this sense of needing to move around has never left me. I am a passionate walker and have rambled and roamed and trekked and trailed around most of the British Isles, often with my (occasionally willing) family. This has led to an intense fascination with the way people moved around in the past and how they knew where they were going, and I have centred much of my research, and my writing, on the subject.

Jim's book list on walking and the magic of paths

Jim Leary Why did Jim love this book?

The Old Ways is an intimate and soulful book about journeys along many paths.

It is a glorious songline to the ancient network of tracks that lace across the land, mainly in the British Isles, from trails across the bogs of Dartmoor, to the tidal path of the ‘Broomway’ in Essex, to the routes around the herders’ huts on the Isle of Lewis. Paths that were walked into existence by generations of people and animals.

Macfarlane delights in the language of movement and the sensory nature of it, as well as in the landscapes themselves, so that the sum of the book is far greater than the individual paths. For me, Macfarlane is the best of modern nature writers, and The Old Ways is the best of Macfarlane.

By Robert Macfarlane,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Old Ways as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The acclaimed author of The Wild Places and Underland examines the subtle ways we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move

Chosen by Slate as one of the 50 best nonfiction books of the past 25 years

In this exquisitely written book, which folds together natural history, cartography, geology, and literature, Robert Macfarlane sets off to follow the ancient routes that crisscross both the landscape of the British Isles and its waters and territories beyond. The result is an immersive, enthralling exploration of the voices that haunt old paths and the stories our tracks tell. Macfarlane's journeys take…


Book cover of The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks

Nate Schweber Author Of This America of Ours: Bernard and Avis Devoto and the Forgotten Fight to Save the Wild

From my list on public lands and conservation.

Who am I?

By lucky lottery of birth, Missoula, Montana, nestled between forested mountains and sliced through by trout-filled rivers, is where I was born and raised. Public land conservation came into my consciousness naturally as clean, pine-scented air. But when I moved to overcrowded New York City in 2001 to try a career in journalism, homesickness made me begin researching conservation. Why are there public lands in the West? What forces prompted their creation? Who wants public lands, and who opposes them? Can their history teach us about our present and our future? These books began answering my questions. 

Nate's book list on public lands and conservation

Nate Schweber Why did Nate love this book?

This is an engrossing tour of public lands from Terry Tempest Williams, a poet and essayist who is an American treasure. From this beautiful and vivid book, I realized spiritual connections between human beings and nature, between past and future, between the soul and the earth.

"Our national parks are blood," she writes. 

By Terry Tempest Williams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

America’s national parks are breathing spaces in a world in which such spaces are steadily disappearing, which is why more than 300 million people visit the parks each year. Now Terry Tempest Williams, the author of the environmental classic Refuge and the beloved memoir When Women Were Birds, returns with The Hour of Land, a literary celebration of our national parks, an exploration of what they mean to us and what we mean to them.

From the Grand Tetons in Wyoming to Acadia in Maine to Big Bend in Texas and more, Williams creates a series of lyrical portraits that…


Book cover of Landscape and Memory

Jeremy Burchardt Author Of Lifescapes: The Experience of Landscape in Britain, 1870-1960

From my list on enhance your understand and enjoyment of landscape.

Who am I?

I’ve loved the countryside ever since I was a child. Every year we used to stay for a week or two on a beautiful farm hidden away in a hollow of the Leicestershire wolds. I was fascinated by the wildlife and history – the old cottages and churches, local traditions and place names. It’s no accident I became a rural historian! I’m captivated by the strange power of landscape to affect us, subtly weaving itself into our sense of being, and have devoted much of my adult life to trying to understand this. I hope you find the books on the list as rewarding as I have!

Jeremy's book list on enhance your understand and enjoyment of landscape

Jeremy Burchardt Why did Jeremy love this book?

No one writes quite like Simon Schama. This is a sprawling epic of a book, global in its sweep. 

It ranges from the Polish-Lithuanian forests, where bison roam oblivious of centuries of human conflict and suffering, to the Orinoco, in Walter Raleigh’s doomed and bloody footsteps, to the grandeur (or hubris?) of Mount Rushmore. Much of it, however, concerns the tangled threads of myth and collective memory that haunt the English landscape. 

As someone born in Nottingham and brought up on Robin Hood, I particularly enjoyed the chapters on the medieval greenwood. Schama’s erudition and range of examples are dazzling. Throughout, he argues that Western civilization, far from being fundamentally antagonistic to nature as some have claimed, is permeated with rich, powerful and persistent myths of nature and landscape. 

By Simon Schama,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Time Magazine Best Books of the Year. In Landscape and Memory, award-winning author Simon Schama ranges over continents and centuries to reveal the psychic claims that human beings have made on nature. He tells of the Nazi cult of the primeval German forest; the play of Christian and pagan myth in Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers; and the duel between a monumental sculptor and a feminist gadfly on the slopes of Mount Rushmore. The result is a triumphant work of history, naturalism, mythology, and art, as encyclopedic as The Golden Bough and as irresistibly readable as Schama's own…


Book cover of Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape

Adam M. Sowards Author Of An Open Pit Visible from the Moon: The Wilderness Act and the Fight to Protect Miners Ridge and the Public Interest

From my list on helping you get deep in the wilderness.

Who am I?

When I first started reading about wilderness, I accepted it as an obvious thing—a place without people. That lasted a short time before I realized the enormous historical complexity of such places. Rather than places without people, without history, without politics, “wilderness” became a laboratory of American society. I tried to capture that vibrancy in my book An Open Pit Visible from the Moon where I showed all the claims various people made on one wilderness area in the North Cascades. I'm a writer, historian, and former college professor who now calls the Skagit Valley of Washington home. As much as I enjoy studying wilderness, I prefer walking through it and noticing what it teaches.

Adam's book list on helping you get deep in the wilderness

Adam M. Sowards Why did Adam love this book?

To read Trace is to go on a mesmerizing journey with the wisest of guides. Savoy searches for American identities, and her own multifaceted ones, in the history and memory of landscapes across the continent. Every turn reveals tragic histories and surprising connections and omissions with the most beautiful language. Savoy excavates the palimpsest of stories embedded in landscapes’ histories in a helpful reminder that “nature” is always entangled with the richness and complexity of human life. With each careful word, Savoy deepened my appreciation for how landscape absorbs and reflects its history—and my admiration for her unbelievable gifts as a writer. Trace is one of those books you can read each year and your respect for it grows and the insights from it enlarge your life every time.

By Lauret Savoy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Through personal journeys and historical inquiry, this PEN Literary Award finalist explores how America’s still unfolding history and ideas of “race” have marked its people and the land.

Sand and stone are Earth’s fragmented memory. Each of us, too, is a landscape inscribed by memory and loss. One life-defining lesson Lauret Savoy learned as a young girl was this: the American land did not hate. As an educator and Earth historian, she has tracked the continent’s past from the relics of deep time; but the paths of ancestors toward her―paths of free and enslaved Africans, colonists from Europe, and peoples…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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