100 books like Writing the Range

By Elizabeth Jameson, Susan Armitage,

Here are 100 books that Writing the Range fans have personally recommended if you like Writing the Range. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane

Lynn Downey Author Of Dudes Rush In

From my list on the women of the American West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved the history of the West since I was a child, as my family has lived here for over a century. I devoured historical fiction about pioneer girls in grammar school (including the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder), and as I got into college, I expanded my reading universe to include books about women’s roles in the West, and the meaning of this region in overall American history. This concept is what drew me to study the cultural influence of dude ranching, where women have always been able to shine -- and where I placed the protagonist of my first novel.

Lynn's book list on the women of the American West

Lynn Downey Why did Lynn love this book?

If you’re a fan of Deadwood or, going further back, the 1953 Doris Day movie, Calamity Jane, you will be fascinated by Jones’s book about the buckskin-wearing Martha Jane Canary, a.k.a. Calamity Jane. Details about her life are either sparse or exaggerated, so Jones tells us what the frontier legend has symbolized, both in her own time and in ours. Dressing like a man made her stand out and made her the object of both derision and decades of bad biographies. She still serves as a symbol of the way that women could defy expectations in the West, and Jones’s book gives us a Calamity Jane we can root for.

By Karen R. Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fascinating new account of the life and legend of the Wild West's most notorious woman: Calamity Jane

"In this vivid and compelling biography, Karen Jones recovers the remarkable creativity of Martha Jane Canary, who helped to invent the mythic West by reinventing herself. As Calamity Jane, she told wild tales of adventure and blurred the lines between legend and history, male and female, and truth and possibility."-Alan Taylor, author of The Internal Enemy

Martha Jane Canary, popularly known as Calamity Jane, was the pistol-packing, rootin' tootin' "lady wildcat" of the American West. Brave and resourceful, she held her own…


Book cover of Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest

Lynn Downey Author Of Dudes Rush In

From my list on the women of the American West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved the history of the West since I was a child, as my family has lived here for over a century. I devoured historical fiction about pioneer girls in grammar school (including the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder), and as I got into college, I expanded my reading universe to include books about women’s roles in the West, and the meaning of this region in overall American history. This concept is what drew me to study the cultural influence of dude ranching, where women have always been able to shine -- and where I placed the protagonist of my first novel.

Lynn's book list on the women of the American West

Lynn Downey Why did Lynn love this book?

The title of this marvelous group biography is a play on the title of the film and comic book series, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and suits the characters perfectly. Natalie Curtis, Carol Stanley, Alice Klauber, and Mary Cabot Wheelwright left their safe and secure lives and found a calling in the Southwest in the early 20th century. Along the way, they met important Hopi and Navajo leaders, as well as western enthusiasts like Theodore Roosevelt. This book is a marvelous read because the author weaves their lives together in ways that show how much they had in common, as well as how individual each woman was.

By Lesley Poling-Kempes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WILLA Literary Award, 2016Reading the West Book Award for Nonfiction, MPIBASilver Medal, US History, 2016 IPPY AwardsWestern Writers of America Spur Award finalistLadies of the Canyons is the true story of remarkable women who left the security and comforts of genteel Victorian society and journeyed to the American Southwest in search of a wider view of themselves and their world.

Educated, restless, and inquisitive, Natalie Curtis, Carol Stanley, Alice Klauber, and Mary Cabot Wheelwright were plucky, intrepid women whose lives were transformed in the first decades of the twentieth century by the people and the landscape of the American Southwest.…


Book cover of Twenty Thousands Roads: Women, Movement, and the West

Lynn Downey Author Of Dudes Rush In

From my list on the women of the American West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved the history of the West since I was a child, as my family has lived here for over a century. I devoured historical fiction about pioneer girls in grammar school (including the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder), and as I got into college, I expanded my reading universe to include books about women’s roles in the West, and the meaning of this region in overall American history. This concept is what drew me to study the cultural influence of dude ranching, where women have always been able to shine -- and where I placed the protagonist of my first novel.

Lynn's book list on the women of the American West

Lynn Downey Why did Lynn love this book?

When we think of the West, we so often think about people moving and traveling, but rarely do women come to mind, except as pioneers in covered wagons. But ever since Sacagawea walked with the Lewis and Clark expedition, women have not only traveled West, they often led the way, both physically and metaphorically. Scharff’s book is a fascinating look at how hard it was for women to actually move through the region, whether stumping for suffrage or civil rights. Scharff’s book is especially valuable because she includes so many women of color, and you can feel their pain and their exhilaration on the page.

By Virginia Scharff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Sacagawea's travels with Lewis and Clark to rock groupie Pamela Des Barres's California trips, women have moved across the American West with profound consequences for the people and places they encounter. Virginia Scharff revisits a grand theme of United States history - our restless, relentless westward movement--but sets out in new directions, following women's trails from the early nineteenth to the late twentieth centuries. In colorful, spirited stories, she weaves a lyrical reconsideration of the processes that created, gave meaning to, and ultimately shattered the West. "Twenty Thousand Roads" introduces a cast of women mapping the world on their…


Book cover of Levi's & Lace: Arizona Women Who Made History

Lynn Downey Author Of Dudes Rush In

From my list on the women of the American West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved the history of the West since I was a child, as my family has lived here for over a century. I devoured historical fiction about pioneer girls in grammar school (including the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder), and as I got into college, I expanded my reading universe to include books about women’s roles in the West, and the meaning of this region in overall American history. This concept is what drew me to study the cultural influence of dude ranching, where women have always been able to shine -- and where I placed the protagonist of my first novel.

Lynn's book list on the women of the American West

Lynn Downey Why did Lynn love this book?

Although this book is about the influential women of Arizona exclusively, they stand in for the many women who have made contributions to the history and culture of the entire West. Cleere begins with indigenous women, and moves on to both historic and modern women in medicine, the arts, business, education, and the law. The short biographies of the nearly forty women profiled here are just enough to whet the appetite for more, and are written in an engaging and accessible style.

By Jan Cleere,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Levi's & Lace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning author Jan Cleere brings her exceptional skills in research and writing to a new book about more than 35 heroic women of Arizona. From teachers and entrepreneurs to artists and healers, Cleere provides an informative text that highlights historical Hispanic, African American, Native American, and Anglo women who made their mark in the intriguing history of our state.


Book cover of Staking Her Claim: Women Homesteading the West

Marsali Taylor Author Of Women's Suffrage in Shetland

From my list on real women who refused to know their place.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Marsali Taylor, a retired teacher of English, French and Drama. I’ve always been interested in women’s history—not queens and countesses, but what life was like for ordinary people like me. A chance to research women’s suffrage in the Scottish National Library got me started reading these women’s stories in their own words—and what stories they were, from the first women graduates to the war workers. Women’s Suffrage in Shetland took two years of fascinating research, and I hope it’s the foundation for more work by other researchers, both here in Shetland and in other communities whose women fought for the vote.

Marsali's book list on real women who refused to know their place

Marsali Taylor Why did Marsali love this book?

These women did know their place – they’d measured it out, filled in the claim forms, assembled their tiny wood shack cabin or turf –roofed dugout, sewn their corn and dug their vegetable patch. The usual picture of pioneer women is as the mother of the family, but a staggering 12% of those Wild West pioneering homesteaders were single women or widows, and this is the story of over twenty of them. After introductory chapters, it’s told in their voices, through magazine articles, letters back home and memoirs written later. We learn about how they set out on their adventure, the reality of farming and how they coped, and their triumph as they won their claim. Fascinating.

By Marcia Hensley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Instead of talking about the rights of women, these frontier women grabbed the opportunity to become landowners by homesteading in the still wild west of the early 1900s. Here they tell their stories in their own words-through letters and articles of the time-of adventure, independence, foolhardiness, failure, and freedom.


Book cover of The Gentle Tamers: Women of the Old Wild West

Jan Mackell Collins Author Of Behind Brothel Doors: The Business of Prostitution in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma (1860–1940)

From my list on historical prostitution.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having grown up with an older generation—my great-grandparents, great-great aunts and uncles, and a godmother, all who were born between 1877 and 1900—I learned to appreciate how they lived and what they went through. As a child, I found a hand-written poem about a brothel queen who caused a gunfight between her paramour and a stranger. Then, in college, I met a wonderful old man who told me stories about the former red-light district right in my own neighborhood. Once I learned the often tragic, but also successful stories of these ladies, I decided to be their voice and remind America how important they were to our history.

Jan's book list on historical prostitution

Jan Mackell Collins Why did Jan love this book?

First published in 1958, this is one of the first books to pay respect and present the truth about the struggles western women faced. Mr. Brown was very thorough in covering women’s roles in the west, from homesteaders and wives, to women kidnapped by Natives, to actresses and prostitutes. He also used primary sources, not the internet, to conduct his research. 

By Dee Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

All aspects of western feminine life, which include a good deal about the western male, are covered in this lively, informal but soundly factual account of the women who built the West. Among those whose stories are included are Elizabeth Custer; Lola Montez, Ann Eliza Young, Josephine Meeker, Carry Nation, Esther Morris, and Virginia Reed.


Book cover of Whiskey When We're Dry

Reese Hogan Author Of Shrouded Loyalties

From my list on cross-dressing women in wartime.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a nonbinary trans guy, I grew up obsessed with novels about women disguising themselves as men. I loved everything about the trope, and always felt disappointed when they had to go back to living as women. It is a trope I eagerly embraced when I wrote Shrouded Loyalties, and though I didn’t yet know the term “transgender,” I was already exploring my own gender identity through my reading and writing of this theme. The books I’ve chosen to highlight here are ones that became some of my very favorites, and also feature action-packed wartime settings like the one used in Shrouded Loyalties.

Reese's book list on cross-dressing women in wartime

Reese Hogan Why did Reese love this book?

This is slightly outside the boundaries of a wartime novel, as it takes place in the Old West, but it’s a fantastic book for this list, and shouldn’t be overlooked if you love this trope. Jess Harney makes a name for herself as a notorious male sharpshooter and outlaw. Her first-person voice is one of the most interesting I’ve read, and I loved how she fit in as one of the guys while never sacrificing who she was. She barely even thinks about her gender as she so naturally considers herself male. Books like this really highlight the blurred lines between cross-dressing out of necessity or desire, and I’m excited to see more authors addressing this trope with the nuance of queerness which is often part of it.

By John Larison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Whiskey When We're Dry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named a Best Book by Entertainment Weekly, O Magazine, Goodreads, Southern Living, Outside Magazine, Oprah.com, HelloGiggles, Parade, Fodor's Travel, Sioux City Journal, Read it Forward, Medium.com, and NPR's All Things Considered.

"A thunderclap of originality, here is a fresh voice and fresh take on one of the oldest stories we tell about ourselves as Americans and Westerners. It's riveting in all the right ways -- a damn good read that stayed with me long after closing the covers." - Timothy Egan, New York Times bestselling author of The Worst Hard Time

From a blazing new voice in fiction, a gritty…


Book cover of The Life of Daniel Boone

Robert Ray Morgan Author Of Boone: A Biography

From my list on the world of Daniel Boone.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always had an interest in the American frontier and the Native peoples. But while researching the novel Brave Enemies and Boone: A Biography I spent years studying and visiting places where the stories occur, and using archives and libraries. However, the most important consideration is storytelling, rewarding the reader with a good story.

Robert's book list on the world of Daniel Boone

Robert Ray Morgan Why did Robert love this book?

In this volume Belue has done the almost impossible task of transcribing the text of Draper’s unpublished manuscript of Boone’s life. Draper spent his career collecting documents and interviews about Boone and the settlement of the Ohio Valley, but never managed to finish the work. Only those who have tried to read Draper’s manuscripts can appreciate the heroic task Belue has accomplished. I relied extensively on this volume.

By Lyman C. Draper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Life of Daniel Boone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Draper, the first secretary of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, collected more than 500 volumes of material on the famed frontiersman Daniel Boone. His biography of Boone remained unfinished for 100 years until Ted Franklin Belue, a widely read scholar of early Americana, added his authoritative editing. This long-awaited work is filled with little-known information on Boone and his family, long hunters, the Shawnee, the fur trade, and frontier life in general.


Book cover of The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-60

Jim Rasenberger Author Of Revolver: Sam Colt and the Six-Shooter That Changed America

From my list on western migration before the Civil War.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jim Rasenberger is a writer and author of four books - Revolver, The Brilliant Disaster; America, 1908, and High SteelHe has contributed to the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Smithsonian, and other publications. A native of Washington, DC, he lives in New York City.

Jim's book list on western migration before the Civil War

Jim Rasenberger Why did Jim love this book?

Posthumously published in 1970 by the University of Illinois Press, this is a must-have for anyone interested in the early years of the western migration. Unruh — who died young shortly after completing the manuscript performs the essential task of assembling credible data about emigrants and Native Americans, and — most importantly — about their encounters with each other. Popular myths and Hollywood movies notwithstanding, Unruh makes clear that Native Americans seldom caused emigrants much harm. Indeed, emigrants of the 1840s were more likely to shoot themselves and each other by accident than require a gun for self-defense.

By John D. Unruh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in History and the winner of seven awards, including the John H. Dunning Prize of the American Historical Association, the Ray A. Billington Book Award of the Organization of American Historians, and the National Historical Society Book Prize.


Book cover of Conagher

Emily Hayse Author Of These War-Torn Hands

From my list on capturing the poignant beauty of the American West.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I can remember, I've been captivated by the American West. Was it that cowboys were brave and if you had integrity it was most certainly put to the test? Was it that everyone rode horses and I was a horse crazy girl? Whatever it was that struck me, it stayed. I have treasured the West ever since, through books, film, art, and most recently, a fantasy western trilogy of my own. 

Emily's book list on capturing the poignant beauty of the American West

Emily Hayse Why did Emily love this book?

Louis L'Amour wrote dozens of novels about the West but this one I loved because of the sweet wistfulness that was contrasted with the harsh reality of frontier living. Evie Teal is a widow whose husband rode out for cattle and never came back, leaving her alone in the wilderness with two children and only guesses as to how he could have died. Conn Conagher is a poetry-loving, quiet cowboy who hasn't much but his integrity and good name. Neither thinks the other could possibly be interested in them, and the quiet, understated love story just draws you in. 

By Louis L'Amour,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As far as the eye can see is a vast, empty horizon. Evie Teale has finally accepted that her husband won’t be coming home. To make ends meet she runs a temporary stage station. But though she is diligent and careful, Evie must prepare for the day when the passengers no longer come and she must protect her children in an untamed country where’s it’s far easier to die than to live.

Miles away, another solitary soul battles for survival. Conagher is a lean, dark-eyed drifter who is not about to let a gang of rustlers push him around. While…


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