The best American frontier books 📚

Browse the best books on American frontier as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Hanging Tree and Other Stories

The Hanging Tree and Other Stories

By Dorothy M. Johnson

Why 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…

From the list:

The best Westerns that will transport you to the American frontier

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Book cover of The Weird Wild West

The Weird Wild West

By Faith Hunter, Jonathan Maberry, Gail Z. Martin

Why this book?

This anthology “blends western grit with the magical and mysterious unknown that waits beyond the next horizon” and includes both a great range of stories and some delightful illustrations. “Abishag Mary” by Frances Rowat brings sea-based imagery deep into the landlocked deserts. “Frank and Earnest” by Tonia Brown features some cracking dialogue, not to mention a villain who seems entirely out of place and mostly baffles the two heroes. Other stories venture beyond the Old West, including "Fifteen Seconds" by Scott Hungerford featuring an alien invasion of a different kind in a more recent West. An excellent collection!

From the list:

The best books set in the Weird Wild West

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Book cover of Courting Morrow Little: A Novel

Courting Morrow Little: A Novel

By Laura Frantz

Why this book?

I was put off by the title of this book because of the name, Morrow Little. I mean, who has a name like that? Plus, I wasn’t a fan of stories set in the 1700s American frontier. But a friend insisted I read it, and yeah, my friend knew me well. I wanted to run away with this hero, but no spoilers here. Morrow Little embodies every woman looking for honest love and she has the courage to pursue it. Or follow it. You be the judge. Because of this story, I’ve read every other Laura Frantz book I could…

From the list:

The best inspirational Western romance novels with rugged heroes and fiery heroines

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Book cover of Slogum House

Slogum House

By Mari Sandoz

Why this book?

Slogum House is a fairly brutal account of the dynamics between a gentle patriarch who married a shifty woman and the influence her brutality had on the family. Parts of this novel are disturbing and hard to read, but this is an interesting tale of a desperate and driven woman who will literally stop at nothing to get what she wants, and how that ruthlessness colors her family and children’s lives. The setting is the remote western sand-hills of Nebraska. Brilliant writing.

From the list:

The best books on the dark side of the Wild West – prostitution, bad whiskey and drugs

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Book cover of Hondo (Louis L'Amour's Lost Treasures)

Hondo (Louis L'Amour's Lost Treasures)

By Louis L'Amour

Why this book?

This book is a great read by Louis L'Amour, who’s arguably one of the greatest Western writers to ever live.

L'Amour executes the book brilliantly, placing a woman and her six-year-old son in grave danger from some angry, fired-up Apaches, who are on the warpath.

All that stands between them and their safety is one tough man and his dog.

From the list:

The best books about the Wild West that you’ll ever read

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Book cover of Bob Fudge: Texas Trail Driver

Bob Fudge: Texas Trail Driver

By Jim Russell

Why this book?

Bob Fudge worked for the famous XIT, a large cattle outfit based in the Texas Panhandle, during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Bob Fudge lived an iconic cowboy life, driving cattle from Texas to Montana. He told his life story in 1932, a year before his death. I first heard about this rare book during a song intro, by western singer Ian Tyson on his Live At Longview album. Before he plays the song “Bob Fudge,” Tyson tells a story of how someone left this book on his guitar case during an earlier performance—and it captivated him. The book…

From the list:

The best books about the Old West from people who actually lived in the Old West

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