48 books directly related to American frontier 📚

All 48 American frontier books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

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

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

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

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

Book cover of Tomboy Bride: One Woman's Personal Account of Life in Mining Camps of the West

Tomboy Bride: One Woman's Personal Account of Life in Mining Camps of the West

By Harriet Fish Backus,

Why this book?

I’ve been to the Tomboy Mine. All that’s left of the camp are old foundations in a rocky basin above timberline, surrounded by high peaks, 3,000 feet above Telluride. The only gold left behind is in the rich hues of a Colorado sunset. While the Tomboy may be gone, it’s the same view Harriet Fish Backus saw every day. Life at a remote mountain mine was full of “mishaps and makeshifts,” and she kept a diary of daily events. Nothing she writes is a dull description, nor is it the soaring purple prose of Victorian-era romanticism. Her account of mining…

From the list:

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

Book cover of The Broken Gun

The Broken Gun

By Louis L'Amour,

Why this book?

The Broken Gun has one of the tightest plots of any of the many Western novels from the late, great Louis L’Amour. L’Amour’s Westerns are almost all set in the mid-1800s. His good guys are good, and his bad guys bad. His books are all fun, easy to read, full of action, and keep you turning the pages. Some readers think Louis L’Amour was a 2nd rate writer…but he knew what he was doing & literally millions of folks have loved his books. Many, like myself, have read all of his Westerns, some of them several times. When I…

From the list:

The best historical novels that are packed with action

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

Book cover of Dead Man's Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West

Dead Man's Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West

By John Joseph Adams,

Why this book?

This anthology is a bit less consistent in quality or interest, but some of the stories surpass all expectations. My favorite is "The Golden Age" by Walter Jon Williams, a superb and substantial tale of superheroes and supervillains set in the Californian Goldfields. The characters are regular folk who have taken on these larger-than-life personas as well as causes for which to fight. Their costumes, technology, and methods are true to the time, and seem completely ramshackle to us today; it’s safe to say there are no actual superpowers involved! This is a brilliant story and takes a few significant…

From the list:

The best books set in the Weird Wild West

Book cover of The Poker Bride: The First Chinese in the Wild West

The Poker Bride: The First Chinese in the Wild West

By Christopher Corbett,

Why this book?

I find this book fascinating because, along with telling one individual's story, it discusses the experiences of thousands of Chinese women who were trafficked to America during the 1800s. This is not a subject many books discuss. Note: because of the subject matter, this book is not suitable for all ages.

Polly Bemis’s destitute peasant family in China sold her into slavery when she was a young teen. She was taken to America and sold as a concubine to a wealthy store owner. A few years later, her owner lost Polly in a poker game to a gambler named Charlie…

From the list:

The best books about women in the wild west

Book cover of Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian

Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian

By Don C. Talayesva,

Why this book?

A Hopi Indian named Don Talayesva was born in 1890 in the northeastern desert of Arizona. This is his personal life journey on the Sun Trail. I’ve never read anything quite like this. Every sentence immerses you into his mind’s eye, and you’ll see life through the lens of the Hopi worldview. Legends and myths run through every experience–yet everything feels real. The Spider Woman, Guardian Spirit, Katcina dancers, Six-Point-Cloud-People, Masau’u the bloody-headed Fire Spirit who wanders the mesa at night, and the secret society of Two-Hearts, who cast spells to take lives, to prolong their own. Don’s personal joys,…

From the list:

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

Book cover of The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard

The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard

By Elmore Leonard,

Why 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…

From the list:

The best historical novels that are packed with action

Book cover of Serenity: Those Left Behind

Serenity: Those Left Behind

By Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad (illustrator), Adam Hughes (illustrator)

Why this book?

Being a really big fan of the TV Show Firefly, I felt a need to mention at least one of the comics that were written after it was canceled. Perhaps not the most conventional recommendation, but I thought Cowboys in Space was a good fit for my list. And where would I ever find more well-rounded strong female characters? Zoe, Inara, Kaylee, and even River all embody different elements of strength in women who try to survive in a futuristic frontier world. These four fierce ladies take us on adventures full of hijinks and shenanigans through space. Serenity: Those…

From the list:

The best books on the Wild West and the ladies who rule it

Book cover of Holmes on the Range: A Mystery

Holmes on the Range: A Mystery

By Steve Hockensmith,

Why this book?

Steve Hockensmith is a hoot. I love this book. It features Sherlock Holmes wannabe Old Red and boyish galoot Big Red as the Huck Finn version of Watson. Steve’s books are raucously funny while offering a brand new perspective on the last decade of the 19th century.

From the list:

The best books that bring a touch of humor to the Old West

Book cover of Little Big Man

Little Big Man

By Thomas Berger,

Why this book?

When I say “more hysterical than historical,” what I’m talking about is satire. Satire is the way I mostly see the world, including the history of the world. Little Big Man is one of the great American novels, and it’s funny and brilliant. It’s a grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-shake-you kind of Satire. Berger’s novel stitches a fictional tale onto the fabric of the Old West. It’s the story of Jack Crabb, a cranky 111-year-old adventurer, who narrates his long life in the colorful language of his time. Dustin Hoffman plays Jack in the movie, which you should see after you read the…

From the list:

The best historical fiction that is more hysterical than historical

Book cover of Roughing It

Roughing It

By Mark Twain,

Why 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.
From the list:

The best books that bring a touch of humor to the Old West

Book cover of The Life of John Wesley Hardin: As Written By Himself

The Life of John Wesley Hardin: As Written By Himself

By John Wesley Hardin,

Why this book?

This is one of many Wild West autobiographies posted in various formats at the invaluable and for the most part free to use Archive.org. The book is remarkable because it’s one long excuse for the author’s many murders. Hardin—far from the sympathetic figure portrayed in Bob Dylan’s “John Wesley Harding” (with an extra “g”)—comes across as a vicious racist and dissembler. He maintains that the people he shot all but begged him to finish them off. Remarkably, he became a lawyer before being plugged himself. 

From the list:

The best books on Wild West Desperados

Book cover of The Authentic Life of Billy, The Kid

The Authentic Life of Billy, The Kid

By Pat Garrett,

Why this book?

Like many of the period books, this one has to be seen in context. It was written just eight months after Garrett shot William Bonney, so the story is at least fresh. But subsequent scholars have found the story to be full of holes and self-serving versions of history. But it makes fascinating reading, because shooter and victim had a history. According to Garrett, the Kid’s last words were in Spanish, “Quien es?” (“Who is it?”)

From the list:

The best books on Wild West Desperados

Book cover of Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend

Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend

By Gary L. Roberts,

Why this book?

I know Gary Roberts personally, and I have always considered him to be “the voice of reason” in debates concerning Western American history. He is, in my opinion, one of the top three most authoritative researchers in the field of Wyatt Earp. Others who know him treat his conclusions as the final word on a topic. His scholarly work is beautifully written for all levels of readers, from beginner to aficionado to expert. His book on Doc Holliday can be thought of as the companion reader to Mr. Tefertiller’s book.

From the list:

The most reliable books on Wyatt Earp by the top researchers in the field

Book cover of A Connecticut Yankee in Criminal Court: The Mark Twain Mysteries #2

A Connecticut Yankee in Criminal Court: The Mark Twain Mysteries #2

By Peter J. Heck,

Why this book?

I admire chutzpah. Of all the authors who channel Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, and countless others, I admire Peter Heck the most. He takes on the Herculean task of matching historical humor with our national treasure Mark Twain. Oddly enough, his example gave me courage, or at least permission, to try something other than historical whodunits. I wrote book-length magic realism and am seeking a publisher.
From the list:

The best books that bring a touch of humor to the Old West

Book cover of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc: Volume 1

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc: Volume 1

By Jennifer Kincheloe,

Why this book?

This book is laugh-out-loud funny. The rich socialite heroine is quite intelligent in some things and ridiculously stupid in others. The whole book is absolutely unbelievable, but utterly delightful – and way beyond society's terms of approval for women in 1907 Los Angeles. Sometimes a book doesn’t have to be anything but a joy to read. This one delivers.
From the list:

The best books that bring a touch of humor to the Old West

Book cover of Daughters of Joy, Sisters of Misery: Prostitutes in the American West, 1865-90

Daughters of Joy, Sisters of Misery: Prostitutes in the American West, 1865-90

By Anne M. Butler,

Why this book?

This is a scholarly work that provides an unvarnished look into the world of the frontier prostitute. This is an often-overlooked facet of frontier life and the constricted choices women had available to them, should they not pursue a more traditional life for one reason or another. Hint – the life of a prostitute and Miss Kitty of Gun Smoke fame diverge rapidly at this point.

From the list:

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

Book cover of Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories

Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories

By Elmore Leonard,

Why this book?

The thing I love about Three-Ten to Yuma is the under-dog nature of the entire situation. And I also love its brevity. It seems impossible that such a story can be so tight and compact, so crammed full of suspense (the entire plot that the movie is based on is actually a short story). It still boggles the mind and shows the genius that Elmore Leonard was.

From the list:

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

Book cover of Heresy

Heresy

By Melissa Lenhardt,

Why this book?

Margaret Parker and Hattie LaCour never intended to turn outlaw,” but sometimes life just hands you a rough deal. Especially if you are a woman in the Wild West. This novel is an interesting journey of strong women choosing to take fate into their own hands. They don’t want to end up on their backs to make money, and decide they rather take the money they feel the world owes them. Heresy is a classical Wild West tale with a bit of a female twist. A good read for any lover of this genre.

From the list:

The best books on the Wild West and the ladies who rule it

Book cover of Kingston: The King's Town

Kingston: The King's Town

By James A. Roy,

Why this book?

Roy’s history of Kingston is a fiction writer’s dream.  It is crammed with colourful anecdotes and amazing descriptions of life two hundred years ago, each one a possible starting point for a novel.  This is not your dry, elementary school history; Roy’s account sweats and stinks, crackles and clangs, chews and spits. He writes of revolting spectacles such as “disfigured or putrified or naked human bodies lying exposed on the shores of the town, or kept afloat and fastened by a rope while the preparations for interment were being made.” Life in a frontier town was not for the faint…

From the list:

The best books about frontier life in early 19th century Canada

Book cover of The Gentleman's Bottle Companion: A Collection of Eighteenth Century Bawdy Ballads

The Gentleman's Bottle Companion: A Collection of Eighteenth Century Bawdy Ballads

By P. Harris Publishing,

Why this book?

Bottle and Glass is set in actual, historical Kingston taverns from the early 1800’s. It is said that there was then a drinking shop in town for every seventh male adult and one visitor claimed that two thirds of the people he passed on the road were drunk. In 1812, when Kingston had a population of less than four thousand, it had about eighty taverns.  So, the Bottle Companion, published in 1768, is a perfect pairing. It is filled with all manner of ribald drinking songs and saucy lyrics, paeans to drink and revelry; it helps set the tone…

From the list:

The best books about frontier life in early 19th century Canada

Book cover of Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove

By Larry McMurtry,

Why this book?

I’ll tell you a secret… I wasn’t sure if I was going to recommend this book when I first started it. I only recently read it, and it took me a looooong time to get into the story. The writing didn’t draw me in, to begin with, but eventually, it grabbed me and I decided this novel belonged on my list. The characters are really well-rounded and it was Clara Allen who stood out for me. If I wanted to mention the strong women of the Wild West, I could not leave her out. She is clever, brave, and down-to-earth.…

From the list:

The best books on the Wild West and the ladies who rule it

Book cover of Age of Kings (Great Ages of Man)

Age of Kings (Great Ages of Man)

By Charles Blitzer,

Why this book?

Another series. When I was a kid, Time-Life Magazines ran a kind of book club. My family had several complete sets—The Seafarers, The Old West, the Science Library. We used to joke that Time-Life Books were the source of all knowledge. 21 titles in the Great Ages of Man series cover the entire span of civilization from ancient Mesopotamia to the 20th Century, each an overview of its period. For The Last Viking I used Barbarian Europe and Byzantium, but Age of Kings is my favorite; I’ve always been fascinated by the violent, glorious 17th…
From the list:

The best books to make a history buff into a history expert

Book cover of Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier

Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier

By Ray Allen Billington, Martin Ridge,

Why this book?

In Westward Expansion, Ray Allen Billington takes up the story of the American West where Morison left off. This is a sweeping narrative with Billington acting as a travel guide across the successively moving frontiers beyond the Atlantic Coast. He leads us to the crest of the Appalachians, and then over Ohio and down to Tennessee toward the Mississippi. Next, we race to the Pacific and then come back over the Rockies before finally heading onto the Great Plains west of the Mississippi. Yet Westward Expansion is more than a travelogue. In its pages, we travel with everyone who…

From the list:

The best books on the history of the American West

Book cover of The Klondike Stampede

The Klondike Stampede

By Tappan Adney,

Why this book?

This is the go-to book to learn about the Klondike Gold Rush. Tappan Adney was a journalist sent by a magazine to chronicle what was going on, and he did a good job. In 1897, he took a steamship to Skagway, then made the long trek into Canada over Chilkoot Pass, to Dawson, and on to the Klondike River. Because Adney was a trained newswriter, it doesn’t have quite the warmth of a personal diary, but there’s all kinds of good stuff. Especially, detailed descriptions of the hard journey on foot, daily disillusionment of the average stampeder, descriptions of gold…

From the list:

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

Book cover of The Hunters of Kentucky

The Hunters of Kentucky

By Ted Franklin Belue,

Why this book?

In this study Belue creates a sense of the world of Kentucky before settlement, as Long Hunters began to explore the Bluegrass and send reports back east of the streams and savannas, the game, and beauty of the land. While writing Boone, I found this volume especially useful for visualizing the places where Boone hunted in his first and second forays into Kanta-kee.

From the list:

The best books on the world of Daniel Boone

Book cover of Letters of a Woman Homesteader

Letters of a Woman Homesteader

By Elinore Pruitt Stewart, N. C. Wyeth (illustrator),

Why this book?

This book delights me. It makes me laugh, it inspires me, and it makes me wish I could have met Elinore Pruitt Stewart. Even though her life certainly wasn't easy, she never lost her hope, her joy, her faith, or her sense of humor.

Stewart wrote these letters to a friend, detailing her successes and failures as a woman homesteader, and hoping to encourage other women to try forging their own lives on the frontier. Wanting to build a better life for herself and her daughter, this widow headed off into the plains of Wyoming, where she took a job…

From the list:

The best books about women in the wild west

Book cover of African American Women of the Old West

African American Women of the Old West

By Tricia Martineau Wagner,

Why this book?

Thanks to Hollywood, we tend to think of the Old West as being populated primarily by white people and Native Americans. This book helps dispel that mistaken concept by highlighting the role of African-Americans in the American West during the 1800s. Showcasing the true diversity of that era is something I am passionate about learning more about and including in my own books.

This book brings to life the biographies of ten African American women who bravely tackled life on the frontier. Among them are teachers, businesswomen, civil rights crusaders, and a stagecoach driver! Each story is very different, but…

From the list:

The best books about women in the wild west

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

Book cover of Alcohol and Opium in the Old West

Alcohol and Opium in the Old West

By Jeremy Agnew,

Why 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.

From the list:

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

Book cover of 6000 Miles of Fence

6000 Miles of Fence

By Cordia Sloan Duke, Joe B. Frantz,

Why this book?

In 1886, the XIT became the largest cattle brand in Texas. They ran 150,000 head of cattle on three million acres—that’s most of the Texas Panhandle. The author, Cordia Duke, was married to one of the division managers. Over the years, she asked the cowboys to write down their memories and experiences, which she eventually published. For me, as a western author, these stories were (and still are) vital for authenticity, and I keep going back for inspiration. The cowboys’ voices are crystal clear, and we get to read firsthand descriptions of cattle roundups, branding, prairie fires, rustlers,…

From the list:

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

Book cover of Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie

By Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth Williams (illustrator),

Why this book?

What an amazing time to grow up in America as a pioneer settling into life on the prairie. This is the true story of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s resilient and loving family as they built their own home, hunted for their own food, and farmed the land. I read this book and others from the series to my daughters who were mesmerized by the life Laura led and the courage she displayed. The story depicts the challenges and the joys her family found in forging their own path and living life the way they wanted. The fact that the author captured…

From the list:

The best books about trailblazing smart women whose achievements are astonishing

Book cover of Six-Gun Snow White

Six-Gun Snow White

By Catherynne M. Valente, Charlie Bowater (illustrator),

Why this book?

I read this when my son was born, looking for a familiar story in more ways than one. This imported classic European fairy tale has our gunslinging Snow White escaping to the wild west and feels like a new comfort fable… if replacing dark twisted forests for a wind-whipped big sky can be comforting. It’s a story that doesn’t know how to end, or even if it should endmaking it another facet to join numerous retellings. The Huntsman becomes a Pinkerton, the dwarves now a band of women on the run, and the Prince a melancholy expression of…

From the list:

The best dark fantasy Westerns with magic and gunslingers

Book cover of Rabbi Harvey Rides Again: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Folktales Let Loose in the Wild West

Rabbi Harvey Rides Again: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Folktales Let Loose in the Wild West

By Steve Sheinkin,

Why this book?

In another Wild West setting twist, an advice dispensing Rabbi is the vehicle for upcycling traditional folk tales. And it is funny: whether the Rabbi is busting through saloon doors to beat someone to the punchline of an Abe Lincoln joke or using his wits to outsmart bandits or simply helping out with a frontier domestic issue, I find myself literally laughing out loud. The illustrations are charmingly folky, and there is a glossary for the story sources which often turn out to be tales that are many hundreds of years old.

From the list:

The best upcycled children's fairy tales, nursery rhymes & folk tales: recycled, reused, & repurposed, all told with a twist

Book cover of The Ohio Frontier, Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830

The Ohio Frontier, Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830

By R. Douglas Hurt,

Why this book?

Part of the “History of the Trans-Appalachian Frontier” series, this book presents readers with many entertaining and informative accounts of Ohio life throughout the frontier era. The period covered in this book is just over 100 years, so Dunmore’s War, while given attention, is not explored in detail. Still, I found this book a valued and comprehensive survey that helped me to understand the political and cultural factors that led to the conflict in 1774, as well as what followed after.

From the list:

The best books on Dunmore’s War (1774 Ohio frontier)

Book cover of Monte Walsh

Monte Walsh

By Jack Schaefer,

Why this book?

Jack Schaefer is mostly remembered for one of his other (very fine) novels: Shane, the basis for the iconic film. But it’s the lesser-known Monte Walsh that really captures what life was like in the waning days of the “Wild West,” especially for cowboys. The episodic novel follows the titular wrangler over the entirety of his life as he wanders the West looking for work and getting into and out of trouble. Like Lonesome Dove, it gives readers a look at cowboy life so up-close-and-personal you can practically smell the smoke from the campfire.

From the list:

The best Westerns that will transport you to the American frontier

Book cover of Old Deadwood Days

Old Deadwood Days

By Estelline Bennett,

Why this book?

There are many media depictions of Deadwood, including in a popular HBO series with a lot of swearing in it. This book is fascinating because it’s a report by an eyewitness. Want to know what an evening was like at Al Swearengen’s Gem Theater, portrayed in the show? The Gem was “a clangorous, tangling, insidious part of Deadwood’s nightly life,” Bennett tells us. 

From the list:

The best books on Wild West Desperados

Book cover of The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu

The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu

By Tom Lin,

Why 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! 

From the list:

The best books set in the Weird Wild West

Book cover of His Prairie Princess (Prairie Brides, Book One)

His Prairie Princess (Prairie Brides, Book One)

By Kit Morgan,

Why this book?

Kit Morgan describes the town of Clear Creek, the setting for her Prairie Brides series, as the wackiest town in the West. But it’s her inspired pairing of hunky, honorable British cowboys (yes, you read that right) and the independent, clever women who humble them that makes this book and its sequels so worth the read.

From the list:

The best historical romances sure to make your smile

Book cover of The Stage Driver's Daughter: A Sweet Historical Romance

The Stage Driver's Daughter: A Sweet Historical Romance

By Krystal M. Anderson,

Why this book?

What I love most about The Stage Driver’s Daughter is that it’s inspired by the true story of Charley Parkhurst, a woman who disguised herself as a man to make a living as a rancher and stagecoach driver. The book digresses from real events, but the author effectively evokes the experience through vivid description and dialogue. I could smell, see, and hear what it was like to navigate the rutted and treacherous roads of the Old West. I was later than most learning to drive, and I have a poor sense of direction so driving to new places can be…

From the list:

The best historical novels with female protagonists in unusual jobs

Book cover of Westward the Women

Westward the Women

By Nancy Wilson Ross,

Why this book?

I have collected a lot of nonfiction focused on the women’s experiences in the Old West – there are many such books available now. But, when Nancy Wilson Ross published this book in 1944, there weren’t any.  Can you imagine that?

Ross writes about women in all walks of life, from missionaries to outlaws to farmers and ranchers. She writes mainly about white women and Native Americans, though some of her attitudes will feel a little dated to modern readers. But that just means that this book is as much a window into the ideas of the 1940s as it…

From the list:

The best books about women in the wild west

Book cover of A Little House Christmas Treasury: Festive Holiday Stories

A Little House Christmas Treasury: Festive Holiday Stories

By Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth Williams (illustrator),

Why this book?

Each time the ‘Little House’ books cross my path, I am reminded of where and when I first discovered the series. My dad regularly took my sister and I to the (Otis) Children’s Library, then located atop the Church Street hill in downtown Norwich, CT. We devoured the Little House books and much of the library’s young reader collection, usually finishing the books before their due date, when Dad was happy to drive us again. 

I probably identified with the Ingalls family. Their experience in the American frontier echoed certain life patterns of my dad’s immigrant family (a half-century later).…

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The best books that touch our heart at Christmas

Book cover of Wake of Vultures

Wake of Vultures

By Lila Bowen,

Why this book?

If you are up for a little journey into the Weird West, let Nettie Lonesome be your guide. She is anything but the traditional ‘Cowboy’ being a queer, biracial, young woman. This book is a different kind of coming-of-age story—a tougher one, which really takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride. For me, the biggest appeal of this book is the main character. Nettie is a special breed of Ranger who discovers there is more to this world than heaven and earth. There are monsters hiding in the shadows, and Nettie finds she has a particular talent for dealing with…

From the list:

The best books on the Wild West and the ladies who rule it