The best books about the American West 📚

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

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

By Dee Brown

Why this book?

I hate to recommend Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown because it is an excruciating look back at the atrocities inflicted by my people upon the original Natives of North America. Unfortunately, not reading about those horrific acts does not erase them from the historical record, which is why this book should be mandatory reading for every single American. The endless litany of murder and treachery recounted in this book spans nearly 500 years, and, yet, the average American knows almost nothing about the tragic events that made our lives possible. America stands for freedom, right? Dee…

From the list:

The best books about the destruction of North America

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane

Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane

By Karen R. Jones

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books about the women of the American West

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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

Twenty Thousands Roads: Women, Movement, and the West

By Virginia Scharff

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books about the women of the American West

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Writing the Range: Race, Class, and Culture in the Women's West

Writing the Range: Race, Class, and Culture in the Women's West

By Elizabeth Jameson, Susan Armitage

Why this book?

This hefty tome is a comprehensive and valuable collection of articles about women who were bound by race and class, and who also defied the expectations of these categories. Native American, Latinx, Asian, and Black women fill this fascinating volume, with stories that span colonial New Mexico to modern-day Hollywood. If you need a reference work on women of color, this book is not only your starting point, but it also has an extensive bibliography for further reading.

From the list:

The best books about the women of the American West

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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

Levi's & Lace: Arizona Women Who Made History

By Jan Cleere

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books about the women of the American West

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Or, view all 38 books about the American West

New book lists about the American West

All book lists about the American West

Bookshelves related to the American West

Browse books by…