The best cowboy books

20 authors have picked their favorite books about cowboys and why they recommend each book.

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Lonesome Dove

By Larry McMurtry,

Book cover of Lonesome Dove

What can you say about this fabulous story that hasn’t been said? You can’t beat cattle drives, Texas Rangers, strong women, and a wagon-load of action and adventure. I only wish I could read it for the first time again! The miniseries was great, and introduced so many of us to Larry McMurtry’s enduring story, but the book has nuances and scenes that can’t be duplicated on screen. A must-read!


Who am I?

My grandfather introduced me to Westerns at a young age—he always had a Louis L’Amour or a Zane Grey in hand. I also grew up watching Westerns with my father, especially the classics with John Wayne, or Lee Marvin, James Garner, or Clint Eastwood. There’s just something about stories dealing with good vs. evil that pulls me into the genre. Besides, we all could use a hero/heroine these days. All of my books are heavy on action adventure, mainly because I enjoy keeping myself and the reader entertained. As Elmore Leonard wrote in his 10 rules for writing, “Skip the boring parts.” I hope you enjoy exploring these great books!


I wrote...

Retribution: A Claire Whitcomb Western

By D.V. Berkom,

Book cover of Retribution: A Claire Whitcomb Western

What is my book about?

Retribution: They took everything. Now she wants revenge. Claire Whitcomb's gunning for the men who destroyed her life—and won't settle for anything less than retribution. Gunslinger: On her way to start a new life in tough-as-nails Tombstone, Claire meets Isabella, an actress and a railroad magnate’s mistress. When Isabella’s security man is killed, Claire’s hired to take his place and finds that Isabella is a target—making Claire one too… Legend: In the aftermath of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Claire accepts a job transporting a convicted murderer to prison. The only catch? She and Harry, a hotheaded bounty hunter, need to bring him in alive. Will the convict’s gang kill Claire and Harry to rescue their leader, or can the two gunfighters bring the outlaw to justice?

Monte Walsh

By Jack Schaefer,

Book cover of Monte Walsh

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.


Who am I?

Although I grew up with a fondness for Western movies thanks to my John Wayne-loving dad, I never seriously explored the genre until I began writing my Holmes on the Range mystery series. What I discovered when I began regularly reading books about the West took me a bit by surprise: I loved them! Since then I’ve read dozens of history books, novels, and short story collections that bring the Old West to life.


I wrote...

Holmes on the Range: A Mystery

By Steve Hockensmith,

Book cover of Holmes on the Range: A Mystery

What is my book about?

The Wild West gets even wilder when cowboy brothers Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer and Gustav “Old Red” Amlingmeyer set out to catch a killer using the methods of the late, great Sherlock Holmes. The only thing standing between them and the truth: stampedes, rustlers, Holmes-hating English aristocrats, and a cannibal named “Hungry Bob.” Entertainment Weekly calls this Edgar Award-finalist mystery/Western hybrid “hilarious” and “delightfully offbeat.”

The Cowboy and the Cossack

By Clair Huffaker,

Book cover of The Cowboy and the Cossack

This is one of my all-time favorite novels. A group of Montana cowboys must drive a herd of cattle across Russia in the early 1880s or a village will starve. You’re thinking, dude, this is Lonesome Dove set in Russia. Fair point, but this book came out a decade before the McMurtry novel. And in my humble opinion, it’s a better book. Yes, that’s a bold statement. The scenes are so beautifully written and executed, that you feel like you’re there. Fantasy readers will appreciate the clash of cultures as well as the coming-of-age story that gives the book its heart. I envy those of you who get to meet Levi, Shad, Rostov, and the rest for the first time. This is a book to be treasured and re-read.


Who am I?

My mother instilled a love of reading in me, and from an early age, I read everything from Agatha Christie to Edgar Rice Burroughs to Louis L’Amour to Marvel Comics. Stories are stories no matter how they’re classified, and genre is primarily a marketing tool to help readers find things they like. When I started writing, I often blended genres because I liked so many things. As I type this, I have 29 novels published with #30 on the way. The novels include science fiction, fantasy, horror, and thriller under my name, westerns as Dan Winchester, and a cozy mystery as Angie Cabot. Go figure.


I wrote...

Modern Sorcery: The First Jonathan Shade Novel

By Gary Jonas,

Book cover of Modern Sorcery: The First Jonathan Shade Novel

What is my book about?

Modern Sorcery at its core is about friendship. On the surface, it blends fantasy with mystery. The hero, Jonathan Shade, is a private investigator who handles cases dealing with magic and the supernatural. His protector, Kelly Chan, is a magically engineered assassin devoted to Jonathan because he showed her she could be more than just a killer. Esther, his secretary, is a ghost from the 1920s flapper era bound to her typewriter, and not-so-secretly in love with Jonathan. It’s the first of twelve novels about these characters. They’re loaded with action and humor.

Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy

By Jan Thomas,

Book cover of Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy

How can you not love a book with this title? Jan Thomas happens to be one of my favorite picture book creators, and this book clearly shows why. Her books are all surprising, quirky, and slightly absurd, three things I strive for in my own work. I love the idea of a cowboy who sings lullabies to his cows every night. And while this cowboy starts off fine, he is constantly distracted by scary things he sees in the dark, like a spider (that turns out to be a flower) and a snake that is actually just a stick. Kids love it when adults act silly, and this hysterical cowboy will have them howling with laughter. If you like Sandra Boyton, check out Jan Thomas’s work.


Who am I?

I love this letter that I received from a child reader: Ahoy Ms. Crimi! Your book Henry and the Crazed Chicken Pirates made me think of myself because the character Henry is really shy and cowardly, kind of like me sometimes. But I put all that aside and come around in the most sincere moments. Like this young reader, I, too, have my cowardly moments. I was definitely Piglet in Winnie the Pooh! Perhaps this is why so many of my books involve fearful characters. It’s a character trait that I relate to all too easily. Writing about my fears gives me some insight to them and, hopefully, it helps my readers as well.


I wrote...

There Might Be Lobsters

By Carolyn Crimi, Laurel Molk (illustrator),

Book cover of There Might Be Lobsters

What is my book about?

Suki is a very small dog who is afraid of pretty much everything at the beach—waves, beach balls, lifeguards, and, of course, lobsters. But when Suki’s very best toy, Chunka Munka, starts floating out to sea, Suki must act bravely and quickly in order to save him.

I got the idea for this book from my own small and fearful dog, Emerson. I took him to the dog beach in town every afternoon until one day a three-inch-tall wave knocked him over. He never liked the beach after that. The only thing he would do is sit in a stranger’s lap, so I figured he could easily just sit in my lap at home without having to pay for the dog beach.

Nicholas

By René Goscinny, Jean-Jacques Sempé (illustrator),

Book cover of Nicholas

Although there are some parts of the Nicholas series that don’t hold up quite as well today – Nicholas and his friends attempt to smoke a discarded cigar, and their game of cowboys is extremely dated – these everyday adventures perfectly capture the feeling of being a kid looking out at a world that doesn’t make sense, because the world is run by grownups. Narrated by Nicholas himself, each chapter is a self-contained story full of the hilarious ups and downs of childhood. Sometimes when you’re a kid, no matter how hard you try to do good, you still get in trouble, and sometimes, your parents are endlessly frustrated, while you remain happily oblivious.


Who am I?

I came to write books for children somewhat by accident – my first Star Wars book, Darth Vader and Son, was intended to be for adults, but kids decided the book was really for them. One of the most satisfying things as an author has been hearing from parents whose children have them read the book to them over and over. I’ve loved being able to read to my sons, introducing them to books I loved at their age, and discovering others I haven’t read before. The books I love most to read with them, though, are the ones we both laugh out loud at. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.


I wrote...

Star Wars: A Vader Family Sithmas

By Jeffrey Brown,

Book cover of Star Wars: A Vader Family Sithmas

What is my book about?

Sithmas time is here, and the Vader family—little Luke, Leia, and the Dark Lord of the Sith—are busy trimming the tree, hanging their stockings, building stormtrooper snowmen, and listening for Santa’s tauntauns on the roof. Featuring Force-wielding snowball fights, gingerbread Death Stars, sledding with Han Solo, and much more, this charming family album of festivity in Jeffrey Brown’s New York Times bestselling Vader series is the stocking stuffer of the season for fans across the galaxy far, far away.

Cowboy Desire

By Alice Renaud, Alan Souter, Callie Carmen, Dee S. Knight, Eileen Troemel, Estelle Pettersen, Jan Selbourne, Nancy Golinski, Patricia Elliott, R.M. Olivia

Book cover of Cowboy Desire

Wild and sexy ProRodeo cowboy Colton Maples is the kind of hero that had me hooked when I read Ava, a short story by Callie Carmen in the Cowboy Desire anthology. This hot honey didn’t seem like the kind of guy to settle down and be a one-woman man, leaving behind past lovers, but he surprised me. It was love at first sight when he met Ava Kincaid, an artist who was equally smitten with him. It was no surprise when the gray-eyed, dark-haired hunk flirted his way into Ava’s life and in her bed, but would he break her heart? Colton and Ava took me on an emotional ride, that’s for sure. The steamy scenes were written tastefully and I enjoyed reading every page of this sexy romance. And yes, I loved the ending.


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by bad-boy heroes since I started reading romance books in my teenage years. Throw me a story about a rebel, player, a guy who likes living on the edge with a wild streak, and you’ve got me sold. There are a few rules when it comes to what I don’t want in a bad boy – abuse, pedophiles, violent men, and lack of consent. I love happy endings and believe that every bad boy and his lover (or lovers if it’s a consensual polyamorous relationship) deserve their happily ever after endings. I’m an ex-journalist who has published romance stories from erotic to sweet.


I wrote...

Lessons on Seduction

By Estelle Pettersen,

Book cover of Lessons on Seduction

What is my book about?

When college student Sapphire Blake finds herself fresh out of a breakup, she is ready to embark on a new journey in her life. A dark, sensual journey. 

Professor Julian Richland is ridiculously handsome, smart, and intimidating. When he and Sapphire are introduced, sparks are ignited as he sees past the conservative stigma Sapphire believes the world has placed on her. Instead, he sees a sexy vixen—and he can’t help but admit he wants her. As the couple begins a dangerous, passionate liaison, secrets become exposed and lives are threatened. Will Julian save his relationship with Sapphire and rekindle the fiery flame they share? Or, will fate have another ending in store? Find out in this thrilling and erotic romance novel.

The Cowboy Who Stole My Heart

By Melinda Carroll,

Book cover of The Cowboy Who Stole My Heart

First of all this book has a hot cowboy in it. *Swoons* As far as wish-fulfillment goes, I think most women would like to date a cowboy. Cowboys love horses, have muscles, and wear cool hats. I’m not sure why women ever stopped making men wear hats (top hats especially—every man looks better in a top hat) so I especially appreciate a man in a cowboy hat. 

However, I wouldn’t like a cowgirl’s schedule of getting up at the crack of dawn to do ranch work, which is why it’s so nice to vicariously live through this book. You get to date the hot guy but you don’t have to clean stables. Win-win!

Oh, and mixing up a guy with his twin brother and making a fool of yourself—also fun to read about.


Who am I?

Why do I have expertise on embarrassing moments? I wish I could say I just enjoy watching other people occasionally squirm and nothing humiliating has ever happened to me. That would be such a lie, though. I’m an embarrassing moment waiting to happen. I rode to the vet with a cat who wanted to cling to the top of my head. I got stuck in a gas station in the middle of nowhere. I (nearly) locked myself out of my house in my pajamas. The only good thing about having embarrassing moments is that you can use them in your novels. And I do.


I wrote...

Just One Wish

By Janette Rallison,

Book cover of Just One Wish

What is my book about?

She’d go to the ends of the earth—or at least Hollywood—to save her brother’s life. Annika Truman has never considered "genie" as a career option, but maybe she should have. She’s convinced if she fulfills her little brother’s only wish before his cancer surgery, he’ll have a better chance of pulling through. The trouble is, Jeremy wants the actor who plays Teen Robinhood to pay him a visit. Steve Raleigh is handsome, cocky, and most likely unreachable. And worse, Annika only has a couple of days to find him and convince him to visit her brother. Still, she has to try.

Nowhere Ranch

By Heidi Cullinan,

Book cover of Nowhere Ranch

This is the story of a cowboy whose family throws him out because he’s gay, and the relationship he strikes up with the rancher he goes to work for. There is a lot of hot sex in this, it was certainly the most extreme I’d read at the time. But it’s handled sensitively. The emotions of the two men are all over the place at first and the author does a great job of taking the reader on their journey of discovery and made this reader believe their happy ever after.


Who am I?

I’m fascinated by men, the way they think and behave, the problems they have in their relationships. The very first gay romance I wrote was a cowboy story – Cowboys Downand who doesn’t love cowboys? They’re enigmatic, strong, rugged, ultra-masculine. But what if they were also gay? I think it’s that challenge, to show another side of a role that has so predominantly been drawn in one particular way in western books and films. I think gay men must have to work even harder to be accepted as a cowboy than in many other industries and exploring that is enthralling.


I wrote...

Edge of Forever

By Barbara Elsborg,

Book cover of Edge of Forever

What is my book about?

Levi thinks his father’s joking when he says for the next six months Levi’s going to be teaching Russians how to be cowboys. Working in the frozen desolation of southwest Russia, he’ll not only earn enough to buy a new barn, but he won’t be sloping off on Saturday nights to gay bars. Result!

Pasha finally pushes his oligarch father too far and is banished to a remote ranch in the middle of a Russian winter. Pasha hates the countryside, hates physical work, hates being cold and cows. Deprived of money, phone, and friends, he’s screwed and not in a good way. He arrives at the ranch wearing eyeliner, and retches every time he walks into a barn. Then he comes face to face with Levi. Opposites don’t attract. Do they?

Wild Trail

By A.M. Arthur,

Book cover of Wild Trail: A Gay Cowboy Romance (Clean Slate Ranch, 1)

This is the first in the Clean Slate Ranch series. An opposite attract story set at a dude ranch. The lives of Mack – the ranch owner, and Wes – the tourist who’s an actor and doesn’t trust cowboys collide, and it takes a while for the two to sort themselves out. I like opposites attract stories and these two couldn’t be more opposite. A.M. Arthur has written a lot of cowboy tales and they all have a brilliant sense of place as well as intriguing characters. I’ve not read one I’ve not liked.  


Who am I?

I’m fascinated by men, the way they think and behave, the problems they have in their relationships. The very first gay romance I wrote was a cowboy story – Cowboys Downand who doesn’t love cowboys? They’re enigmatic, strong, rugged, ultra-masculine. But what if they were also gay? I think it’s that challenge, to show another side of a role that has so predominantly been drawn in one particular way in western books and films. I think gay men must have to work even harder to be accepted as a cowboy than in many other industries and exploring that is enthralling.


I wrote...

Edge of Forever

By Barbara Elsborg,

Book cover of Edge of Forever

What is my book about?

Levi thinks his father’s joking when he says for the next six months Levi’s going to be teaching Russians how to be cowboys. Working in the frozen desolation of southwest Russia, he’ll not only earn enough to buy a new barn, but he won’t be sloping off on Saturday nights to gay bars. Result!

Pasha finally pushes his oligarch father too far and is banished to a remote ranch in the middle of a Russian winter. Pasha hates the countryside, hates physical work, hates being cold and cows. Deprived of money, phone, and friends, he’s screwed and not in a good way. He arrives at the ranch wearing eyeliner, and retches every time he walks into a barn. Then he comes face to face with Levi. Opposites don’t attract. Do they?

Splinters

By Thorny Sterling,

Book cover of Splinters

I love the start of this. An actor (again!) wakes to find himself naked and bound to a plank in the middle of the Texas range. Fortunately, along comes his saviour in the form of Duke, his knight in shining armour, or in this case, a cowboy. It’s a debut novel and it’s very good. Romantic and sweet with a bit of a mystery and I loved the touches of humour. Humour always brings a book alive for me. Sadly I think that’s the only book Thorny has written and it’s shame. 


Who am I?

I’m fascinated by men, the way they think and behave, the problems they have in their relationships. The very first gay romance I wrote was a cowboy story – Cowboys Downand who doesn’t love cowboys? They’re enigmatic, strong, rugged, ultra-masculine. But what if they were also gay? I think it’s that challenge, to show another side of a role that has so predominantly been drawn in one particular way in western books and films. I think gay men must have to work even harder to be accepted as a cowboy than in many other industries and exploring that is enthralling.


I wrote...

Edge of Forever

By Barbara Elsborg,

Book cover of Edge of Forever

What is my book about?

Levi thinks his father’s joking when he says for the next six months Levi’s going to be teaching Russians how to be cowboys. Working in the frozen desolation of southwest Russia, he’ll not only earn enough to buy a new barn, but he won’t be sloping off on Saturday nights to gay bars. Result!

Pasha finally pushes his oligarch father too far and is banished to a remote ranch in the middle of a Russian winter. Pasha hates the countryside, hates physical work, hates being cold and cows. Deprived of money, phone, and friends, he’s screwed and not in a good way. He arrives at the ranch wearing eyeliner, and retches every time he walks into a barn. Then he comes face to face with Levi. Opposites don’t attract. Do they?

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