The best Navajo books 📚

Browse the best books on the Navajo 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 Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: A Navajo Code Talker's Story

Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: A Navajo Code Talker's Story

By Joseph Bruchac, Liz Amini-Holmes

Why this book?

If I had to recommend just one picture book about languages, I’d choose this one, because it does so much. First, of course, it shares a long-secret episode in American history—the triumph of the Navajo “code talkers” in World War II. (Not the first time bilingual heroes came to our country’s rescue: see my own picture book Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution.)  But this book also addresses language justice in a way that kids will find easy to understand. Through Chester, we feel the pain and confusion of being told one’s…

From the list:

The best picture books about languages

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

Book cover of A Thief of Time: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel

A Thief of Time: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel

By Tony Hillerman

Why this book?

The story begins with the murder of two grave robbers who have been stealing ancient pots from Anasazi burial sites in the American Southwest. Hillerman’s atmospheric sweep crosses land, centuries, and warring interests. This is The Book that inspired my love for reading and writing mysteries with great art, artifacts, and relics at the heart of the crime. For me, there’s hardly any story more compelling than one where a work of art – a thing of beauty and priceless cultural value – leads to the ugliness of murder. I’m instantly interested in those people and what makes them tick. 

From the list:

The best mystery books where great art leads to even greater crimes

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

Book cover of A Voice In Her Tribe: A Navajo Woman's Own Story

A Voice In Her Tribe: A Navajo Woman's Own Story

By Irene Stewart

Why this book?

Thankfully, not all Indian stories are written or recounted by men. Irene Stewart, born at the base of Canyon de Chelly in 1907, grew up in the shadow of her father, a medicine man who had her kidnapped and taken against her will to boarding school. She survived three of those schools, including Haskell Institute, where she learned to bob her hair, studied home economics, and later became a Presbyterian. But this is no simple tale of assimilation. Like many of her schoolmates, she remained attached to tribal ways and remained true to Navajo tradition even while transforming herself for…

From the list:

The best books with true stories about Indian country

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

Book cover of Mars

Mars

By Ben Bova

Why this book?

After spending a few weeks on the Navajo lands in Northern Arizona in 1988, I wanted to write my book from the holistic and naturalistic perspective of a young Navajo who had worked for NASA and lived off the reservation for several years (loosely based on a friend of mine). As it turned out, Ben Bova got there ahead of me in 1992, sending a Navajo geologist on the first crewed mission to Mars. While he’s there, he makes a discovery that also ties into Navajo culture. I have always appreciated the worldview of the Navajo people, and characters with…

From the list:

The best science fiction novels about Mars colonization

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

Book cover of Code Talker

Code Talker

By Chester Nez, Judith Schiess Avila

Why this book?

Chester Nez was not his name. The American government gave him it. They punished him for speaking his native language, and he faced discrimination. Yet after Pearl Harbour, he accepted the call to serve his country.

This memoir is both a poignant and fascinating story of how the military trained Native Americans to develop and implement a secret code, which remained unbroken, and helped to secure victory for the United States. I recommend it because it was gripping, and completely different from anything I have read in the WW2 period.

From the list:

The best books about the Second World War

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

Book cover of Skinwalkers

Skinwalkers

By Tony Hillerman

Why this book?

Tony Hillerman created one of the most original detective series I’ve ever come across - Navajo tribal mystery novels. A Thief of Time is probably my favorite of his books but I chose Skinwalkers because it was the first of Hillerman’s novels I had read and skinwalkers are witches who turn themselves into animals, so there’s that. It was a great introduction to his universe of Navajo mysticism and the otherworldly elements that pervade New Mexico, particularly among, but certainly not limited to, its indigenous people. I loved delving into the Navajo history and legends and Police Lieutenant Leaphorn and…

From the list:

The best books set in New Mexico

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

Or, view all 6 books about the Navajo

New book lists about the Navajo

All book lists about the Navajo

Bookshelves related to the Navajo

Browse books by…