The most recommended Navajo books

Who picked these books? Meet our 31 experts.

31 authors created a book list connected to the Navajo, and here are their favorite Navajo books.
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Book cover of Stories from the Land: A Navajo Reader about Monument Valley

Maya Silver Author Of Moon Zion & Bryce: With Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante & Moab

From my list on featuring the American Southwest desert.

Why am I passionate about this?

Even though I’m from humid DC, I’ve been drawn to the desert since I first set foot there as a kid on a family road trip. Now, I’m lucky enough to live in Utah, home to some of the world’s most legendary desert landscapes. One reason I love the desert is the otherworldly scenery: uncanny arches, bizarre hoodoos, and sand dunes you could disappear into. Before your eyes, layers of geologic time unfold in epochs. The desert is a great place for contemplating the past and future—and for great adventures, with endless sandstone walls to climb, slick rock to bike, and sagebrush-lined trails to hike.

Maya's book list on featuring the American Southwest desert

Maya Silver Why did Maya love this book?

You would probably recognize the landscape of Monument Valley from classic Westerns and other films. Stagecoach, the HBO series Westworld, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Forrest Gump are just a few! But aside from a film set, this iconic setting is, first and foremost, the home of the Navajo people.

Based on extensive interviews with Navajo residents of Monument Valley, this book weaves together a portrait of the place and people, from Indigenous cultural traditions and the dawn of Hollywood to mining and the significance of the monuments themselves. 

Book cover of Laughing Boy: A Navajo Love Story

Grant Carrington Author Of Down in the Barraque

From my list on non-sci-fi that a sci-fi writer likes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a computer programmer (BA and MA in math) for several organizations, including NASA and the Savannah River Ecology Lab before retirement, went to the Clarion and Tulane SF&F Workshops, and read the slush pile for Amazing/Fantastic. I’ve done a lot of theatre as actor and lighting tech, have always liked to hike in the woods, have written 11 novels (including 3 published SF novels), had 5 plays given full production, and have 2 CDs of my original songs. In my copious spare time, I sleep.

Grant's book list on non-sci-fi that a sci-fi writer likes

Grant Carrington Why did Grant love this book?

LaFarge’s first novel, Laughing Boy, about the love affair between a reservation Indian and one who had been raised in a religious school, won the 1930 Pulitzer Prize. LaFarge spent much of his life fighting for Native American rights, sometimes in the “dark of Washington.” I wanted to grow up to be an Indian. I still do.

By Oliver La Farge, Wanden Lafarge Gomez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Laughing Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize: “A romantic idyll played out in the rhythms and meanings of a vanished Navajo world.” —The Denver Post

Laughing Boy is a model member of his tribe. Raised in old traditions, skilled in silver work, and known for his prowess in the wild horse races, he does the Navajos of T’o Tlakai proud. But times are changing. It is 1914, and the first car has just driven into their country. Then, Laughing Boy meets Slim Girl—and despite her “American” education and the warnings of his family, he gives in to desire and marries her.
 
As…


Book cover of Trail of Lightning

R.M. Olson Author Of Redshift

From my list on restoring your faith in humanity.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a former journalist-turned-lawyer and a recovering news junky, I’ve spent much of my life watching unhappy scenarios play out. But what’s always astonished me me is how, no matter how bad things get or how difficult the situation, there’s a spark of humanity, of kindness and compassion and optimism, that comes out in people at the most unexpected of times. Now, as an author and a parent, I find myself drawn to stories that remind me of that—that no matter how bleak life may look, how cruel or arbitrary the circumstances, there’s something good and beautiful and worth fighting for, not “somewhere out there,” but inside us. 

R.M.'s book list on restoring your faith in humanity

R.M. Olson Why did R.M. love this book?

I read this book after a long, dull period when I couldn’t seem to find anything to read that sparked my interest. Trail of Lightning picked me up, whirled me around, and made me fall head-over-heels in love with speculative fiction again.

Set in a bleak, post-apocalyptic world, it’s brutal and gripping, but where there should only be sadness and despair, there are unexpected moments of un-looked-for kindness. This isn’t a light read, and it isn’t exactly happy—but there’s a beautiful optimism underlying the bleakness, that after all, even in the worst of circumstances and at the worst of times, people can be kind. 

By Rebecca Roanhorse,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Trail of Lightning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the Time 100 Best Fantasy Books Of All Time

2019 LOCUS AWARD WINNER, BEST FIRST NOVEL

2019 HUGO AWARD FINALIST, BEST NOVEL

Nebula Award Finalist for Best Novel

One of Bustle's Top 20 "landmark sci-fi and fantasy novels" of the decade

"Someone please cancel Supernatural already and give us at least five seasons of this badass Indigenous monster-hunter and her silver-tongued sidekick." -The New York Times

"An excitingly novel tale." -Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse and Midnight Crossroads series

"Fun, terrifying, hilarious, and brilliant." -Daniel Jose Older, New York Times bestselling…


Book cover of Skinwalkers

R Lawson Gamble Author Of The Other

From my list on paranormal and Native American mysticism mystery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am, and always have been, stimulated by a spiritual connection to my world beyond the laws of physics and men. My hiking, climbing, and trail running have taken me to breathless places imbued with auras and presences I don’t understand but readily accept. And I am filled with the same spirituality when performing or listening to music. I have no ego to shun that which I don’t understand, for I know there is so much beyond me. Some authors describe this intangible better than others in their stories; I hope I am among the former.

R Lawson's book list on paranormal and Native American mysticism mystery

R Lawson Gamble Why did R Lawson love this book?

I have long been intrigued by the concept of shapeshifters, particularly the Navajo Skinwalker, a practitioner of spiritual arts who can learn to transform into another species while in pursuit of a particular end. I am not alone,  judging from all the ancient legends around the globe. Even today, depictions of shapeshifters are found in literature and on film in many guises. Tony Hillerman takes a deep dive into Navajo lore in this early novel with a close encounter with a suspected “yee naaldlooshii”. Feel the hair rise on your neck!

By Tony Hillerman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Skinwalkers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Don’t Miss the AMC television series, Dark Winds, based on the Leaphorn, Chee, & Manuelito novels, coming this summer! 

From New York Times bestselling author Tony Hillerman, Skinwalkers is the seventh novel featuring Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee—a riveting tale of sorcery, secrets, and murder.

Three shotgun blasts rip through the side of Officer Jim Chee’s trailer as the Navajo Tribal Policeman sleeps. He survives, but the inexplicable attack has raised disturbing questions about a lawman once beyond reproach.

Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn wonders why Chee was a target and what connection the assault has to a series of…


Book cover of A Thief of Time

Stephen Allten Brown Author Of Stealing Picasso

From my list on taking you to unexpected places.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always loved history and art. Combining the two makes perfect sense and provides the inspiration to keep writing. I can spend hours in a museum, just soaking up the magic in Impressionist paintings. I never get tired of researching the artists or their paintings, and I relish the unexpected discoveries. 

Stephen's book list on taking you to unexpected places

Stephen Allten Brown Why did Stephen love this book?

I was inspired by his descriptions. He captures the ethos of a place, the unique attributes that elevate mere locations to sensory experiences. I use the five senses as a guideline when writing descriptions. Tony Hillerman can place the reader in the scene, and I’m inspired to accomplish the same thing.

By Tony Hillerman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Thief of Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Don’t miss the TV series, Dark Winds, based on the Leaphorn, Chee, & Manuelito novels, now on AMC and AMC+!  

“All of Tony Hillerman’s Navajo tribal police novels have been brilliant, but A Thief of Time is flat-out marvelous.”—USA Today

From New York Times bestselling author Tony Hillerman, A Thief of Time is the eighth novel featuring Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee as they find themselves in hot pursuit of a depraved killer.

At a moonlit Indian ruin where "thieves of time" ravage sacred ground in the name of profit, a noted anthropologist vanishes while on the verge…


Book cover of The Navajo People and Uranium Mining

Bruce E. Johansen Author Of Resource Devastation on Native American Lands: Toxic Earth, Poisoned People

From my list on Native Americans and lethal uranium mining.

Why am I passionate about this?

I retired in 2019 after 38 years of teaching journalism, environmental studies, and Native American Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. About half of my employment time was set aside for writing and editing as part of several endowed professorships I held sequentially between 1990 and 2018. After 2000, climate change (global warming) became my lead focus because of the urgency of the issue and the fact that it affects everyone on Earth. As of 2023, I have written and published 56 books, with about one-third of them on global warming. I have had an intense interest in weather and climate all my life.

Bruce's book list on Native Americans and lethal uranium mining

Bruce E. Johansen Why did Bruce love this book?

Brugge., et al. rests its case on the personal lives of Navajos who became poisoned by the uranium that pervaded nearly the entire Navajo Nation from the 1940s until the mines were closed in the 1970s to about 2015.

Much of the editing was done by Navajos, which provides a clear and strong message describing how the many deaths from uranium poison have shredded the cultural fabric of Navajo life.

It is an intensely personal book that is very strong in its account of these effects on families, elders, and future generations.

By Doug Brugge (editor), Timothy Benally (editor), Esther Yazzie-Lewis (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Navajo People and Uranium Mining as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sixty years ago, the United States turned to the tiny atom to unleash the most destructive force known to mankind and bring an end to World War II. Ironically, the uranium used to create the most technologically advanced weapon ever invented came from the land of the most traditional indigenous people of North America, and was dug from the earth with picks and shovels...Lost in the history of this era is the story of the people - the Dine - who pulled uranium out of the ground by hand, who spoke and continue to speak an ancient tongue...By the thousands,…


Book cover of Healer of the Water Monster

Laura Shovan Author Of Welcome to Monsterville

From Laura's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Poet Avid reader Lifelong educator

Laura's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Laura Shovan Why did Laura love this book?

This contemporary middle-grade novel is infused with Navajo culture. Protagonist Nathan is spending the summer out in the desert on his grandmother’s ancestral land.

It’s hot, dusty, and there is no running water. He’s miserable until he meets a Water Monster, whose mysterious illness is causing a decades-long drought.

This is a great quest/adventure story blended with contemporary themes about family dynamics. The storytelling is so rich that I was totally caught up in Nathan’s quest to save the Water Monster.

By Brian Young,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Healer of the Water Monster as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

American Indian Youth Literature Award Winner: Best Middle Grade Book! Brian Young’s powerful debut novel tells of a seemingly ordinary Navajo boy who must save the life of a Water Monster—and comes to realize he’s a hero at heart.

When Nathan goes to visit his grandma, Nali, at her mobile summer home on the Navajo reservation, he knows he’s in for a pretty uneventful summer, with no electricity or cell service. Still, he loves spending time with Nali and with his uncle Jet, though it’s clear when Jet arrives that he brings his problems with him.

One night, while lost…


Book cover of Yellow Dirt: A Poisoned Land and the Betrayal of the Navajos

Bruce E. Johansen Author Of Resource Devastation on Native American Lands: Toxic Earth, Poisoned People

From my list on Native Americans and lethal uranium mining.

Why am I passionate about this?

I retired in 2019 after 38 years of teaching journalism, environmental studies, and Native American Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. About half of my employment time was set aside for writing and editing as part of several endowed professorships I held sequentially between 1990 and 2018. After 2000, climate change (global warming) became my lead focus because of the urgency of the issue and the fact that it affects everyone on Earth. As of 2023, I have written and published 56 books, with about one-third of them on global warming. I have had an intense interest in weather and climate all my life.

Bruce's book list on Native Americans and lethal uranium mining

Bruce E. Johansen Why did Bruce love this book?

Pasternak was one of several journalists who became immersed in the cause of assembling information on exposure of Navajos and other Native American peoples to lethal doses of uranium as a result of mining.

As a veteran who worked with the Los Angeles Times for 24 years, she played an important role in achieving compensation. Yellow Dirt is especially strong on ways in which uranium had pervaded the lives of the Navajo, from the clothes they wore to the food they ate, to the air they breathed.

By Judy Pasternak,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Yellow Dirt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This investigative feat tells the shocking, heartbreaking story of uranium mining on the Navajo reservation and its terrible legacy of sickness and government neglect, documenting one of the darker chapters in 20th century American history.

Now in paperback, the critically acclaimed Yellow Dirt, “will break your heart. An enormous achievement—literally, a piece of groundbreaking investigative journalism—illustrates exactly what reporting should do: Show us what we’ve become as a people, and sharpen our vision of who we, the people, ought to become” ( The Christian Science Monitor ).

From the 1930s to the 1960s, the United States knowingly used and discarded…


Book cover of The Pale-Faced Lie: A True Story

Jim Wilson Author Of Tuned In: Memoirs of a Piano Man: Behind the Scenes with Music Legends and Finding the Artist Within

From my list on memoirs that deal with overcoming adversity to inspiring results.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a piano technician who’s had the incredible fortune of getting to know and work for just about all my childhood heroes. I’m also a recording artist who’s produced several recordings that have made it into the Billboard Top 20, had two PBS specials, and whose music has been streamed over 75 million times around the globe. At the beginning of the pandemic, I began putting pen to paper to share some of the extraordinary experiences I’ve had with music icons and how being in that jet stream helped me tune in to my mission as an artist. 

Jim's book list on memoirs that deal with overcoming adversity to inspiring results

Jim Wilson Why did Jim love this book?

As with Tara Westover’s book, I was inspired by David Crow’s story of self-determinism in the face of incredible adversity. David was raised in abject poverty on a Navajo reservation. His father was a “violent ex-con who forced his son to commit crimes.”

I related to David’s unwavering resolve, forging his way into college and ultimately creating a successful lobbying firm in D.C. I was drawn in by his simple, unadorned writing and was profoundly moved by his willingness to tell his life story unvarnished and unapologetically.

By David Crow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pale-Faced Lie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Shutter

Yi Shun Lai Author Of A Suffragist's Guide to the Antarctic

From my list on women and girls who rocked the boat.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing about women and girls who rock the boat for two decades. I’ve written about it from my own point of view, in award-winning essays, and from imagined points of view, in almost-award-winning women’s contemporary novels. Now, I’ve tackled it in the YA genre. I want to keep on exploring what it means to buck the system and live to tell the tale. We’re still making up for men writing women’s voices, for women’s voices going unheard. I’m trying to do my part to ask, what if we heard about history from the women’s point of view? 

Yi's book list on women and girls who rocked the boat

Yi Shun Lai Why did Yi love this book?

Another unlikely heroine, but only because she sees ghosts—okay, okay, maybe also because seeing ghosts or even talking about them is strictly forbidden in Rita Todacheene’s Navajo culture.

I loved this book so, so much for both its detail and its unusual premise. Todacheene’s ghosts haunt her and play an active part in her investigations as a forensic photographer. And, since the author was a forensic photographer herself, the work rings true and sharp. Ghosts aside, she also has to contend with her own culture, a struggle with which I’m intimately familiar.  

I also loved the way that Emerson structured this book—Todacheene’s beloved cameras, acting as framing devices, guide us through her timeline, and she keeps on learning things about herself even as we go from the most advanced camera to the oldest possible film-based option. I can’t wait to read the second in this series to see what our…

By Ramona Emerson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Shutter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Longlisted for the National Book Award

This blood-chilling debut set in New Mexico’s Navajo Nation is equal parts gripping crime thriller, supernatural horror, and poignant portrayal of coming of age on the reservation.

Rita Todacheene is a forensic photographer working for the Albuquerque police force. Her excellent photography skills have cracked many cases—she is almost supernaturally good at capturing details. In fact, Rita has been hiding a secret: she sees the ghosts of crime victims who point her toward the clues that other investigators overlook. 

As a lone portal back to the living for traumatized spirits, Rita is terrorized by…