The most recommended books on North Dakota

Who picked these books? Meet our 24 experts.

24 authors created a book list connected to North Dakota, and here are their favorite North Dakota books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of North Dakota book?


Book cover of Penguin Days

Janelle Diller Author Of Mystery of the Thief in the Night: Mexico 1

From my list on with diverse and spunky characters.

Who am I?

My dad was an adventure traveler, so I floated down the Amazon, rode chicken busses in rural Guatemala, and stepped on the Russian Steppes before I ever saw Big Ben. All that adventure as a kid engendered an insatiable curiosity about the amazing diversity of people and cultures in this world. Sadly, when I was growing up, most children’s books didn’t reflect this diversity. Not only should all children be able to see themselves on the pages of the books they read, it’s equally important that kids see children who aren’t just like they are. Consequently, adding cultural and ethnic diversity into kids' lit has become a passion for me. 

Janelle's book list on with diverse and spunky characters

Janelle Diller Why did Janelle love this book?

In the second book in this endearing series, Lauren, who has ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) travels with her family so Lauren can be the flower girl in her auntie’s wedding. It takes Lauren’s family “two days, eight movies, four chapter books, and three throw-ups” to get to their destination. The book is filled with gentle humor, which helps me appreciate Lauren’s perspective while at the same time it doesn’t sugarcoat life with a child with ASD. Leach artfully balances it all: here’s the raw reality and it can be exhausting; yes, we get frazzled but we have a few strategies; and we still love our daughter. Trust me, you’ll laugh and you’ll sigh with this window into what it’s like with ASD.

By Sara Leach, Rebecca Bender (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Penguin Days as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

From the award-winning creators of Slug Days

Lauren and her family drive to a farm in North Dakota to visit relatives and celebrate her Aunt Jossie's wedding. But Lauren finds to her dismay that she is expected to do more than meet adults who hug her and invade her personal space. Lauren is going to be-horror of all horrors-a flower girl.

Lauren has Autism Spectrum Disorder, and she sees the world a little differently from other kids. What makes her comfortable are her routines and her coping mechanisms for her anxiety, which can get out of control in no time.…

Book cover of The Master Butchers Singing Club

Karin Melberg Schwier Author Of Small Reckonings

From my list on historical prairie fiction to transport readers.

Who am I?

I am drawn to stories about “the olden days,” non-fiction, fiction, or first-hand storytelling by homesteaders who came from away to settle on the prairies. Perhaps it is a way to recall my own farm childhood, a way to recall both joyful and unhappy times. When my brother taught me to climb (and get down from) the apple tree. The realization the pet steer who followed me around all summer and occasionally let me ride on his back while he grazed would be met by the mobile butcher truck in the fall. Hardships and simple joys, the life lessons, the banal work done for the family and farm to survive.

Karin's book list on historical prairie fiction to transport readers

Karin Melberg Schwier Why did Karin love this book?

It follows German immigrant Fidelis Waldvogel and his family, and other characters in a small rural town in North Dakota in the years of and in between the First and Second World Wars.

The way the earthy and believable characters confront complex human issues intertwined with family, betrayal, death, are deftly told by a master storyteller. This one sits on my bookshelf for re-reads. I am in awe of Erdrich’s storytelling ability; you know these characters, you can smell the inside of the butcher shop, you feel a boy’s exhilaration as he watches a plane fly overhead.

By Louise Erdrich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Master Butchers Singing Club as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A powerful novel from one of the most celebrated American writers of her generation, and the winner of the National Book Award for Fiction 2012

In the quiet aftermath of WWI, Fidelis Waldvogel leaves behind his quiet German village, and sets out for America with his new wife Eva - the widow of his best friend, killed in action.

Finally settling in North Dakota, Fidelis works hard to build a business, a home for his family - and a singing club consisting of the best voices in town. But his adventure into the New World truly begins when he encounters…

Book cover of Welcome to Hard Times

John D. Nesbitt Author Of Dark Prairie

From my list on thought-provoking classic westerns worth rereading.

Who am I?

As a college instructor and a student of Western American Literature for many, many years I have read a great number of western novels for my classes and for my literary studies. In addition to my doctoral dissertation on the topic, I have written and published numerous articles and reviews on western writers, and I have given many public presentations as well. I have a long-standing interest in what makes good works good. As a fiction writer, I have published more than thirty traditional western novels with major publishers, and have won several national awards for my western novels and short stories. 

John's book list on thought-provoking classic westerns worth rereading

John D. Nesbitt Why did John love this book?

Welcome to Hard Times is a shorter novel. It is of the length of the classic western that was popular at the time that this novel came out (1960). This novel is sometimes described as an anti-western or an ironic western, as it takes a non-heroic view of people dealing with evil in a frontier town. It was made into a movie by the same title, but the movie is not well known. The novel is similar in tone to the movie McCabe and Mrs. Miller, which some people do not like because of its non-heroic or skeptical tone. Readers who like their westerns upbeat and unequivocal may not appreciate Doctorow’s novel, but readers who are willing to consider less-than-pristine views may find an interesting treatment here.

By E.L. Doctorow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Welcome to Hard Times as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is E. L. Doctorow’s debut novel, a searing allegory of frontier life that sets the stage for his subsequent classics.

Hard Times is the name of a town in the barren hills of the Dakota Territory. To this town there comes one day one of the reckless sociopaths who wander the West to kill and rape and pillage. By the time he is through and has ridden off, Hard Times is a smoking ruin. The de facto mayor, Blue, takes in two survivors of the carnage–a boy, Jimmy, and a prostitute, Molly, who has suffered unspeakably–and makes them his…

Book cover of Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey In Rural North Dakota

Christopher Brett Bailey Author Of I Saw Satan at the 7-Eleven

From my list on for headbangers.

Who am I?

My new book, I Saw Satan at the 7-Eleven, is among other things, a love letter to heavy metal. I am a lifelong music obsessive: a record collector, concertgoer, maker of mixtapes, sewer of patch jackets. When I’m not writing or reading I’m playing guitar with the amp turned all the way up. And I have the tinnitus to prove it. Some of the books on this list are about metal, others are simply imbued with its rebellious dionysian spirit. But every damn one of them goes to 11, I can assure you of that. Enjoy!

Christopher's book list on for headbangers

Christopher Brett Bailey Why did Christopher love this book?

The cutest book I’ve ever read about being a fan. Warm and softhearted, Chuck’s writing is literary comfort food.

A music and sports journalist turned memoirist, this is his misty-eyed look back at childhood. Like an episode of The Wonder Years all about Hair Metal. You can substitute Hair Metal for anything chronically un-cool that you ever fell in love with.

It’s a gleeful defence of the dork inside, a reminder that taste is subjective, that fashions come and go, that when we poo-poo things we’re denying ourselves potential enjoyment. There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Pleasure is pleasure, and there isn’t enough of it in this sorry world.

So, curl up with Klosterman and enjoy what you enjoy. 

By Chuck Klosterman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Powered by a sharp and wholly original voice, Chuck Klosterman delivers a real-life High Fidelity in this savvy, deliriously funny memoir of growing up a shameless heavy-metal devotee in 1980s North Dakota. The year is 1983, and Chuck Klosterman just wants to rock. But he's got problems. For one, he's in the fifth grade. For another, he's mired in rural North Dakota. Worst of all, his parents aren't exactly down with the long hairstyle which said rocking requires. Luckily, his brother saves the day when he brings home a bit of manna from metal heaven, Shout at the Devil, Motley…

Book cover of LaRose: A Novel

Lynne Hugo Author Of The Testament of Harold's Wife

From my list on families struggling to cope after sudden death.

Who am I?

All my work--as a novelist and a licensed clinical therapist--deals with what happens in families, which sometimes includes overwhelming grief. But now, it hasn’t been long since I lost my own son. In these novels, I recognize a piece of myself as I, like any survivor, have struggled to cope. Like few other events in our lives, death has the possibility of completely derailing us with its brutality, and often surviving family cast about blindly, searching for sense, for meaning. Sometimes we can’t find any; sometimes we do, and sometimes we create it ourselves. These novels put different approaches into story, and that, too, is a way to search out direction--and hope.

Lynne's book list on families struggling to cope after sudden death

Lynne Hugo Why did Lynne love this book?

In her fifteenth novel, Erdrich, a member of the Ojibwe tribe, attempts to answer the question, “Can a person do the worst possible thing and still be loved?” by showing readers how native American parents living on a reservation cope when the father, Landreaux, accidentally kills his best friend’s five-year-old son in a hunting accident. Landreaux is distraught, wracked with horror, guilt, and grief. After consultation and attending a sweat, guided by an old native custom, he gives La Rose, his and his wife’s youngest child–whose best friend was the deceased–to the bereaved parents and siblings in a version of justice. It’s a twist on an eye for an eye, intended to equalize the suffering and prevent the escalation and further death that can occur when acts of grief-fueled revenge begin. Now both families are suffering unbearable loss, and so is LaRose, a five-year-old boy.

I don’t know if there’s…

By Louise Erdrich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Late summer in North Dakota, 1999: Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence but only when he staggers closer does he realise he has killed his neighbour's son.

Dusty Ravich, the deceased boy, was best friends with Landreaux's five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have been close for years and their children played together despite going to different schools. Landreaux is horrified at what he's done; fighting off his longstanding alcoholism, he ensconces himself in a sweat lodge and prays for guidance. And there he discovers an old…

Book cover of Dirt to Soil: One Family's Journey Into Regenerative Agriculture

Courtney White Author Of Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country

From my list on and for learning about regenerative agriculture.

Who am I?

I am an author and former environmental activist who dropped out of the ‘conflict industry’ in 1997 to start the Quivira Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a radical center among ranchers, environmentalists, scientists, and others around practices that improve resilience in working landscapes. For two decades, I worked on the front lines of collaborative conservation and regenerative agriculture, sharing innovative, land-based solutions to food, water, and climate challenges. I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Courtney's book list on and for learning about regenerative agriculture

Courtney White Why did Courtney love this book?

Gabe Brown didn’t set out to change the world when he first started working alongside his father-in-law on the family farm in North Dakota. But a series of weather-related crop disasters put Brown in desperate financial straits. He decided to quit the industrial model of food production and began experimenting with regenerative agriculture instead. He stopped using herbicides, insecticides, and synthetic fertilizers. He no-tilled diverse crops into his fields and changed his grazing practices. By doing so, Brown transformed a degraded farm ecosystem into one full of life. Brown has grown several inches of new topsoil in only twenty years and turned the farm into a diverse, profitable enterprise. This book is a great introduction for all readers.

By Gabe Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Dirt to Soil is the [regenerative farming] movements's holy text' The Observer

Author and farmer Gabe Brown, featured in the Netflix documentary Kiss the Ground

'A regenerative no-till pioneer' NBC News

'Dirt to Soil confirms my belief that animals are part of the natural land. We need to reintegrate livestock and crops on our farms and ranches, and Gabe Brown shows us how to do it well.' Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

Soil health pioneer Gabe Brown did not set out to write a book on no-till, regenerative agriculture but that was the end product of his research…

Book cover of Gathering Prey

Mark Love Author Of Why 319?

From my list on contemporary mysteries.

Who am I?

I’m a contemporary mystery junkie. Realistic tales, set in the modern world always grab my attention. In a creative writing course in college, one professor suggested the old ‘write what you know’ approach. I don’t know everything, but I know what I like. Mysteries! I thrive on distinctive characters, those who are willing to put every effort into getting to the bottom of the situation. Sharp, tight dialogue and descriptions are essential. Give me that, and I’ll be back for more. This is my passion. Come along if you want a thrill and a surprise or two. 

Mark's book list on contemporary mysteries

Mark Love Why did Mark love this book?

I’ve been a fan of Sandford’s detective Lucas Davenport for a long time. He’s wicked smart, with a dark side that loves to come out and play occasionally. The way he orchestrates his use of the news media, and the department is uncommon. But the bureaucratic nonsense is starting to wear thin. And it’s getting in the way of Davenport’s passion for catching killers. When a friend of his daughter runs into trouble, he reluctantly jumps into the case, even though it takes him out of Minnesota and into the wilderness of Wisconsin and Michigan.

Davenport is the ultimate badass. He does whatever it takes to bring a case to closure and for justice to be served.

By John Sandford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Lucas Davenport thriller by internationally bestselling novelist John Sandford

They call them Travelers. They move from city to city, panhandling, committing no crimes - they just like to stay on the move. And now somebody is killing them.

Lucas Davenport's adopted daughter, Letty, is home from college when she gets a phone call from a woman Traveler she'd befriended in San Francisco. The woman thinks somebody's killing her friends, she's afraid she knows who it is, and now her male companion has gone missing. She's hiding out in North Dakota, and she doesn't know what to do.

Letty tells…

Book cover of Breakfast with Buddha

Kathryn E. Livingston Author Of Yin, Yang, Yogini: A Woman's Quest for Balance, Strength and Inner Peace

From my list on yoga memoirs to inspire you on your path.

Who am I?

Nearly 20 years ago, I awkwardly stumbled into a yoga class after a therapist informed me that I needed to do something about my anxiety issues (“Take your pick,” she said, “I’ll prescribe pills or you can try yoga.”) From the very first class, I was drawn not only to the physical practice, but to the sense that yoga could lead me deeper into my own heart and soul. I wrote a memoir about my journey—and about how yoga helped me later face and conquer breast cancer. I now teach yoga, and I love reading about how yoga changes lives—as it almost always does. 

Kathryn's book list on yoga memoirs to inspire you on your path

Kathryn E. Livingston Why did Kathryn love this book?

True, it’s fiction, so not really a memoir at all. But it reads like one in part because it’s the spiritual journey of a likable doubting Thomas (named Otto Ringling) who thinks that all that New Age-y stuff is a bunch of malarkey (there’s also an actual journey from the east coast to North Dakota). If you’ve ever questioned anything “woo-woo,” you’ll be charmed by Otto’s unlikely travel companion—an enigmatic spiritual teacher named Volya Rinpoche. At the onset, Otto is a dry, snarky, judgmental guy but he learns to listen to his heart and accept others. I used to be a lot like Otto, so his path from doubter to a believer-of-sorts spoke to me personally. Merullo has also written sequelsinvolving lunch and dinner, of course.

By Roland Merullo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Breakfast with Buddha as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When his sister tricks him into taking her guru on a trip to their childhood home, Otto Ringling, a confirmed skeptic, is not amused. Six days on the road with an enigmatic holy man who answers every question with a riddle is not what he'd planned. But in an effort to westernize his passenger--and amuse himself--he decides to show the monk some "American fun" along the way. From a chocolate factory in Hershey to a bowling alley in South Bend, from a Cubs game at Wrigley field to his family farm near Bismarck, Otto is given the remarkable opportunity to…

Book cover of The Night Watchman

Rebecca Hazell Author Of The War Queens

From Rebecca's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Artist Historian Reader Explorer

Rebecca's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Rebecca Hazell Why did Rebecca love this book?

Written by one of the US’s great novelists, this book took me straight into the homes and lives of a Native family fighting for both.

It’s gentle, funny, kind, and generous, and it’s based on the true story of how one tribe went all the way to Congress to foil a land grab that would have impoverished its members and destroyed their heritage.

It’s based on Erdrich’s grandfather, a night watchman who rose to the occasion. You’d think it would be depressing, but instead, I felt both cheered up and better educated by this must-read!

In a time when reconciliation and forgiveness are often lost in the melee of anger, violence, and vengeance, this witty and strong-boned novel gave me hope.

By Louise Erdrich,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Night Watchman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



It is 1953. Thomas Wazhushk is the night watchman at the first factory to open near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a prominent Chippewa Council member, trying to understand a new bill that is soon to be put before Congress. The US Government calls it an 'emancipation' bill; but it isn't about freedom - it threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land, their very identity. How can he fight this betrayal?

Unlike most of the girls on the reservation, Pixie…

Book cover of The Round House

Eric Cheyfitz Author Of The Colonial Construction of Indian Country: Native American Literatures & Federal Indian Law

From my list on Native American resistance to U.S colonialism.

Who am I?

I am Eric Cheyfitz, the Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University, where I am on the faculty of The American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program and its former director. Because of my expertise in federal Indian law, I have been a consultant in certain legal matters involving Native issues. Some of the many books I teach and have written about are on my Shepherd list. My work is sustaining: writing and teaching about Native life and literature is a way of joining a crucial conversation about the survival of the planet through living a socially, politically, and economically balanced life.

Eric's book list on Native American resistance to U.S colonialism

Eric Cheyfitz Why did Eric love this book?

The Round House by Anishinaabe novelist Louise Erdrich, which won the National Book Award in 2012, makes it clear why federal Indian law cannot deliver justice to Indian country.

It does this skillfully by constructing a plot in which rape of and murder by a white man of Native women on an Ojibway reservation impacts the lives of a tribal judge, his wife (the victim of the rape), and their 13yr. old son, who narrates the story as an adult who has become a tribal judge himself.

I value this book because it is both didactic (it teaches one about federal Indian law) and dynamic (Erdrich knows how to tell a compelling story). As such it is at the heart of the thesis of my own book: the formative interaction between Native literatures and federal Indian law.

By Louise Erdrich,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Round House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the National Book Award • Washington Post Best Book of the Year • A New York Times Notable Book

From one of the most revered novelists of our time, an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family.

One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface because Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal…