The best books about outlaws

8 authors have picked their favorite books about outlaws and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief

Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief

By Wendelin Van Draanen,

Why this book?

When Sammy Keyes witnesses a burglary, she must solve the crime before the thief catches her! Sammy is clever, sneaky, sassy, and brave. Her actress mother is too busy for her, she doesn’t have a father, and she’s living illegally with her grandma in a seniors-only hotel. Exciting, mysterious, and funny! Not many series go past three books, but super sleuth Sammy stars in 18 books! I collected the whole series.
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The best books to hook young readers on puzzling and magical mysteries

Book cover of Dance of Thieves

Dance of Thieves

By Mary E. Pearson,

Why this book?

Jase is the leader of an empire. Kazi is sent by the queen of the kingdom to investigate misconduct by that empire. Jase becomes Kazi's prisoner and then the adventure begins. Each character has their secrets they must keep from the other while working together. The distrust and disdain but passion they end up feeling for one another are addicting. The second book in the series is on the top of my “to-read” pile.

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The best “I hate you, now kiss me” young adult books

Book cover of Appaloosa


By Robert B. Parker,

Why this book?

This book is the perfect example of a great Western. A stern, courageous lawman, tougher than forged steel. A young sidekick by his side. A beautiful woman in town that everyone wants.

Put those elements onto the page and then throw into it a cruel, evil rancher, who’s already killed the city marshal and one of his deputies. What do you end up with? A kick-ass Western.

From the list:

The best books about the Wild West that you’ll ever read

Book cover of She Who Rides the Storm

She Who Rides the Storm

By Caitlin Sangster,

Why this book?

This book promised me high fantasy with tomb raiding and boy, did it deliver! Sangster’s world is simply named the Commonwealth, but it is anything but simple. Twin moons, ancient lore circling around monstrous shapeshifters, a forbidden magic opposing a heavily religious relegated one, carnivorous unicorns, deadly tombs, and swords carrying the souls of those it killed, She Who Rides the Storm is chock full of detailed worldbuilding. With a beautiful cast of four amazingly well-written characters you actually grow to care about, their individual heists to get into the tomb of the shapeshifter king are loaded with high stakes…

From the list:

The best fantasy novels with worlds to get lost in

Book cover of The Thief's Journal

The Thief's Journal

By Jean Genet,

Why this book?

The French have a peculiar sadomasochism, where they venerate the destitute, elevate them to romantic icons, and then wait to be spat on, by the very thing they applaud. This is Genet in a nutshell, a bourgeois-hating novelist and playwright (who makes Joe Orton sound like an infantile literary masturbator), who got around to putting his life down on paper with this novel, The Thief’s Journal. It is post-Celine, and predates Dirty Realism, and has caustic revelations of a petty criminal. He finds virtue in the sewers of Paris and Europe, like a Phantom dwelling artist whose dishonesty is…

From the list:

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Book cover of True Grit

True Grit

By Charles Portis,

Why this book?

I watched the 2010 remake of this movie starring Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld and just had to read the book. Farmgirl Mattie Ross teams up with a hired gun, seeking someone with “true grit” to help her avenge her father’s murder. At turns comedic and somber, Mattie was everything I wanted my main character to be—gutsy, stubborn, and pragmatic, but also vulnerable and prone to be led astray by her own naivete.
From the list:

The best books with badass heroines that inspired my main character

Book cover of Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why this book?

If you’ve never read this book, fair warning, you’ll want to throw it across the room in the first five pages. It notoriously eschews all punctuation and most established narrative rules in its telling of a nameless Kid falling in with a vicious band of Indian scalp hunters (by that I mean they hunt Native Americans for a bounty laid on their scalps by the Mexican government). I laid it aside for months before I returned to it. Somewhere around page thirty or so though, I believe the book truly hypnotizes you. Reading it becomes a mystical experience, and you…

From the list:

The best books for those who like their westerns weird

Book cover of The Highway Rat

The Highway Rat

By Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler (illustrator),

Why this book?

I have all the albums of Julia Donaldson, and I must say that I appreciate her work a lot, she plays with sonorities like in nursery rhymes. The Highway Rat is especially praised by my kids, and I think it’s because the hero is openly cruel and abominable, stealing the food of other animals with no pity at all… And, well, he’s arrogant and shameless but obviously punished at the end.

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Book cover of The Thief

The Thief

By Megan Whalen Turner,

Why this book?

I appreciate that Gen’s journey of faith is a rather begrudging one. He certainly doesn’t want the gods involved in his life. Yet he is honorable (despite many appearances to the contrary) and he accomplishes, at great cost to himself, the vital task he sets out to do. His courage, despite his complaining, is still courage (and I wonder if his complaining was a mask for his fear). Sometimes faith feels like that—doing what is right even when you would rather do anything else. And sometimes that is the hardest journey of all.

From the list:

The best novels with journeys of faith

Book cover of The Great Pet Heist

The Great Pet Heist

By Emily Ecton, David Mottram (illustrator),

Why this book?

This book, the first in a series, is hilarious! There’s nothing quite as fun as a story with very different personalities forced to work together and this story has that in spades. Truly, animals doing anything human is funny, but forming an “International Crime Syndicate” takes it to a new level. And I loved how the animals named the humans by the job they did for the critters. It’s a fun read that will engage even the most reluctant of readers!

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