The most recommended pioneer books

Who picked these books? Meet our 76 experts.

76 authors created a book list connected to pioneers, and here are their favorite pioneer books.
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Book cover of Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer

Robert Ray Morgan Author Of Boone: A Biography

From my list on the world of Daniel Boone.

Who am I?

I have always had an interest in the American frontier and the Native peoples. But while researching the novel Brave Enemies and Boone: A Biography I spent years studying and visiting places where the stories occur, and using archives and libraries. However, the most important consideration is storytelling, rewarding the reader with a good story.

Robert's book list on the world of Daniel Boone

Robert Ray Morgan Why did Robert love this book?

With his expertise about frontier life, Faragher brought Boone's studies to a new level. Making use of the Draper Collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society, he created a portrait of Boone in his times that all future biographers will need to refer to.

By John Mack Faragher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History for 1993

In the first and most reliable biography of Daniel Boone in more than fifty years, award-winning historian Faragher brilliantly portrays America's famous frontier hero. Drawing from popular narrative, the public record, scraps of documentation from Boone's own hand, and a treasure of reminiscence gathered by nineteenth-century antiquarians, Faragher uses the methods of new social history to create a portrait of the man and the times he helped shape. Blending themes from a much vitalized Western and frontier history with the words and ideas of ordinary people, Faragher has…


Book cover of The Oregon Trail

Kevin Kiely Author Of A Horse Called El Dorado

From my list on surviving danger and seeing your dream come true.

Who am I?

This is very simple as to why there is passionate engagement with the themes listed within each of the five titles chosen. It's about engagement with the story which immediately comes from strongly identifying with the characters and events. The ‘identity factor’ is vital in drawing the reader in, and it's the mystery when writing a story or book which doesn’t begin with a prescribed plan. The mystery is really what creates the story and its characters, wanting to see what happens on the next page. With the reader, after having read a few pages, feeling the compulsion to read on, fully committed, emotionally involved, intrigued, and passionately caught up in the story.

Kevin's book list on surviving danger and seeing your dream come true

Kevin Kiely Why did Kevin love this book?

I began to read this book in childhood because it was in our house (sent as a present from an Aunt living in America) and it intrigued me by the title and the illustrations of buffalos, coyotes, bears, the landscape, rivers, canyons, and the covered wagons in a circle with people and their belongings, bedding down by campfires under the starry skies […] The episodes easily captured my attention. Parkman is documenting the first settlers crossing the Mid-West Plains towards the Rockies. This is really ‘a page turner’ and classic of travelogue adventure, even though I had never heard the genre term ‘travelogue’ on first reading. It also reads like a fantasy and provides the reader who has never been to the United States with a longing to go there. Books are parallel to life and in this case for me, I did reach the Origen Trail, walked some of…

By Francis Parkman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Keen observations and a graphic style characterize the author's remarkable record of a vanishing frontier. Detailed accounts of the hardships experienced while traveling across mountains and prairies; vibrant portraits of emigrants and Western wildlife; and vivid descriptions of Indian life and culture. A classic of American frontier literature.


Book cover of Conagher

Emily Hayse Author Of These War-Torn Hands

From my list on capturing the poignant beauty of the American West.

Who am I?

Ever since I can remember, I've been captivated by the American West. Was it that cowboys were brave and if you had integrity it was most certainly put to the test? Was it that everyone rode horses and I was a horse crazy girl? Whatever it was that struck me, it stayed. I have treasured the West ever since, through books, film, art, and most recently, a fantasy western trilogy of my own. 

Emily's book list on capturing the poignant beauty of the American West

Emily Hayse Why did Emily love this book?

Louis L'Amour wrote dozens of novels about the West but this one I loved because of the sweet wistfulness that was contrasted with the harsh reality of frontier living. Evie Teal is a widow whose husband rode out for cattle and never came back, leaving her alone in the wilderness with two children and only guesses as to how he could have died. Conn Conagher is a poetry-loving, quiet cowboy who hasn't much but his integrity and good name. Neither thinks the other could possibly be interested in them, and the quiet, understated love story just draws you in. 

By Louis L'Amour,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As far as the eye can see is a vast, empty horizon. Evie Teale has finally accepted that her husband won’t be coming home. To make ends meet she runs a temporary stage station. But though she is diligent and careful, Evie must prepare for the day when the passengers no longer come and she must protect her children in an untamed country where’s it’s far easier to die than to live.

Miles away, another solitary soul battles for survival. Conagher is a lean, dark-eyed drifter who is not about to let a gang of rustlers push him around. While…


Book cover of Jubal Sackett

Wayne Grant Author Of Longbow

From my list on historical fiction with compelling heroes.

Who am I?

I was a science fiction guy as a young man but stumbled upon a historical fiction novel as a young Lieutenant serving in the Army in Germany. It was a book about Robert the Bruce and the first in a trilogy that traced the rise of Bruce to the throne of Scotland. The author brought that story to life in a way no straight history text could and I was hooked. Inspired, I took two weeks' leave from the Army and drove from Bavaria to Scotland to visit the battlefield of Bannockburn! Since then I’ve become an avid reader of both historical fiction and more scholarly works of history and have thrilled to the exploits of great characters, both real and fictional.

Wayne's book list on historical fiction with compelling heroes

Wayne Grant Why did Wayne love this book?

My favorite novel from one of my favorite historical fiction writers. Louis L’Amour is best known for his many western novels, but his earlier Sackett tales harken back to the days when Europeans were first settling the edge of the great North American continent. No one writes swashbuckling, daring-do adventure stories better than L’Amour, but what makes this book really stand out is his hero, Jubal Sackett. Jubal, the youngest son of the adventurer Barnabas Sackett, has his father’s wanderlust and yearns to see new lands that lie to the west of his home in the mountains of North Carolina. 

He sets out alone, is befriended by Keotah, a Kickapoo warrior, and together they cross the Mississippi and venture out onto the great grass prairie the Natchez tribe calls “the far-seeing land.” Jubal’s a bit of a mystic, but it’s his competence, courage, and integrity that keeps him alive in…

By Louis L'Amour,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Jubal Sackett, the second generation of Louis L'Amour's great American family pursues a destiny in the wilderness of a sprawling new land.

Jubal Sackett's urge to explore drove him westward, and when a Natchez priest asks him to undertake a nearly impossible quest, Sackett ventures into the endless grassy plains the Indians call the Far Seeing Lands. He seeks a Natchez exploration party and its leader, Itchakomi. It is she who will rule her people when their aging chief dies, but first she must vanquish her rival, the arrogant warrior Kapata. Sackett's quest will bring him danger from an…


Book cover of In the Distance

Alyson Hagy Author Of Boleto

From my list on the West that twist the myth.

Who am I?

I’m a writer fascinated by landscape and history—and the American West is my magnet. I’ve set three books in the West. I can’t get enough of the place. An entire national myth is enshrined “where the deer and the antelope play.” Independence. Freedom from the past. Land we can supposedly call our own. The West is so beautiful and also so scarred. I love to read books that deepen my experience of the deserts, mountains, and rivers. I also love to learn about the people who were here before me, those who have hung on, and those who hope to heal the scars. These books are great stories about a bewitching place.

Alyson's book list on the West that twist the myth

Alyson Hagy Why did Alyson love this book?

Hernán Díaz’s first novel, In the Distance, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The book is gorgeously written and meticulously researched. The West’s huge, startling landscapes loom on every page. But the real genius here is the novel’s “reverse epic” structure—how Díaz takes a young Swedish immigrant who gets off his ship at the wrong port (San Francisco) and sends him traveling east, against the migrant tides, in search of his brother. The journey doesn’t go as planned. Håkan makes friends and stymies enemies. Stereotypes warp and tumble as Håkan (and the reader) are forever transformed. The descriptions of California gold fields, science expeditions, questing Mormons, and other frontier communities delight and confound. You’ll never cross a Western desert the same way again.

By Hernan Diaz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A young Swedish immigrant finds himself penniless and alone in California. The boy travels East in search of his brother, moving on foot against the great current of emigrants pushing West. Driven back again and again, he meets naturalists, criminals, religious fanatics, swindlers, Indians, and lawmen, and his exploits turn him into a legend. Diaz defies the conventions of historical fiction and genre, offering a probing look at the stereotypes that populate our past and a portrait of radical foreignness.

Hernan Diaz is the author of Borges, Between History and Eternity (Bloomsbury 2012), managing editor of RHM, and associate director…


Book cover of The Tenderness of Wolves

Karen Odden Author Of Down a Dark River

From my list on mystery and suspense by women authors.

Who am I?

I have been an avid reader of mysteries since I discovered Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden at age seven. I not only consume mysteries but I write about them: in 2002, my PhD dissertation discussed Victorian novels of suspense. Since then, I have published four Victorian mysteries with Random House, Harper Collins, and Crooked Lane. I am perpetually drawn to reading and writing books that trace the arc from confusion and chaos to clarity and order because I believe it is one of our deepest impulses as human beings—to understand our world. 

Karen's book list on mystery and suspense by women authors

Karen Odden Why did Karen love this book?

This heart-wrenching historical novel won the prestigious Costa Book of the Year award. Set in 1867 in Dove River, a tiny settlement in the Northern Territory, this tale is told by several narrators. Often, that technique is used ineffectively, but Penney has made each voice so distinct that the book transcends the genre of murder mystery to become a reflection upon how people perceive the same event very differently. When Mrs. Ross discovers the murdered body of the trapper Laurent Jammett, her worst nightmare comes true: her seventeen-year-old son Francis has disappeared and has been named the primary suspect. Searchers set out from Dove River, following his tracks across the snow, ultimately discovering the truth behind the murder. This tale compellingly explores themes of justice and redemption. 

By Stef Penney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

1867, Canada: as winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Dove River, a man is brutally murdered and a 17-year old boy disappears. Tracks leaving the dead man's cabin head north towards the forest and the tundra beyond. In the wake of such violence, people are drawn to the township - journalists, Hudson's Bay Company men, trappers, traders - but do they want to solve the crime, or exploit it? One-by-one the assembled searchers set out from Dove River, pursuing the tracks across a desolate landscape home only to wild animals, madmen and fugitives, variously seeking a murderer,…


Book cover of The Life of Daniel Boone

Robert Ray Morgan Author Of Boone: A Biography

From my list on the world of Daniel Boone.

Who am I?

I have always had an interest in the American frontier and the Native peoples. But while researching the novel Brave Enemies and Boone: A Biography I spent years studying and visiting places where the stories occur, and using archives and libraries. However, the most important consideration is storytelling, rewarding the reader with a good story.

Robert's book list on the world of Daniel Boone

Robert Ray Morgan Why did Robert love this book?

In this volume Belue has done the almost impossible task of transcribing the text of Draper’s unpublished manuscript of Boone’s life. Draper spent his career collecting documents and interviews about Boone and the settlement of the Ohio Valley, but never managed to finish the work. Only those who have tried to read Draper’s manuscripts can appreciate the heroic task Belue has accomplished. I relied extensively on this volume.

By Lyman C. Draper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Life of Daniel Boone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Draper, the first secretary of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, collected more than 500 volumes of material on the famed frontiersman Daniel Boone. His biography of Boone remained unfinished for 100 years until Ted Franklin Belue, a widely read scholar of early Americana, added his authoritative editing. This long-awaited work is filled with little-known information on Boone and his family, long hunters, the Shawnee, the fur trade, and frontier life in general.


Book cover of Life and Letters from the Roman Frontier

Emma Southon Author Of A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome

From my list on Roman Britain.

Who am I?

Emma Southon has a PhD in Ancient History from The University of Birmingham and has been obsessed with Romans since she was 16. Her first book for general audiences was Agrippina: A Biography of the Most Extraordinary Woman in Rome and she co-hosts the podcast History is Sexy with the writer Janina Matthewson. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Emma's book list on Roman Britain

Emma Southon Why did Emma love this book?

Vindolanda is one of Britain’s best Roman sites, in part because of the letters which have been discovered. Written by Roman soldiers and their families, these letters include birthday party invitations, complaints about debts and shopping lists and they only surviving letters from a woman to a female recipient. They provide a staggeringly intimate look at daily living in a Romano-British fort and Alan K. Bowman brings the whole site to life.

By Alan K. Bowman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life and Letters from the Roman Frontier as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1998. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.


Book cover of Our Only May Amelia

Kathleen Benner Duble Author Of The Root of Magic

From my list on for tough girls facing tough times.

Who am I?

My mother was one of the first women to do labor negotiations in the Steel Industry. My sisters and I were raised to believe we could do anything. I have one sister who does executive coaching, another who is a pilot, and I am a writer. I also have two girls of my own. One is an EMT and the other is getting her doctorate in Special Ed. They are both giving but strong-minded. I am proud of them both. I believe strongly that girls need role models in life to understand that with grit and hard work, they can make a world in which their dreams can be realized.

Kathleen's book list on for tough girls facing tough times

Kathleen Benner Duble Why did Kathleen love this book?

What do you do when you have seven brothers, are the only girl for miles, and are being told you need to act like a proper lady? You say no. May Amelia does not want to be harnessed like a darn mule. The Washington wilderness of 1899 lays before her in all its glory. Her brothers are off exploring. Why can’t she too? And if that means breaking a few rules, well May Amelia Jackson is just the girl to do it. May Amelia’s tenacity and bravery made me want to stand up and cheer. She is my kind of girl—one who has the will and the determination to make a life lived on her terms.

By Jennifer L. Holm,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Only May Amelia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

The beloved Newbery Honor book by the author of The Fourteenth Goldfish, about a spirited heroine growing up with trying circumstances, a sense of adventure, and tremendous heart. 

It isn't easy being a pioneer in the state of Washington in 1899. It's particularly hard when you are the only girl ever born in the new settlement.

With seven older brothers and a love of adventure, May Amelia Jackson just can't seem to abide her family's insistence that she behave like a Proper Young Lady. She's sure she could do better if only there were at least one other girl living…


Book cover of Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis

Thomas J. Berry Author Of Iron and Bronze

From my list on history that drops you into adventure.

Who am I?

I have always loved reading and feel a natural attraction to history and the lessons it can give us. I want to learn something new whenever I pick up a book but also enjoy the story and characters as well. Since 2010, I have authored six historical novels of my own and am working on my seventh. I carefully weave years of extensive research into a fast-paced, exciting story that pushes all the right buttons! Intrigue, love, fear, and hope are integral parts of my novels, and I hope along the way, my readers will gain a new insight into a different culture or era they never knew before.  

Thomas' book list on history that drops you into adventure

Thomas J. Berry Why did Thomas love this book?

Have you ever wondered what happens during a significant moment in history and no one is left to tell the tale? Three Roads to the Alamo by William C. Davis helps give a wonderful backstory to the characters leading up to the famous 1836 Texas battle against the Mexican army under Santa Ana. The pages are filled with details obtained through original documents of the era both in the United States and Mexico, making the characters come alive as never before. The incorrigible James Bowie, loyal commander William Barret Travis, and the renowned Davy Crockett give the ultimate sacrifice against insurmountable odds, and in doing so, shape the course of history forever.

By William C. Davis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Three Roads to the Alamo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"William C. Davis's Three Roads to the Alamo is far and away the best account of the Alamo I have ever read. The portraits of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis are brilliantly sketched in a fast-moving story that keeps the reader riveted to the very last word." — Stephen B. Oates

Three Roads to the Alamois the definitive book about the lives of David Crockett, James Bowie and William Barret Travis—the legendary frontiersmen and fighters who met their destiny at the Alamo in one of the most famous and tragic battles in American history—and about what really happened in that battle.