The best books about the prairie

3 authors have picked their favorite books about prairies and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

The Prairie Thief

By Melissa Wiley, Erwin Madrid (illustrator),

Book cover of The Prairie Thief

Apparently I’m not the only kidlit author who loves both the American prairie and all things British. When her Pa is accused of thieving, young Louisa is taken in by his accusers, the appropriately named Smirch family. Sour, mean-spirited Mrs. Smirch looks forward to seeing Pa hang. Louisa solves the mystery of the stolen items when she meets a gruff but sensitive... well, I won’t say, but he’s one of the Wee Folk from the Auld Country, far from home on the Colorado plains. A cute and lively read with a satisfying conclusion.


Who am I?

I’m a former high-school and middle-school English teacher and a current instructor in the Writing Program at Rutgers University. I live in hilly New Jersey, but I’ve always been fascinated by the flat, treeless American prairie and the people who have lived there, from the Native American tribes of the Great Plains to the early homesteaders. I believe that to understand where we are, you need to understand where we’ve been, which is why I love to read and write historical fiction.


I wrote...

Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt

By Kathleen Wilford,

Book cover of Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt

What is my book about?

A sod house, a grand manor. A mystery, a matchmaking scheme. A tale of the prairie with humor and heart and a touch of romance.

Kansas, 1875. Twelve-year-old homesteader Cabby Potts is an outdoor kind of girl with an “intemperate tongue,” as her Ma puts it. When she’s forced to work as a housemaid at a grand English manor down the railroad line from her sod house, she’s desperate to escape but equally desperate to save her family’s struggling homestead. So, she plays matchmaker between her older sister and the rich young lord of the manor. When her impulsive scheme backfires, she must solve a mystery and use her voice to stand up for her family, a Native American friend, and an entire community threatened by land-grabbers.

Plant a Pocket of Prairie

By Phyllis Root, Betsy Bowen (illustrator),

Book cover of Plant a Pocket of Prairie

As I garden and explore our yard with my grandchildren, together, we have fun continually learning which plants provide for our various wildlife visitors. This beautifully illustrated story shows how each of us, in planting certain native plants can draw the animal friends that rely upon the various flora that used to cover our prairies. I can very much relate to wanting to add more and more plants to my garden so that I attract more and more species of wildlife. The only drawback to this story…it does not help to keep my ‘plant lust’ in check!

Who am I?

I’ve always enjoyed both gardening and children. As a former Virginia Master Gardener and Homeschool mom, and a current Lancaster National Wildlife Federation Habitat Steward, I now find myself encouraging others to look at gardening in a new light – not only as a way to decorate their yards, but also as a means to provide habitat for our diminishing wildlife population. I try to show how you can have both beauty and function at the same time and how much fun it is to engage children in this essential activity. I love books that show what a difference one person – even a young child – can make in the world.


I wrote...

Grandma Lisa's Humming, Buzzing, Chirping Garden

By Lisa Doseff,

Book cover of Grandma Lisa's Humming, Buzzing, Chirping Garden

What is my book about?

A Gentle Blueprint for Engaging Children in Creating an Enchanting Garden for Wildlife!

If you’re looking for inspiration to create a natural habitat of your own, or simply want to spark a love of nature in youngsters, join Grandma Lisa as she transforms her garden into a wildlife sanctuary with the help of her curious and eager grandchildren. Told in rhyme from a child’s perspective, children will enjoy learning about the benefits of native plants and insects, as well as important concepts such as host plants, food webs, and so much more. But be prepared…you just may find yourself pulling on your garden gloves, picking up a shovel, and heading outdoors to bring nature into the little piece of the planet where you live.

The Tallgrass Prairie

By Cindy Crosby,

Book cover of The Tallgrass Prairie: An Introduction

Don’t know anything about prairie but want to learn? This slim volume is the perfect introduction.  And Cindy Crosby is the perfect person to do the introducing. She is a steward supervisor for the Schulenberg Prairie at the Morton Arboretum, near Chicago, Illinois. In the course of her job, she has become a writer and teacher on the prairie. In this engaging volume, Crosby describes what the tallgrass prairie is, how it originated, how people have interacted with it over the millennia, and what you can find in a prairie.


Who are we?

The short answer is, a retired university professor (Fred) and the coordinator of Natural Areas for the University of Illinois (James). That answer, however, doesn’t give a clue as to how we came to write our book. Fred and his wife established a small three-acre prairie on their land in 2003. They then enlisted James and Grand Prairie Friends, the local conservation organization he headed at the time, to help manage the prairie. Eventually, Fred, who had photographically documented the growth of the prairie and the beauty to be found therein, proposed that he and James describe the prairie with photos so that others could also learn to enjoy it. The rest, as they say, is history.


We wrote...

A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers

By Fred Delcomyn, James L. Ellis,

Book cover of A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers

What is our book about?

“Anybody can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie.” This pithy quote, attributed to the writer Willa Cather, encapsulates the challenge of getting people to appreciate the wide-open native grasslands that for thousands of years covered the land from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains. Prairie is beautiful. Prairie is wondrous. Prairie is unique. Prairie is also mostly gone now and the few remnants are vanishing at an alarming rate; further, it is underappreciated to an equal degree. 

In this book, we celebrate the beauty and wonders of a small tallgrass prairie recreated from agricultural land.

Tallgrass Prairie

By John Madson, Frank Oberle (photographer),

Book cover of Tallgrass Prairie

A beautiful and lyrical book, this sumptuous display of wonderful photographs by Frank Oberle is supplemented by text by John Madson. Madson describes in lyrical prose the reactions of early French explorers when they encountered prairie for the first time, and then recounts the subsequent settlement and plowing of the prairie. It is not really possible to get a true sense of what an open prairie must have been like 300 years ago, but this book will give readers a bit of its flavor.


Who are we?

The short answer is, a retired university professor (Fred) and the coordinator of Natural Areas for the University of Illinois (James). That answer, however, doesn’t give a clue as to how we came to write our book. Fred and his wife established a small three-acre prairie on their land in 2003. They then enlisted James and Grand Prairie Friends, the local conservation organization he headed at the time, to help manage the prairie. Eventually, Fred, who had photographically documented the growth of the prairie and the beauty to be found therein, proposed that he and James describe the prairie with photos so that others could also learn to enjoy it. The rest, as they say, is history.


We wrote...

A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers

By Fred Delcomyn, James L. Ellis,

Book cover of A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers

What is our book about?

“Anybody can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie.” This pithy quote, attributed to the writer Willa Cather, encapsulates the challenge of getting people to appreciate the wide-open native grasslands that for thousands of years covered the land from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains. Prairie is beautiful. Prairie is wondrous. Prairie is unique. Prairie is also mostly gone now and the few remnants are vanishing at an alarming rate; further, it is underappreciated to an equal degree. 

In this book, we celebrate the beauty and wonders of a small tallgrass prairie recreated from agricultural land.

Prairie

By Candace Savage,

Book cover of Prairie: A Natural History of the Heart of North America

The most scholarly and detailed book of our five choices, this book by Candice Savage, now in a revised edition, considers in depth not just the tallgrass prairie, but the entire sweep of North American grasslands. Savage recounts details that most people will never have thought of – such as how the bison were an integral part of the prairie ecosystem by creating buffalo wallows that persisted for years and provided shallow and temporary wetlands in what, to the west, was an otherwise dry environment. Start your exploration of prairie with this book or finish with it, but do not skip it. Its overview of the entire region puts the information in the other books into context.


Who are we?

The short answer is, a retired university professor (Fred) and the coordinator of Natural Areas for the University of Illinois (James). That answer, however, doesn’t give a clue as to how we came to write our book. Fred and his wife established a small three-acre prairie on their land in 2003. They then enlisted James and Grand Prairie Friends, the local conservation organization he headed at the time, to help manage the prairie. Eventually, Fred, who had photographically documented the growth of the prairie and the beauty to be found therein, proposed that he and James describe the prairie with photos so that others could also learn to enjoy it. The rest, as they say, is history.


We wrote...

A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers

By Fred Delcomyn, James L. Ellis,

Book cover of A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers

What is our book about?

“Anybody can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie.” This pithy quote, attributed to the writer Willa Cather, encapsulates the challenge of getting people to appreciate the wide-open native grasslands that for thousands of years covered the land from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains. Prairie is beautiful. Prairie is wondrous. Prairie is unique. Prairie is also mostly gone now and the few remnants are vanishing at an alarming rate; further, it is underappreciated to an equal degree. 

In this book, we celebrate the beauty and wonders of a small tallgrass prairie recreated from agricultural land.

Who Has Seen the Wind

By W.O. Mitchell,

Book cover of Who Has Seen the Wind

Set on a Canadian prairie plain in the 1930s, Who Has Seen the Wind tells the coming-of-age story of a young Saskatchewan boy, Brian O’Connal, as he seeks meaning in life, death, and God. I love this book for its lyrical use of the wind which constantly sweeps across the prairie and through every aspect of the story. This book influenced me as a writer because I hoped to personify the sea the way W.O Mitchell did the wind.


Who am I?

I was born and raised on the rugged island of Newfoundland and am enthralled by the ocean, its rhythm, its power. The setting of The Kerrigan Chronicles is the setting for my early life: same area, different era. As a child, I was unaware of the sacrifices and struggles of my ancestors. During cross-country telephone conversations with my aging father, I heard stories of poverty, illness, and war. When Dad described the earthquake and tsunami of 1929, I was hooked. I have written other novels, modern-day suspense that could quite frankly have been written by other people but The Kerrigan Chronicles are mine and mine alone.


I wrote...

Of Sea and Seed: The Kerrigan Chronicles, Book I

By Annie Daylon,

Book cover of Of Sea and Seed: The Kerrigan Chronicles, Book I

What is my book about?

Set on the rugged island of Newfoundland, Of Sea and Seed takes the reader on a tragic journey through the 1920s as one family struggles with secrets, betrayal, and a tsunami. Chronicling this journey is the family matriarch, Kathleen Kerrigan, who is condemned to an afterlife of atonement for her crimes in life. But what could cause heaven to banish this loving mother, grandmother, and storyteller?

A poetic, literary masterpiece, this first book of The Kerrigan Chronicles illuminates the depths of the human heart as it follows three generations of lives entangled with the sea. This suspenseful account of early twentieth-century Newfoundland is as stunningly lovely as it is devastatingly heartbreaking. Of Sea and Seed is a gripping family saga—an unforgettable must-read.

One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow

By Olivia Hawker,

Book cover of One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow

I recommend One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow for three reasons. First, it’s set in the same general time and place as my novel and depicts many of the hardships that frontier women faced in the second half of the 19th century. It also tells a story about an unlikely but necessary friendship, thematically akin to my novel. And finally, the prose is lovely and a joy to read.


Who am I?

Landscape is always important in my writing, and Yellowstone, which I’ve visited numerous times, is such a special place, rich with geodiversity and teeming with danger, that it kind of demanded to be a setting for my novel. I’ve also always been kind of obsessed with bears, and Yellowstone is grizzly country. But I didn’t want to write the stereotypical “man against nature” book. I’m too much of a feminist for that. 


I wrote...

Bear Medicine

By G. Elizabeth Kretchmer,

Book cover of Bear Medicine

What is my book about?

When Brooke sets off on a trail in Yellowstone National Park to train for an upcoming marathon, she’s viciously attacked by a grizzly bear. One hundred forty years earlier, Anne accompanies her husband on a camping trip in the nation’s first national park and awakens one morning to find he’s been captured and hauled off by Nez Perce warriors. Both women, whose narratives ultimately converge, face a savage natural landscape and a complicated, male-dominated world. 

But both are bad ass. Alternating between contemporary and historical times, Bear Medicine is lush historical women’s fiction that revolves around survival, authenticity, and sacred friendship.

The Emerald Horizon

By Cornelia F. Mutel,

Book cover of The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa

A more detailed and scholarly book than Crosby’s, this book is a description of the origin, character, and fate of the tallgrass prairie in Iowa. It is essential reading for those who wish to understand what the Iowa prairie (and by extension the prairie of neighboring states as well) was like before being settled by Euro-Americans and converted to agricultural use in the 19th century, what is left of that prairie today, and conservation and restoration efforts to replace some of what was lost.


Who are we?

The short answer is, a retired university professor (Fred) and the coordinator of Natural Areas for the University of Illinois (James). That answer, however, doesn’t give a clue as to how we came to write our book. Fred and his wife established a small three-acre prairie on their land in 2003. They then enlisted James and Grand Prairie Friends, the local conservation organization he headed at the time, to help manage the prairie. Eventually, Fred, who had photographically documented the growth of the prairie and the beauty to be found therein, proposed that he and James describe the prairie with photos so that others could also learn to enjoy it. The rest, as they say, is history.


We wrote...

A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers

By Fred Delcomyn, James L. Ellis,

Book cover of A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers

What is our book about?

“Anybody can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie.” This pithy quote, attributed to the writer Willa Cather, encapsulates the challenge of getting people to appreciate the wide-open native grasslands that for thousands of years covered the land from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains. Prairie is beautiful. Prairie is wondrous. Prairie is unique. Prairie is also mostly gone now and the few remnants are vanishing at an alarming rate; further, it is underappreciated to an equal degree. 

In this book, we celebrate the beauty and wonders of a small tallgrass prairie recreated from agricultural land.

The Prairie Peninsula

By Gary Meszaros, Guy L. Denny,

Book cover of The Prairie Peninsula

This is another sumptuous book of photographs and text that describes tallgrass prairie. Whereas the Madson and Oberle book mainly talks about the places where prairie was and where it can still be found today, the Meszaros and Denny book pays much more attention to what is found in prairies – the grasses, flowers, and animals big and small that inhabit them and the ecological interactions among them. The lively text is amply supplemented with superb photographs that hint at what has been lost to the plow.


Who are we?

The short answer is, a retired university professor (Fred) and the coordinator of Natural Areas for the University of Illinois (James). That answer, however, doesn’t give a clue as to how we came to write our book. Fred and his wife established a small three-acre prairie on their land in 2003. They then enlisted James and Grand Prairie Friends, the local conservation organization he headed at the time, to help manage the prairie. Eventually, Fred, who had photographically documented the growth of the prairie and the beauty to be found therein, proposed that he and James describe the prairie with photos so that others could also learn to enjoy it. The rest, as they say, is history.


We wrote...

A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers

By Fred Delcomyn, James L. Ellis,

Book cover of A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers

What is our book about?

“Anybody can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie.” This pithy quote, attributed to the writer Willa Cather, encapsulates the challenge of getting people to appreciate the wide-open native grasslands that for thousands of years covered the land from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains. Prairie is beautiful. Prairie is wondrous. Prairie is unique. Prairie is also mostly gone now and the few remnants are vanishing at an alarming rate; further, it is underappreciated to an equal degree. 

In this book, we celebrate the beauty and wonders of a small tallgrass prairie recreated from agricultural land.

Love Finds a Home

By Janette Oke,

Book cover of Love Finds a Home

Ok, confession time, I don't remember which book in the series Drew first appears in but if I recall this is the book that really focuses on him and Belinda. 

I don't read a lot of Inspirational fiction but I absolutely love the Love Comes Softly series. It was the first romance series I ever read. I read the series initially as a teenager but I have gone back and re-read a few of the books as an adult. 

This book has Drew who is missing an arm as a romantic interest for Belinda. The series also features Clark who is the romantic interest in book one and the patriarch of the family in the rest of the series who loses his leg in one of the later books. I adored his story and how him and Marty deal with accepting his injury. However, since Marty and Clark are already…


Who am I?

I think it is so important for everyone to be able to see others get their happily ever after. Illness and disability doesn't mean a person can't or shouldn't find love. Everyone should be able to find love. I love seeing characters find their happily ever after even if they aren't physically perfect. 


I wrote...

Wedding the Widow

By Jane B. Night,

Book cover of Wedding the Widow

What is my book about?

Wedding the Widow is a historical romance. Charlotte is widowed, pregnant, and unable to continue her journey westward on a wagon train. Augustus, whose previous girlfriend left him when he became an amputee, agrees to a marriage of convenience however it doesn't take long for both parties to realize there is a real potential for love.

Or, view all 17 books about prairies

New book lists related to prairies

All book lists related to prairies

Bookshelves related to prairies