32 books directly related to ranches 📚

All 32 ranch books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Texas Women on the Cattle Trails

By Sara R. Massey,

Book cover of Texas Women on the Cattle Trails

Why this book?

Cattle drives although a relatively brief episode in history largely contribute to tales of the cowboy that helped writers and Hollywood to later make him an American icon. Texas Women on the Cattle Trails provides a history of sixteen of the women who contributed to and participated in cattle drives originating from Texas. This edited collection offers individual stories of these women and based on their own accounts which give us an inside glimpse into how this era shaped their lives. Meet real cattlewomen who built ranching empires, who showed courage and spunk, and enjoyed a closeness with nature while viewing buffalo and gazing at the stars along their journeys.


Cryin' for Daylight: A Ranching Culture in the Texas Coastal Bend (Texas Coastal Bend Series, No. 1)

By Louise S. O'Connor,

Book cover of Cryin' for Daylight: A Ranching Culture in the Texas Coastal Bend (Texas Coastal Bend Series, No. 1)

Why this book?

Louise S. O'Connor, a fifth-generation descendant of an early settler of Texas has always loved the stories of the "old timers,” the cowboys and hands who worked the ranch where she grew up. O’Connor spent seventeen years collecting oral histories about ranch life on the Coastal Bend and compiled those stories into Cryin' for Daylight. Though published in 1989, the language of O’Connor’s isolated, rural, mostly elderly subjects rings with 19th Century authenticity.

I treasure O’Connor’s labor of love for its emphasis on the tragically neglected black cowboys. One such cowboy supplied the title by swearing, “We loved to work cattle so much, we’d just be sittin’ around cryin’ for daylight to come.”


Fancy Pants

By Cathy Marie Hake,

Book cover of Fancy Pants

Why this book?

Remember that song from Disney's Mulan – "I'll Make a Man Out of You"? Move that to the wild west with an English lady named Sydney disguised as a boy and a ranch owner determined to turn his partner's British fop of a "nephew" into a cowhand worth his salt, and you've got a good idea of the crazy antics awaiting you in Fancy Pants. With a strong supporting cast of characters and a giggle-inducing plot, this book is sure to leave you grinning.


I Dreamed of Africa

By Kuki Gallmann,

Book cover of I Dreamed of Africa

Why this book?

Kuki Gallman, an Italian socialite, is another wealthy woman who sought adventure in Kenya. And another woman, with her husband, who set out to start a ranch in an inhospitable land. When her husband and son are killed in separate accidents, Gallman turns the ranch into a conservation park, using her money to bring attention to the plight of the local wildlife. And, as is true in Namibia, she enlisted the help of local tribal leaders to save both the endangered wildlife and native culture. In 2010, she founded Prayers for the Earth and in 2011, she and her daughter donated 300 acres for a project called “Land of Hope.” Gallman could so easily have returned to an easy life in Italy but instead challenged herself and those around her.


Letters of a Woman Homesteader

By Elinore Pruitt Stewart, N. C. Wyeth (illustrator),

Book cover of Letters of a Woman Homesteader

Why this book?

This book delights me. It makes me laugh, it inspires me, and it makes me wish I could have met Elinore Pruitt Stewart. Even though her life certainly wasn't easy, she never lost her hope, her joy, her faith, or her sense of humor.

Stewart wrote these letters to a friend, detailing her successes and failures as a woman homesteader, and hoping to encourage other women to try forging their own lives on the frontier. Wanting to build a better life for herself and her daughter, this widow headed off into the plains of Wyoming, where she took a job keeping house for a rancher while also claiming her own homestead. Her accounts of her new life are funny, moving, and encouraging by turn.


Close Range: Wyoming Stories

By Annie Proulx,

Book cover of Close Range: Wyoming Stories

Why this book?

Annie Proulx is a genius with character, and she’s obsessed with how hard humans work to uphold their myths of identity and achievement even when the odds are stacked against them. Close Range is the best of her three very good story collections about the West. It’s famous, and rightly so, for the trail-blazing tale of cowboy queerness "Brokeback Mountain". But each story is taut with observation and image. “The Mud Below,” “The Half-Skinned Steer”—there’s more than one American classic in this book. Some Westerners aren’t fans of Proulx, but I am. She doesn’t pull her punches about what it’s really like to ranch, rodeo, fantasize about retirement, or care for family in a place with no safety net, extreme weather, and no neighbors around the corner.


Nobody's Angel

By Thomas McGuane,

Book cover of Nobody's Angel

Why this book?

McGuane sure kicked it off for me in terms of seeing a way to write new fiction. Story is not a priority in his world rather observation of characters battling the odds of surviving each day. The reader wants to be like some of the characters and run to the hills from others but the sense of humor, dirt under the fingernails of these singular people we’ll never meet, relationships we’ll never be in, and locations such as Livingston, Montana or Key West, Florida we won’t spend much time in, draws me to McGuane’s page. McGuane, who wrote scripts for Missouri Breaks and Rancho Deluxe, writes like a filmmaker – the smells, the weather, the alcohol, the drugs – the reader is in the scene, the sun on your neck, the dust in the air, the sound of the ice-cold creek. McGuane is a travel agent.


Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers

By Ralph Moody,

Book cover of Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers

Why this book?

I highly recommend this book to every parent. It is filled with gentle, practical wisdom in the setting of a frontier family. The father takes the time to teach through everyday experience and vivid analogies. We use his analogy of the “character house” all the time in our family. The mother has her own quiet strength, which the author shows more in the following books of the series. The book is also filled with the high energy and pranks of children, and the adventures of growing up on a ranch. A lovely true story, though be warned, you will cry at the end.


The Cowgirls

By Joyce Gibson Roach,

Book cover of The Cowgirls

Why this book?

Cowgirls evoke a variety of images: Wild West show shootist, rodeo athletes, working ranch women, and pin-ups. Many stories, dime novels, and a plethora of fiction about the cowgirl confuse her true history and are in many ways responsible for why we have so many interpretations of her. In The Cowgirls, Joyce Gibson Roach unravels the folklore to give us the history of the cowgirl, the good, and the “lady rustlers,” to explain her longevity as heroic cattlewomen who hold our attention and fascination even today. Roach’s narrative is as entertaining as it is informative and is a history any fan of the cowgirl should read.


Rodeo Road: My Life As a Pioneer Cowgirl

By Vera McGinnis,

Book cover of Rodeo Road: My Life As a Pioneer Cowgirl

Why this book?

This book is fun! A rare autobiography of one of early rodeo’s star athletes, Vera McGinnis tells her story as a non-ranching woman who began a career in rodeo riding broncs and relay racing. This book reads like an action film with an early twentieth-century style of prose. We get bronc rides, relay wrecks, barns even stowaway rides on trains as Vera breaks into rodeo life. Through her firsthand account, readers are introduced to the rodeo “family.” Vera tells of the physical setbacks that rodeo contestants faced, the personal sacrifices cowgirls made to keep rodeoing, and perhaps most enlightening is the almost addictive lure of rodeo that resulted in cowgirls prioritizing it in their life.  


This Way, Charlie

By Carson Levis, Charles Santoso (illustrator),

Book cover of This Way, Charlie

Why this book?

This Way, Charlie is a beautiful book based on the true story of an unlikely friendship between a partially blind horse and a very grumpy and stubborn goat at a wildlife rehabilitation farm. The gentle text tells their story and shows how a little help from a friend can help overcome all kinds of obstacles, physical or mental. The illustrations are beautifully designed and executed in a soft impressionistic way that is almost dreamlike. Resulting in a heartwarming book that celebrates the kindness, compassion, trust, and strength of a friendship.


The Personal History of Rachel DuPree

By Ann Weisgarber,

Book cover of The Personal History of Rachel DuPree

Why this book?

This powerful, unflinching book brought me closer to the homesteading experience in South Dakota than I ever thought possible. Rachel’s struggles as a Black homesteader in 1917 and her fierce devotion to her family echoed with me long after I finished the book, and it was particularly meaningful to read about the complicated racial dynamics of that place and time. Rachel is an unforgettable character, and Weisgarber’s descriptive passages are magnificent.


B Is for Buckaroo: A Cowboy Alphabet

By Louise Doak Whitney, Gleaves Whitney, Susan Guy (illustrator)

Book cover of B Is for Buckaroo: A Cowboy Alphabet

Why this book?

What a terrific book to learn about the cowboy’s way of life! All things related to the western lifestyle are described. There is detailed information from A-to-Z, plus a short poem using each letter for younger readers and listeners. Examples are chuck wagon, lariat, and rodeo. I think this book is so informative with its focus on western culture and western history.  


Appaloosa

By Robert B. Parker,

Book cover of Appaloosa

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.


6000 Miles of Fence

By Cordia Sloan Duke, Joe B. Frantz,

Book cover of 6000 Miles of Fence

Why this book?

In 1886, the XIT became the largest cattle brand in Texas. They ran 150,000 head of cattle on three million acres—that’s most of the Texas Panhandle. The author, Cordia Duke, was married to one of the division managers. Over the years, she asked the cowboys to write down their memories and experiences, which she eventually published. For me, as a western author, these stories were (and still are) vital for authenticity, and I keep going back for inspiration. The cowboys’ voices are crystal clear, and we get to read firsthand descriptions of cattle roundups, branding, prairie fires, rustlers, fine cowhorses (good horses), spoilt gotch-eared outlaws (bad horses), and even a recipe for “son-of-a-gun stew,” straight from the mouth of a chuckwagon cook.


Just Like My Dad

By Tricia Gardella, Margot Apple (illustrator),

Book cover of Just Like My Dad

Why this book?

This is a sweet generational story about a boy who wants to be just like his cowboy dad. He accompanies his father at the cattle ranch and helps him all day with the horses and cows, and mending fences, until they both return home, “feeling tired and good.” But the best part of the boy’s day is when his dad tucks him in with the assurance that he’ll be a great cowhand, just like his father’s dad. It could be a good conversational starter about modeling for your kids, and asking your children How are you just like your dad?


A Cowboy's Best Friend

By Bee Brooks,

Book cover of A Cowboy's Best Friend

Why this book?

Sweet Springs is the smallest of small towns and the ranch is well known in the community. The family is tight-knit and loving and the property is drawn lovingly by the author in the MCs’ various moments working the land and with the animals. Every time we venture out onto a task, we are transported to the cowboy’s side to help with whatever project is at hand. Sheep, horses, chickens, haying... Sweet Springs does it all and what a wonderful ride it is to be taken on. If they open reservations for guests, I will be the first to book my stay.


A Dinosaur Named Ruth: How Ruth Mason Discovered Fossils in Her Own Backyard

By Julia Lyon, Alexandra Bye (illustrator),

Book cover of A Dinosaur Named Ruth: How Ruth Mason Discovered Fossils in Her Own Backyard

Why this book?

The lyrical and kid-friendly text in this book seamlessly blends information about the natural world in how it looked millions of years ago to a young girl’s journey in deciphering clues about prehistoric life that she found in her own backyard. By showing how Ruth Mason stuck to her desire for unravelling the mystery of the fossilized bones found on her ranch—even though she wasn’t a trained scientist—is a perfect launching pad to instill confidence in kids about their own observational abilities for things that interest them. Another book about perseverance and holding fast to one’s beliefs, A Dinosaur Named Ruth is a winner! 


Station Life in Australia: Pioneers and Pastoralists

By Peter Taylor,

Book cover of Station Life in Australia: Pioneers and Pastoralists

Why this book?

I’m a townie, but early colonial Australia is all about the land and how some early colonial pioneers made their fortunes from it. (Many didn’t, needless to say.) This book is all about them: the squatters, the stock riders, the drovers, the station hands, etc. The long and perilous journeys into remote New South Wales looking for land—officially and unofficially; how early pioneers coped with droughts, floods, disappearing stock, financial uncertainty, and not least, relationships with local Aboriginal people. There are hilarious accounts of the strange habits of cows, and of the “new chums”—wide-eyed young men who migrated to the colony with money but no farming experience hoping to make their fortunes, and how the (colonial) locals took the mickey out of them. Readable, witty, and again, written with great authority and in-depth knowledge.


The Wild One

By Terri Farley,

Book cover of The Wild One

Why this book?

It’s probably been 20 years since I’ve read this book, but it’s stuck with me. I love the idea of horses in the wild having secret bonds with humans. The concept of secret names may or may not be something that I’ve tried with my own horses—only they can confirm that for you! This is a great story of the deep bonds that run between horses and people.


All the Pretty Horses

By Cormac McCarthy,

Book cover of All the Pretty Horses

Why this book?

What can you say about Cormac McCarthy that has not been said before, the poetry in his prose, his fearlessness to go to the human extreme of emotional tension and violence, the elegance of creating a world so real that one does not want to leave, yet cannot stay? The writer in me wants to write just like him, but... I cannot, I will not, for there is only one Cormac McCarthy, and the world could not stand another.


Brokeback Mountain

By Annie Proulx,

Book cover of Brokeback Mountain

Why this book?

I’m pretty sure this was the first story about gay guys that I ever read. I had a book of Annie Proulx’s short stories I’d been meaning to read and stumbled across this particular one by accident. I only saw the film a long time later and that bowled me over too. The story is beautifully written, though find it so sad to read (and watch). Individuals struggling to come to terms with the way they feel is the essence of so many romances and this opened the door to all those that followed. She’s a brilliant writer.


Tracking Game: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery

By Margaret Mizushima,

Book cover of Tracking Game: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery

Why this book?

The man who may have killed Detective Mattie Cobb’s father is found dead in his cell. A string of clues leads to deadly narcotics and a missing baby. Mattie and her K-9 partner Robo must journey into the mountains to find the infant’s killer. And Robo just became father to a litter of pups. What I love best about this series is Mattie’s relationship with Robo. To learn more about Mattie’s buried past, I recommend reading Mizushima’s books from the beginning. These characters –both human and K-9—will stay in your heart long after you’re through reading.


The Wildest Ride

By Marcella Bell,

Book cover of The Wildest Ride

Why this book?

I really enjoyed this tale of two people who’ve faced discrimination in rodeo their entire lives for being Black, Native, and, in Lil’s case, a woman. What I love is that it’s not primarily a story about racism. It’s a beautiful romance first, an exciting rodeo competition second, and while racism is there, of course, they succeed despite it. It’s such an uplifting read about strength, hard work, love, and passion.


The Power of the Dog

By Thomas Savage,

Book cover of The Power of the Dog

Why this book?

I read the novel when I saw that Jane Campion had chosen to adapt the book for her latest film. I have nerves of cast iron. But I found this book truly terrifying. The subject is human evil – the sadistic, twisted cruelty of which men are capable, both to animals, and other human beings. The descriptive writing is extraordinary: the ranch, the mountains, and the wild lands of Montana appear before your eyes. The family is almost destroyed by the predatory, violent brother Phil. He is like a Shakespearean villain: magnetic, charismatic, spellbinding, brilliant, and vicious.

Campion softens the edges of the story at every step in her wonderful film. And I can understand why. Had she filmed the book the movie would be banned. Read the book. 


The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet

By Reif Larsen,

Book cover of The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet

Why this book?

I’ve always felt a desire to make the world make sense through data – that numbers and structure could help unlock hidden meanings. When I read this novel, I felt seen: it’s told from the perspective of T. S. Spivet – a 12-year-old boy who has the same urge. Spivet thoroughly documents the world around him, sketching an ant he sees in the grass, and drawing schematics and maps of the spaces he travels through on his quest to travel to the Smithsonian Institution. The book’s margin is lavishly illustrated with Spivet’s diagrams – in seeing the world through his eyes, it felt like how I see it through my own.


Wrangled by Lilith: A Sweet Romantic Comedy

By Remi Carrington,

Book cover of Wrangled by Lilith: A Sweet Romantic Comedy

Why this book?

The sweeping views of Stargazer Springs Ranch are enough to make me want to visit! It certainly helps that we are first introduced to the ranch through an FMC who is also a photographer and her enthusiasm for the vistas shines brightly. Quaint little cabins, horses, wide-open spaces, and a fishing river set the mood for sweet romance so well. I could spend ages on the ranch discovering each little nook and cranny as the author drops little tidbits for the reader. The ranch house sounds like such a fun place to hang out after a hard day’s work, and with more pies at Thanksgiving than people, you can count me in! I do wish we got to see a bit more of the animals, but I suspect that the more of the series I read, the more will be revealed. I need another trip to Stargazer Springs ASAP!


Sweet-Talking Cowboy

By Vicki Lewis Thompson,

Book cover of Sweet-Talking Cowboy

Why this book?

I knew just about from the first page that ‘The Buckskin,’ as they call it, is a place I’d like to go. Just reminiscing about family vacations there had me wanting more. In book one, with Lucy, we get to see the ranch from her artist’s perspective and I could picture her sitting in the corner of the stall sketching the horses and I wanted to join her. The property is so well drawn out for the reader that it is easy to wander down the snow-line paths between the cabins and the dining hall, and sneak around to the bunkhouse for a bonfire. Even in the dead of winter, the atmosphere is so warm and inviting I’ve already signed up for another visit. Thank goodness there are ten books in this series!


The Cowboy's Unexpected Love: Wade and Sierra

By SJ McCoy,

Book cover of The Cowboy's Unexpected Love: Wade and Sierra

Why this book?

MacFarland Ranch has something for everyone. It’s a working cattle ranch, a breeding farm, and offers guest cabins in scenic Paradise Valley, Montana. At the lodge there are high-end cabins, though Wade’s fixer-upper would do me just fine, and plenty of options to keep guests busy all vacation. I wanted to work the cattle, wait for foals, and just sit on my porch and take in the beautiful vistas on a relaxing evening. You can really feel the love in the family-run business as each sibling has their part to do and Wade and his guest lodge is the perfect introduction to the ranch, taking the reader from guest to one of the family. I’ve got book two already and will be waiting for book 3 to arrive later this year.


Of Mice and Men

By John Steinbeck,

Book cover of Of Mice and Men

Why this book?

My favorite John Steinbeck novel is Grapes of Wrath, but for pure character development, I have to choose this heart-wrenching classic. For me, Of Mice and Men is a singularly brilliant piece of writing. In only six chapters, Steinbeck creates characters in Lenny and George that are so real, so lifelike they have become a staple in dynamic characterization. Any writer who wants to learn how to draw living characters should study this novella because this is the pinnacle of how character development should be done. And for the reader, there is no more gutting scene than the final one. Sob.


Cowgirls of the Rodeo: Pioneer Professional Athletes

By Mary LeCompte,

Book cover of Cowgirls of the Rodeo: Pioneer Professional Athletes

Why this book?

This book is a must-read for any fan of cowgirls, rodeo, or female athletes. LeCompte’s history of cowgirls whom she identifies as “America’s first successful professional women athletes” is one of excitiment equivalanet to live competition. Through the description of early rodeo when women competed with men, performed for presidents and royalty as well as for crowds in the thousands we learn of their athletic talent, their personal sacrifice, and determination to pursue their own careers. They became stars and sometimes won annual earnings that surpassed the men. This thoroughly researched history describes women in rodeo from the mid-1800s to 1992 when Charmayne James Rodman and Scamper set a new world record for earnings in a single event. This book is as exciting as any professional sport.


Paint the Wind (Scholastic Gold)

By Pam Muñoz Ryan,

Book cover of Paint the Wind (Scholastic Gold)

Why this book?

This book contains two stories that intertwine: that of a girl who has lost her mother, and a mustang mare struggling to keep her foal safe. I like how the mare is portrayed as intelligent and brave, just as the girl is. Both living beings are important characters in the plot, which is wonderful. The prose is skillful and beautiful, and suits competent, older middle-grade readers who will be transported into the wild landscape.