The most recommended books about the Rocky Mountains

Who picked these books? Meet our 24 experts.

24 authors created a book list connected to the Rocky Mountains, and here are their favorite Rocky Mountains books.
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What type of Rocky Mountains book?


Book cover of A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains

Silvia Pettem Author Of In Search of the Blonde Tigress: The Untold Story of Eleanor Jarman

From the list on mysterious and intriguing women in history.

Who am I?

I've been writing for decades, as one genre evolved into another. Local Colorado history led to the identification of "Boulder Jane Doe," a murder victim. During that journey I learned a lot about criminal investigations and forensics. I devoured old movies (especially film noir), and I focused on social history including mysterious and intriguing women. Midwest Book Review (see author book links) credits In Search of the Blonde Tigress as "rescuing" Eleanor Jarman "from obscurity." So true! Despite Eleanor's notoriety as "the most dangerous woman alive," she actually was a very ordinary woman. I've now found my niche pulling mysterious and intriguing women out of the shadows.

Silvia's book list on mysterious and intriguing women in history

Why did Silvia love this book?

Many years ago, when I first moved to a small cabin in the Rocky Mountains, a friend gave me a copy of A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains and inscribed it to "one of the bravest mountain ladies I know."

I relished the book and learned a lot about the history of my new home through the eyes of an English woman who, in 1873, traveled alone and on horseback, to places I now know and love. Instead of fading into the past, Isabella Bird pulled herself out of the shadows. I even named my cat after her. 

By Isabella L. Bird,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A cosmopolitan, middle-aged Englishwoman touring the Rocky Mountains in 1873, Isabella Bird had embarked upon a trip that called for as much stamina as would have been expected of an explorer or anthropologist — and she was neither! Possessing a prodigious amount of curiosity and a huge appetite for traveling, she journeyed later in life to India, Tibet, China, Japan, Korea, and Canada and wrote eight successful books about her adventures. In this volume, she paints an intimate picture of the "Wild West," writing eloquently of flora and fauna, isolated settlers and assorted refugees from civilization, vigilance committees and lynchings,…

Spinsters Abroad

By Dea Birkett,

Book cover of Spinsters Abroad: Victorian Lady Explorers

Emily Thomas Author Of The Meaning of Travel: Philosophers Abroad

From the list on travel that are philosophical and funny.

Who am I?

I’m obsessed with travel, and have spent years ambling the planet. I’m also an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Durham University—I spend lots of time reading books, and occasionally writing them. Travel and philosophy can help us make sense of our magnificent, peculiar world.

Emily's book list on travel that are philosophical and funny

Why did Emily love this book?

Spinsters Abroad set out to celebrate Victorian women traveller such as Mary Kingsley, Amelia Edwards, and Isabella Bird. However, Birkett quickly discovered that these women were not straightforward role models. Yes, they travelled Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, braving hardship, and making all kinds of discoveries along the way. But it turns out, they managed that because their whiteness trumped their gender. Spinsters Abroad reveals the complexity of these women’s travels, and their lives and worlds. It reflects on their motivations for travel, as well as how Victorians conceived gender and race. The book is also jam-packed with anecdotes. Here is Edwards complaining about flies interrupting her watercolour painting of Egyptian ruins: ‘Nothing disagrees with them; nothing poisons them - not even olive-green’.

By Dea Birkett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What spurred so many Victorian women to leave behind their secure middle-class homes and undertake perilous journeys of thousands of miles, tramping through tropical forests, caravanning across deserts, and scaling mountain ranges? And how were they able to travel so freely in exotic lands, when at home such independence was denied to them? This book draws upon the diaries and writings of more than 50 such women to describe their experiences and aspirations. Many of the journeys they made are re-constructed - Mary Gaunt's voyage along the West African coast, Mary Kingsley's jungle treks, Amelia Edwards's thousand-mile journey up the…

Killing Trail

By Margaret Mizushima,

Book cover of Killing Trail

Peggy Rothschild Author Of Playing Dead

From the list on mysteries for dog lovers.

Who am I?

I’m a lifelong mystery fan and animal lover. I’m drawn to mysteries that provide a window to a new world. And, since I love animals, I enjoy the added fun of having a realistic animal sidekick in the mix. All the books I’ve recommended here pulled me into their worlds, letting me spend time with fascinating characters as they untangled various mysteries—as well as with their wonderful, if fictional, canine companions. 

Peggy's book list on mysteries for dog lovers

Why did Peggy love this book?

I love all of the books in Mizushima’s Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series and though you can start anywhere, this book was my introduction to Mattie Cobb and her dog, Robo.

The partnership between these two characters is wonderful as is the scene-setting, ancillary characters, and—of course—the actual mystery!

Mattie’s the sort of person I would enjoy spending time with in real life—along with Robo.

By Margaret Mizushima,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An RT Book Review “Top Pick” and “Best First Mystery" nominee
A Library Journal “Debut of the Month”

Fans of K-9 mysteries and C.J. Box will love this debut police procedural that introduces Colorado’s best crime-fighting duo: Mattie Cobb and police dog, Robo.

While investigating the mysterious death of a young girl, Officer Mattie Cobb uncovers frightening secrets about her small Colorado hometown . . .

When a young girl is found dead in the mountains outside Timber Creek, life-long resident Officer Mattie Cobb and her partner, K-9 police dog Robo, are assigned to the case that has rocked the…

Rising from the Plains

By John McPhee,

Book cover of Rising from the Plains

Sam L. Pfiester Author Of Solomon's Temple: Musjid-i-Suleiman

From the list on earth history.

Who am I?

For most of my career as an oil explorationist I have worked with geologists, an exceptional group of men and women who, from observing earth’s surface as it is configured today, can decipher earth’s history. By understanding how rocks were originally formed and how in subsequent millennia rocks have been buried, transported warped, eroded, re-deposited, and altered by high pressures, high temperatures, hot water, and all the tectonic forces of nature that have formed the surface as we see it today, they believe, really believe, that they can visualize the subsurface.  It’s a fascinating four-dimensional detective story. 

Sam's book list on earth history

Why did Sam love this book?

Rising from the Plains is one of three geological and historical expeditions by John McPhee which together won the Pulitzer Prize as Annals of the Former World. The book intertwines a narrative of how the Rocky Mountains were formed with the story of its narrator, David Love, a Wyoming geologist who deciphered the geology and whose own family’s history is a fascinating snapshot of early-pioneering days in the West.

By John McPhee,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Rising from the Plains as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pulitzer Prize-winning author John McPhee continues his Annals of the Former World series about the geology of North America along the fortieth parallel with Rising from the Plains.

This third volume presents another exciting geological excursion with an engaging account of life—past and present—in the high plains of Wyoming.

Sometimes it is said of geologists that they reflect in their professional styles the sort of country in which they grew up. Nowhere could that be more true than in the life of a geologist born in the center of Wyoming and raised on an isolated ranch. This is the story…

Book cover of You Don't Have to Die in the End

Maureen Ulrich Author Of Power Plays

From the list on teen novels with snappy dialogue.

Who am I?

One of my favourite sounds is teens interacting—especially when they are throwing shade. I spent twenty-five years as a junior and senior high teacher, and I miss rocking and rolling during class discussions with my students. As a writer of contemporary fiction (actually in anything I write), I work hard at using dialogue as an engine to drive each scene. Each line needs to be refined to ensure that it’s snappy, engaging, and real. I’m a writer from southeast Saskatchewan, Canada, where there’s no shortage of great one-liners to use. I hope you enjoy the dialogue in these five recommendations as much as I did.

Maureen's book list on teen novels with snappy dialogue

Why did Maureen love this book?

You Don’t Have to Die in the End is just the sort of book I’d hand to a student who struggled with finding anything relatable. Eugenia Grimm could be down to her last chance when she is sent to Reason’s Wait, a facility for troubled teens. Because of her troubled past, she has programmed herself to lock horns with any adult who tries to cross—or help—her. I cringed during her tempestuous exchanges with social workers, staff, and fellow “inmates”—hoping one of them would find a way to save this bitter, angry girl from herself. Spoiler alert: As Daher’s title suggests, Eugenia’s train wreck of a life is salvaged in the end.

By Anita Daher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You Don't Have to Die in the End as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Eugenia Grimm is a tough girl living in a tough town at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She drinks and fights and pushes against expectations. She is also hurting. After her father died by suicide on her eighth birthday, her older brothers drifted away and her mother up and left when she turned 14, Eugenia has not made the best choices. After a last-straw violent incident and faced with the possibility of incarceration, she is sentenced to time at an Intensive Support and Supervision Program located at a remote mountain ranch. There, she begins to makeconnections, explore difficult truths,…

Book cover of Dancing at the Rascal Fair

Rod Miller Author Of Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range

From the list on cowboys who are actually cowboys.

Who am I?

Cows and horses were part of daily life in my family. For many years of my youth, my father was a working cowboy, running the cattle ranch on a large agricultural operation. We also had our own herd and trained horses as well. While we watched the popular TV Westerns of the time, we were always aware that they had no connection to the reality of cowboy life, and that “cowboy” was a term misused and abused on the screen and in the pages of shoot-’em-up Western novels. Authenticity and a sense of the reality of cowboy life are important to me, and have been since boyhood. 

Rod's book list on cowboys who are actually cowboys

Why did Rod love this book?

In a tale of Scottish immigrants who homestead Montana ranches in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains, Dancing at the Rascal Fair features a cast of characters who cooperate and sometimes clash as they build lives in a harsh new country. Human relationships prove as challenging as the land, the livestock, and the weather. Doig, like few authors who write about the West, presents a faithful picture of ranch life.   

By Ivan Doig,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dancing at the Rascal Fair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The central volume in Ivan Doig's acclaimed Montana trilogy, Dancing at the Rascal Fair is an authentic saga of the American experience at the turn of this century and a passionate, portrayal of the immigrants who dared to try new lives in the imposing Rocky Mountains.

Ivan Doig's supple tale of landseekers unfolds into a fateful contest of the heart between Anna Ramsay and Angus McCaskill, walled apart by their obligations as they and their stormy kith and kin vie to tame the brutal, beautiful Two Medicine country.

Rabbi Harvey Rides Again

By Steve Sheinkin,

Book cover of Rabbi Harvey Rides Again: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Folktales Let Loose in the Wild West

Barbara Lehman Author Of Little Red and the Cat Who Loved Cake

From the list on upcycled tales for children all told with a twist.

Who am I?

I love the experience of reading a book that combines a known (to me or not!) story combined with elements that make it new again. It could be a parody, a “fractured fairy tale,” or a new retelling, funny or serious. For my book Little Red and the Cat Who Loved Cake, I read so many nursery rhymes and fairy tales in order to populate the town with fun versions of recognizable characters for Little Red to encounter, it makes me appreciate these books even more.

Barbara's book list on upcycled tales for children all told with a twist

Why did Barbara love this book?

In another Wild West setting twist, an advice dispensing Rabbi is the vehicle for upcycling traditional folk tales. And it is funny: whether the Rabbi is busting through saloon doors to beat someone to the punchline of an Abe Lincoln joke or using his wits to outsmart bandits or simply helping out with a frontier domestic issue, I find myself literally laughing out loud. The illustrations are charmingly folky, and there is a glossary for the story sources which often turn out to be tales that are many hundreds of years old.

By Steve Sheinkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rabbi Harvey Rides Again as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rabbi Harvey is Back with Ten Hilarious New Adventures

In this follow-up to the popular The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West, the Rabbi returns to the streets of Elk Spring, Colorado. Part Wild West sheriff, part old world rabbi, Harvey protects his town and delivers justice, wielding only the weapons of wisdom, wit, and a bit of trickery. These adventures combine Jewish and American folklore by creatively retelling comic Jewish folktales and setting them loose on the western frontier of the 1870s.

As his fame grows throughout the Rocky…

Young Men and Fire

By Norman MacLean,

Book cover of Young Men and Fire

Ted Anton Author Of Programmable Planet: The Synthetic Biology Revolution

From the list on sizzling science books that simplify.

Who am I?

I have written four books of popular science, and edited a fifth collection of my favorite science writers. I have been a judge for the 2022 Science in Society Book Awards for the National Association of Science Writers. I taught popular science writing for 34 years to undergraduates and graduates alike. Most of all, I love the wonder and awe of understanding the world around us.

Ted's book list on sizzling science books that simplify

Why did Ted love this book?

A fascinating and compelling history of the Mann Gulch Fire that killed several firefighters in Montana in the late 1940s, coupled with the author’s own journey to heal humself.

MacLean was a beloved University of Chicago Shakespeare professor, and a former Montana firefighter, who only began writing after he retired. His first book was an instant classic, A River Runs Through It, playing with the border between nonficiton and ficiton, love and anger. Young Men and Fire picks up where that book left off. You have to read to the final line to learn exactly what the book is about 

By Norman MacLean,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Young Men and Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Norman Maclean sent the manuscript of A River Runs through It to New York publishers, he received a slew of rejections. One editor, so the story goes, replied, "It has trees in it." Forty years later, the title novella is widely recognized as one of the great American tales of the twentieth century, and Maclean as one of the most beloved writers of our time. Maclean's later triumph, Young Men and Fire, has over the decades also established itself as a classic of the American West. And with this twenty-fifth-anniversary edition, a fresh audience will be introduced to Maclean's…

If the Ice Had Held

By Wendy J. Fox,

Book cover of If the Ice Had Held

Beth Castrodale Author Of I Mean You No Harm

From the list on confronting trauma or loss.

Who am I?

All of my novels explore, in some way, how the characters are affected by trauma or loss, and how they respond to these difficulties over time. This comes partly from my impatience with the notion of “closure” and with the idea that we can ever truly find it after a traumatic event or a significant loss. I’m drawn to fiction and nonfiction that doesn’t shy away from the messiness of finding a way to live with these difficulties, or trying to. In addition to writing fiction, I’ve spent nearly ten years recommending novels and story collections through my Small Press Picks website.

Beth's book list on confronting trauma or loss

Why did Beth love this book?

I love the complex, nuanced way in which this novel explores the long-range consequences of a single tragedy: in the case of this book, the death of a young man who was on the edge of becoming a father. As we enter the perspectives of his sister, the mother of his child, and (in later years) his child, we learn how lives can be rebuilt in the aftermath of a loss, a time when survivors can feel hopelessly broken. We also learn how new—and sometimes unexpectedbonds can be formed. In other words, we see that tragedies can leave more than darkness in their wake. I took hope from this book, and it provided a refreshing perspective, especially in these troubling times.

By Wendy J. Fox,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked If the Ice Had Held as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Melanie Henderson's life is a lie. The scandal of her birth and the identity of her true parents is kept from her family's small, conservative Colorado town. Not even she knows the truth: that her birth mother was just 14 and unmarried to her father, a local boy who drowned when he tried to take a shortcut across an icy river. Thirty-five years later, in Denver, Melanie dabbles in affairs with married men while clinging to a corporate job that gives her life order even as her tenuous relationships fall apart. She still hasn't learned that the woman who raised…

Breakheart Pass

By Alistair MacLean,

Book cover of Breakheart Pass

Janet Dawson Author Of Death Rides the Zephyr

From the list on mysteries on (and off) the tracks.

Who am I?

As soon as I found out about Zephyrettes, I knew I had to write about these real-life train hostesses who rode the rails on the old California Zephyr, which existed from 1949 to 1970. The only woman on a train crew, someone who keeps an eye on passengers and situations, anticipating and solving problems—who would be better placed to solve a mystery on a train? Jill is my traveling Miss Marple. I’m a former newspaper reporter, Navy journalist, and have been writing for decades, first the Jeri Howard series, then the Jill McLeod series, and lately a book featuring geriatric care manager Kay Dexter, The Sacrificial Daughter.

Janet's book list on mysteries on (and off) the tracks

Why did Janet love this book?

A crowded troop train is heading across a desolate stretch of tracks through the Rocky Mountains. It’s the dead of winter 1873 and you can almost feel the chill seeping into the railcars. The troops are headed to Fort Humboldt to relieve the cholera-stricken garrison. In addition to the troops, the train’s passengers include a powerful governor, the daughter of the fort’s commander, and a US marshal escorting an outlaw prisoner. But people and their stories aren’t what they seem. A passenger is murdered. Time is running out and a lot of people are going to wind up dead before the end of the story. A masterful thriller by MacLean.

By Alistair MacLean,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A rare Alistair Maclean western adventure.