The most recommended books about Utah

Who picked these books? Meet our 28 experts.

28 authors created a book list connected to Utah, and here are their favorite Utah books.
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What type of Utah book?


Book cover of The 19th Wife

Brenda Stanley Author Of The Treasure of Cedar Creek

From my list on escaping polygamist cults.

Why am I passionate about this?

Living in southern Utah for many years, I saw first-hand the polygamist communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hilldale, Utah. It always intrigued me that these people still held on to the beliefs and teachings of the early Mormon leaders regardless of the laws or scorn of those who lived around them. The research I did for The Treasure of Cedar Creek, was about polygamy, but also the history of the area of Idaho where the novel takes place and how it would be as a woman not only trying to escape, but facing the challenges of the terrain and perceptions of the day.

Brenda's book list on escaping polygamist cults

Brenda Stanley Why did Brenda love this book?

I love escaping into a story, and if it is historical fiction, I want it to be historically accurate. By telling the story in both the present day and in the past, I was intrigued and this kept me reading. The novel is based on the experiences of a real woman living in polygamy but tells the story of what happened then and how it affects the lives of others later. It may be fictional, but the historical accuracy made the story come to life. I could feel her angst with being part of her family, but also knowing she didn’t want this life.

By David Ebershoff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The 19th Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jordan returns from California to Utah to visit his mother in jail. As a teenager he was expelled from his family and religious community, a secretive Mormon offshoot sect. Now his father has been found shot dead in front of his computer, and one of his many wives - Jordan's mother - is accused of the crime.
Over a century earlier, Ann Eliza Young, the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young, Prophet and Leader of the Mormon Church, tells the sensational story of how her own parents were drawn into plural marriage, and how she herself battled for her freedom and…

Book cover of Thunderhead

M. S. Spencer Author Of Hidden Gem: The Secret of St. Augustine

From my list on treasure hunts.

Why am I passionate about this?

For much too long a perennial student, I hold degrees in Anthropology, Arabic Studies, and Library Science. I’ve studied nine languages and lived or traveled on five of the seven continents. I do not hunt tangible treasure—gold or jewels or sunken ships; I hunt knowledge. My love for rooting out treasure troves of information began with my first job. I held passes to the Library of Congress stacks, where I tracked down sources on Ethiopian history. After months of unearthing mostly obscure references, I came upon the mother lode—the great explorers’ accounts. It was like finding a chest of doubloons. I was hooked on the treasure of the mind.

M.S.'s book list on treasure hunts

M. S. Spencer Why did M.S. love this book?

Nora Kelly, assistant professor at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute, assembles an expedition to find the lost city of Quivira—Coronado’s City of Gold. Their footsteps are dogged by a pair of murderous, pelt-covered creatures. After unimaginable horrors, they at last discover the pueblo city and its treasure—but in an ironic twist, it isn’t gold at all.

I recommend every single one of Preston and Child’s thrillers. Superbly written and, though fantastic, they never lack a good grounding in science. Thunderhead is particularly alluring to me because of the descriptions of the sere landscape of the slot canyons and high desert of southwest Utah.

By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On a visit to her family's abandoned Santa Fe ranch, archaeologist Nora Kelly discovers an old letter, written from her father to her mother, now both dead. What perplexes Nora is the fact that the faded envelope was mailed and postmarked only a few weeks earlier.
Her father had vanished into the remote canyon country of Utah 16 years before, searching for Quivira, the fabled Lost City of Gold, whose legend has captivated explorers since the days of Coronado. Upon reading the letter, Nora learns that her father believed he had, in fact, located the lost city. But what happened…

Book cover of True West: Myth and Mending on the Far Side of America

Craig Lancaster Author Of And It Will Be A Beautiful Life

From my list on Books featuring characters navigating the contemporary American West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a son of the contemporary American West—born near the Pacific Coast, raised in Texas, and an inveterate traveler of its byways and odd corners. Through the duality of my upbringing, as the son of a well-traveled mother, a suburban sportswriter stepfather, and a father who worked in extractive industries, I’ve seen up close both harmony and dissonance. The work I’m drawn to, whether on the creation end or the consumptive end, goes deep into the lives that play out in these places.

Craig's book list on Books featuring characters navigating the contemporary American West

Craig Lancaster Why did Craig love this book?

Here, I veer off into nonfiction, but only because nobody would believe any novelist who conjured up the likes of the real-life people Betsy Gaines Quammen talks to in constructing this portrait of how things got so fraught out West.

In my view, it takes a writer of particular skill and empathy to honestly get at the thoughts and motivations of folks with whom she likely disagrees on fundamental questions. Further, it takes a writer of inherent fairness to call balls and strikes on all sides of contentious issues. Quammen, for my money, is such a writer.

By Betsy Gaines Quammen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“True West disentangles reality from centuries of myth and mystique."

—HAMPTON SIDES, New York Times bestselling author of Blood and Thunder

From the Northern Rockies to the Southwest deserts, Betsy Gaines Quammen explores how myths shape our identities, heighten polarizations, and fracture our shared understanding of the world around us. As she investigates the origins and effects of myths of the American West, Gaines Quammen travels through small towns and big cities, engaging people and building relationships at every stop. Misperceptions about land, politics, liberty, and self-determination threaten the well-being of people and communities across the country, and Gaines Quammen…

Book cover of Riders of the Purple Sage

Bob Giel Author Of Shawnee

From my list on generating interest in the Western genre.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a life-long love of Westerns. I’ve researched the period and the events extensively. One of the first things I look for in any book I read is period accuracy. The books I write are historically accurate, though they are fiction. I’m on a mission, through my writing, to save the Western genre.

Bob's book list on generating interest in the Western genre

Bob Giel Why did Bob love this book?

This was the first Western I read when I was young. It made an impression on me, not only as a Western, but as a classic story of good and evil with sharply drawn characters that make it come alive to the reader. Grey’s writing puts the reader right in the middle of every scene. And it has an ending you don’t see coming, but one that fits perfectly.

By Zane Grey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Riders of the Purple Sage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.

Book cover of Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

Andrea Lani Author Of Uphill Both Ways: Hiking toward Happiness on the Colorado Trail

From my list on women in the wild.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Colorado gal living in Maine, where I make the most of the long winters and gloomy springs by spending as much time as I can outside in our 20 acres of woods and fields. I hiked the Colorado Trail twice, in 1996 with my husband and in 2016 with my husband and three kids. My book tells the story of this second hike, as well as the natural and environmental history of Colorado. I’m a Maine Master Naturalist, and I’m passionate about connecting people to the natural world through nature journaling and nature writing workshops.

Andrea's book list on women in the wild

Andrea Lani Why did Andrea love this book?

The book, which I first read as an assignment in a college class, was my first introduction to both personal narrative and nature writing, and I was hooked. I decided right then and there that I wanted to explore the natural world and write about it when I grew up.

I was—and still am—enamored by Williams’s descriptions of wild birds, the desert landscape around Great Salt Lake, and the solace she derived from the natural world as she faced her mother’s and grandmother’s illnesses. Williams’ lyrical writing and deep knowledge of and love for her home landscape are a constant source of inspiration for my own writing and living.

By Terry Tempest Williams,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Refuge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the spring of 1983 Terry Tempest Williams learned that her mother was dying of cancer. That same season, The Great Salt Lake began to rise to record heights, threatening the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and the herons, owls, and snowy egrets that Williams, a poet and naturalist, had come to gauge her life by. One event was nature at its most random, the other a by-product of rogue technology: Terry's mother, and Terry herself, had been exposed to the fallout of atomic bomb tests in the 1950s. As it interweaves these narratives of dying and accommodation, Refuge transforms…

Book cover of Nowhere for Very Long: The Unexpected Road to an Unconventional Life

Angie Marie Author Of The Cycle Syncing Handbook: Identify Hormonal Patterns, Build Holistic Habits, and Embrace the Power of Your Menstrual Cycle

From my list on books for women who want to live more creatively/with more creativity.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my 20s, after always doing what I was “supposed” to, I found myself trapped in a relationship I wanted out of, in a job that barely paid the bills, and in a mindset of scarcity. After my birth control almost killed me, I dove into the mind-body connection that’s often stifled by sexism and societal expectations, becoming fascinated with pushing against the status quo and living more adventurously. I realized I needed to sincerely take my life decisions into my own hands. Since then, I’ve run ultramarathons, become an entrepreneur, and taught countless menstruators how to listen to their own bodies so they can build a life they love.

Angie's book list on books for women who want to live more creatively/with more creativity

Angie Marie Why did Angie love this book?

When I got divorced, I kept my ex-partner’s last name. It felt shameful in some ways, but it also felt like the best option financially and career-wise. I was so relieved to read a memoir of a woman who confidently and decisively kept her ex’s last name even as she blazed a brand-new path for herself while the relationships around her blew up.

From the outside, my life can look easy and happy. But, of course, I deal with challenges that feel unsurmountable at the time, with critics who make me second-guess my work and with the expectations of how a woman should look and speak. In this book Brianna breaks down her own journey of rebuilding a life that looked shiny on the outside but had major struggles that she could no longer ignore.

I’ve struggled at work, in marriage, and in my identity. To read a memoir from…

By Brianna Madia,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nowhere for Very Long as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


In this beautifully written, vividly detailed memoir, a young woman chronicles her adventures traveling across the deserts of the American West in an orange van named Bertha and reflects on an unconventional approach to life.

A woman defined by motion, Brianna Madia bought a beat-up bright orange van, filled it with her two dogs Bucket and Dagwood, and headed into the canyons of Utah with her husband. Nowhere for Very Long is her deeply felt, immaculately told story of exploration-of the world outside and the spirit within.…

Book cover of Buffalo Flats

Uma Krishnaswami Author Of Book Uncle and Me

From Uma's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Knitter Ex-child Daydreamer Bird-watcher

Uma's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Uma Krishnaswami Why did Uma love this book?

Rebecca Leavitt is seeking herself—in the Northwest Territories of Canada during the late 1800s.

I had a visceral memory of this spirited protagonist, because I’d heard Martine, who is my friend and writer colleague, read from drafts at residencies where we both taught at the time. I found that same spirit in these pages, carrying its sparkle all the way through.

Here is a YA novel that captures what it means to be a young person with dreams and yearnings. It speaks at once to past and present, which is exactly what I long for in historical fiction.

By Martine Leavitt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Buffalo Flats as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Based on true-life histories, Buffalo Flats shares the epic, coming of age story of Rebecca Leavitt as she searches for her identity in the Northwest Territories of Canada during the late 1800s.

Seventeen-year-old Rebecca Leavitt has traveled by covered wagon from Utah to the Northwest Territories of Canada, where her father and brothers are now homesteading and establishing a new community with other Latter-Day Saints. Rebecca is old enough to get married, but what kind of man would she marry and who would have a girl like her—a girl filled with ideas and opinions? Someone gallant and exciting like Levi…

Book cover of Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West

Nate Schweber Author Of This America of Ours: Bernard and Avis Devoto and the Forgotten Fight to Save the Wild

From my list on public lands and conservation.

Why am I passionate about this?

By lucky lottery of birth, Missoula, Montana, nestled between forested mountains and sliced through by trout-filled rivers, is where I was born and raised. Public land conservation came into my consciousness naturally as clean, pine-scented air. But when I moved to overcrowded New York City in 2001 to try a career in journalism, homesickness made me begin researching conservation. Why are there public lands in the West? What forces prompted their creation? Who wants public lands, and who opposes them? Can their history teach us about our present and our future? These books began answering my questions. 

Nate's book list on public lands and conservation

Nate Schweber Why did Nate love this book?

From this bracing and brilliant biography, I learned about how John Wesley Powell went on an epic Western discovery adventure and became inspired to challenge thousands of years of Anglo dogma about rain, rivers, land, and how humankind must live with them.

Basic conservation is such a part of American life today that, like gravity, which Newton gets credit for discovering, we forget the genius it first took to conceptualize it. No one is more foundational to conservation than one-armed Grand Canyon explorer Powell. His story is here told by an admiring author, Wallace Stegner, who understood that genius because he was one. 

By Wallace Stegner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the “dean of Western writers” (The New York Times) and the Pulitzer Prize winning–author of Angle of Repose and Crossing to Safety, a fascinating look at the old American West and the man who prophetically warned against the dangers of settling it
In Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, Wallace Stegner recounts the sucesses and frustrations of John Wesley Powell, the distinguished ethnologist and geologist who explored the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon, and the homeland of Indian tribes of the American Southwest. A prophet without honor who had a profound understanding of the American West, Powell warned long ago of…

Book cover of The Executioner's Song

Rick R. Reed Author Of The Man from Milwaukee

From my list on true crime that would be criminal not to read.

Why am I passionate about this?

I chose this list for two reasons—one, true crime has always held great fascination for me. I have a real hunger to understand the motivations behind the darkest sides of human nature, which I believe exists in us all. My own book, The Man from Milwaukee, dives deep into this obsession by sympathetically portraying a closeted young gay man in 1991 Chicago, who sees the cannibal killer as a victim himself of his own irresistible murderous impulses, likening them to our main character’s own self-loathing toward his same-sex desires. 

Rick's book list on true crime that would be criminal not to read

Rick R. Reed Why did Rick love this book?

Mailer’s opus dramatizes the cursed life of Gary Gilmore. In 1976, he robbed and killed two strangers. After being tried and sentenced to death, Gilmore insisted on being executed, to the disagreement of the justice system, who wanted him to remain alive. Written simply and with great compassion, the novel is disturbing, yet ultimately thought-provoking and redemptive.

By Norman Mailer,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Executioner's Song as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


In the summer of 1976 Gary Gilmore robbed two men. Then he shot them in cold blood. For those murders Gilmore was sent to languish on Death Row - and could confidently expect his sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment. In America, no one had been executed for ten years.

But Gary Gilmore wanted to die, and his ensuing battle with the authorities for the right to do so made him into a world-wide celebrity - and ensured that his execution turned into the most gruesome media event of the decade.

Book cover of Sonic Memories and other essays

Athena Dixon Author Of The Incredible Shrinking Woman

From my list on for growing up and finding your voice.

Why am I passionate about this?

Finding a voice is something I struggled with since childhood. Always afraid of being invisible or silent, finding common ground with writers who excelled at relating the human condition became a safe haven. I made a choice to focus on creative work that explores what is means to be simply human--to examine the hopes, needs, wants, and energies that make our daily lives move.

Athena's book list on for growing up and finding your voice

Athena Dixon Why did Athena love this book?

Sonic Memories makes the best use of a compact space without losing any of the narrative depth and emotional impact. This small collection of essays uses sound and music as its top note all the while using the silence in between to showcase a rich memoir-like exploration of Black girlhood growing into Black womanhood.

By Cija Jefferson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sonic Memories and other essays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sonic Memories is a debut collection of personal essays written and designed by the author.

These true stories begin in Utah in the late seventies. The author is two and her parents are hopeful newlyweds in their early twenties. We follow the family back to Maryland where her father's dream to practice law disintegrates when he doesn’t pass the bar after several attempts. His upwardly mobile hopes for his family are dashed, and the fallout from that—a fear of being trapped in a life of poverty and dreams deferred—dogs the author through most of her young adult/adult life. In these…