Our Westerns Collection highlights stories about the landscapes and people that shaped the American West. We have carefully curated titles that represent a diverse range of voices, including those of Indigenous people affected by Westward Expansion. These selections focus on themes such as settlement and displacement, wilderness and the natural world, and freedom and opportunity.

Publication year 1992Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Natural World: AnimalsTags Historical Fiction, Western, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

All the Pretty Horses (1992) is a novel by Cormac McCarthy and a winner of the National Book Award. The book follows a young man, John Grady Cole, and his best friend Lacey Rawlins as they run away to Mexico in the late 1940s. A bestseller and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, All the Pretty Horses is the first novel in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy and helped increase the American novelist’s popularity and... Read All The Pretty Horses Summary

Publication year 1923Genre Novel, FictionTags Western, Historical Fiction

“The Lost Lady” was published by American author Willa Cather in 1923. Set at the end of the 19th century, this western novel chronicles Marian Forrester’s life through the eyes of Niel Herbert, a young boy from the railroad town of Sweet Water. The Forresters’ decline in financial and social position mirrors the decline of the pioneer era; the contrast between this idealized era and the exploitative capitalist one comprises the novel’s main theme. The... Read A Lost Lady Summary

Publication year 1985Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Western, Historical Fiction, American Literature

Blood Meridian, a 1985 novel by Cormac McCarthy, is one of the most celebrated works of modern American literature. The novel was inspired by people and events of the mid-19th century in the borderlands of the United States and Mexico. McCarthy’s works have won many honors including the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. Blood Meridian is often considered his greatest novel. This guide uses an eBook version of the 1992 First Vintage International edition... Read Blood Meridian Summary

Publication year 1997Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Identity: Sexuality, Society: Class, Emotions/Behavior: HopeTags Romance, LGBTQ, Western

“Brokeback Mountain,” by award-winning American author Annie Proulx, addresses themes of Masculine Sexuality and the Forbidden Love of Queer Romance, The Inescapable Effects and Momentum of Poverty, and Powerlessness and Loss of Hope. Like much of Proulx’s work, the story includes a strong sense of place. Wyoming’s unforgiving landscape figures prominently in “Brokeback Mountain,” and the film adaptation by the same name received acclaim for its cinematography as well as its unapologetic portrayal of queer... Read Brokeback Mountain Summary

Publication year 1977Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Indigenous, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Society: WarTags Western, American Literature, Historical Fiction

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko is a 1977 historical novel that won the American Book Award in 1980; it was Silko’s first novel. Ceremony follows Tayo, a young Laguna Pueblo veteran who is now struggling to cope with Alienation and Isolation in Post-WWII America. Traditional Laguna Pueblo legends parallel Tayo’s journey and explore themes of The Power of Stories and Adapting Tradition to the Present. Ceremony is often cited as a major work in the... Read Ceremony Summary

Publication year 1998Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Values/Ideas: Fate, Natural World: Animals, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Natural World: PlaceTags Western, Historical Fiction, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Post-War Era

Cities of the Plain is a 1998 novel by American author Cormac McCarthy. The novel is the final entry in a trilogy that began with All the Pretty Horses, followed by The Crossing. The protagonists from each of the previous novels return for Cities of the Plain. This guide uses an eBook version of the 1998 Knopf edition of the novel.Plot SummaryJohn Grady Cole (the protagonist of All the Pretty Horses) and Billy Parham (the... Read Cities of the Plain Summary

Publication year 2016Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: War, Identity: Gender, Identity: Sexuality, Relationships: FamilyTags Western, Historical Fiction, Military / War, LGBTQ, American Civil War, Race / Racism

Days Without End (2016) is a novel by Irish author Sebastian Barry. Days Without End is Barry’s ninth novel and received considerable critical acclaim. The novel won the 2017 Walter Scott Prize, was listed at number 74 on The Guardian’s list of the 100 best books of the 21st century (2019 edition), and made BBC News’s 2019 list of the 100 most influential novels. The novel also won the 2016 Costa Book Award, making Barry... Read Days Without End Summary

Publication year 1981Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Society: ColonialismTags Historical Fiction, Survival Fiction, Action / Adventure, Western, American Literature

Publication year 1986Genre Novel, FictionTags Western

James Welch’s Fools Crow (1987) is an historical novel that retells the Anglo conquering of the American West and, specifically, the events leading up to the Marias Massacre in Montana, in 1870, from the perspective of the Blackfeet (Pikuni) people. The novel chronicles the experiences of the Pikuni as they struggle to maintain their traditions in the face of smallpox, violent persecution, and shrinking numbers of buffalo as more white Americans–the Napikwans–move onto their lands... Read Fools Crow Summary

Publication year 2008Genre Novel, FictionTags Historical Fiction, Auto/Biographical Fiction, Western

Jeannette Walls describes her book Half Broke Horses as a “True-Life Novel,” as it describes the life of her real-life grandmother Lily Casey Smith. The book is told in the first person from the perspective of Lily as she grows up in the harsh desert southwest. While the book is classified as a novel (since Walls was unable to back-up all of the facts about Smith’s life), it reads more like a memoir. Walls begins... Read Half Broke Horses Summary

Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Relationships: Family, Identity: RaceTags Chinese Literature, Asian Literature, Historical Fiction, Western, Race / Racism, Immigration / Refugee

Publication year 2017Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Relationships: SiblingsTags Historical Fiction, Western, Action / Adventure, Immigration / Refugee

Publication year 2015Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Relationships: Family, Society: Politics & Government, Natural World: Place, Self Discovery, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: LiteratureTags Historical Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Western

Publication year 1979Genre Short Story Collection, FictionThemes Society: War, Identity: MasculinityTags Historical Fiction, Western, Relationships, WWII / World War II, American Literature

Legends of the Fall is a collection of three novellas by Jim Harrison, including “Revenge,” “The Man Who Gave Up His Name,” and the titular novella, “Legends of the Fall.” First published in 1979 by Collins, Legends of the Fall remains one of Harrison’s most highly regarded works. Harrison wrote across a range of genres such as fiction, poetry, essay, and film and was the recipient of several awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship. His work... Read Legends of the Fall Summary

Publication year 1932Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags Historical Fiction, Children's Literature, Western

Little House in the Big Woods was published in 1932 by American author Laura Ingalls Wilder. The first in a nine-book series, the autobiographical narrative relates the story of a family of homesteading pioneers living and laboring in Wisconsin. The story is illustrated by Garth Williams, whose drawings of the Ingalls family are often considered iconic and an integral part of the reading experience.This is a classic children’s tale set during an era of western... Read Little House in the Big Woods Summary

Publication year 1932Genre Novel, FictionTags Children's Literature, Historical Fiction, Classic Fiction, Western

The Ingalls family—parents Charles and Caroline, known as “Pa” and “Ma” in the book, and daughters Mary (age seven), Laura (age six) and Carrie (a baby)—live in Wisconsin in the late 1800s near their extended families. Pa hears that Native American territory on the prairies of Kansas will soon open up to settlement by whites and decides to move there to claim a good plot of land before the selection gets too competitive. The family... Read Little House on the Prairie Summary

Publication year 1985Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Friendship, Natural World: Place, Identity: Masculinity, Identity: GenderTags Western, Historical Fiction

Lonesome Dove is a 1985 novel by American author Larry McMurtry. Chronologically, it is the third book in the Lonesome Dove series, although it was published before its two prequels, Dead Man’s Walk (1995) and Comanche Moon (1997). One of the most celebrated novels in the Western genre, Lonesome Dove tells the story of former Texas Rangers Augustus (Gus) McRae and Woodrow Call (Call) as they take a herd of cattle on an ill-fated drive... Read Lonesome Dove Summary

Publication year 1990Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Indigenous, Identity: Race, Life/Time: The Past, Natural World: Environment, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Historical Fiction, Western, Magical Realism, American Literature

Mean Spirit (1990) is the first novel by Chickasaw author Linda Hogan. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1991, it was well-reviewed and established Hogan as an important Indigenous author. The novel tells the story of what came to be known as the Osage murders, a string of killings in Oklahoma’s Osage country after oil was discovered on Osage land. The murders were ultimately discovered to have been the result of not only... Read Mean Spirit Summary

Publication year 1946Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Natural World: Place, Values/Ideas: ArtTags Philosophy, German literature, History: European, Western

Publication year 1993Genre Novella, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & BetrayalTags Western, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman

Montana 1948 is set in a small town on the very northeastern edge of the state of Montana. The events described are experienced through the eyes of David Hayden, a twelve-year-old boy. In a prologue, he describes several images he remembers vividly from forty years ago. Years later, after both of his parents are dead, David decides to tell the whole story of the tragedy he witnessed as a boy. At the time of David’s narrative, he lives... Read Montana 1948 Summary

Publication year 2016Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: MemoryTags Western, Historical Fiction

Paulette Jiles’s novel, News of the World, tells the tale of 72-year-old Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd and 10-year-old Johanna Leonberger's journey from Wichita, Texas to Castroville, Texas in 1870, and how that journey would forever and drastically change the course of each of their lives.The story begins in Wichita, Texas, in the early spring of 1870, with Captain Kidd hanging posters advertising his reading of the news. He travels the state reading newspapers to people... Read News of the World Summary

Publication year 2005Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Western

In No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell investigates a sudden spate of murders in his typically quiet corner of the Texas borderlands. Llewelyn Moss, a Vietnam vet and hunter, gets caught up in the aftermath of a drug-deal gone wrong, and soon both Sheriff Bell and a mysterious hit-man race to be the first to track Moss down: one with the intention of saving his life and the other... Read No Country for Old Men Summary

Publication year 1942Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Western, Children's Literature, Historical Fiction

Published in 1956, Old Yeller is a classic historical fiction novel about the bond between a boy and his dog. With his Papa away on a cattle drive, 14-year-old Travis Coates gets help from a brave stray dog. Together, they defend the homestead and protect Travis’s mother and little brother. When a plague of hydrophobia threatens the family, Travis makes the difficult decision to kill Old Yeller. The novel poignantly explores themes of family and... Read Old Yeller Summary

Publication year 2021Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Community, Identity: Gender, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Western, Action / Adventure, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ, Gender / Feminism, Love / Sexuality, American Literature

Publication year 1912Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Identity: Gender, Identity: Femininity, Identity: Masculinity, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Emotions/Behavior: Regret, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Relationships: Fathers, Relationships: FriendshipTags Classic Fiction, Western, Historical Fiction, Gender / Feminism, Religion / Spirituality

Riders of the Purple Sage is a novel by western writer Zane Grey. Set in 1871, the novel follows the story of Jane Withersteen, a Mormon woman being persecuted by her church leaders for refusing to become the third wife of church leader, Elder Tull, as well as her fondness for non-Mormons, or gentile, settlers in the area. The novel first appeared as a 19-part series in the magazine, Field and Stream, in January of... Read Riders of the Purple Sage Summary

Publication year 1898Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Emotions/Behavior: GuiltTags Western, American Literature, Expressionism

“The Blue Hotel” is an 1898 short story by American author Stephen Crane, a pioneer of Naturalism and Expressionism in the American literary canon. Originally published in two parts in the magazine Collier’s Weekly, “The Blue Hotel” was subsequently released in Crane’s 1899 collection The Monster and Other Stories. In telling the story of a murder that unfolds in a remote Nebraska town, it explores themes of Isolation and Its Impact on the Human Psyche... Read The Blue Hotel Summary

Publication year 1891Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Natural World: EnvironmentTags Historical Fiction, Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, Western, Grief / Death, Animals, American Literature, Gothic Literature

Not far from Cincinnati in 1830 lies a “great forest” occupied by the scattered homes of early settlers. Among them is an old, neglected cabin with a front door and boarded-up window. For decades, a white-haired man named Murlock has lived there; he looks 70 but is really 50. He lets his yard grow wild and provides for himself by selling animal skins.Murlock is found dead at his cabin, apparently of natural causes. He’s buried... Read The Boarded Window Summary

Publication year 1898Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Life/Time: The PastTags Western, Humor, American Literature

“The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” is a short story by American author Stephen Crane. Published in 1898, the story parodies tropes of old westerns and addresses the themes of the death of the Old West, domesticity, and masculinity. The story details the journey of Jack Potter, marshal of the small town of Yellow Sky, as he brings his new bride from the East back to his home in Texas on the Western frontier. Once... Read The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky Summary

Publication year 2004Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Western, Mystery / Crime Fiction, Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction

The Cold Dish is a 2004 western mystery novel by Craig Johnson. The first of a series featuring Walt Longmire, sheriff of the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming, the novel explores concepts related to legal and vigilante justice, including within the context of an Indigenous community. The Cold Dish earned Johnson a nomination for the Dilys Award, and the series was later adapted into a 2012 television series called Longmire, which was a critical and popular... Read The Cold Dish Summary

Publication year 1994Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Identity: Masculinity, Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Society: Globalization, Society: Community, Relationships: Family, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Natural World: Place, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Western, Historical Fiction, Action / Adventure

Publication year 1987Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Identity: Mental Health, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Relationships: Friendship, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Trust & DoubtTags Fantasy, Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, Western, Action / Adventure

Publication year 1868Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Identity: Masculinity, Society: Community, Natural World: EnvironmentTags Western, Historical Fiction, Drama / Tragedy

“The Luck of Roaring Camp” is the short story that established Bret Harte’s (also spelled Hart) reputation in the United States and internationally. Set in a gold prospecting camp in 1850 California, the story explores the themes of relationships between man and nature, the possibility of man’s redemption, and the rejection of standard gender roles. Widely published in newspapers and magazines, Harte was known for his depictions of rough or romantic life in the American... Read The Luck of Roaring Camp Summary

Publication year 1869Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Society: CommunityTags Western, Naturalism, Classic Fiction

“The Outcasts of Poker Flat,” a short story by American author Bret Harte, showcases the customs and dialect of American Western Regionalism. As one of the first American writers to popularize Regionalism, Harte paved the way for other writers in this movement. Originally written in 1869 and published in The Overland Monthly, the literary magazine of which Harte was the pioneering editor, the story thematically employs gambling terminology to depict the choices humans face when... Read The Outcasts of Poker Flat Summary

Publication year 1967Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Masculinity, Identity: SexualityTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Western, Historical Fiction, LGBTQ, Addiction / Substance Abuse, History: U.S.

Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Identity: Gender, Relationships: FathersTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Western

Publication year 1998Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Relationships: MarriageTags Historical Fiction, Romance, Western, Action / Adventure

Publication year 2011Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Masculinity, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Society: CommunityTags Historical Fiction, Satire, Western, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, History: U.S., Addiction / Substance Abuse, Gender / Feminism, American Literature, American Civil War

The Sisters Brothers is a 2011 novel by Canadian writer Patrick DeWitt. Set in 1851, it traces the journey of Charlie and Eli Sisters, two hired killers traveling from Oregon to San Francisco to find a man called Warm, who allegedly stole something from their boss, the Commodore. The darkly comic Western is in the picaresque genre, as the brothers’ episodic misadventures explore different communities populating the American West.The Sisters Brothers is divided into 64... Read The Sisters Brothers Summary

Publication year 1902Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Shame & PrideTags Western

Widely considered the first true Western novel, The Virginian, published in 1902 by Owen Wister, is historical fiction. The saga of the Wyoming Territory of the 1870s centers on a young cowboy known only as the Virginian, who uses intelligence, toughness, and integrity to help tame the land, vanquish its worst criminals, and win the heart of a headstrong woman. One of the 50 biggest-selling novels of all time, The Virginian was reprinted in 2009;... Read The Virginian Summary

Publication year 2006Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Society: EducationTags Western, Historical Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman

The Whistling Season is one of 13 novels written by the late Ivan Doig. As with many of his other works, the story is set in Montana in the first half of the 20th century. Written in the first person, the narrative primarily takes place over the 1909-10 school year of the main character, 13-year-old Paul Milliron. Paul’s widowed father hires a housekeeper, Rose, who arrives with her brother, Morrie Morgan. Morrie, who becomes the... Read The Whistling Season Summary

Publication year 2015Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: FriendshipTags Historical Fiction, Western, Action / Adventure, Romance, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman

Under a Painted Sky is a young adult historical novel set on the Oregon Trail during the 1849 Gold Rush. It is a debut novel by Stacey Lee, inspired by her own family history as a fourth-generation Chinese American. The novel won several prizes, including an American Library Association award. Her corpus focuses on Chinese culture and Chinese American experiences. Her other works with these themes include Outrun the Moon (2016), The Downstairs Girl (2019), Luck of... Read Under a Painted Sky Summary

Publication year 1974Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Identity: Indigenous, Emotions/Behavior: MemoryTags Western, Historical Fiction, American Literature, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

James Welch’s novel, Winter in the Blood, is a seminal text in the field of Indigenous American literature. The novel was published in 1974 during the Native American Renaissance, a period that began in the late 1960s, when works by Indigenous Americans in the United States gained wider publication. Welch is a preeminent figure of the movement and received praise for representing Indigenous Americans in realistic ways that acknowledge cultural divisions.In the novel, Welch uses... Read Winter In The Blood Summary

Publication year 2022Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Identity: Femininity, Identity: Race, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Relationships: Mothers, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Safety & DangerTags Historical Fiction, Western, Magical Realism