Friday, October 11, 2019

Western Bookshelves

One thing I like to do periodically is inventory my books. I enjoy having physical books on my shelves (though I do have quite a few e-books on my iPhone) and I enjoy the solid heft of a good book. I like the smell of a book as well, especially some of the older ones I’ve collected.

I thought you might like a virtual peek at my bookshelves, being authors yourselves. You’ve probably got much the same collection, but perhaps you’ll spot something that will strike your interest. I’d love it if you’d comment, too – what books do you have that I might like to read?

Here are some of my favorite non-fiction books about the Wild West:

Age of the Gunfighter; Joseph G. Rosa – a basic history of gunfighters and gunfighting

A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains; Isabella L. Bird – the journal of a middle-aged English lady traveling alone in 1873 Colorado

The American Frontier: Pioneers, Settlers and Cowboys 1800-1899; William C. Davis – another basic history of the era

The American West; Dee Brown – a good all-around history book about the period

A Texas Cowboy, or, Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Deck of a Spanish Pony; Charles A. Siringo – autobiography of the man who later became a Pinkerton detective

Before Barbed Wire: Photographer on Horseback; L.A. Huffman – an excellent source of photographs from the era

Boudoirs to Brothels: The Intimate World of Wild West Women; Michael Rutter – a well-illustrated history of the madam and her working girls

Buckskin and Blanket Days; Thomas Henry Tibbles – the memoirs of a pioneer, scout, hunter and “friend of the Indians”

Card Sharps, Dream Books and Bucket Shops: Gambling in 19th Century America; Ann Vincent Fabian – an interesting history of gambling

Children of the Old West; Russell Freedman – full of photographs of pioneer and Indian children during the era

Cowboy and Western Songs; Austin E. Fife – an interesting collection of songs from the era

Cowboy Culture; David Dary – a chronicle of cowboy life and legend

Cowboy Lingo; Ramon F. Adams – “A dictionary of the slack-jaw words and Whangdoodle ways of the American West”

Cowboys of the Wild West; Russell Freedman – an introduction to the cowboy

Daily Life in a Covered Wagon; Paul Erickson – this interesting book draws on actual diaries and letters

Days on the Road: Crossing the Plains in 1865: Sarah Raymond-Herndon – true story of a young woman who crossed the plains to start a new life

Early America at Work: A Pictorial Guide to Our Vanishing Occupations; Everett Broomall Wilson – an interesting history of old-time workers

Frontier Gambling; G.R. Williamston – a discussion of the seedier side of the frontier

Frontier Slang, Lingo and Phrases; Kathy Weiser-Alexander – another useful dictionary

The Gunfighter: Man or Myth?; Joseph G. Rosa – truth and legend of the Old West’s gunfighters and their influence on American culture

The Gunfighters: How the West Was Won: Bruce Wexler – truth and legend about some of the famous gunfighters of the era and their weapons of choice

Guns of the Wild West; David Kennedy – showcases more than 50 of authentic weapons from the Cody Firearms Museum of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming

Home on the Range: A Culinary History of the American West; Cathy Luchetti – a chronicle of American frontier cooking from anecdotes, writings and photographs

How the Wild West Was Won: A Celebration of Cowboys, Gunfighters, Buffalo Soldiers, Sodbusters, Moonshiners, and the American Frontier – Bruce Wexler – a comprehensive history

How to Write Western Novels; Matt Braun – a good basic writing “How-To”

I Do: Courtship, Love and Marriage on the American Frontier; Cathy Luchetti – compiled from journals, letters and reminiscences

The Look of the Old West: A Fully Illustrated Guide; William Foster-Harris – basically a picture dictionary of Old West tools, culture and fashions

The Log of a Cowboy; Andy Adams – the story of an 1882 cattle drive from Mexico to Montana

Men: A Pictorial Archive from Nineteenth-Century Sources: Harter – a good picture dictionary for clothing and hairstyles

Men of the West: Life on the American Frontier; Cathy Luchetti – compiled from letters, diaries, journals and photographs

My Sixty Years on the Plains: Trapping, Trading and Indian Fighting; W.T. Hamilton – a simple reflection from a man of the era

The Old West: National Geographic – an excellent history of the era with lots of good photographs

The Old West Day by Day; Mike Flanagan – 15,000 chronologically-arranged events with descriptions, sidebars and photographs

The Prairie Traveler; Randolph B. Marcy – an 1859 guide for settlers

Reflections of Western Historians; John A. Carroll – the history of the era by 16 historians

Seeking Pleasure in the Old West; David Dary – the amusements available to the average Westerner during the era

Shoes, Hats, and Fashion Accessories: A Pictorial Archive; Grafton – a good picture dictionary of fashion from around 1850

Stagecoach: Rare Views of the Old West; Sandor Demlinger – almost 300 rare photographs

Time-Life Old West Series – a great encyclopedia with many useful photographs

Trail Driving Days; Dee Brown with Martin F. Shcmitt – tales and photographs of the men and their animals during the heyday of the cattle drives

The Way West: A.B. Guthrie, Jr. – a novel about a frontiersman’s return to the untamed West in 1846

We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a Cowpuncher; E.C. Abbott – the story of “Teddy Blue” Abbott, a cowboy from the heyday of the era

Western Words: A Dictionary of the Old West: Ramon Adams – an excellent dictionary

The Wild West How the West Was Won; Bruce Wexler – another history of the era

Women: A Pictorial Archive from Nineteenth-Century Sources; Harter – a good picture dictionary of fashion and hairstyles

Women of the West: Cathy Luchetti – a good look at the women who settled the West, from memoirs, diaries, letters, journals and photographs

Write a Western in 30 Days: With Plenty of Bullet-Points!: Nik Morton – an interesting “How-To” book for the Western writer

Writing Historical Fiction: A Writers’ and Artists’ Companion; Celia Brayfield and Duncan Sprott – reflections on writing the genre

The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West: Candy Moulton – an interesting basic guide to writing the era

Your Travel Guide to America’s Old West; Rita J. Markel – a travelogue describing fashion, accommodations, foods, customs and local transportation

Comment with your own favorites!

J.E.S. Hays


  1. Great list, J.E.S. There are several titles there going on my want list.
    Here's a couple I recommend for you: A Terrible Glory—Custer and the Little Bighorn The Last great Battle of the American West by James Donovan
    Blood and Thunder—The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West by Hampton Sides and Voices of the Buffalo Soldier by Frank N. Schubert. All are excellent, well-researched and full of interesting facts and story ideas.

    1. Blood & Thunder--one I started reading & didn't get to finish. Need to get back to it. So many books to read, so little time.

  2. I wish I had the money to buy every book on this list. Thanks for putting this together!

  3. Oh my goodness! This post made my eyes light up. Books on the American West are equivalent to chocolate! 8-) I have a handful of the books on your list and saw several others I'd love to have. You just can't have too many books on the American West.

    I'd be curious if you should have time to discuss it:

    The Old West Day by Day; Mike Flanagan – 15,000 chronologically-arranged events with descriptions, sidebars and photographs---can you talk a little more about this book? i.e. is there a certain theme or approach focused on with the events? Since the book is older it's not one where you can go to Amazon & view the Table of Contents.

    Likewise, with this book:
    Reflections of Western Historians; John A. Carroll – the history of the era by 16 historians---I'm curious if these reflections are around a particular theme or time period focus & who some of the historians are. I wish books like these were picked up and transferred to Kindle. That would make life a lot easier!

    I have a pretty good collection of books on the west but am not in a position to list because I just moved recently & am quite disorganized (and frustrated by lack of bookshelf space).

    I love the American West topic in general and specifically my goal and my brand (though as yet unpublished) is to be known for my Arizona focused fiction. To that end, I have books by state historian Marshall Trimble, have found great help in Constance Altshuler's books such as "Chains of Command: Arizona And The Army Of 1856-1875", a partial collection of the Thomas Farish History of Arizona series, books on Apache culture & history, & other authors I can't think of at the moment.

    I also tend to collect based on interest of the moment. For example, grew up watching Bonanza (Adam Cartwright!) so collected books such as "The Big Bonanza" by Dan De Quille, etc.

    I love reading history books by Robert Utley. He's written so many I haven't gotten to them all but I've never been disappointed.

    Thanks for your post. It's a reminder to me to get back to organizing my apartment and get those books where I can get at the on a moment's notice! 8-)

  4. I'm envious, JES! What a wonderful bunch of reference books you have collected! I have some but not nearly this many. This is a great list--I'm printing it and looking for many of these to add to my collection. THANKS for this blog!

  5. I have a number of those, and I have seven of the "Covered Wagon Women" which I peer at periodically. In addition I have region history books for the Pikes Peak Region and Colorado. (Which is a good thing since a lot of my work takes place in Colorado. *Smile*) Of course, since I also write about the women doctors in my state, "The Doctor's Bag" is a must for me.Doris