The Best Western Books You Must Read: Updated 2021

book on desk
by CJ McDaniel // July 7  

There’s nothing more American than a Western classic. From John Wayne movies to the books that inspired them, Westerns tell the story of America in its toddler years. These tried and true tales of frontier life recall the many adventures had by those who carved out and settled in the Wild West. The Western might not be the most popular books on the market today, but we can’t deny their impactful role in literature.

The first Western dates back to 1824. It was a book written by James Fenimore Cooper that told the story of a white child who grew up among Native Americans. It was the first book of its kind to tell the story of frontier life west of the Mississippi. Of course, back then it was a modern tale, but this book set the table for over a hundred years western authors writing classics.

What Did These Western Books Do To Qualify For This List

Any time you are ranking the best of something the results are usually somewhat subjective but we have did our best to come up with a list the readers of the western genre will truly like. To come up with this list we took into account:

  • quantity and quality of user reviews
  • sales data
  • public perception
  • opinions of readers of this genres
  • commercial success
  • and of course personal opinion

Take a look at the best Western Books you can read right now:

Best Western Books


Here are the best Western books by the experts:

1) Hombre by Elmore Leonard

  • Best Western BooksBook Summary: This book was published in 1961 and is considered as one of Elmore Leonard’s classics. This is his only novel written on the first-person point of view and this uniqueness will make you love this book even more, especially if you’ve read other books (and loved them by this author. The story is about John Russell who was raised partly by Apaches and was trying to find a new life in the world of his “people”. He was caught up in a stage coach robbery and the rest of the passengers, who shunned him at first, depended on him for survival. This western thriller will surely keep you on your toes.
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2) Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty

  • Best Western BooksBook Summary: Some consider Lonesome Dove as not only the best book by Larry McMurty but among the best western books you could ever read. This book, the third book among the Lonesome Dove tetralogy, won McMurty a Pulitzer Prize. Its story will provoke a range of emotions which will make you root for characters you never thought you would.
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3) True Grit by Charles Portis

  • Best Western BooksBook Summary: True Grit follows a young girl, Mattie Ross, who was just 14 years old at that time. She made a deal withRooster Cogburn, one of the fearless US Marshals, to seek revenge for her father’s death who was killed by his handyman. Many find this book hilarious, especially the conversations between the two main characters.
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4)The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Clark

  • Best Western BooksBook Summary: This book shows how men in the American West related to each other and what an angry mob could accomplish together. With everything happening in a single day, this book was set in a town where tension is in the air because of a man’s death and missing cattle. Because of these events, some cattlemen were hot for action while others wanted to tackle the problem in a lawful manner. With everyone crying for justice, a posse was formed and tasked to find the culprit once and for all. In a haste, the mob found the culprits (who later on were found innocent) and decided to hang them first thing in the morning. This book will keep you wondering if it is ever right to take justice into your own hands.
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5) Monte Walsh by Jack Schaefer

  • Best Western BooksBook Summary: This amusing yet heart-tugging book takes you to the world of cowboys in the old American West who had to live through modernization and their resistance to change. Monte Walsh is a free-spirited and a “good man with a horse” who found a friend in Chet Rollins. This book will open your eyes to the adventures in the Wild West and the gradual disappearance of the free-range cowboys.
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6)The Sisters Brothers by

  • Best Western BooksBook Summary:Charlie and Eli Sisters from Oregon, the characters in this comical book, are two professional assassins tasked to kill Herman Kermit Warm, a man who seems to have stolen something from the Commodore, the Sisters’ employer. They traveled to San Francisco and there they got information that Mr. Warm was then a partner of the Commodore who was formulating a chemical to be used to unearth gold from the riverbeds. When Mr. Warm realized that he will certainly be killed by the Commodore once his formula was done, he hurriedly decided to cut ties with him. The brothers, at that point, had to evaluate if they will maintain their loyalty to their employer or abandon the operation with the chance of getting rich.
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7)Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey

  • Best Western BooksBook Summary:centers around a young boy named Rio Cutler who forms an unlikely alliance with local sheriff Pat Garrett and infamous outlaw Billy the Kid in a mission to rescue his sister Sara from Grant Cutler, the boy’s thuggish uncle and gang leader who has kidnapped Sara for ransom.
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8)The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, by Ron Hansen

  • Best Western BooksBook Summary:Although partly fiction and partly history, the way Ron Hansen crafted it is enchanting. This book follows the life of the famous outlaw Jesse James and the young Robert Ford and how they changed each other’s lives forever. In the era of post-Civil War America, this book will take you back to that time when whoever draws the gun faster will surely get the justice he seeks.
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9)The Woman Who Built a Bridge by C.K. Crigger

  • Best Western BooksBook Summary:This book is fairly new and the female is portrayed as a heroine in her own right. This is a well-told western book that shows a different light on the category. It explores how Shady Billing, a ranch-owner who takes his ground in defense of his land from a greedy business owner and January Shutt, a gifted carpenter who also actively protects her family’s properties from being taken away. Neither of the two protagonists want conflict, however, they fight back and do what is right and just. The story is set in 1909 where greedy businessmen and land grabbers drive people from their rightfully-owned lands.
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10)The Hell Bent Kid by Charles O. Locke

  • Best Western BooksBook Summary:This book is about a young man named Tot Lohman who is being tracked down by the brothers of a man he killed. As compared to other books on this list, this one is only a little over 100 pages and is based on true events. The personality of the protagonist in this story is definitely something you would find fascinating especially in the lawlessness of the old West.
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Best Western Movies

If you enjoyed the best western books, why stop there? Take a look at our list of best western movies and witness these amazing films from the big screen.

1)The Kid 2019

Starring: Ethan Hawke and Dane DeHaan
Directed by: Vincent D’Onofrio

Movie Summary:A young boy is forced to cross the American Southwest in order to save his family, along the way encountering the infamous outlaw Billy the Kid and Sheriff Pat Garrett. Through his journey, this film tells the classic story from a new perspective.

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Starring: Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer
Directed by: George P. Cosmatos

Movie Summary:Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday team up at the O.K. Corral.

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3)Pure Country

Starring: George Strait and Lesley Ann Warren
Directed by: Christopher Cain

Movie Summary:George Strait makes his film debut in an entertaining look into the heart and soul of country music from Young Guns director Christopher Cain.

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4)Urban Cowboy

Starring: John Travolta and Debra Winger
Directed by: James Bridges

Movie Summary:John Travolta is the Urban Cowboy, breakin’ hearts and bustin’ mechanical bulls in one of his most electrifying film roles.

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5)The Magnificent Seven

Starring: Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Movie Summary:Director Antoine Fuqua brings a modern vision to a classic story in The Magnificent Seven. With a small town under the deadly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Sarsgaard), the desperate townspeople seek protection from seven outlaws (Washington, Pratt, Hawke). As they prepare the town for the violent showdown, the seven mercenaries find themselves fighting for more than money.

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Best Western Books in Audio

Now that you’ve seen our list of the best western books and movies, I’m sure you’ll be interested in trying out more of the best western books in audio!

1)The Officer and the Southerner by
Rose Gordon

Book Summary:Fort Gibson, Indian Territory 1846…

Second Lt. Jack Walker doesn’t always think ahead and when he decides to defy logic and send off for a mail order bride, he might have left out only a few details about his life at the all-but-forgotten Fort Gibson…

Upon arrival at a forsaken military fort in the middle of Indian Territory, Ella Davis learns Jack’s situation isn’t quite what she’s believed from his letters and while hoping to avoid such a fate, she’s been made the fool again. Unfortunately, this time she can’t run and hide from the man who’s done her wrong, but neither is she convinced their marriage will be the same one she’d envisioned for them…

Now it’s up to Jack to find a way to show his always skeptical bride that he is indeed trustworthy and that despite what she might believe she does belong somewhere in the world: right there, with him.

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2)Cowboy Rebel by Carolyn Brown

Book Summary:ver since losing his best friend in a motorcycle accident, Taggart Baker wants to make every moment count. No dare is too dangerous, no adventure too crazy for this cowboy. But after one bad brush with the law, he realizes it’s time to ditch his hooligan friends and grow up. Now he’s running his own ranch next to the Longhorn Canyon spread in Texas. Still, no one would ever call him tame.

Nikki Grady has worked too hard for her RN license just to throw it away for some reckless cowboy who shows up in her emergency room after a barroom brawl. But she can’t help being drawn to Tag’s sense of humor and those crystal blue eyes. The more time they spend together, the more she sees his good heart. But just as Tag seems ready to settle down for good, his troubled past comes calling – and this time he won’t be able to walk away so easily.

When the trigger-happy Dobbs-Queeg gang holds up the Omaha bank, Dooley is mistaken for one of the robbers, and a price is plastered on his head. With every lawman in the territory hot on his trail, Dooley has no choice but to join up with the murderous outlaws. If the hangman doesn’t get him, his new friends will, but Dooley won’t turn back. With Blue and General Grant at his side, Dooley will make his fortune—come hell, high water, and everything in between.
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3)Come Sundown by
Nora Roberts

Book Summary:The Bodine ranch and resort in western Montana is a family business, an idyllic spot for vacationers. A little over thirty thousand acres and home to four generations, it’s kept running by Bodine Longbow with the help of a large staff, including new hire Callen Skinner. There was another member of the family once: Bodine’s aunt, Alice, who ran off before Bodine was born. She never returned, and the Longbows don’t talk about her much. The younger ones, who never met her, quietly presume she’s dead. But she isn’t. She is not far away, part of a new family, one she never chose – and her mind has been shattered…

When a bartender leaves the resort late one night, and Bo and Cal discover her battered body in the snow, it’s the first sign that danger lurks in the mountains that surround them. The police suspect Cal, but Bo finds herself trusting him – and turning to him as another woman is murdered and the Longbows are stunned by Alice’s sudden reappearance. The twisted story she has to tell about the past – and the threat that follows in her wake – will test the bonds of this strong family, and thrust Bodine into a darkness she could never have imagined.
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4)When You Are Near by Tracie Peterson

Book Summary:After her father’s death, Lizzy Brookstone, the star trick rider of the all-female Brookstone Wild West Extravaganza, loses interest in performing. What she longs for is a life with the Brookstone ranch foreman, Wesley DeShazer, the man who once broke her heart. Meanwhile, Jason Adler, son of the show’s new financial partner, comes to help with the show, and Lizzy soon finds him vying for her affection.

Ella Fleming is fleeing a forced engagement when she stows away on the Brookstone train. Lizzy finds her and gives her a job in the costume department, but Ella has a dangerous secret that could affect all of their lives, as well as the future of the Brookstone Extravaganza.

When Mary Reichert, a former sharpshooter for the show, learns that her brother, August, has been killed at the Fleming farm, she refuses to believe it was an accident. She returns to the show to find the truth, but is she seeking justice or vengeance?

As the three women work together to discover how August died, Lizzy strives to hold the show together. Can she keep the Brookstone Extravaganza alive without losing the desire of her heart? This is one of the best western books available in audio.
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5)Montana Dog Soldier: Brotherhood Protectors by Elle James

Book Summary:Prior service army dog handler Joseph “Kujo” Kuntz and his dog, Six, team with a female FBI agent to locate and neutralize a terrorist training camp.

Discharged from the army after sustaining a shrapnel injury that left him with a limp, Joseph “Kujo” Kuntz is angry with himself and the world and forced to start over with the injured military dog, Six, that saved his life. Kujo accepts a job with Brotherhood Protectors in the Crazy Mountains of Montana, hoping to find new purpose and come to terms with his losses.

Following a lead that a terrorist faction is near Eagle Rock, Montana, training to launch terrorist attacks, FBI Agent Molly Greenbrier thinks she’s on a wild goose chase. She’s operating a drone, pretending to be a photographer for a GPS mapping company, when she’s attacked in the mountains and left for dead. Discovered by former military service dog Six and his owner, Molly is taken to the owner’s cabin where he administers first aid.

Now, targeted by the faction, Molly is in danger. Kujo informs his new boss of the situation and is assigned as Molly’s protector until the team can neutralize the source of the threat. Determined to complete her mission, Molly accepts Kujo and Six’s protection and discovers an electric connection to the cantankerous former soldier. Together, they struggle to locate the faction while fighting their burgeoning desire.
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What do you think about our list of best western books? If you have another genre that you prefer to read we have probably compiled a list of our favorites for that genre too. So if you are looking for something other than the best western books you can find other genres here.

About the Author

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!