Pages Navigation Menu

Top 25 Western Novels

Members of the Western Writers of America were asked to rank their top 25 Western novels of all time. Nearing 700 strong worldwide, WWA was founded in 1953 to promote the literature of the American West, which includes traditional and modern westerns, historical analysis, screenplays, documentaries, songs and poems, plus everything in between.

Are you a fan of western literature? How many on the list have you read?

Notable as the first great novel of American West literature.
  • THE OCTOPUS: A Story of California by Frank Norris (Doubleday 1901)
  • THE VIRGINIAN by Owen Wister (Macmillan 1902)
  • RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE by Zane Grey (Harper & Brothers 1912)
  • DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP by Willa Cather (Alfred A. Knopf 1927)
  • THE SEA OF GRASS by Conrad Richter (Alfred A. Knopf 1936)
  • THE OX-BOW INCIDENT by Walter Van Tilburg Clark (Random House 1940)
  • THE BIG SKY by A. B. Guthrie Jr (William Sloane Associates 1947)
  • SHANE by Jack Schaefer (Houghton Mifflin 1949)
  • WARLOCK by Oakley Hall (Viking Press 1958)
  • FROM WHERE THE SUN NOW STANDS by Will Henry (Random House 1959)
  • HOMBRE by Elmore Leonard (Ballantine Books 1961)
  • MONTE WALSH by Jack Schaefer (Houghton Mifflin Company 1963)
  • TRUE GRIT by Charles Portis (Simon & Schuster 1968)
  • THE DAY THE COWBOYS QUIT by Elmer Kelton (Doubleday 1971)
  • THE TIME IT NEVER RAINED by Elmer Kelton (Doubleday 1973)
  • THE SHOOTIST by Glendon Swarthout (Doubleday 1975)
  • CENTENNIAL by James A. Michener (Random House, 1974)
  • THE COURT MARTIAL OF GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER by Douglas C. Jones (Charles Scribner’s Sons 1976)
  • ARREST SITTING BULL by Douglas C. Jones ( Charles Scribner’s Sons 1977)
  • WILD TIMES by Brian Garfield (Macmillan 1978)
  • ACES AND EIGHTS by Loren D. Estleman (Doubleday 1981)
  • RIDE THE WIND by Lucia St. Clair Robson (Ballantine 1982)
  • LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry (Simon & Schuster 1985)
  • ALL THE PRETTY HORSES by Cormac McCarthy (Alfred Knopf 1992)

There you have it; from the experts who know. Where to start?

My all time favorite and one of the few books I’ve read several times is RIDE THE WIND, the story of Cynthia Ann Parker and the Comanches.

“With her wonderfully descriptive words, she has breathed life into legend. RIDE THE WIND fills all the empty places left by historical romances that had plenty of passion and little else… The Comanche spirit is captured in these pages.”


Happy reading, y’all!

Natalie Bright is a blogger and author of books for kids and adults. Her newest books, the Wild Cow Ranch series launched in 2021 at Amazon in eBook and print formats. Click here to purchase. Also the upcoming KEEP ‘EM FULL AND KEEP ‘EM ROLLIN’: The All-American Chuck Wagon Cookbook is slated for June 2021. With over 100 recipes, cattle drive history, archival photos, and her own Texas ranch photography, you can bring a taste of the old West to your kitchen! The cookbook is available NOW for pre-order at all online bookstores.