Readings about the West, and about the Western film

Here’s the bibliography that goes along with our Western film class, ’cause movies seem smart when books are backing them up:




Some of these texts predate, sometimes far predate the settling of the North American West as we presently know it, or at least as we try to know it.  Others are happening at the same times as Conquest and Colonialism, but they are taking place elsewhere, as it were.  Still, for all of the diversity of setting, classic Western ideas, icons and issues very much pertain.   

  1. Aesop, Fables
  2. Andersen, The Snow Queen/The Bog King’s Daughter/The Ice Maiden
  3. Anonymous, The Epic of Gilgamesh
  4. Ballantyne, The Coral Island
  5. Bronte, C., Jane Eyre
  6. Bronte, E., Wuthering Heights
  7. Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
  8. Cooper, The Deerslayer, The Last of the Mohicans
  9. Crane, The Red Badge of Courage
  10. Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
  11. Euripides, trans. Teevan, Bacchai
  12. Flaubert, Madame Bovary
  13. Hamilton, Mythology
  14. Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
  15. Heaney, trans., Beowulf
  16. Hesiod, Works and Days
  17. Homer, trans. Fitzgerald, The Odyssey
  18. Hughes, trans./ad., Tales from Ovid
  19. Ibsen, An Enemy of the People
  20. Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha
  21. Marco Polo, Travels
  22. Melville, Typee, Moby Dick, Benito Cereno, Billy Budd
  23. Scott, Waverly, Rob Roy
  24. Shakespeare, Macbeth, The Tempest
  25. Shelley, Frankenstein
  26. Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
  27. Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days
  28. Voltaire, Candide



Print the legend, they say.  Try to print the story too, though.  Again, the West, defined broadly.

  1. Abbey, Desert Solitaire
  2. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses
  3. Austin, The Land of Little Rain, Lost Borders
  4. Bashō, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
  5. Berton, Klondike, The National Dream/The Last Spike
  6. Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks
  7. Boswell, Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides
  8. Cabeza de Vaca, Chronicle of the Narvaez Expedition
  9. Carr, Klee Wyck
  10. Chatwin, In Patagonia
  11. Clappe (Dame Shirley), The Shirley Letters
  12. Cooper, Grass
  13. Cruise and Griffiths, The Great Adventure: How the Mounties Conquered the West
  14. Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle
  15. Doig, This House of Sky
  16. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
  17. Facey, A Fortunate Life
  18. Franklin, Autobiography
  19. Greene, Another Mexico (The Lawless Roads)
  20. Grove, Over Prairie Trails
  21. Herr, Dispatches
  22. Hopkins, Life Among the Piutes
  23. Houston, Confessions of an Igloo Dweller
  24. Kincaid, A Small Place
  25. Klein, Woody Guthrie
  26. León-Portilla, The Broken Spears
  27. Leopold, Sand County Almanac
  28. Lewis and Clark, Journals
  29. Lopez, Of Wolves and Men
  30. Love, Life and Adventures of Nat Love
  31. Mackenzie (Alexander), Journals
  32. MacLean, St. Kilda: Island on the Edge of the World
  33. Madsen, Growing Up in Zion
  34. Moodie, Roughing it in the Bush
  35. Muir, The Mountains of California, My First Summer in the Sierras
  36. Saint Exupéry, Wind, Sand, and Stars
  37. Schweitzer, On the Edge of the Primeval Forest
  38. Snyder, Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems
  39. Starkell, Paddle to the Amazon
  40. Stegner, Wolf Willow
  41. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  42. Thoreau, Walden
  43. Traill, The Backwoods of Canada
  44. Twain, Roughing It
  45. Van Dyke, Nature for its Own Sake, The Desert
  46. Whitman, Walt Whitman/Song of Myself
  47. Wiebe, Of This Earth
  48. Williams, Refuge: an Unnatural History of Time and Place



Western, or Western-like discourse, taking place around the time that films are a-forming.  Again, though the sources vary, the issues really do cohere.

  1. Barrie, Peter Pan
  2. Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  3. Cather, O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, Death Comes to the Archbishop
  4. Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard
  5. Christie, And Then There Were None
  6. Colum, The Children’s Homer
  7. Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet
  8. Connor, Glengarry School Days
  9. Conrad, Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness
  10. Drummond, The Habitant, and Other French-Canadian Poems
  11. Fisher, Children of God, Mountain Men
  12. Forster, A Passage to India
  13. Franklin, My Brilliant Career
  14. Garland, Main-Travelled Roads
  15. Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
  16. Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage, The Vanishing American
  17. Haggard, King Solomon’s Mines
  18. Jackson, Ramona
  19. Johnson, Flint and Feather
  20. Kipling, The Jungle Books
  21. Lewis, Main Street
  22. Lindsay, The Magic Pudding
  23. London, The Sea Wolf
  24. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness
  25. Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence
  26. May, Winnetou
  27. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
  28. Norris, McTeague, The Octopus
  29. Service, The Shooting of Dan McGrew and Other Poems
  30. Somerville, Some Experiences of an Irish RM
  31. Stevenson, The Beach of Falesa, The Ebb-Tide
  32. Stoker, Dracula
  33. Turner, Seven Little Australians
  34. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau
  35. Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
  36. Wister, The Virginian
  37. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight


Classicism, modernity:

Some of these books are aware of the Western, others are independent of classic or revisionist cinematic statements that are being made at the same time.  Still, migration and settlement, conquest and vanquishment, optimism and the sneaking suspicion that something is not right …

  1. Anand, Untouchable
  2. Anderson, Thieves Like Us
  3. Brand, Destry Rides Again
  4. Buck, The Good Earth
  5. Burnford, The Incredible Journey
  6. Camus, The Plague
  7. Clark, The Ox-Bow Incident
  8. Greene, The Power and the Glory
  9. Grey Owl, Sajo and the Beaver People
  10. Gunn, Highland River
  11. Guthrie, The Big Sky, The Way West
  12. Hammett, Red Harvest
  13. Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea
  14. Herbert, Dune
  15. Hilton, Lost Horizon
  16. Hughes, A High Wind in Jamaica
  17. LeMay, The Searchers
  18. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet
  19. Lindgren, Pippi in the South Seas
  20. Lofting, The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle
  21. Lowry, Under the Volcano
  22. Matheson, I Am Legend
  23. McKenzie, Whisky Galore
  24. McNickle, The Surrounded
  25. Mowat, Lost in the Barrens, Never Cry Wolf
  26. O’Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins
  27. Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country
  28. Scarborough, The Wind
  29. Schaefer, Shane
  30. Shute, A Town Like Alice
  31. Stafford, The Mountain Lion
  32. Steinbeck, Pastures of Heaven, The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row
  33. Tolkien, The Hobbit
  34. Traven, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Bridge and the Jungle
  35. West, Day of the Locust
  36. Wilder, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy
  37. Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey
  38. Whipple, The Giant Joshua



All the foregoing, happening in the more or less, or at least the historical present:

  1. Achebe, Things Fall Apart
  2. Adams, Watership Down
  3. Alexie, Reservation Blues, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  4. Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima
  5. Atwood, Surfacing
  6. Banks, The Indian in the Cupboard
  7. Berger, Little Big Man
  8. Blunt, Forty Words for Sorrow
  9. Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles
  10. Card, Ender’s Game
  11. Carey, The True Story of the Kelly Gang
  12. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians
  13. Dahl, The BFG
  14. Desai, Village by the Sea
  15. DeWitt, The Sisters Brothers
  16. Dexter, Deadwood
  17. Durham, The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing
  18. Erdrich, Love Medicine
  19. George, My Side of the Mountain
  20. Golding, Lord of the Flies, The Inheritors
  21. Heinlein, Farmer in the Sky, Starship Troopers
  22. Herriot, If Only They Could Talk, It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet
  23. Hillerman, Dance Hall of the Dead
  24. Hulme, The Nun’s Story
  25. Jansson, Moominpappa at Sea, The Summer Book
  26. Kelton, The Good Old Boys
  27. Kerouac, On the Road
  28. Kincaid, Annie John
  29. Kinsella, The Moccasin Telegraph, The Fencepost Chronicles
  30. Kingston, Tripmaster Monkey
  31. Lee, To Kill a Mockinbird
  32. Leonard, Hombre, Valdez is Coming
  33. Mackay Brown, Magnus
  34. MacLachlan, Sarah, Plain and Tall
  35. MacLeod, No Great Mischief
  36. McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
  37. McCarthy, Blood Meridian
  38. McMurtry, The Last Picture Show, Lonesome Dove
  39. Mitchell, Jake and the Kid, Who Has Seen the Wind
  40. Momaday, House Made of Dawn
  41. Moore, Black Robe
  42. Morrison, Beloved
  43. Paulsen, Hatchet, Brian’s Winter
  44. Peterson, The Backslider
  45. Portis, True Grit
  46. Pratchett, Nation
  47. Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
  48. Robinson, Housekeeping
  49. Silko, Ceremony
  50. Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  51. Stegner, The Big Rock Candy Mountain, Angle of Repose, The Spectator Bird
  52. Sutcliff, Warrior Scarlet
  53. Thompson, Pop. 1280
  54. Toews, A Complicated Kindness
  55. Welch, Fools Crow
  56. Wiebe, The Temptations of Big Bear

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