Must-Read Western Books

My love of horses and the western lifestyle have always been there. As a child, I spent my days reading Western books and writing about horses. At seven, I had my first riding lesson and will never forget stepping into that western saddle’s stirrup. I never grew out of the horse phase.

Western books
Photo by Kirstie Marie Photography

Today, I own horses, still love reading Western books, and am the author of novels In the Reins, Cowboy Away, and Show Pen Promise. I am one lucky cowgirl to ride out West and write about the lifestyle.

But before I am a writer, I am a reader. This roundup is a tribute to getting lost in the world of cowboys, horses, and the western world with a good book.

Distant Skies: An American Journey on Horseback, by Melissa A. Priblo Chapman

western books

This Western book is a memoir that’s part American road trip, part coming-of-age adventure, and part uncommon love story.

At 23 years old, Chapman embarked on a solo cross-country horseback journey that would span over 2,600 miles, beginning in New York state and ending in California. With no cell phone, no GPS, no support following with supplies, and carrying a puppy named Gypsy, she swung into the saddle and rode her horse away from everything she knew.

Chapman’s persistence and deep connection with her animal companions will leave you feeling like you traveled alongside them through the varying challenges and successes of their grand journey. (Trafalgar Square Books, $22.95)

Dressage the Cowboy Way, by Eitan Beth-Halachmy and Jenni L. Grimmett, DVM

western books

This is a remarkable guide on using a soft feel and communication to train the western horse to become a well-balanced mount.

In this informative Western book, Eitan Beth-Halachmy, the founder of Cowboy Dressage, explains his methods of developing the western dressage horse. Beth-Halachmy then provides additional guidelines for progressive schooling, such as developing cadence and consistency, requesting correct bend, using lateral maneuvers, and advancing self-carriage and collection. (Trafalgar Square Books, $29.95)

Out of the Wild, by Mark Rashid

out of the wild

Now a major motion picture, this Western book follows the fall of Nevada cattle rancher Henry McBride and his chance at rebirth when he meets a rebellious woman and a once-wild horse.

After a tragic accident, a grieving McBride drives away from his past overwhelmed by guilt. He ambles through life until he lands a job with guest ranch owner Jessie King.
Because of King and the Mustang, McBride’s wounds start healing. However, when a former employee returns to the ranch with revenge on his mind, the blossoming relationships between McBride, King and the Mustang are put to the test.

This entertaining western fiction read is also a testament to the healing power of horses. (Trafalgar Square Books, $15.95)

Tex, by Dorie McCullough Lawson

western book

This Western book is the perfect bedtime story for little cowboys and cowgirls.

In this tale, you’ll meet Luke, a boy who lives near the ocean, but dreams of living on a ranch. In his imagination, he becomes Tex, a cowboy wearing boots with a pony for a best friend who spends his days working on the Wymont Ranch.

Illustrated with beautiful photographs, Tex is a delightful story that families will enjoy reading with their little buckaroos. (Trafalgar Square Books, $15.95)

The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the New West, by John Branch

the last cowboys

New York Times reporter John Branch chronicles three years in the life of a successful rodeo , each culminating at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

Hold on to your saddle horn for a behind-the-chutes look at ranch life and saddle-bronc competition as the Wrights of southern Utah struggle to preserve the landscape where they’ve been running cattle for 150 years, refusing to let their ranching lifestyle become extinct.

The Last Cowboys is the interesting true story of one family’s gamble that rodeo and ranching are the future of the West, and not just its past. (W.W. Norton & Company, $18.69)

Rodeo Daze, by Brittney Joy

western books

Brittney Joy’s Red Rock Ranch Series, including Lucy’s Chance, Showdown and Rodeo Daze, follows a cowgirl named Lucy who spends her summers working as a stable hand.

In Rodeo Daze, Lucy dreams of competing in a horse show. It becomes reality when a tragedy causes her to step up and take part with her horse, Chance.

With not-so-nice Taylor as her coach and a new rival, Lucy isn’t sure she can handle the pressure. Plus, her budding relationship with cowboy Casey is on her mind.

If you love rodeo, trail riding, campfires and sweet romance, visit Red Rock Ranch. No matter your age, you’ll enjoy saddling up with this wholesome young adult series. (Amazon, $9.99)

With these Western book recommendations, let your imagination gallop out West where boots are the norm and cowboys still tip their hats—all you need is a quiet place and your favorite armchair.

Meet Carly

Carly Kade is an award-winning author, horse owner, creativity coach, and the host of the Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle! Visit to learn more about her Western books and other reading for horse lovers.

This article about Western books appeared in the 2021 special edition of Western Life. Click here to subscribe to Western Life Today!

Carly Kade

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