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Saddle Up, Yellowstone Fans: You’ll Love These 8 Western Reads

by  | May 29
Kevin Costner on set of Yellowstone

Breathtaking Montana vistas. Compelling family drama interspersed with thrilling action sequences. And Kevin Costner. What’s not to like about Paramount’s TV drama Yellowstone? (Well, sometimes it’s a tad too violent for my tastes, to be honest, yet I can’t look away!) I came to the show for the gorgeous setting, because I was born in “the last best place,” but I stayed for the complex dynamics between John Dutton and his adult children, plus the constant obstacles they face in protecting their beloved Yellowstone ranch from developers. If you’re a fellow fan, join me in counting down to the June 21 premiere of Yellowstone’s third season with these eight books set in or around the Mountain West….

A Sharp Solitude

A Sharp Solitude

by Christine Carbo

Are you hooked on the dark, pulse-pounding twists and turns of Yellowstone? Then I recommend checking out Christine Carbo’s A Sharp Solitude for a similarly intense experience. Set in Glacier National Park near the Canadian border, this suspense novel—the latest installment of what is to date the four-book Glacier Mystery Series—stars Montana FBI agent Ali Paige, who’s on the hunt for a killer. While she’s not officially assigned to investigate the murder of journalist Anne Marie Johnson, Ali gets pulled into the case when it turns out the prime suspect is her ex-boyfriend, Reeve Landon, who is also the father of her daughter. Ali grew up with a dad in jail, so she desperately wants to prevent her own child from knowing that pain. What happens, though, if she concludes that Reeve is guilty?

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Horse Crazy

Horse Crazy

by Sarah Maslin Nir

What’s a Western story, even a modern-day one, without horses? Doesn’t even bear considering, and the creative minds behind Yellowstone clearly agree, because the magnificent animals are present and accounted for in the series. In fact, sometimes I pay more attention to them than whatever else is happening on-screen, forcing me to rewind to see what I missed. Anyone who can relate is the target audience for journalist and equestrian Sarah Maslin Nir’s new book, Horse Crazy, coming out on August 4. Part memoir about how her own obsession with horses has shaped her life, part in-depth profile of fascinating characters in the riding world, Horse Crazy attempts to answer the question: What is it about these majestic animals that has inspired endless devotion across time and throughout the world?

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Highway of Tears

Highway of Tears

by Jessica McDiarmid

I’m glad that Yellowstone has made a point of calling out the racism experienced by Monica Dutton-Long, who’s married to the youngest Dutton son, Kayce, and grew up on Broken Rock reservation. Of course, I hope the show will do more to reflect Indigenous points of view in future seasons, since rich white cattle ranchers are way overrepresented in Hollywood. Anyway, I highly recommend picking up the true-crime book Highway of Tears by journalist Jessica McDiarmid. It’s a deeply reported story about the Indigenous women and girls who have gone missing and/or been found murdered off Highway 16 in northwestern British Columbia, Canada, and how little attention (let alone justice) their cases have received. Don’t be surprised if, once you’ve finished it, you watch Yellowstone from a new perspective.

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Altitude Adjustment

Altitude Adjustment

by Mary Beth Baptiste

The Dutton family doesn’t generally have the most favorable opinion of newcomers to the Rocky Mountain region who come in search of a little piece of the area’s natural splendor. Still, I get the sense they’d make an exception for Mary Beth Baptiste, whose memoir, Altitude Adjustment, offers a glimpse of what it’s like for an East Coast gal (in this case, one from suburban Massachusetts) to throw caution to the wind and move out west to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a radically different environment from the one she’s always known, to put it mildly. Baptiste divorces her husband, steps away from a stable career, and endures the disappointment of her close-knit family for a chance at pursuing her lifelong dream of living and working in the majestic Grand Teton National Park. If nothing else, the Duttons would admire her pure grit in never backing down and successfully carving out a peaceful life for herself amid the mountains, despite job and financial setbacks, grizzly bear encounters, and complicated interactions with fellow park rangers.

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A Stained White Radiance

A Stained White Radiance

by James Lee Burke

Corruption, assault, kidnapping, murder…no brand of trouble is off the table in Yellowstone, which serves up a surreal amount of crime in every episode. It makes you wonder what seasoned detective Dave Robicheaux would make of the goings-on out there. For some idea, dive into James Lee Burke’s thriller A Stained White Radiance, where the Louisiana cop travels out to Montana as a favor to his best friend and ends up tangling with Weldon Sonnier, who’s not only an oil tycoon but the head of a twisted family the detective has known for years. As the case gets more and more personal, you’ll begin to wonder: Can Robicheaux, whose own problems may be clouding his judgment, keep his loved ones safe and neutralize a dangerous threat?

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Montana Sky

Montana Sky

by Nora Roberts

As good as Kevin Costner is in Yellowstone, there’s no denying that his character, John Dutton, is a hard man to love. Not only does he rule the Yellowstone ranch with ruthless efficiency that can include a gruesome eye-for-an-eye justice, but he’s cruel and unforgiving toward his adult children, from whom he demands total loyalty and regular sacrifices. He reminds me of the similarly powerful and manipulative patriarch of Nora Roberts’s Montana Sky, a contemporary romance and family saga rolled into one. When Jack Mercy passes away, his will stipulates that in order to inherit the ranch, his three daughters (half-sisters who have never met) must live together on his Montana ranch for a year. Willa, Tess, and Lily resent their father’s ability to control their lives even after death, yet manage to find a happiness he never could, which just may have been his (poorly expressed) intention. Oh, and they catch a murderer, to boot.

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A River Runs through It and Other Stories

A River Runs through It and Other Stories

by Norman Maclean

Other than their shared DNA, the one thing that bonds the Duttons together is their devotion to the land. Montana is in their blood and it’s in their bones. It was the same way for celebrated author Norman Maclean, whose novella “A River Runs Through It” is required reading for anyone who wishes a better understanding of what it’s like to grow up in such an untamed place. (And yes, it inspired the 1992 movie by the same name.) Maclean’s A River Runs Through It and Other Stories is a collection of works based on his own childhood experiences in Missoula, back when fly-fishing and cribbage were the height of entertainment.

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Trail of Lightning

Trail of Lightning

by Rebecca Roanhorse

One of my favorite parts of Yellowstone season 2 is getting to sit in on an American History college course as led by Professor Monica Long. Monica not only teaches her students about how Indigenous people suffered at the hands of Christopher Columbus and those who followed him to America, but she introduces them to modern Native art and culture. I’m not sure how much time she has for reading fiction, but I bet she makes an exception for Rebecca Roanhorse’s books. Trail of Lightning, her debut and the first book in the Sixth World series, is an action-packed sci-fi/fantasy adventure about a badass Indigenous monster hunter named Maggie Hoskie. What begins as a straightforward search for a missing girl becomes ever more complicated in this post-apocalyptic world where magic has returned...

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Heather Waters is an Associate Director of Marketing at Simon & Schuster, where she runs the Get Literary and Tips on Life & Love blogs. She enjoys reading everything from romance to true crime to political memoirs, and in her free time you can often find her binge-watching Netflix, refreshing Twitter every 10 seconds, and listening to the latest episode of the podcast My Favorite Murder.