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Western Books for Rodeo Season

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Book Buzz is a blog produced in collaboration with neighborhood librarians from Houston Public Library, Harris County Public Library and the Bellaire Library.

Western books

The Old West. If you hear references to those words while In Houston these days it might mean that is rodeo time, a lively three-week of activity that celebrates our western heritage. To me those three words conjure memories of my grandfather’s collection of mass-market paperbacks kept in a home-built bookcase I would raid on summer visits. Shelves of Louis L’Amour, Luke Short and other popular western authors allowed me to wander the untamed west searching for justice and adventure each visit. It was also with this collection of books I grew closer to him with a shared interest. 

The western as a genre started with the publication of dime novels in the 1860s telling stories of the settlers and lawmen taming the western frontier. By 1900, pulp magazines related these adventures to the city folks living in eastern towns and the stories became more popular with the publication of Owen Wister’s novel The Virginian in 1902 and Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage in 1912. Printed westerns continued to grow in popularity until the mid-1960s when the large number of television westerns was produced and interest in the written western rode into the proverbial sunset.

Western booksBut some of my heroes are still cowboys and I enjoy reading about the spirit of freedom and adventure found in westerns. There are also some strong female characters that tangle with those lean, sunburned riders of the range. Although the western novel has suffered in popularity over the years, there are some authors that should be put on your reading list as a way to enjoy this colorful era of American history. Pull your boots off, settle in a favorite reading spot and become a part of the west with these titles:

  • Hondo by Louis L’Amour
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry 
  • The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton 
  • Shane by Jack Schaefer
  • True Grit by Charles Portis 

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