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The Border Trilogy: All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain (The Border Trilogy #1-3)

4.43  ·  Rating Details ·  4,687 Ratings  ·  280 Reviews
Available together in one volume for the first time, the three novels of Cormac McCarthy's award-winning and bestselling Border Trilogy constitute a genuine American epic.


Beginning with All the Pretty Horses and continuing through The Crossing and Cities of the Plain, McCarthy chronicles the lives of two young men coming of age in the Southwest and Mexico, poised on the e
Hardcover, 1040 pages
Published September 28th 1999 by Everyman's Library (first published 1994)
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Doug Gordon If there is one thing that Cormac McCarthy is not, it is a writer of romances! In fact, of all of his books, "All the Pretty Horses" is the only one I…moreIf there is one thing that Cormac McCarthy is not, it is a writer of romances! In fact, of all of his books, "All the Pretty Horses" is the only one I can recall that has major female characters or anything much of a love story.(less)

Community Reviews

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Apr 04, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have this vague idea of going back and writing reviews of some of my favorite books, read long before I heard of Goodreads. And yet strangely, it’s somehow harder to write reviews of the books I love the best. I’m not sure why that is- maybe it’s because I feel SO MUCH for the books that are like old, beloved friends, that combing through all my weighty feelings and associations with them to find the right words is almost impossible. So there is my disclaimer that this will probably be a rambl ...more
Debbie Zapata
Mar 13, 2017 Debbie Zapata rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mexico
Mar 13 ~~ Wow. Gotta catch my breath. Review coming tomorrow.

Mar 14 ~~ First of all, a big Thank You to GR friend Daniel for suggesting I read these books. I would have missed an amazing experience if not for your tip!

This particular volume contains the three books of McCarthy's border trilogy: All The Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities Of The Plain. I have been immersed in these books for a month. Was it a good idea to read them one right after the other? In many ways McCarthy's world is r
Nov 20, 2007 Alicia rated it it was amazing
It took me a while to get through this trilogy, since I took a break between the second and third book, but I'm so glad I finally finished it.

All the Pretty Horses was definitely the strongest and most even, in my opinion. McCarthy introduces his epic hero, John Grady Cole, and it's hard not to fall in love with him from the beginning.

The Crossing, which introduces the trilogy's second protagonist was my least favorite of the three. The narrative kept wandering into philosophical discussions for
May 19, 2008 Chris rated it liked it
I first read All The Pretty Horses camping on the beach in Sonora, Mexico. I had never read McCarthy before and it blew me away. The rhythm of the prose mimics the gait of a horse on an open range, the lyrical descriptions of the Southwestern landscape dead-on. Well-crafted (and often humorous) dialogue with a careful ear for cadence and dialect.

However upon subsequent readings, and further exploring the Trilogy, I became less enthralled and more conflicted. In The Crossing, the prose becomes mo
Katya Bogdanov
Jun 25, 2013 Katya Bogdanov rated it it was amazing
All the Pretty Horses
My first impression was that this book just wasn’t quite as immediately striking as The Road (one of my two favourite books of all time). That is to say, there were significant pros, but also some cons, which leads me to a “good,” rather than “great,” rating.

The undeniable and significant pro is that the world McCarthy recreates is captivating and leaves you with a lasting impression and an understanding of its reality. It is a world of men and horses, of grave injustice th
James Kane
Jul 12, 2012 James Kane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I finished Blood Meridian a couple of months ago I felt convinced that I had read Cormac McCarthy's most important book: the key to his oeuvre, the lynchpin of his thought, the vehicle for his profoundest reflections on life, death and what it means to be human. Now, I'm not so sure. Among McCarthy's many talents is his ability to give the reader the impression that each of his novels is just as deep as the last, if not deeper, no matter what order you read them in. In The Border Trilogy, M ...more
Paolo Gianoglio
Jan 02, 2015 Paolo Gianoglio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Parafrasando un famoso titolo di McCarthy, questi non sono libri per persone impazienti. Tre storie indipendenti, di cui la terza è l’ideale proseguimento delle prime due, ma potrebbe anche essere letta da sola. Allora perché metterle insieme in un volume da oltre 1000 pagine? Perché per leggere queste storie serve un passo, un ritmo; e quando lo hai acquisito difficilmente te ne vuoi separare. Tre storie fatte di freddo, polvere, sangue, cavalli, alcool, notti all’aperto, dialoghi minimi e dial ...more
Anarchic Rain
Jun 10, 2017 Anarchic Rain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Devo lasciar sedimentare un paio di giorni questa epopea grandiosa.

Paesaggi splendidi, una scrittura scarna e allo stesso tempo intensa, personaggi memorabili.
McCarthy si conferma uno dei miei preferiti di sempre.

Mar 25, 2008 Paul rated it really liked it
All three books are powerful. The first two introduce the two main characters that meet in the third, but you could read each separately. Each has a sad inevitability, but you can immerse yourself in the writing style. Even the passages in Spanish, which are, for the most part, untranslated, ads to the texture and atmosphere. Even if you don't understand the dialog, you can gather the meaning. It just means you have to pay more attention, but that's not hard to do, because the characters and des ...more
Dec 06, 2007 Kara rated it it was amazing
I love these books! I first read All the Pretty Horses in high school, and liked it so much I started reading his other books. These are my favorites of his, by far. I enjoy his writing style, and the southwest setting always makes me feel some sort of would be nice to have a lifestyle so free of possessions and responsibility, but then again, I do like the comforts of modern society. These books are all rather violent, but if you can get past it, you'll appreciate one of the gre ...more
Jun 23, 2010 Matt rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All who seek beauty and truth
Recommended to Matt by: Victoria
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 28, 2009 trishtrash rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: western
All the Pretty Horses:

John Grady leaves Texas, knowing that his mother is selling the family ranch. Taking his friend Rawlins, they light out for Mexico, where trouble and passion are as much a part of the landscape as rock, dirt and horseflesh.

I don’t think there is a writer more suited to westerns; McCarthy’s dialogue is sparse and dry, yet shot with amusement and even affection. His descriptions are a panorama of vivid and moving immediacy, his narration is pragmatic and immersive, the action
Jennifer (JC-S)
Sep 06, 2010 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
‘Things separate from their stories have no meaning.’

The first two novels in The Border Trilogy feature different protagonists and are set roughly a decade apart. Both protagonists: John Grady Cole, in ‘All the Pretty Horses’; and Billy Parham in ‘The Crossing’, are young cowboys and each travels between the US southwest into northern Mexico. The third novel, ‘Cities of the Plains’, opens in the early 1950s with Cole and Parham together at a ranch in New Mexico, just north of El Paso.

‘It was vaq
Julie Laporte
Aug 12, 2012 Julie Laporte rated it really liked it
I don't think I really could review these books separately, and I don't recommend reading them with large gaps of time in-between...just plowing straight through all three I think is the best way to go. McCarthy's complexity as a writer and philosopher really comes through in this trilogy, and I think some of the nuances and a lot of the enjoyment would be lost were you not to read them successively.

Having read (and loved) The Road, I was expecting to be drawn in immediately, and this wasn't the
che è bello, eh. bello e poetico e con un sacco di cavalli e di polvere e di sigarette e di sfiga e di pessimismo. scritto in texano che ti ci vogliono tipo 100 pagine per capire che of=have e che moren=more than.
poi tra le righe capisci che il tempo non esiste, che il luogo è talmente immenso da sembrare minuscolo, perché per quanto ti muova rimani sempre lì. che i pensieri e le intenzioni non contano niente, ci sono solo i fatti. fatti piccoli e scomposti in gesti, un pollice sulla tesa del ca
Jun 25, 2013 Mike rated it it was amazing
What can I add to over 3000 ratings and nearly as many reviews all adding to a high 4? I loved the format of The Crossing, called a picaresq style by the experts. It was very challenging of my expectations about what a novel should be. But it was totally engaging and full of thought provoking philosophy. Quite apart from the philosophical depths of Mr McCarthy, he tells a ripping story. The grande finale is the knife fight, complete with McCarthy gore and brilliant prose. Give me a poet who writ ...more
Michael Nutt
Feb 18, 2014 Michael Nutt rated it really liked it

I came to McCarthy's celebrated Border Trilogy already a convert to the author's work. I rate 'No country for old men' among the best books I have read. I am less enthusiastic about 'The road', yet it is a powerful and unforgettable read.

'All the Pretty Horses" is the first volume in The Border Trilogy. The story opens in Texas shortly after World War 2, at a ranch near San Angelo where part of a traditional American way of life is coming to an end. It is 1949 and schoolboy John Grady Cole is at
Doug Gordon
Apr 23, 2017 Doug Gordon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
I finished the final book of the trilogy -- "Cities of the Plain" -- and found that I enjoyed it much more than the first time I read it. It is really a masterpiece, bringing together the protagonists of the first two books, who are now good friends working on a ranch in West Texas outside of El Paso in the early 1950s.

One part of the book that impressed me was the depiction of the life of working cowboys of that era. I'm not sure how McCarthy could have written this without spending a lot of ti
Dec 29, 2012 John rated it really liked it
Very much enjoyed the trilogy as a whole. I went into it blind in terms of story, leaving me to believe after the second book that the three books together were linked in theme only. That was surprisingly, and enjoyably, false. A few thoughts on each book:

In All the Pretty Horses, the first novel of the trilogy, McCarthy laments the passage of time, the ways that life pulls the earth from under us. The novel concerns 16-year old John Grady Cole, and as he passes into adulthood, we mourn with him
Dave N
Aug 19, 2015 Dave N rated it really liked it
Shelves: mccarthy, western
It's impossible for me to try and review the scope and direction of these books, in whole or in part. I'm neither critic enough nor poet enough. I can say that John Grady Cole and Billy Parham felt as much like real people as I've ever read on a page. They're motivations weren't always clear, and the choices they made at times felt disingenuous, but not because the characters were incompletely written, but because they themselves were incomplete people. Reading the trilogy for the third time jus ...more
Aug 09, 2010 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"He knew that our enemies by contrast seem always with us. The greater our hatred the more persistent the memory of them so that a truly terrible enemy becomes deathless. So that the man who has done you great injury or injustice makes himself a guest in your house forever. Perhaps only forgiveness can dislodge him."

"When you look at the world is there a point in time when the seen becomes the remembered? How are they separate? It is that which we have no way to show. It is that which is missing
Apr 01, 2010 Kyle rated it did not like it
All the Pretty Horses and Cities of the Plain are far and away the most lucid, and therefore tolerable novels of the trilogy. The Crossing, however, is almost insurmountably tedious. It contains, in spades, what is worst about all three novels, and in my opinion, Cormac McCarthy's style in general -- namely, the laughably pretentious, brooding, self-serious prose; the noxiously ponderous cast of needless characters who pontificate over pages and pages on the souls of men, wolves, and horses; and ...more
M. Ritchey
Dec 14, 2009 M. Ritchey rated it it was amazing
totally killer. McCarthy delves into a totally sad time period. You're still riding a horse, but everyone else is driving cars. You become an old man, a migrant worker your whole life, with a dwindling skill-set of dwindling importance in a world being modernized. In your youth you dragged a pregnant wolf all the way to Mexico because you didn't want to kill her, only to have her taken from you and die in a dogfight. "The Crossing" is the saddest book I have ever read. Rape and murder and vengea ...more
Oct 04, 2010 Aric rated it it was amazing
When it comes to a series, this might be the best I've ever dealt with. I love how the first two books have nothing to do with each other, but the last slowly brings them together. When Billy Parham has his last chapter in the final book it brings me to tears how he is basically a washed up nobody who at the same time is a link to the past, how he loves his deceased siblings so much a half century after he saw them. I pity Cormac McCarthy. I see a fraction into his mind when he writes and see he ...more
Zita De bourbon-parme
Sep 22, 2014 Zita De bourbon-parme rated it it was ok
The title could have been "Never go to Mexico".
Nothing new about the dangers of traveling and the usual corruption, bad chance, blood, evil man that kills young boys and co scenario's. I feel exactly the same emotions when I watch the news.
I could adapt to his different writing style but not to his passion for suffering and crualty and I had the feeling that when he got ennoyed with one of his characters he just found a thrilling way to get them out of his book.

For me it was like driving for
Jun 06, 2009 Greg rated it liked it
I am seriously never inviting this guy McCarthy over for a dinner party...whatever goodness and light his characters find at one point in the story eventually is engulfed by pain and darkness. But I am never ceased to be amazed at the high-wire act he pulls off with his words...I ought to be throwing the book across the room in disgust at the arch and over-developed prose, but instead, I get lost in it. One of the best prose stylists I've ever read.
Derry Davis
Jul 09, 2011 Derry Davis rated it it was amazing
Wonderful stories about the American - Mexican frontier of the late 19 and early 20th century. Incredible depiction of the country and the souls who inhabited it. Be aware that Mr. McCarthy has a penchat of less than joyous endings.
Mar 11, 2009 Theodore rated it really liked it
The first two are much stronger books than the third, and it gets 4 stars based on those two.
Love love love. Cormac McCarthy's best, to my heart and mind.
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Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres and has also written plays and screenplays. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

His earlier Blood M
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Other Books in the Series

The Border Trilogy (3 books)
  • All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, #1)
  • The Crossing (The Border Trilogy, #2)
  • Cities of the Plain (The Border Trilogy, #3)

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“The boy who rode on slightly before him sat a horse not only as if he’d been born to it which he was but as if were he begot by malice or mischance into some queer land where horses never were he would have found them anyway.” 1 likes
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