The American West discussion

Book Chat > West Lit Class

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message 7: by Kim (new)

Kim M-M (KimM-M) | 2 comments The Horse Whisperer The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

message 6: by Coalbanks (last edited Aug 24, 2008 12:01PM) (new)

Coalbanks | 4 comments I See by Your Outfit: Historic Cowboy Gear of the Northern Plains (Paperback)
by Tom Lindmier
Cattle ranch: The story of the Douglas Lake Cattle Company (Paperback)
by Nina G Woolliams
For a bit of the "nuts & bolts" of cowboy life but not enough of the "literature" than you are looking for?

message 5: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Rennicke | 2 comments Thank you Pam. I do use "Dakotak Cowboy" but I hadn't heard of the others which is exactly why I put up the post. Plus, I love to be able to give my students a good variety of choices.

Thank you. I will look those books up

message 4: by Pam (new)

Pam ☼Because Someone Must Be a Thorn☼ Tee (Pam_T) Hi Jeff,

I am so sorry to be late on this as well. As far as lit, I will suggest "Log of a Cowboy" by Andy Adams. It was published in 1905-ish. It's fiction based on Andy's experiences driving cattle in Texas for 10 years. A good read and generally accepted as a good historical source as to 'how it was'. I reviewed this at Amazon with one caveat for younger readers which unfortunately I can't remember what it was at the moment.

Note: The great thing about this book is that its available online for free in a number of formats at

The other book which I like even better is "Dakota Cowboy" by Ike Blasingame. Autobiography.

Finally, you could also try Larpenteur's autobiography: "40 Years a Fur Trader". It's from a much earlier time, but was well received by the Amazon db crowd; we did a group-read.

Feel free to contact me if I haven't been clear.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Hello Jeff—

Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been traveling and have had only limited access to the internet. Even if your curriculum is set by now, I hope some of my comments will be useful. First, take a peek at the more general list I sent to Bully4you regarding her college class. Beyond that, I’ve been thinking of how I would fashion a class for 12th graders about the West, especially since the idea of “The West” is changeable-the land and various cultures diverse, and the concept of "The West" at least in part a province of the imagination by which we organize geography.

I probably would create a syllabus of excerpts from older “classic" works (and newer theoretical ones) and play themes that arise from those excerpts off of a group of novels and nonfiction books. The syllabus would contain excerpts from books like Mark Twain’s Roughing It, Mary Austin’s Land of Little Rain, John Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra, John Wesley Powell’s account of going down the Colorado River, perhaps something about Lewis and Clark, etc. It also might contain parts of books like Roderick Nash’s Wilderness and the American Mind, Annette Kolodny’s Lay of the Land, Thomas King’s The Truth about Stories, William Kittredge’s Who Owns the West... excerpts from Wallace Stegner, William Cronon...Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire…there are countless directions to go, of course.

Then the books. I definitely would try to include a diversity of voices, most particularly Native American. I might teach Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony or Scott Momaday’s Way to Rainy Mountain. I just picked up a book called Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes edited by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. that might be played off the anglo historical accounts. Sherman Alexie’s Ten Little Indians might be good.

Secondly, I would include something about water issues: maybe Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner. You could read something like that nonfiction book, or Philip Fradkin’s A River No More, Then read Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang as a sort of counterpoint.

Then: Books that express the relation of the land itself and the character that arises in people because of the land. I mentioned The Meadow by John Galvin. Maybe something by John McPhee: I love Basin and Range, Encounters with the Archdruid. You might put a book like Jordan Fisher Smith’s Nature Noir up against John Muir’s earlier writings about the mountain west to highlight the problems and concerns of today against the classic vision. One of Annie Proulx’s Wyoming Stories. Maybe Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. Wisdom Sits In Places by Keith Basso.

Of course there are many “Wests” and I have only scratched the surface here. The Border West, the Pacific Northwest, all the faces of California. Holy Land by DJ Waldie is a terrific book about urban southern California, for example. From Buffalo Soldiers to West Coast Surfers: it’s really all part of "the West". I’d be very interested in seeing what you finally come up with, and I wish you all the best--

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I assume the books can be either fiction or nonfiction? For now, I'll say that *The Meadow* by James Galvin is one of my favorite books, and I don't think that many people know about it. I'll think about your question and come back with a little list...

message 1: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Rennicke | 2 comments I am teaching a new class called "Literature of the American West" for 12th graders at Conserve School, an environmentally-oriented college prep international boarding school. I have read widely in the field but I'd love to hear "have-to" book suggestions from people. Remember, this is a 1 semester course for 12th graders. Any suggestions?


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Ten Little Niggers (other topics)
The Horse Whisperer (other topics)