Good Minds Suggest—Philipp Meyer's Favorite Westerns

Posted by Goodreads on June 4, 2013
If everything's bigger in Texas, Philipp Meyer has chosen the perfect outsize setting for The Son, his new historical epic that paints the Lone Star State with sweeping strokes of blood, oil, and land. Meyer has earned comparisons to Faulkner and Hemingway and won a Guggenheim Fellowship for his debut novel, American Rust. The Son, his sophomore work, tells another quintessentially American story. This violent, multigenerational saga of the McCullough family is anchored by patriarch Eli McCullough (the first baby boy born in the Republic of Texas), who after being kidnapped at age 13 by Comanche raiders, goes on to found an enduring oil dynasty. A Maryland native turned Texas transplant, Meyer shares his favorite gun-slinging westerns.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
"One of the best works of American literature by a living author. Still, after once recommending it to my mother, I feel compelled to admit that the common criticisms are basically correct—it is shockingly violent, there is not much of a plot, and there is little sense that any of the characters have any internal consciousness. But it creates a world and an aesthetic and does it perfectly. I have probably read it at least 20 times."

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
"Though set only a few years apart in history, this one is nearly the opposite of Blood Meridian. Full of humor and lovable characters, a broad, sweeping epic. Because the language is not as grandly literary, it gets less respect among graduate students, but I'd say it's just as perfect in its way. Start with Blood Meridian and cleanse your palate with Lonesome Dove."

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
"Written by a young Canadian a few years back, this is a brilliant book about a pair of strangely sensitive and fairly crazy brothers who are basically hit men. It is smart, funny, and dark."

The Evolution of a State or Recollections of Old Texas Days by Noah Smithwick
"This is the memoir of Noah Smithwick, who went to Texas in 1827 and left the state when it joined the Confederacy in 1860. He was brilliant, sensitive, funny—and a serious thinker. Though there is minimal violence and no professional gunfighters, this is one of the best descriptions of life in the Old West ever written. It makes it clear that people on the frontier were not so different from people today."

My Confession: Recollections of a Rogue by Samuel E. Chamberlain
"Chamberlain made his way across the West as a young man in the 1840s, and this memoir recounts his adventures and misadventures in war and romance. Like the Smithwick memoir, it is easy to see yourself (or maybe your rambunctious younger brother) in Chamberlain's place. The last 100 pages, about Chamberlain's adventures with the Glanton gang, were basically lifted whole by Cormac McCarthy and turned into Blood Meridian. If you are a fan of that book, this one is a must-read, though it is annoyingly in and out of print."

Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Westerns

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)

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message 1: by Marthie (new)

Marthie Markstein Loved The Son, and agree with all his choices. Great books!!

message 2: by Tama (new)

Tama Good recommendations! My to-read list just got a little bigger. To bad about the Chamberlain - it does seem to be a bit hard to get.

message 3: by Doug (new)

Doug If this guy recommends Blood Meridian, Lonesome Dove and the Sisters Brothers I am definintely going to put his book on my "to read" list.

message 4: by Patty (new)

Patty You can get My Confessions at It's a bit pricey but may be worth it.

message 5: by Chris (new)

Chris Gager I wholeheartedly agree about Blood Meridian and Lonesome Dove. A great combo. I'd add the books of A.B. Guthrie Jr. as well as True Grit.

message 6: by Sillyhuron (new)

Sillyhuron A.B. Guthrie for sure. The Big Sky is the most compelling Western I ever read.

message 7: by Alison (last edited Jun 06, 2013 04:24PM) (new)

Alison Bailey Great choices...often seem to be the same titles...any one interested in a rollicking new novel about the Pony Express? Would love to add to the genre by mentioning XP by Alison M.Bailey - and my Goodreads blog...Can A Western Be High Literature/Hip? A change of pace perhaps from always popular mystery/memoir/games of thrones...XP XP by Alison M. Bailey

message 8: by Allen (last edited Jun 06, 2013 08:06PM) (new)

Allen ". . .favorite gun-slinging westerns" Where? These may all be great books about the west, but with the exception of Lonesome Dove (referred to by many as a great western novel but, in my opinion, at least in part because he is a contemporary writer), not really "Westerns." Guess these people are too young to know what a real "western" is. Of the books mentioned, I've read two and will look for the others. You younger people, look for Frederick Manfred's "Riders of Judgment," any of several of the series of Frontier America historical novels by Allen W. Eckert which chronicle the movement of the white settlers across North America.

message 9: by Jappy (new)

Jappy Worku good reconedation i think

message 10: by Chris (new)

Chris Gager "Honey in the Horn" is another one. Pulitzer winner in the 30's

message 11: by Sillyhuron (new)

Sillyhuron Anyone else getting a little tired of "surrealist" westerns - the hero wanders through an imaginary/ hallucinatory landscape, meets bizarre characters, epigrammatic dialogue... Lotsa recent good books - Blood Meridan, Sisters Brothers, Smonk - are like this. But can anyone recommend something that feels more historical/real?

message 12: by Norma (new)

Norma I just finished reading Zeke and Ned by Larry McMurtry. Great book, Zeke Proctor and Ned Christie, Cherokee warriors living in Indian Territory east of Arkansas River after the Civil War. Harsh frontier justice, lifelong friendships made for great reading. Loved it.

message 13: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Tobias Any list of "Westerns" that doesn't have Louis L'Amour on it isn't a list of Westerns. Maybe these are books about the West but not Westerns. Listen to the whole Sackett series on audio - amazing. I pooh-poohed his books when my brothers read the paperbacks with lurid colored covers years ago but when I listened to them - he's a real storyteller and his descriptions of the West stay with me more than many other descriptions.

message 14: by James (new)

James Hopper Not a novel but S.C. Gwynne's "Empire of the Summer Moon" reads like a novel and details the life of Quanah Parker and the Comanche history in Texas. Blood Meridian didn't exaggerate the violence.

message 15: by David (new)

David Thompson Owen Wister wrote one of the first (and still one of the best) works of "western" literature, the Virginian.

Zane Grey and Max Brand both wrote "westerns" that rise to the level of literature, easily. Especially liked "Riders of the Purple Sage", and "Black Jack".

message 16: by Chris (new)

Chris Gager I've read and joyed one apiece from Max Brand, Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey. Also one called "The Duke" by a prolific writer whose name escapes me at the moment. Here's a sleeper: "A Gun For Braggg's Woman" by Steve Frazee. If you can find it!

message 17: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Have to recommend an old forgotten book here: Barb Wire by Walt Coburn. Pre-ISBN so not here. Excellent reading.

message 18: by Craig (new)

Craig Pittman I would add "True Grit" by Charles Portis and "Hombre" by Elmore Leonard.

message 19: by John (new)

John Guild Definitely seconding "True Grit." Oakley Hall's "Warlock" is a must, too.

message 20: by Francis (new)

Francis Mcnally I enjoyed the Steve Dancy series by James D. Best - The Shopkeeper, Leadville, and Murder at Thumb Butte.

message 21: by Chris (new)

Chris Gager "The Duke" author is William R. Cox - very prolific. Wrote for Bonanza...

message 22: by Robinb (new)

Robinb Loved the Sisters Brothers

message 23: by Chris (new)

Chris Gager Oakley Hall... I read "So Many Doors" so many years ago. It was an adult book(i.e. it had sex in it) and belonged to my sister. It was a 20th century western(Californian?)as I recall.

message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

The Legend of Eli Crow, just won an award for Best Erotic Western of 2014 on -

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