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Books and Reading: Western Fiction

About Western Fiction


Feature settings that are evocative of a comfortable time & place but the setting can be contemporary or historical.

Story pacing is leisurely, the characters are affable, and there are no unsettling surprises.
Genial humor underlies the stories.

Relationships among the characters is emphasized rather than suspense or social issues.

The tone of the story is lightening by the characters who are comfortable companiosn and often the source of the humor.

There is no explicit sex, violence or strong language.

Awards for Western Novels

Western Writers of America annually honors writers for distinguished writing about the American West with the Spur Awards. Since 1953 the Spur Awards have been considered one of the most prestigious awards in American literature. Spurs are given for the best western historical novel, best western traditional novel, best western contemporary novel, best short story, best short nonfiction. Also, best contemporary nonfiction, best biography, best history, best juvenile fiction and nonfiction, best drama, best documentary, and best first novel as well as best first nonfiction book.

The Willa Literary Award

This award is named in honor of Pulitzer Prize winner Willa Cather... . Annually awarded for outstanding literature featuring women's stories set in the west, the Willa Literary Awards are chosen by distiguished panel of professional librarians.  The Awards are presented at the annual WWW fall conference. 

 The Peacemaker Award/

This award is given by the Western Fictioneers.  It is the only professional writers organziation composed entirely of authors who have written Western Fiction, the classic American genre.


Well-known Western movies

Well known western movies Edit/Delete Quick Stats

A list of western movie titles complete with descriptions courtesy of the Hennepin County Library system.

The History of the Western Novel

Most scholars identify The Last of the Mohicans (1826) or The Prairie (1827) by James Fennimore Cooper as the first Western novels. 

The dime novels of the last 19th century, the travelogue title Roughing It (1982) by Mark Twain, and the short stories of Stephen Crane and Bret Harte also influenced the genre.  The Virginian (1902) by Owen Wister is considered to be the first actual Western novel. 

In the early 20th century, western novels increased in popularity, in large measure to the prolific number of novels written by Zane Grey.  Louis L’Amour began publishing westerns in the 1950’s.  The popularity of his work has made him one of the bestselling American authors of all time.  Today, many westerns are now being marketed as historical or mainstream fiction novels. 

Source: Genreflecting.  Edited by Cynthia Orr and Diana Tixler Herald.  Chicago: ALA, c2013.


Western Novels Brochure

Westerns and Historical Fiction

Friday, May 19, 2017:  

Whether you are a fan of the western novel, or like works of historical fiction set in the old west these book titles can be enjoyed by both fans of both.