21 Best Books on Montana to Discover Big Sky Country

Welcome, fellow bookworms! In this article, I’ll explore the best books on Montana that will keep you turning the pages.

Whether you’re in search of captivating history, epic adventure novels, engaging stories, or deep-fathomed mysteries, Montana has got you covered.

Besides, for people like me, there is nothing more tempting than curling up at home with an amazing book, stirring up a cup of hot tea, and letting a book’s story carry you far, far away.

With so many options out there, however, it can be tough to choose which ones to get your hands on first.

Through this article, you’ll discover the literary treasures hiding in Montana, examining books on its history, culture, nature, and beyond.

These spectacular books should definitely make their way onto your reading list.

Get ready to be swept up in extraordinary stories, taken on epic adventures, and exposed to the captivating history of Montana. Let’s dive in!

Magnificent Montana Books

From “100 Classic Hikes: Montana” by Douglas Lorain to Oliver Milliron’s “The Whistling Season,” Montana offers a plethora of literary delights that are truly worth the read.

Let’s check them out!

1. “100 Classic Hikes: Montana”

As someone who loves the great outdoors, I am thrilled to share my thoughts on the book, “100 Classic Hikes: Montana” written by expert Douglas Lorain.

What makes this book totally notable is the fact that the writer has an unmatched level of expertise in hiking, bringing over 40 years of experience into a single book.

It features hikes that have never been included in any other guidebook before, making it a great resource for beginners and experienced hikers looking to explore the Big Sky Country.

It covers hikes from the eastern plains to the western mountain ranges and lets you marvel into beautiful waterfalls to stunning mountain ranges.

Lorain does an incredible job of highlighting the impressive natural beauty that Montana has to offer.

“100 Classic Hikes: Montana” has been widely praised by readers from all over the world, particularly by Montanans, who appreciate the depth of knowledge Lorain has about the region.

With the trails well-documented, what makes this book more engaging are the detailed maps and instructions that can aid readers in planning their own hiking adventures.

2. “Fools Crow”

Hitting the shelves back in ’86, James Welch’s narrative brings us to the heart of the Blackfeet tribe, nestled in Montana’s majestic Rocky Mountains, during the tension-filled mid-1870s.

You can almost smell the rich, native heritage that Welch infuses on every page – an authentic touch that only a handful of scribes can truly nail down.

Our protagonist, the budding warrior known as White Man’s Dog, stands on the precipice of council membership, his heart echoing with tribal rhythms.

But when Western interlopers start hovering, threatening to eclipse their ancestral traditions, our hero must chart a course through the swirling tempest of clashing cultures and savage expectations.

The novel is a prime example of the impact that colonization had on Indigenous people and their way of life.

Fools Crow is a powerful and necessary novel. It is a profound exploration of the damage done to the Native people in the West throughout history. The novel’s themes of colonization, resistance, and survival are extremely relevant.

With a legion of fans hailing its brilliance, it’s hardly a shock that the praise for this book cascades from every corner of the globe.

Montanans themselves have praised the novel’s insight into the cultural heritage of their state and the history of the region.

Fools Crow offers a captivating and heartbreaking education for those seeking a better understanding of American history.

3. “100 Days of Solitude”

100 days of solitude - season 1.
source: dailyinterlake.com

As a lover of poetry and nature, I was enthralled by Amy Pearson’s “100 Days of Solitude.” This collection of poems is a reflection of her experiences as a fire lookout in the Bob Marshall Wilderness during the summer of 2015.

In her writing, Pearson captures the natural beauty and majesty of Montana’s wild public lands.

As a member of the Montana Wilderness Association (MWA), her knowledge of the area and her passion for its protection are evident in every poem.

She explores the themes of solitude, reflection, and connection with the environment in a way that is both inspiring and thought-provoking.

Readers have been equally moved by Pearson’s work. Her book has been widely accepted and highly praised by fellow MWA members and Montanans alike.

Pearson’s love for nature flows beautifully through each page of “100 Days of Solitude”, leaving readers with a deep appreciation for Montana’s spectacular public lands.

Through her words, readers are reminded of the beauty and power of nature and the importance of preserving it for generations to come.

Flathead Valley Community College Bookstore

4. “American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains”

If you’re interested in Montana’s wildlife and its ecological history, you’ll want to check out “American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains” by Dan Flores.

This book offers a thorough exploration of the decline of some of Montana’s most iconic animals, including gray wolves, bison, coyotes, and grizzly bears.

Flores goes beyond just describing the decline of these animals, however.

He also offers insight into how their decline can be reversed, making this book an invaluable resource for anyone who cares about preserving Montana’s natural beauty and the animals that call it home.

Readers have responded positively to Flores’ analysis, particularly those living in Montana.

“American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains” has been praised for its engaging storytelling and its ability to create awareness about Montana’s ecosystem.

It offers a deeply insightful look at the history of Montana’s wildlife and the future it may hold when protected properly.

5. “A River Runs Through It”

Only a few books have captured the essence of Montana like “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean.

This semi-autobiographical work chronicles the lives of two brothers, Paul and Norman, and their upbringing in an early 20th-century Montana family.

The book weaves together themes of family, nature, and the struggle to find meaning in life.

It’s no surprise that this book has become a beloved classic and one of the most popular books about Montana.

Maclean’s lyrical prose and vivid descriptions of the Montana wilderness have transported readers to a place of stunning beauty and introspection.

Montanans have embraced “A River Runs Through It” as a beloved and accurate portrayal of their unique landscape and way of life.

Overall, “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean remains a classic piece of American literature that captures the heart and soul of Montana.

6. “The Wolverine Way”

As I’m always on the lookout for the next great adventure, this book by Doug Chadwick has definitely caught my eye.

“The Wolverine Way” offers readers a rare glimpse into the fascinating world of wolverines while also raising awareness about their uncertain future due to global warming.

Chadwick draws on his extensive experience with the Glacier Wolverine Project to dispel common stereotypes about these creatures, providing insight into their true nature and behavior.

Readers are taken on a thrilling journey through the rugged winter landscapes, encountering blizzards, sheer mountain walls, and other challenges to survival.

What makes “The Wolverine Way” such an engaging read is the perfect balance of education and excitement. The book feels like a page-turner that won’t even feel like learning.

Chadwick’s writing is vivid and engaging, capturing the beauty and danger of the wilderness in a way that will leave readers wanting more.

This book is a must-read for anyone looking for an exciting winter wildlife adventure and a deeper understanding of wolverines.

7. “The Backbone of the World”

“The Backbone of the World” by Frank Clifford examines the communities living along the Continental Divide through an ethnographic lens.

Clifford delves deep into the realities facing those trying to maintain their ways of life along the spine of North America.

What makes “The Backbone of the World” stand out is its juxtaposition of the old and new West and its chapter on Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine area.

Clifford expertly weaves in the region’s Western history, exploring how it has impacted the people and communities living there today.

For anyone interested in Western history and ethnography, this book is a must-read. With Clifford as our guide, we are taken on a journey that is both fascinating and enlightening.

8. “Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Makings of the National Parks”

This captivating history book by Mark David Spence shares the largely untold story of how Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Glacier National Parks came to be and the displacement of their original inhabitants.

What makes this book unique is the author’s style of merging written and oral histories, geography, and politics to share the stories of people and places.

Through this, he sheds light on the cultural homeland of Native Americans and the impact of their displacement.

“Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Makings of the National Parks” is an engaging read that not only touches on the history of the parks but also the larger issues of race, power, and the environment.

The book has been received positively and has been widely accepted as an important contribution to the nation’s narrative.

9. “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present”

“The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present” by David Treuer is a captivating narrative that sheds new light on the resilience and resourcefulness of Native American life after the Wounded Knee Massacre.

What makes this book stand out is the author’s unique perspective as an Indigenous person.

His personal experience brings depth and honesty to his writing that is often absent in books written by non-Indigenous authors.

David Treuer provides insights that broaden our understanding of Indigenous history, highlighting the struggles that Native people have endured, and their continued efforts to preserve their tribes, cultures, and existence.

In Montana, where Native American history is taught in schools, the book has been well-received, with history professors recommending it as a must-read.

Not only does it tell the story of Native American life but also provides a critical analysis of American history and how colonization and mistreatment of Indigenous peoples have shaped the modern world.

“The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee” is a must-read for anyone who wants a new perspective on Indigenous history that goes beyond what is often taught in history class.

10. “Indian Creek Chronicles: A Winter Alone in the Wilderness”

Pete Fromm’s story takes readers on a journey through his 7 winter months living alone in a tent in Idaho while guarding salmon eggs.

During this hard time, he came face to face with the blunt realities of life as a contemporary mountain man and details his struggles with snow and starvation.

What makes this book stand out is its perspective on wilderness living and survival. Fromm’s honesty provides anecdotes that are relatable, and his journey is one of resiliency and healing.

In many ways, “Indian Creek Chronicles” is a celebration of Montana’s core values.

If you’re looking for a unique, inspiring, and thrilling read that captures the essence of Montana, “Indian Creek Chronicles: A Winter Alone in the Wilderness” is a must-read.

Fromm’s account of wilderness living is nothing short of remarkable and will leave you with a newfound appreciation for nature and its healing powers.

11. “Breaking Clean”

“Breaking Clean” by Judy Blunt is a memoir published in 2002 that draws readers into her rural life in Montana.

The book shares valuable insights about growing up in a traditional ranching family on a ranch in Montana. It depicts her constant battles with gender roles and keeping up with societal norms.

It provides an aspect that not many are able to witness these days which makes the experience all the more special for readers.

As Judy grew older, she was able to gain more insight into the world outside Montana but she then had to face a new set of struggles– the vast contrast between the lives of men and women in the rural West.

Amidst all of these, one dominating theme of the book was resiliency.

The brutal truth and sheer honesty about the trials that Judy had to face in “Breaking Clean” also became a reason for her to celebrate her joy and triumphs in the end.

Overall, this book is a captivating story that transports its readers to a time and place that is both remote and familiar, and it’s a testament to the enduring power of narrative history.

12. “The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America”

“The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America” is an account of the 1910 fires that burned across Idaho and Montana, ravaging over three million acres of land.

The book highlights the impact those fires had on the local community and, more importantly, the U.S. Forest Service’s wildfire response.

“The Big Burn” chronicles the story of the brave people who fought during the incident. It also points out the influence that those same fires had on the Great Burn, a vast open area on the Idaho-Montana border. 

Timothy Egan narrates the struggles protecting the ranges against the implacable fire that seemed to stop at nothing.

It is also a dramatic story of how President Teddy Roosevelt and his chief forester, Gifford Pinchot pioneered the conservation efforts of the land, referring to it as a national treasure.

The book is a must-read for history and nature enthusiasts looking to understand America’s natural history better.

13. “Lasso the Wind”

Timothy Egan’s “Lasso the Wind” is about Western landscapes, their intertwined history, and issues. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the American West.

The book takes you on a colorful and revealing journey through the eleven states west of the 100th meridian.

Egan’s writing is accessible, descriptive, and beautiful, making his essays an enjoyable read even for those who may not have the time or inclination to sit down with a full book.

The astounding quality of “Lasso the Wind” was acknowledged as a “New York Times Notable Book of the Year”. It also was a winner of the “Mountains and Plains Book Seller’s Association Award”.

Timothy Egan’s accessibility, descriptive language, and beautiful prose make this book an excellent read for anyone seeking a unique and engaging narrative of Montana and the Western states.

14. “This House of Sky: Landscapes of the Western Mind”

In “This House of Sky: Landscapes of the Western Mind”, Doig recounts his formative years growing up in rural Montana.

His vivid, poetic, and descriptive writing flawlessly captures the beauty and hardships of trying to make a living in the wild landscapes of this magnificent state.

“This House of Sky” is far more than just a memoir; it reflects on the ties that bind us to family and the land itself and how these connections shape our identity.

His writing seamlessly weaves together the beauty of Montana with the difficulties of ranch life, creating a multifaceted and almost surreal portrait of the West.

It’s no surprise, then, that the book was so well-received and widely accepted by readers in Montana and beyond. Ivan Doig became a household name and his legacy continues to be celebrated in the state today.

Despite Doig’s passing, his legendary status prevails, with “This House of Sky” regarded as a touchstone for understanding both the beauty and complexities of the Western mind.

15. “Chasing Fire”

This book is a vivid and entertaining narrative that delves into the world of smoke jumpers and their lives fighting wildfires in Montana.

“Chasing Fire” by Nora Roberts follows the story of Rowan Tripp, a seasoned Missoula smoke jumper who grapples with personal demons while battling fires.

Together with her fellow smoke jumper Gulliver Curry, Rowan’s challenges aren’t only from external forces.

When a dangerous fire erupts, they must fight their way through impossible terrain and face their own self-doubts.

The themes of courage and resilience are central to the book, as are the risks and dangers that the smoke jumpers face every day.

Through thrilling twists and turns, readers will experience the adrenaline rush of being a smoke jumper and the emotional turmoil of confronting one’s fears.

16. “Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome”

Joseph Kinsey Howard’s “Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome” is a classic narrative history that delves deep into the story of Montana.

It tackles Montana’s remarkable evolution from a wild and lawless frontier to one of the most fascinating states in the nation.

Howard’s storytelling style appeals to a wide range of readers, making the book as entertaining as it is informative.

“Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome” has enjoyed great popularity since its publication over 70 years ago, and remains one of the top choices for those looking for a comprehensive and well-written account of Montana’s history.

Readers, especially Montanans, have embraced the book as a treasure trove of information, a testament to the value of Howard’s work.

17. “Montana: An Uncommon Land”

If you’re a history buff, “Montana: An Uncommon Land” by K. Ross Toole should be on your must-read list.

This book is one of the best-written and most informative accounts of Montana’s history, covering topics from the Lewis & Clark Expedition to interactions with Native Americans and beyond.

One reason why this book is so relevant is that it delves into the state’s cattle and mining interests, providing a comprehensive look at how these factors shaped Montana into what it is today.

But it’s not just about economic interests.

“Montana: An Uncommon Land” also provides insight into the cultural and social aspects of Montana’s history, giving readers a full picture of the state’s past.

Many of the issues facing Montana then are still relevant today, making this book a valuable resource for anyone interested in the state’s past, present, and future.

“Montana: An Uncommon Land” has been praised by readers and critics alike, particularly Montanans who appreciate the depth and accuracy of the information presented.

Toole’s writing is engaging and accessible, making this book an enjoyable read for anyone interested in history.

18. “Young Men and Fire”

“Young Men and Fire” by Norman Maclean is a gripping account of the 1949 Mann Gulch forest fire that took the lives of 13 of the 16 smokejumpers who were trying to contain it.

This tragedy has become a defining piece of Montana’s history that we continue to learn from.

Maclean’s vivid storytelling transports the reader to the heart of the disaster, conveying the terror and bravery of the smokejumpers battling the flames.

But “Young Men and Fire” is more than just a recounting of the tragic event. It explores the impact of Mann Gulch in Montana history and how it has shaped the way wildfires are handled today.

The lessons learned from this defining forest fire have created a new paradigm that highlights the importance of fire ecology and the role of humans in managing ecosystems.

19. “A Yellow Raft in Blue Water”

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of Montana, this classic work of fiction was published in 1987 and explores the themes of identity, family, and heritage.

“A Yellow Raft in Blue Water” by Michael Dorris tells the story of the struggles of three generations of Native American women in a patriarchal society.

This beloved book offers a poignant commentary on the challenges faced by Native American women and their struggle for autonomy, while also examining the complexities of family ties and the enduring power of heritage.

Ida, Christine, and Rayona’s lives were divided into three separate, yet interconnected sections as each of them yearned to uncover more of their self-identity.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an engaging and thought-provoking read.

20. “A Wild Land Ethic: The Story of Wilderness in Montana”

“A Wild Land Ethic: The Story of Wilderness in Montana” is an anthology that features over 40 authors, including MWA members and staff and 32 photographers, who share their first-hand accounts of wilderness advocacy.

The book does a great job of illuminating the history of wilderness areas across Montana. It inspires readers to protect the state’s wild places by presenting stories of those who fought to preserve them.

“A Wild Land Ethic: The Story of Wilderness in Montana” covers the wildland resources across the state from the proposed Scotchman Peaks area in northwestern Montana to the Pryor Mountains in the southeastern part of the state.

With a focus on protecting wild places, this anthology is a great resource for those who seek to understand the importance of preserving natural landscapes.

21. “The Whistling Season”

This book by Ivan Doig transports readers to a small rural area in Montana in the fall of 1909.

“The Whistling Season” follows the story of widower Oliver Milliron, his three sons, and their encounter with the ever-whistling Rose Llewellyn and her knowledgeable brother, Morris Morgan.

The setting represents a stampede of homesteaders drawn to the promise of the Big Ditch, an irrigation project that aims to make the Montana prairie bloom.

Morris plays an essential role in the plot as he is pressed into service to teach at the region’s one-room schoolhouse. He brings several forms of education, none of them from textbooks, to Oliver and his sons.

Throughout the book, readers are taken on a journey through family dynamics, eccentric family members, and the choices between family loyalty and education.

If you’re looking for a poignant and engaging read that takes you on an epic journey through Montana’s landscape and history, I highly recommend picking up “The Whistling Season.”

Why Is Montana a Popular Setting for Books?

A view of a mountain range with pine trees in the background.

Montana’s combination of stunning landscapes, Wild West history, outdoor activities, sense of isolation, close-knit communities, and diverse wildlife make it an enticing setting for authors looking to create compelling stories.

The state’s history is marked by the presence of Native American tribes in the region for thousands of years before being colonized by European settlers.

Montana’s geography is characterized by mountains, plains, and vast forests which have been an inspiration for authors for centuries. The state’s landscape has a significant influence on the state’s literary themes.

For example, western and adventure novels are popular genres because they tap into the wildness of Montana.

Native American history is another central theme in Montana-based books, with cultural values and traditions often seen as a backdrop to modern-day stories that explore the dichotomy of living in a rural area surrounded by modern amenities.

Stories of ranching, cowboys, and the tough life of rural laborers are also a prevalent Montana-based genre.

The state’s literary tradition is reflective of Montana’s deep connection to its natural environment, rural life, and its people’s resilience amidst challenging circumstances.

Books on Montana Final Thoughts

A stack of books about Montana in a bookstore.

As I conclude my list of magnificent books on Montana, I encourage readers to delve into the captivating narratives that showcase the state’s rich history, diverse landscapes, and unique identity.

What makes these books stand out is their ability to transport readers to Montana’s rugged wilderness and deep-fathomed pasts.

The inclusion of native perspectives is particularly noteworthy, as it sheds light on a marginalized but vital aspect of Montana’s history.

Moreover, the wilderness adventures contained in these pages provide a window into the beauty and challenges of life in a state that, despite its vastness, still retains a strong sense of community.

These books on Montana are worth reading because they offer something for everyone, from history to outdoor adventurers, to understanding human experience.

Do not miss the opportunity to discover the allure of Montana through these captivating and thought-provoking works of literature.

Let your eyes feast on these other good reads about Montana:

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Written by:

Elizabeth Hawley
Hey, fellow travelers! I'm Elizabeth Hawley, stepping into the world in the hues of fall. For me, Montana is more than just a state; it's a muse. The golden aspen trees and russet landscapes in the fall have always fueled my creativity. Co-founding PocketMontana.com was a no-brainer, blending my love for art, photography, and Montana's ever-changing palette.

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