Our Favorite Western Reads of 2012

EXPLORERS

SIGHT UNSEEN: HOW FREMONT’S FIRST EXPEDITION CHANGED THE AMERICAN LANDSCAPE
By Andrew Menard (Bison Books)

Frémont’s first expedition, in 1842, served to transform the nation’s impression of the “Great American Desert” that was the West. The author reveals how Frémont’s reports shaped American outlook as well.

 

FREMONT’S FIRST IMPRESSIONS: THE ORIGINAL REPORT OF HIS EXPLORING EXPEDITIONS OF 1842-1844
Intro by Anne F. Hyde; By John C. Frémont (Bison Books)

Another look at the early expeditions of John C. Frémont, the “Great Pathfinder.”
Hyde, a professor of history at Colorado College, puts the explorer’s work in crisp historical perspective.

 

WEAPONS OF THE LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION
By Jim Garry (Arthur H. Clark Company)

Meriwether Lewis himself meticulously shopped for, and procured, the mini-arsenal of weapons that went up the Missouri with the Corps of Discovery. This book is the best examination available of the firearms, knives and other weaponry that went to the Pacific.

 

THE INDIANIZATION OF LEWIS AND CLARK
By William R. Swagerty (Arthur H. Clark Company)

The Corps of Discovery that departed St. Louis, Missouri, in 1804 was a different entity than the bunch that returned in 1806. Swagerty shows how the crew’s adaptations to American Indian ways were not just helpful to them, but also crucial.

 

THE NORTH AMERICAN JOURNALS OF PRINCE MAXIMILIAN OF WIED, VOLUME III: SEPTEMBER 1833-AUGUST 1834
Edited by Stephen S. Witte and Marsha V. Gallagher (University of Oklahoma Press)

Artist Karl Bodmer left an indelible stamp on the Missouri River forays of 1833-34, but Prince Maximilian was the man who mounted the expedition. This is a fine volume, lavishly turned out.

 

UP THE WINDS AND OVER THE TETONS: JOURNAL ENTRIES ANDIMAGES FROM THE 1860 RAYNOLDS EXPEDITION
By Marlene Deahl Merrill and Daniel D. Merrill (University of New Mexico Press)

William F. Raynolds’s report was issued by the government in 1868 in heavily-edited form. The authors have resorted to his field notes to properly relate this tale of courage and hardship.

 

ZEBULON PIKE, THOMAS JEFFERSON, AND THE OPENING OF THE AMERICAN WEST
Edited by Matthew L. Harris and Jay H. Buckley (University of Oklahoma Press)

As we approach the bicentennial of Pike’s April 1813 death, this reappraisal, in the form of essays from leading American West historians of the 21st century, brings a measure of redemption to an earnest figure who has been somewhat maligned.

 

SHOWMANSHIP, WILD WEST STYLE BUFFALO BILL IN BOLOGNA: THE AMERICANIZATION OF THE WORLD, 1869-1922
By Robert W. Rydell and Rob Kroes (University of Chicago Press)

Buffalo Bill in Bologna has been described as a “tour de force that recasts what has been popularly understood about this period of American and global history.” No argument here.

 

THE WILD WEST IN ENGLAND: THE PAPERS OF WILLIAM F. “BUFFALO BILL” CODY
Edited by Frank Christianson; By William F. Cody (Bison Books)

Cody himself said that his show’s first season in England prompted the British to “know more of the mighty nation beyond the Atlantic and . . . to esteem us better than at any time within the limits of modern history.” This book gives the how and why.

 

NATIVE PERFORMERS IN THE WILD WEST SHOWS: FROM BUFFALO BILL TO EURO DISNEY
By Linda Scarangella McNenly (University of Oklahoma Press)

Devotees of the Buffalo Bill legacy will appreciate Native Performers for the mythbusting elements and the fresh, beneath-the-surface scholarship.

 

SHORT WESTERN PROSE THE ESSENTIAL WEST: COLLECTED ESSAYS
By Elliott West (University of Oklahoma Press)

Essayist Elliott West tackles a broad range of themes in his inimitable style. Readers will feed on accounts of the bison, the telegraph, Larry McMurtry, Lewis & Clark, Jesse James and much more.

 

THE GREAT TAOS BANK ROBBERY AND OTHER TRUE STORIES
By Tony Hillerman; Foreword by Anne Hillerman (University of New Mexico Press)

This collection of journalistic efforts—going back even to his college days—by Tony Hillerman shows off the nonfiction prowess of the great chronicler of the Land of Enchantment.

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