Building your Western Library: Matthew P. Mayo

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Matthew P. Mayo.

Matthew P. Mayo is the award-winning author of dozens of novels and nonfiction books about the West, including the recent multi-award-winning YA historical novel based on a true account, Stranded: A Story of Frontier Survival (Five Star). He has amassed “an embarrassing number of books on frontier survival.” Sugaring them down to five was a challenge, but here’s his short stack of varied, can’t-miss reads:

1) The Journals of Lewis and Clark, edited by Bernard DeVoto (Mariner Books): This classic account of an epic adventure is peppered with charged moments—bear attacks, tensions with native tribes, relentless mosquito assaults and so much more.

2) Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (HMH Books): This book is based on the incredible true story of Juana Maria, the last of the Nicoleño tribe, who survived alone for 18 years on San Nicolas Island, off the California coast, left behind when her people were “removed.”

3) Chief Joseph & the Flight of the Nez Perce: The Untold Story of an American Tragedy by Kent Nerburn (HarperOne): This gripping, well-researched read recounts the harrowing story of a hero who led 800 Nez Perce on an 1,800-mile journey before being forced to make a brutal, heartbreaking decision.

4) Lord Grizzly by Frederick Manfred (Bison Books, second edition): This powerful novel of the ultimate frontier survival story is my first stop for reading about the legendary Hugh Glass and his incredible saga.

5) The Journey and Ordeal of Cabeza de Vaca: His Account of the Disastrous First European Exploration of the American Southwest by Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca (Dover Publications): The title hints at the horrors experienced by the ill-fated 1527 de Narvaez expedition, of which Cabeza de Vaca was one of four survivors.