Published on August 10th, 2014 | by Montana Mint Staff
The Greatest Books Ever Written About Montana
The Montana Mint is proud to bring to you the “Greatest Books Ever Written About Montana.” The list includes something for everyone: fiction/nonfiction, old/new, serious/fun, and a lot of Ivan Doig. If you’re headed to the lake, about to take a long flight, or just want to read up on the best state in the Union, this is the list for you. We will continually add to this list, so check back for your next read, whenever that may be. Click the title or cover of the book to buy it on Amazon!
Norman Maclean’s memories about growing up in Montana revolve around mighty trout rivers and the four-count rhythm of fly fishing. It is the one activity where his family can bridge troubled relationships, where brother can connect with brother and father with son. And in the end, it is the river that makes them realize that life continues and all things are related.
In these pages you will come to fall in love with a ruggedly diverse and strikingly beautiful state, a land that takes hold and won’t let go. Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome is widely recognized as a classic history and delightful ode to the idiosyncratic personalities, restless landscape, unforgettable peoples, and lively history of the Treasure State.
Ivan Doig grew up in the rugged wilderness of western Montana among the sheepherders and denizens of small-town saloons and valley ranches. What he deciphers from his past with piercing clarity is not only a raw sense of land and how it shapes us but also of the ties to our mothers and fathers, to those who love us, and our inextricable connection to those who shaped our values in our search for intimacy, independence, love, and family. A powerfully told story, This House of Sky is at once especially American and universal in its ability to awaken a longing for an explicable past.
His name is Tom Booker. His voice can calm wild horses, his touch can heal broken spirits. And Annie Graves has traveled across a continent to the Booker ranch in Montana, desperate to heal her injured daughter, the girl’s savage horse, and her own wounded heart. She comes for hope. She comes for her child. And beneath the wide Montana sky, she comes to him for what no one else can give her: a reason to believe.
The events of that small-town summer forever alter David Hayden’s view of his family: his self-effacing father, a sheriff who never wears his badge; his clear sighted mother; his uncle, a charming war hero and respected doctor; and the Hayden’s lively, statuesque Sioux housekeeper, Marie Little Soldier, whose revelations are at the heart of the story. It is a tale of love and courage, of power abused, and of the terrible choice between family loyalty and justice.
“A magnificent drama of writing, a tragedy that pays tribute to the dead and offers rescue to the living…. Maclean’s search for the truth, which becomes an exploration of his own mortality, is more compelling even than his journey into the heart of the fire. His description of the conflagration terrifies, but it is his battle with words, his effort to turn the story of the 13 men into tragedy that makes this book a classic.” – from New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, Best Books of 1992
The central volume in Ivan Doig’s acclaimed Montana trilogy, Dancing at the Rascal Fair is an authentic saga of the American experience at the turn of this century and a passionate, portrayal of the immigrants who dared to try new lives in the imposing Rocky Mountains. Ivan Doig’s supple tale of landseekers unfolds into a fateful contest of the heart between Anna Ramsay and Angus McCaskill, walled apart by their obligations as they and their stormy kith and kin vie to tame the brutal, beautiful Two Medicine country.
In the Two Medicine Territory of Montana, the Lone Eaters, a small band of Blackfeet Indians, are living their immemorial life. The men hunt and mount the occasional horse-taking raid or war party against the enemy Crow. The women tan the hides, sew the beadwork, and raise the children. But the year is 1870, and the whites are moving into their land. Fools Crow, a young warrior and medicine man, has seen the future and knows that the newcomers will punish resistance with swift retribution. First published to broad acclaim in 1986, Fools Crow is James Welch’s stunningly evocative portrait of his people’s bygone way of life.
“Can’t cook but doesn’t bite.” So begins the newspaper ad offering the services of an “A-1 housekeeper, sound morals, exceptional disposition” that draws the hungry attention of widower Oliver Milliron in the fall of 1909. And so begins the unforgettable season that deposits the noncooking, nonbiting, ever-whistling Rose Llewellyn and her font-of-knowledge brother, Morris Morgan, in Marias Coulee along with a stampede of homesteaders drawn by the promise of the Big Ditch-a gargantuan irrigation project intended to make the Montana prairie bloom. When the schoolmarm runs off with an itinerant preacher, Morris is pressed into service, setting the stage for the “several kinds of education”-none of them of the textbook variety-Morris and Rose will bring to Oliver, his three sons, and the rambunctious students in the region’s one-room schoolhouse.
Little else in life is as dangerous as fire jumping. But there’s also little else as thrilling—at least to Rowan Tripp. Being a Missoula smoke jumper is in Rowan’s blood: her father is a legend in the field. At this point, returning to the wilds of Montana for the season feels like coming home—even with reminders of the partner she lost last season still lingering in the air. One of the best of this year’s rookie crop, Gulliver Curry is a walking contradiction, a hotshot firefighter with a big vocabulary and a winter job at a kids’ arcade. And though Rowan, as a rule, doesn’t hook up with other smoke jumpers, Gull is convinced he can change her mind… But everything is thrown off balance, when a dark presence lashes out against Rowan, looking to blame someone for last year’s tragedy. Rowan knows she can’t complicate things with Gull—any distractions in the air or on the ground could be lethal. But if she doesn’t find someone she can lean on when the heat gets intense, her life may go down in flames.
Set in rural Montana in the early 1990s, emily m. danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a powerful and widely acclaimed YA coming-of-age novel in the tradition of the classic Annie on My Mind. Cameron Post feels a mix of guilt and relief when her parents die in a car accident. Their deaths mean they will never learn the truth she eventually comes to—that she’s gay. Orphaned, Cameron comes to live with her old-fashioned grandmother and ultraconservative aunt Ruth. There she falls in love with her best friend, a beautiful cowgirl. When she’s eventually outed, her aunt sends her to God’s Promise, a religious conversion camp that is supposed to “cure” her homosexuality. At the camp, Cameron comes face to face with the cost of denying her true identity. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and provocative literary debut that was a finalist for the YALSA Morris Award and was named to numerous “best” lists.
Michael Dorris has crafted a fierce saga of three generations of Indian women, beset by hardships and torn by angry secrets, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of kinship. Starting in the present day and moving backward, the novel is told in the voices of the three women: fifteen-year-old part-black Rayona; her American Indian mother, Christine, consumed by tenderness and resentment toward those she loves; and the fierce and mysterious Ida, mother and grandmother whose haunting secrets, betrayals, and dreams echo through the years, braiding together the strands of the shared past.
In this prizewinning portrait of a time and place — Montana in the 1930s — that at once inspires and fulfills a longing for an explicable past, Ivan Doig has created one of the most captivating families in American fiction, the McCaskills.
The witty and haunting narration, a masterpiece of vernacular in the tradition of Twain, follows the events of the Two Medicine country’s summer: the tide of sheep moving into the high country, the capering Fourth of July rodeo and community dance, and an end-of-August forest fire high in the Rockies that brings the book, as well as the McCaskill family’s struggle within itself, to a stunning climax. It is a season of escapade as well as drama, during which fourteen-year-old Jick comes of age. Through his eyes we see those nearest and dearest to him at a turning point — “where all four of our lives made their bend” — and discover along with him his own connection to the land, to history, and to the deep-fathomed mysteries of one’s kin and one’s self.
Originally published more than fifty years ago, The Big Sky is the first of A. B. Guthrie Jr.’s epic adventure novels set in the American West. Here he introduces Boone Caudill, Jim Deakins, and Dick Summers: traveling the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Rockies, these frontiersmen live as trappers, traders, guides, and explorers. The story centers on Caudill, a young Kentuckian driven by a raging hunger for life and a longing for the blue sky and brown earth of big, wild places. Caught up in the freedom and savagery of the wilderness, Caudill becomes an untamed mountain man, whom only the beautiful daughter of a Blackfoot chief dares to love.
His name is Connor Ford and he falls like an angel of mercy from the sky, braving the flames to save the woman he loves but knows he cannot have. For Julia Bishop is the partner of his best friend and fellow “smoke jumper,” Ed Tully. Julia loves them both–until a fiery tragedy on Montana’s Snake Mountain forces her to choose between them, and burns a brand on all their hearts.
When Jack Mercy died, he left behind a ranch worth nearly twenty million dollars. Now his three daughters—each born of a different mother, and each unknown by the others—are gathered to hear the reading of the will. But the women are shocked to learn that before any of them can inherit, they must live together on the ranch for one year. For Tess, a screenwriter who just wants to collect her cash and get back to Hollywood, it’s a nightmare. For Lily, on the run from her abusive ex-husband, it’s a refuge. And for Willa—who grew up on the ranch—it’s an intrusion into her rightful home. They are sisters…and strangers. Now they face a challenge: to put their bitterness aside and live like a family. To protect each other from danger—and unite against a brutal enemy who threatens to destroy them all.
The worst hard-rock mining disaster in American history began a half hour before midnight on June 8, 1917, when fire broke out in the North Butte Mining Company’s Granite Mountain shaft. Sparked more than two thousand feet below ground, the fire spewed flames, smoke, and poisonous gas through a labyrinth of underground tunnels. Within an hour, more than four hundred men would be locked in a battle to survive. Within three days, one hundred and sixty-four of them would be dead. Fire and Brimstone recounts the remarkable stories of both the men below ground and their families above.
When fifteen-year-old Dell Parsons’ parents rob a bank, his sense of normal life is forever altered. In an instant, this private cataclysm drives his life into before and after, a threshold that can never be uncrossed. His parents’ arrest and imprisonment mean a threatening and uncertain future for Dell and his twin sister, Berner. Willful and burning with resentment, Berner flees their home in Montana, abandoning her brother and her life. But Dell is not completely alone. A family friend intervenes, spiriting him across the Canadian border, in hopes of delivering him to a better life. There, afloat on the prairie of Saskatchewan, Dell is taken in by Arthur Remlinger, an enigmatic and charismatic American whose cool reserve masks a dark and violent nature.
What happens when a New York City opera singer flees to a small town in Montana to escape a stalker? Tracy Fontaine is about to find out. When an obsessive fan forces Tracy to change her name to Grace Addison and go into hiding, the last thing she wants is to get to know the locals. Now, not one but two men have worked their way into her daily routine, much to the chagrin of jealous local girl Sophia, who insists on prying into Grace’s past and stirring up deadly trouble. Will Grace find love in Madison Falls…or will her stalker find her? Madison Falls. Home of faith, love, peach pie…and a dollop of danger.
Janessa Greene is leaving Thornton Springs. All she’s ever wanted is to attend cooking school in Seattle. But when a big-shot rodeo rider comes to work on her family’s Montana ranch, Janessa’s determined not to let the cowboy distract her from her goal no matter how charming he is.