The Greatest "Native American" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

    The book tells the story of two retired Texas Rangers who embark on a perilous cattle drive from Texas to Montana in the 1870s. The narrative focuses on the duo's adventures and the characters they meet along the way, including a variety of outlaws, Indians, and settlers. This epic tale of the Old West explores themes of friendship, unrequited love, and the harsh realities of frontier life.

  2. 2. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

    This novel follows the life of a Catholic bishop and a vicar as they attempt to establish a diocese in New Mexico Territory. The story highlights their struggles and triumphs over the course of 40 years, dealing with the harsh landscape, cultural differences, and the challenges of faith. It also explores the history and culture of the Southwest, including the influence of Mexican and Native American traditions.

  3. 3. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

    "Love Medicine" is a novel that explores the lives of several generations of a Native American family living on a reservation in North Dakota. The narrative is presented through a series of interconnected stories, each told from the perspective of different family members, and spans over 60 years, from 1934 to 1999. The book explores themes of love, family, identity, and the struggle between tradition and modernity. It provides a deep and poignant look into the complexities of Native American life and culture, and the challenges faced by the community.

  4. 4. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown

    This book is a compelling historical narrative that chronicles the systematic decimation of Native American tribes in the United States during the late 19th century. The author uses council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions to provide a detailed account of the battles, massacres, and broken treaties that led to the destruction of the Native American way of life. The book centers on significant events such as the Battle of Little Bighorn and the Wounded Knee Massacre, offering a voice to the often overlooked Native American perspective.

  5. 5. Tristes Tropiques by Claude Lévi-Strauss

    "Tristes Tropiques" is a blend of autobiography, travel literature, and anthropology by a renowned scholar. The book is a recounting of the author's travels and anthropological work, primarily in Brazil, in the 1930s. It provides a critical and philosophical reflection on his experiences and observations, offering insights into indigenous tribes like the Nambikwara and Tupi-Kawahib, and exploring themes of cultural change, the nature of anthropology, and the author's own disillusionment with Western civilization.

  6. 6. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

    "Ceremony" is a novel that explores the life of Tayo, a World War II veteran of mixed Laguna Pueblo and white heritage. After returning from the war, Tayo struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism. The novel charts his journey towards healing, which involves embracing his Native American heritage and the traditional ceremonies of his people. Along the way, he must confront racism, poverty, and the destructive forces of Western culture, ultimately finding solace and redemption in the ancient rituals and wisdom of his ancestors.

  7. 7. Down Second Avenue by Es'kia Mphahlele

    "Down Second Avenue" is a semi-autobiographical account of a black man's life under apartheid in South Africa. The narrative chronicles the protagonist's journey from childhood to adulthood, detailing his experiences with poverty, discrimination, and the struggle for education. Despite the harsh realities of life under apartheid, the protagonist's resilience and determination shine through, offering a poignant and powerful critique of the socio-political realities of the time.

  8. 8. Indian Summer by Adalbert Stifter

    "Indian Summer" is a romantic novel set in the 19th century that narrates the story of a young man who falls in love with a woman, only to discover that she is his biological sister. The novel is a detailed exploration of the protagonist's emotional turmoil as he grapples with his feelings. The story also delves into the themes of nature, beauty, and art, with vivid descriptions of landscapes and the changing seasons. The narrative is a blend of realism and poetic symbolism, reflecting the author's philosophical insights into the human condition.

  9. 9. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

    The novel delves into the life of a young Native American man named Abel who returns home to his New Mexico Pueblo reservation after serving in World War II. Struggling with the trauma of war and the cultural dislocation caused by years away from his traditional tribal life, Abel tries to find his identity and place in a world that is torn between ancient tribal traditions and the modern white society. His journey of self-discovery and redemption is poignantly narrated, highlighting the struggles faced by Native Americans in the contemporary world.

  10. 10. Great Plains by Ian Frazier

    "Great Plains" is a travelogue that takes readers on a journey through the vast expanse of the American Great Plains, exploring its history, geography, and culture. The author travels from North Dakota to Texas, delving into the history of Native Americans, pioneers, and outlaws. The book provides a detailed account of the region, its people, and its significance in shaping the American West, offering a vivid portrait of the landscape and its influence on the country's identity.

  11. 11. Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan

    "Mean Spirit" by Linda Hogan is a gripping novel set in 1920s Oklahoma during the oil boom, where greed and violence run rampant. The story follows the lives of several interconnected characters, including members of the Osage Nation who are targeted for their newfound wealth and forced to confront a sinister conspiracy. As the tension escalates, the characters must navigate a treacherous landscape of corruption, racism, and murder, ultimately revealing the devastating consequences of unchecked power and the resilience of the human spirit.

  12. 12. Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt

    "Black Elk Speaks" is a profound narrative that recounts the life of a Native American medicine man from the Oglala Lakota tribe. It provides a unique perspective on the Lakota people's history and culture, their spiritual beliefs, and the impact of westward expansion on their way of life. The book also delves into the protagonist's personal spiritual visions, which he believes have significant prophetic and healing powers. The narrative is a poignant exploration of the clash between cultures and the devastating effects of colonization on indigenous peoples.

  13. 13. The True History of the Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Díaz del Castillo

    This book provides a first-hand account of the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish during the 16th century. It offers a detailed narrative of the events, battles, and interactions with native tribes, including the Aztecs. The author, a soldier in the Spanish army, provides a unique perspective on Hernán Cortés and his tactics, the politics of the time, and the cultural and religious practices of the indigenous people. The book also highlights the hardships, challenges, and ethical dilemmas faced by the conquistadors.

  14. 14. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

    The book is a semi-autobiographical novel that follows a Native American teenager who leaves his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white high school in a neighboring town. The protagonist grapples with his own identity, the perceptions and prejudices of his new classmates, and the harsh realities of life on the reservation. Throughout the story, he uses humor and his passion for drawing cartoons to navigate the challenges he encounters.

  15. 15. Popol Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life by Dennis Tedlock

    This book provides a comprehensive English translation of the Popol Vuh, the ancient Mayan creation myth. The narrative covers the genesis of the world, the adventures of the Hero Twins, the creation of humans, and the establishment of the Mayan civilization. The book also includes extensive commentary and notes, providing readers with a deeper understanding of the cultural and historical context of the Mayan myth.

  16. 16. The Round House by Louise Erdrich

    A teenage boy navigates the complexities of life after his mother is brutally attacked on their reservation in North Dakota. As the legal system fails to bring justice due to jurisdictional issues, the boy takes matters into his own hands. The novel explores themes of tribal law, justice, and the transition into adulthood, all set against the backdrop of Native American culture and history.

  17. 17. This Hallowed Ground by Bruce Catton

    "This Hallowed Ground" is a comprehensive, detailed account of the American Civil War, from its origins to its aftermath. The book provides a vivid narrative of the battles, political events, and key figures of the war, skillfully blending historical facts with engaging storytelling. The author's perspective as a historian and journalist brings the era to life, offering readers an in-depth understanding of this pivotal period in American history.

  18. 18. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

    This novel follows the story of a young Cherokee girl and her adoptive mother. When the mother's right to custody is challenged by the Cherokee Nation, she takes her daughter and flees, sparking a nationwide manhunt. The narrative explores themes of cultural identity, belonging, and the meaning of family, while also delving into the legal and ethical complexities of Native American adoption laws.

  19. 19. There There by Tommy Orange

    "There There" by Tommy Orange is a powerful and poignant novel that follows the lives of twelve Native American characters living in Oakland, California. As their stories intertwine and converge, the novel explores themes of identity, community, and the effects of historical trauma on Native American people. Through vivid and lyrical prose, Orange gives voice to a group of individuals who have long been marginalized and overlooked in American society, creating a compelling and unforgettable portrait of contemporary Native American life.

  20. 20. The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter

    The book is a heartwarming story of a young orphan boy of mixed ancestry who is raised by his Cherokee grandparents in the Appalachian Mountains during the Great Depression. His grandparents teach him the Cherokee way of life, including their spiritual beliefs, love for nature, respect for all living things, and the importance of tolerance and understanding. Despite the hardship and prejudice they face, they impart wisdom, love, and a unique perspective on life to the young boy.

  21. 21. Tisha by Robert Specht

    "Tisha" is a biographical novel based on the true story of a young woman who moves to the Alaskan wilderness in the 1920s to become a teacher. The protagonist faces numerous challenges including harsh weather, isolation, and cultural differences, but remains steadfast in her commitment to educate the children in her care. The story also explores her fight against racial prejudice in the community, as well as her love affair with a half-Native man.

  22. 22. Follow the River by James Alexander Thom

    "Follow the River" is a historical novel based on the true story of Mary Ingles, a woman who was captured by Shawnee Indians in 1755 during the French and Indian War. After being taken to Ohio, Mary, who was pregnant at the time of her capture, gives birth and is subsequently separated from her baby. Despite the harrowing circumstances, she manages to escape with another woman. The narrative follows her perilous 1,000-mile journey through the wilderness, back to her home in Virginia, showcasing her resilience, courage, and unwavering determination.

  23. 23. Go in Beauty by William Eastlake

    "Go in Beauty" is a novel that explores the complexities of human relationships, love, and loss against the backdrop of the Navajo Indian reservation in New Mexico. The protagonist, a New York journalist, moves to the reservation after his wife's death and becomes entangled in a love triangle with two local women. The book delves into themes of cultural clash, isolation, and the search for meaning and redemption, all set against the stark and beautiful landscape of the American Southwest.

  24. 24. The Indian Lawyer by James Welch

    The book tells the story of a Native American man who, after a successful career as a lawyer, returns to his reservation in Montana to defend a childhood friend accused of murder. Despite his accomplishments, he grapples with feelings of alienation from both the white world he's found success in and his own tribal community. As he delves into the case, he uncovers a conspiracy involving a powerful mining company, forcing him to confront his own identity and purpose.

  25. 25. The Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko

    "The Almanac of the Dead" is a complex narrative that explores the histories and struggles of indigenous peoples in the Americas, particularly in the Southwestern United States and Central America. The story is centered around a 500-year-old manuscript known as "the almanac," which prophesizes a massive, revolutionary upheaval led by the indigenous people against the oppressive forces of capitalism and colonialism. The novel delves into themes of resistance, survival, and the power of storytelling, weaving together a multitude of interconnected narratives and characters.

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!

Download

If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download