How to Get Started Reading Louis L’amour

by on November 6th, 2010
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One of the first “adult” authors I began to read as I grew up was Louis L’amour. My father read him, as well as my grandfather and uncles. I loved history and the old west so it seemed natural that I would pick up where they left off. I don’t remember the first L’amour novel I read, but I know over the years I have read everything he has written, which is more than 130 novels plus short story compilations. It might be the fan talking, but I don’t think I have ever read a bad book by Louis L’amour. Sure there are some that are much better than others, but they are all worth a read.

L’amour wrote mainly western stories, but he did dabble many times in other eras. He got his start writing adventure stories for the pulp magazines that took place during World War II in the Pacific. He wrote about private detectives, boxers, sailors, pilots and freighter captains. He wrote about modern day heroes as well. L’amour made the land and the characters that inhabited them come alive and that’s why his books keep me coming back for more and they always will. If you love history and you have never read Louis L’amour then this article is for you. Below is a list of some of L’amour’s best and well known novels. This list is in no particular order it is just a few titles that will get you hooked on one of America’s best authors.

The Walking Drum (1984)

This one is my favorite L’amour book. It’s not a western but is set in 12th century Europe and follows Mathurin Kerbouchard as he sets out to find his father. This book is full of L’amour’s philosophy about life, education and humanity. A must read for anyone picking up one of his books for the first time.

The Last of the Breed (1986)

While not a western, L’amour still draws on all the things that made his heroes strong. This story takes place in 1980’s Russia and is about a Native American Air Force pilot who is shot down off the coast of Alaska and captured by the Russians. The story is his escape and fight for survival in Russia and Siberia. This is one of L’amour’s last books before he died and is one of his best.

Reilly’s Luck (1970)

This is a revenge story. Will Reilly is gunned down in cold blood. A boy he had taken in is left abandoned and grows up vowing revenge. A very well written story and one of his best westerns.

Sitka (1957)

This is a bit of a coming of age story where we follow Jean LaBarge from a boy in Pennsylvania to adulthood and the wilds of Alaska. Not a western in the true sense of the word but it is one heck of an adventure story.

Comstock Lode (1981)

Another one of my favorites. This is one of L’amour’s more epic novels and takes place in Virginia City, Nevada during its boom years. This too follows the story of a child who grows up to seek revenge and ends up being a part of the rich history of the west.

This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Sackett series: L’amour’s family of gunfighters, cowboys, and all-around adventurers. With the arrival of Barnabas Sackett in the 1600s to America, and the settling of the west after the Civil War this family has seen it all. There are many short story compilations such as “Yondering” or “End of the Drive.” Take your pick, you can’t go wrong. Enjoy one of America’s best storytellers. His books are worth reading over and over again, so what are you waiting for?

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