My parents were readers and instilled a love of books in my sisters and me. I remember many a happy hour as child sitting next to my mother as she read and reread my favorite books. For years, my coffee table has had a healthy pile of books on it.  Fiction. History. Mystery. Western. Biography. Memoir. You’ll find them there.

Following are some of my all-time favorites. If you’re looking for a good book to give that special someone this holiday season, maybe one of these will fit the bill.

LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry. I could read this novel ten times over and maybe I have. McMurtry develops characters like few other authors can. Who can forget Captain W. F. Call and Augustus McCrae and their epic cattle drive north? Just thinking about them and their comrades makes me want to dig into those pages again.

BLOOD BROTHER by Elliot Arnold.  Another classic, this historical novel tells the story of Cochise, the great Apache chief, and Tom Jeffords, the agent who tried to establish peace between the Indians and the U.S. government. Lots of frontier action in these pages. The movie “Broken Arrow” was based on the book.

C. J. Box’s Joe Pickett mysteries. Box’s series begins with OPEN SEASON published in 2001. But jump in wherever you can. Joe Pickett is a crime-solving, adventure-slinging Wyoming game warden, who keeps me turning the page. Rumor has it the Box is going to be at the Tucson Festival of Books March 14-15, 2020. Mark your calendars!

UNDAUNTED COURAGE: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose. I didn’t take many breaks reading this one. Ambrose is a heck of a storyteller and the Lewis and Clark expedition is a heck of a story. Worthy of the category “Required Reading for All.”

EMPIRE OF THE SUMMER MOON: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S. C. Gwynne.  Being an avid reader of western history, I was surprised at what I didn’t know about the Comanches. Their influence on the West is astounding. Gwynne is a superb writer. His new book, HYMNS OF THE REPUBLIC: The Final Year of the Civil War, is on my Christmas list (in case anyone was wondering).

UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN: A Story of Violent Faith by John Krakauer. My wife’s grandmother, Lettie Bingham, grew up in and escaped from a fundamentalist Mormon colony in Chihuahua, Mexico. Krakauer brought me right into her world with this story about two Mormon brothers who receive a commandment from God to kill.

THE EMERALD MILE: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko. I’ve done some crazy things in my life, but navigating a wooden boat down a flooded and roaring Colorado River from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead’s to break a record is not one of them. Nor would it ever be. But in 1983, it was Kenton Grau’s goal. Kevin Fedarko’s tale of Grau’s journey is riveting.

Happy shopping, Happy reading, Happy Holidays!