The Ten Best Books Set in Colorado

This summer has been too damn hot to do much of anything outside. That makes it the perfect time to stay inside, pour yourself a lemonade (maybe with some coconut rum), curl up by the air-conditioner (if you have one) and read a book. To make your session seem more place-appropriate, choose from this list of ten great reads set right here in Colorado. It’s like going for a hike in the mountains, only more…comfortable.

10. The Quick and the Dead, by Louis L’Amour
Many of Louis L’Amour’s workmanlike and entertaining novels are set in our state (Treasure Mountain, parts of the Sackett series, etc.). But that's no surprise, as L’Amour was a Durango resident for much of his writing life. This one is knock-down, scuffle-in-the-dust, gunslingin’ fun and more than earns its spot on a Colorado-lit list.

9. Battlefield Earth, by L. Ron Hubbard
This epic novel has been a love/hate legend in sci-fi circles for decades now. If you can put aside Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard’s failings overall and devotee John Travolta’s terrible movie from the turn of the millennium (which was set here, but not filmed here), you can enjoy this book for what it is: futuristic sci-fi fiction set, at least in part, in the Colorado Springs area. Makes total sense.

8. The Ringer, by Jenny Shank
This novel from 2011 is something of a love song to Denver itself, featuring family drama, police-department scandals, and dads coaching their kids’ teams…badly. So pretty much every Saturday in Highlands Ranch? No, more entertaining than that.

7. Kings of Colorado, by David E. Hilton
Violence takes center stage in this vibrant tale set at a boys' ranch — really a juvenile reformatory penitentiary — in the Colorado mountains of the 1960s. Evocative and harsh in both detail and tone, the book is a coming-of-age story with a hardscrabble edge: the uncommonly steep climb out of adolescence.

6. Orange Mint and Honey, by Carleen Brice
Carleen Brice’s love song to Denver is mothers and daughters, responsibility and running away, used vinyl and alcohol, and the ghost of blues great Nina Simone. If that’s not enough to make you want to pick up this story of a twenty-something African-American former grad student trying to make a new life in her old home town, then maybe the Lifetime movie based upon it will strike your fancy.

Keep reading for five more books set in Colorado.

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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen