Best of Denver

The Ten Best Books by Coloradans

The author passed away this winter, but his books live on.
Clive Cussler Facebook
The author passed away this winter, but his books live on.
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We've compiled lists of some of the best Colorado-related music, movies and books, which you can enjoy in the privacy of your own home. We've already shared our list of the ten best books about Colorado; here are the ten best by Coloradans.

click to enlarge LITTLE, BROWN & CO
Little, Brown & Co
Raise the Titanic!
Clive Cussler

Okay, so the title has a super-cheesy exclamation point, but you can’t argue with the success of this, Clive Cussler’s commercial breakthrough novel, with nary a DiCaprio or Winslet in sight. Not that Cussler was afraid of a little cheese in his work — on the contrary, he embraced it and used it to its best effect, creating plots and characters that drew readers in and held them tight...just as those readers were holding their breaths, chapter to chapter. Cussler was in the crop of inaugural inductees to the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame last year, and just passed in February 2020—but his stories live on.

The Daybreakers
Louis L’Amour

It may have become the sixth book in the ultimate timeline of the Sacketts, but The Daybreakers was the first book written by Louis L’Amour about the hugely popular frontier family moving west and fighting to keep what was theirs. A seminal Western from one of the legends of the genre.

University of Oklahoma Press
Chief Left Hand
Margaret Coel

Fourth-generation Coloradan Margaret Coel has enjoyed a decades-long run of fiction successes, starting with her 1995 novel The Eagle Catcher, which kicked off her popular and influential Wind River mystery series. Coel’s works have won five Colorado Book Awards overall and hit the bestseller list several times — and Chief Left Hand, her nonfiction biography of the legendary Arapaho chief, has never gone out of print since its publication in 1981. That’s some staying power.

Mad Boy
Nick Arvin

Denver novelist Nick Arvin has become known for his engaging writing and fascinating concepts, from Articles of War (Colorado Book Award winner in 2006) to The Reconstructionist to short-story collection In the Electric Eden. With his second Colorado Book Award-winning novel Mad Boy, Arvin tackles the War of 1812 in what Colorado author Laird Hunt calls “a brilliant musket-blast of a novel.” And it won the Colorado Book Award for literary fiction in 2019, Arvin's second (and probably not his last).

click to enlarge ANCHOR BOOKS
Anchor Books
Into the Wild
Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer lives and writes in Boulder, but his best-known works have taken place far away from the Centennial State. His first book, Into the Wild, takes place in Alaska, telling the story of Christopher McCandless, who gave up most of his early life, adopted the name Alexander Supertramp and took to the wilds of the Stampede Trail. Krakauer’s book relates how McCandless was found dead after 113 days — and, more important, why.

click to enlarge W.W. NORTON & CO
W.W. Norton & Co
Cowboys Are My Weakness
Pam Houston

Pam Houston, who lives “near the headwaters of the Rio Grande,” enjoyed a breakthrough into the literary stratosphere with this, her first collection of short fiction, in 1992. It’s still one of her best, a gathering of wry, wise and funny stories about men and women, about romance and place, about the outdoors and all things flora and fauna that inhabit it.

Ask the Dust
John Fante

John Fante was born in Denver, raised in Boulder, and studied briefly at the University of Colorado before dropping out and moving to Southern California, where he wrote the “great Los Angeles novel” Ask the Dust. The book is a fictionalized autobiography of sorts, about a writer from Denver struggling to make a name and career in L.A. during the Depression. One of the best Denver writers you've probably never heard of.

click to enlarge HARPER COLLINS
Harper Collins
Stephen Graham Jones

A book about werewolves makes a best-books list? Yes, yes it does, when it’s from Stephen Graham Jones and genre-bends with the best of them. Besides, Mongrels is about more than just lycanthropy and adding to the mythic lore, though it does that with aplomb. This, like much of the work by this member of the Blackfeet tribe, is about community and belonging, about finding a place in the world, about the invention and reinvention of the self. And, of course, silver bullets.

Doomsday Book
Connie Willis

Connie Willis’s 1992 sci-fi time-travel novel won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and was short-listed for many others. And with good reason: It started a popular series of Oxford time-traveling historian books and boasts a female protagonist, to boot — something that the genre didn’t see much of back in the day, or even now.

click to enlarge CITY LIGHTS BOOKS
City Lights Books
The Fall of America
Allen Ginsberg

You probably know Allen Ginsberg primarily for his signature work "Howl," but the Boulder poet boasted an impressive publication list — and this collection from 1974 is one of his best. It won the National Book Award for Poetry, and deals with issues both overtly political (the moon landing and American politics) and revealingly private (the death of his friend and former lover, Denverite Neal Cassady). In an already noteworthy career, this collection is a standout.

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