Life in Colorado demands grit and a certain thirst for adventure that reaches far back to the Native Puebloans and the advent of the American cowboy. Check out this Colorado reading list as you’re planning your next Colorado adventure to immerse yourself in the history of this incredible place.

1. Centennial, James Michener

The stories of gold seekers, pioneers, Native Americans, trappers, and ranchers come together in this fictional celebration of Colorado frontier life. Michener constructed the fictional town of Centennial (that acts as the stage for this 900-page tome) as emblematic of the development of the American West.

2. Tomboy Bride: A Woman’s Personal Account of Life in Mining Camps of the West, Harriet Fish Backus

Backus chronicles her life at the turn of the 20th century as she moves from the comfort of her parents’ home in San Francisco to the silver mining town of Tomboy at 12,000 feet above sea level. From braving blizzards to a harrowing trip down to Telluride at the first signs of labor pains, Backus embraces the trials of mining life and gives readers an unprecedented glimpse into the industry and lifestyle upon which the American West was established.

3. Plainsong, Kent Haruf

This award-winning novel depicts small-town life on the Colorado plains. Striking dialogue and beautifully wrought details about the prairie landscape illuminate the characters and their lives that surround ranching on the Front Range.

4. Freak Power: Hunter S. Thompson’s Campaign for Sheriff, Daniel Joseph Watkins

A collection of photographs, original campaign print material, and political cartoons illustrates a conflicted time in the history of the town of Aspen: Hunter S. Thompson returned to the Rockies from 1968 Chicago Democrat convention determined to win the sheriff’s seat and bring liberal, bohemian values to the conservative mining town. Thompson’s musings on politics, the environment, and American values that came out of this fraught period might be some of his most interesting work.

5. House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest, Craig Childs

From the cliffs of Mesa Verde to the mesas of New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, Childs attempts to uncover the reason behind the disappearance of the Puebloan peoples from Four Corners region. His research and archeological inquiry sheds new light on this centuries-old mystery.

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