By Sidney Williams
Montana is one of the few places left in this country which still retains some of its natural mystery. There’s still wildlife everywhere, thousands of square miles left without human influence, and the natural beauty is almost unmatched. Unfortunately, for most, it’s a little hard to immerse yourself in that sort of environment, cities dominate, and even trying to leave the city, most states have very few places as devoid of human existence and Montana. I grew up in Idaho, which is similar, but to a less grandiose scale, so now living in San Diego California I’m beginning to wonder “how can I try to put myself back into the laid back atmosphere of unspoiled nature?” Now, it would be natural to think that I should seek out books about Idaho, really put me at home, but Idaho is where I went to high school, started college, experienced heart breaks, it’s home, but if I want to escape completely, it may not be the best place to seek out. So, Montana it is; close enough to be homey, but not so familiar that I allow my mind back into deep ruts. Now, it is time to explore the available literature.
The best books set in Montana are Fear No Evil, The Horse Whisperer, Moonglow Café, the Vampire Academy series, A River Runs Through It, Death Al Dente, and Missoula.
Each of these choices put you into the Montana environment and provide you a rich story with interesting characters. Although my personal taste seeped in here (mystery novels, and a campy vampire series) I would not hesitate to recommend any of these to a friend. So, let’s dive into my recommendations.
Fear no Evil by James Patterson
This is the 27th book in Patterson’s long running and well loved Alex Cross detective series. Despite this, it is still very possible to read and enjoy each book as a standalone, but if you find you like the character and writing, reading the rest will give you some context on the growth and traits of some characters. Starting with the death of a crooked CIA agent, the book quickly shifts back to Cross and his vacation to Montana turns deadly with the only choice being to fight. The book matches the rest of the series as far as thrills go and with the added backdrop of the Montana wilds, this should both scratch your adrenaline and Montana itch.
The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans
One of the best selling books of all time, and garnering a popular movie. Nicholas Evans transports his characters from upstate New York to Montana to try to heal the trauma from the death and injury that opens the book. It’s heartfelt and animal centered, perfect if you like a good horse story.
The Moonglow Cafe by Deborah Garner
This is the second book in the cozy mystery series focusing on Paige MacKenzie, a New York reporter investigating the sapphires of Timberton Montana. Unlike most cozy mysteries, Moonglow Cafe doesn’t focus on a murder, but more on a sort of town-wide mystery. It has romance, and is separate enough from the other books in the series that you can start at book two with no difficulties.
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Another series that I’m recommending in this list, a fun and campy vampire series riding the waves of the initial Twilight rage. Certainly no Shakespeare, but if you’re looking for something campy with vampires, and still want some Montana backdrop and settings, this series gives you an option to consume that.
A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
Norman Maclean started writing fiction in his 70s after retiring from professorship at the University of Chicago. A set of novella paralleling the author’s life, A River Runs Through It is now 25 years old, and it’s just as memorable now as it was then. The stories put you in the shoes of a young logger in the Montana woods. Each story is focused on showing that life’s beauty is extremely close to art, showcasing a simpler time before a large amount of industrialization and painting a picture of how beautiful life can really be.
Death Al Dente by Leslie Budewitz
A pretty traditional cozy mystery series. The main character is a market owner in a foodie town in Montana. I love book series that slowly build on each other through capsule stories, it builds the world around each character establishing great depth. The food lovers village mystery series is a rather similar idea to the booktown mysteries but with food as the central theming, it’s interesting and appeals to the wannabe chef within me.
Missoula Jon Krakhauer
Not exactly the “escape to the country” that I opened this blog wanting, but it is Montana, and it is an important investigation. Missoula looks at the stories of several rape victims linked to the University of Montana. This reminds me of a true crime podcast, but in book form. If you’re into those podcasts and want to look at how sexual assault is interacted with in a college town, Jon Krakhauer has your back.
I hope that at least one of these books tickles your interest. If not, try checking out https://www.mappit.net/bookmap/regions/4410/montana/ which catalogs all the books set in a specified area, in this case Montana!
When Norman Maclean sent the manuscript of A River Runs through It and Other Stories to New York publishers, he received a slew of rejections. One editor, so the story goes, replied, “it has trees in it.” Forty years later, the title novella is recognized as one of the great American tales of the twentieth century, and Maclean as one of the most beloved writers of our time.
Caught in a web of assassins, Alex Cross enters the final battle with the all-knowing genius who has stalked him and his family for years.Dr.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “A compelling portrait of three people who love each other but can't break through the self-created walls that keep them apart.”—Chicago Sun-Times
New York reporter Paige MacKenzie has a hidden motive when she heads to the small town of Timberton, Montana. Assigned to research the area's unique Yogo sapphires for the Manhattan Post, she hopes to reconnect romantically with handsome cowboy Jake Norris.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • “A devastating exposé of colleges and local law enforcement.... A substantive deep dive into the morass of campus sex crimes, where the victim is too often treated like the accused.” —Entertainment Weekly
FIRST IN THE NEW CULINARY MYSTERY SERIES!--WINNER OF THE AGATHA AWARD FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL
Enter the complete saga of the international #1 bestselling Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead—soon to be a major motion picture!