Louis L’Amour’s Library and Reading List

Surviving the Wild is a true story about Louis L’Amour’s adventures in survival, recounted by his son. It was originally published as a serial before it was released into book form. Along with this book, read these other books to better understand what kind of man L’Amour was: The Journals of Lewis and Clark
Category: Survival
Introduction: One could argue that this account from an unnamed narrator who lived through the travels and expeditions made by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark during their famous expedition across North America – or at least he claims to have done so – would be one way for you to learn more about the personalities behind such an important part of American history.

Louis L’Amour is an American author who wrote about the Old West. He has written over 100 books, including novels and short stories. Louis L’Amour’s Library and Reading List is a website that offers free access to his works.

Welcome back to our series on famous men’s libraries. The great men of history were typically ardent readers, and their philosophy is a distillation of all the great texts that they consumed. This series aims to track their line of thought all the way back to the source. “Don’t follow your mentors; follow your mentors’ mentors,” as David Leach, a now-retired corporate leader, put it.

There are a few names that come up again and over again when it comes to the top books and writers in the Western genre of literature. Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, Zane Grey, and, of course, Louis L’Amour are among the authors who have influenced me. L’Amour authored nearly 100 volumes throughout his prolific career, the majority of which were novels, but also a dozen short story collections and one outstanding autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man, which is more of a log of his voracious reading than a life tale (note: all quotes in this piece are from that book). Despite having spent his whole adult life producing poetry and tales, he did not get a single book published until 1951, when he was in his early 40s.

Despite the fact that he is seldom commended for writing beautiful or lyrical language, L’Amour is one of the top 25 bestselling writers of all time, and when you question grandpas — indeed, as a category — about their favorite authors, he seems to be at the top of practically everyone’s list. L’Amour writes with a realism that is hard to equal in the genre, mixing both romance and the reality of life in the West. His action sequences are fantastic, but his vivid renderings of the terrain, horses and horsemanship, and the motions and habits of American Indians are even more impressive. Few people have spent as much time researching and living in the West as L’Amour.

Louis l'amour camping drinking coffee outside.

L’Amour’s only counterpart as a reader could have been Theodore Roosevelt himself. The Western author has a collection of over 10,000 volumes and read an average of 100-120 books each year, “reading around thirty novels on the West in its numerous facets” for fun and to keep on top of his game as a writer.

He didn’t only read books; he also read periodicals, newspapers, and even pamphlets and brochures from tiny towns. He pointed out that it was in smaller collections of the written word that one could get down to the nitty gritty of comprehending things, and that “they are frequently useful complements to the bigger pages of history.”

He was also a big fan of Little Blue Books, which are compact, pocket-sized educational pamphlets. He said he “carried ten or fifteen of them in my pockets, reading when I could,” and claimed he had “read several hundred” of them.

In truth, Louis L’Amour’s life is essentially about his love of literature. He said regarding his desire to be a successful writer, “I want to be a successful writer because I want to be a successful writer because I want to be a

“Success has meant just two things to me: a decent life for my family and the money to purchase books and continue this wandering man’s education.”

 

Let’s take a look at L’Amour’s life and how he became such an ardent reader before we look at the individual books that impacted him.

The Beginnings of Louis L’Amour’s Passion for the Written Word

Young louis l'amour portrait.

Louis was born in 1908 in Jamestown, North Dakota, the seventh and last child of Louis and Emily LaMoore (the younger Louis subsequently altered his last name to L’Amour — its original form — to commemorate his French ancestors’ history).

His family had a little library when he was a kid, but it was at the library that his passion of reading blossomed. Louis’s older sister, Edna, worked as a librarian, and he spent many hours in the stacks researching topics that his education just touched on.

Further reading and conversation at home solidified the learning:

“Ours had a household where everyone was always reading, and literature, politics, history, and prize ring events were discussed at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

“Reading was as natural to us as breathing,” he said.

The family relocated to Oklahoma in 1923 due to financial troubles, and Louis dropped out of high school to work as an itinerant laborer; while he doesn’t disclose many personal details, it’s probable he went it alone since he didn’t want to be a financial burden at home. From forestry in the Pacific Northwest to cattle skinning in Texas, the young man worked his way across the nation (and the globe), choosing any job that would feed him and allow him to continue his education.

When his former high school friends graduated, L’Amour was really tramping across the Far East aboard freighters — notably, Singapore. He recalls reading Departmental Ditties, a poetry anthology by AoM favorite Rudyard Kipling, at the time.

L’Amour’s life consisted of a succession of physical labor occupations until WWII. He worked as an abandoned mine guardian (protecting against thieves and vagabonds), a ditch digger, a cargo officer on ships, a logging inspector, and an amateur boxer, among other things. “I was seldom without a book,” the bachelor said, “taking one with me everywhere I went and reading at every chance.”

L’Amour understood even back then that he intended to earn a life as a writer, ideally as a poet. So he wrote while he wasn’t reading or working. When his poetry failed to sell, he turned to short stories in a variety of genres, including Far East adventures, boxing tales, and Westerns. He wrote about almost everything. Finally, in the late 1930s, his works began to be accepted by the prominent pulp publications of the day.  

Then came World War II. Louis served stateside as a winter survival teacher (using abilities developed growing up in North Dakota), as well as two years in Europe commanding a fleet of gas tankers, despite the fact that he was too old to experience actual combat at the age of 35. As you would expect, he devoured the Armed Services Editions of the popular works of the day during the war.

 

When Louis returned from the war, magazines and publishers were searching for mysteries and Westerns instead of the adventure tales that had previously been successful for him. They were all the rage at the time. Given the amount of traveling and working L’Amour did in the West, that’s the path he took, not because he was particularly fond of it, but because it was where the market was driving him and where he eventually achieved success. After over 100 short stories were published over the following decade or so, he eventually had his first book, Westward the Tide, published in 1951.

He continued to publish many novels every year after that. He married Kathy Adams in 1956, and the couple had a son, Beau, in 1961, and a daughter, Angelique, in 1962. (1964). Details about Louis’ family life are few (he was a reclusive man), but he kept up his voracious reading and writing until his death in 1988.

The Reading Philosophy of Louis L’Amour

Louis l'amour in his large home library.

1. Reading is the foundation of your education. Despite the fact that Louis did not complete high school and obtained only honorary college degrees later in life, he acquired a thorough education via his own efforts. He recognized that he would need to be educated in order to be successful, and that college was not in the cards for him. As a result, he pursued an autodidactic education on his own initiative:   

“Education has been so closely associated with schools, colleges, and professors that many people believe there is no other option, although education is accessible to anybody who can go to a library.”

What did he want to gain from his self-taught education? What did he expect to get out of it? He goes on to say:

“If you ask me what education should provide, I’d say it should provide a broad range of perspectives, ease of understanding, tolerance for others, and a foundation from which the mind may explore in any direction.” Education should give the skills for broadening and expanding one’s perspective on life, as well as a greater appreciation for all one sees or experiences. It should enable a person to live a fulfilling life and to comprehend what is going on around him.”

Reading should broaden your horizons and expose you to fresh ideas. It has the ability to and should give frameworks and the fundamental basis for a happy existence. That is why Louis credits books with saving his life; without them, he would have been a perpetual nomad, dying too young in a workplace accident or a street brawl (as many acquaintances of his did).

2. You have the opportunity to read. Make reading a priority.

“I often hear individuals claim that they don’t have time to read. That is just rubbish. I read twenty-five novels while waiting for someone in the one year that I maintained such a record. In offices, while searching for employment, while waiting to visit a dentist, while waiting for friends in a restaurant, and many other places. On buses, trains, and flights, I read. If one really wants to learn, one must first choose what is most essential. Are you planning a night out on the town? Are you going to a baseball game? Or do you want to learn something that will stay with you for the rest of your life?”

 

The numerous idle moments in life are brimming with opportunities. Allow them to be used for anything other than looking through Instagram or playing the newest craze game. Crack out a book and grab a spot of reading the next time you find yourself with a short gap of time.

3. Read what’s there in front of you, as well as what’s fascinating and enjoyable.

“A reader reads whatever the book is.”

Louis’ reading was mostly influenced by what was accessible to him wherever he worked. There wasn’t much choice in what he read, particularly in his early years, from little booksellers abroad to borrowing novels from shipmates.

Our current position is a little different for the majority of us. There are books all over the place. Perhaps there are too many books. You may get a paperback for a $1 at a secondhand bookstore or Goodwill (or even less sometimes).

Our issue is that we have too much choice, which causes us to become paralyzed. I have hundreds of unread books in my personal collection — both physically and online — and I frequently simply look at it, hoping to find the right title to read next (sometimes even before I’ve completed anything). Don’t get caught up in the limitless list of possibilities; simply select one and start reading.

This goes against Emerson’s reading advise, but if you just need to read more or get started reading, then this is the way to go. Instead of hunting for the ideal book that will make you seem sophisticated, read what’s there in front of you and what you’ll genuinely love. As L’Amour puts it,

“My recommendation to individuals who have never read is to read what interests you. Reading is enjoyable. Reading is a thrilling experience. It doesn’t matter what you read initially; what matters is that you read.”

4. Consider what you’re learning and share it with others.

“Learning isn’t enough; life is about sharing, and I must contribute what I have for whatever it’s worth.”

Sharing is a part of living. Isn’t it a fantastic concept? Make a point of sharing what you’re reading and learning with others. Start a book club (my wife and I have been in one for many months and love it). Make a blog article or a Facebook status update with some inspiring quotations. At the dinner table, share your observations, questions, and views with your family.

Make it a point to ponder about your reading throughout the day, particularly in periods of isolation, rather than merely sharing it:

“A book is more essential for what it makes you think than for what it says.”  

You’ll have more enlightening insights to offer with others if you take the time to think about what an author (or character) has said or done. You’ll be able to build more complex mental models and integrate disparate concepts in novel ways – skills that are in great demand in our Google-driven society, where rote facts are available in seconds but deeper analysis is uncommon. When doing mundane physical jobs like gardening or cleaning the dishes, it’s very easy to fall into this trap. “I often pondered about what I had been reading while chipping rust or touching up paint,” L’Amour said. You’d be well-served if you followed suit.

 

5. Check out what others have written!

“I’ve loved delving into the reading habits of many great men and women, and I’ve attempted to get a list of the books in their libraries whenever feasible….” I believed that by knowing the books these men and women read, I would be able to have a better understanding of the fundamental origins of some of their views.”

I was ecstatic to learn that L’Amour was a voracious reader who researched the reading habits and libraries of individuals he liked. That’s what this series is all about, and I have to believe he’d be pleased that others are interested in his habits and collections in order to learn and improve as readers.

What makes the reading list below special is that we receive not only a title for many of them, but also what L’Amour thought of and took away from them. It’s a lot of fun to go through the list. This list just scratches the surface of the books listed in Education of a Wandering Man. If you’re a reader, which you should be, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Mine is strewn with underlining and marginalia, and I’m sure I’ll come back to it again and again.

A Selected Reading List by Louis L’Amour

  • James Tod’s Rajahstan Annals and Antiquities — “a source for numerous projected publications”
  • Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “One of the first novels I read” was Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
  • I’m not sure whose book this is since he doesn’t specify the author, but his recollection of it was too wonderful to pass up: “when my father got home, I would sit on his knee and tell him what I read throughout the day.”
  • Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty
  • “A slew of Horatio Alger books”
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars
  • Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe
  • Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur
  • Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers — “It was a fantastic day when I found on the library shelves a collection of forty-eight novels by Dumas, and I read them all.”
  • “The last-named was my favorite,” says Victor Hugo of Les Miserables, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Man Who Laughs, and Toilers of the Sea.
  • James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales (a series of five books) – “I had a good time with them.”
  • “A tale about a dog, and a nice yarn,” says Richard Harding Davis of The Bar Sinister.
  • “It prepared me for the rejections to come, and the trouble I would have in being published,” says Jack London of Martin Eden. The Sea Wolf, The Call of the Wild (“another fantastic canine tale”) are also by London.
  • “An interesting, romantic narrative,” according to Arthur Conan Doyle’s The White Company.
  • Alain Rene Lesage’s The Adventures of Gil Blas — “On the prairies of West Texas, I read it not once, but twice.”
  • Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote is “marvelous stuff.”
  • Shakespeare’s Hamlet – “[Shakespeare] was the ultimate professional, a writer who always understood what he was doing.”
  • “I frequently thought how similar some of his characters were folks I had known,” says Homer in The Odyssey and The Iliad.
  • James Boswell’s biography of Samuel Johnson is “without a doubt one of the best biographies in the English language.” It was a book I took my time reading, and I went back to reread sections of it many times.”
  • Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim — “I’ve read it multiple times… and it was a true find for me.”
  • Friedrich Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo, The Birth of Tragedy, Thus Spake Zarathustra, and The Will to Power
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment – “I was startled and pleased by this work.” I went back to reread portions of the book many times.”
  • “Read it again,” says Rudyard Kipling of Kim.  
  • Voltaire’s Candide – “it was a revelation.” I adored it and read it again right away.”  
  • “One of the key works of the westward migration” is Gregg’s Commerce of the Prairies.
  • George Custer’s My Life on the Plains
  • Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Vegetius’ The Military Institutions of the Romans, and Carl von Clausewitz’s On War — “military tactics have piqued my curiosity since I was a kid”
  • “The finest novel to come out of World War I,” according to Arnold Zweig, “although Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front gained more attention and was a superb book as well.”
  • Plutarch’s Lives – “I’ve had characters reading Plutarch in many of my western books. I think his Lives have been read by more great men than any other book, with the exception of the Bible… I’ve come across him often when studying the reading histories or libraries of great individuals, and with good reason. His is a smart, urbane intellect that deals with leadership issues.”
  • Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince
  • Stendhal’s The Red and the Black
  • Wuthering Heights is a novel written by Emily Bronte. Emily Bronte’s poem
  • Henry David Thoreau’s Walden
  • Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not, as well as his novella “Fifty Grand” – “one of the finest battle stories ever written.” Another is Jack London’s ‘The Mexican.’” “I admired Hemingway’s short tales more than his books,” L’Amour stated.
  • “An outstanding work and one of the essential texts on that element of the west,” says Joseph McCoy, author of Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade. Another is J. Frank Dobie’s The Longhorns.”
  • Andy Adams’ The Log of a Cowboy
  • “I managed to remain up most of the night to complete the narrative…” says Olive Dixon of The Life of Billy Dixon. I reread the book recently and found it to be as as wonderful as I recalled.”
  • James Gillett’s Six Years With the Texas Rangers
  • “I find it has a lot to give,” says the Koran.
  • John Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel
  • Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West – “read, but by too few”

 

 

Louis L’Amour is one of the most popular authors in history. His books have been translated into over 30 languages, and he has sold more than 250 million copies worldwide. He is best known for his novels about the American West. Reference: louis l’amour quotes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the order of Louis Lamour books?

A: The order of Louis Lamour books is listed below.
1. Go Down, Moses
2. Iola Leroy
3. Summertime
4. Elmer Gantry 5 .The People Could Fly

What was Louis L Amours best selling book?

A: The book, The Old Man and the Sea was written by Ernest Hemingway. It is one of Louis L Amours most successful books that has sold over 60 million copies worldwide since publication in 1958.

Is Louis Lamour his real name?

A: Louis Lamour was his real name.

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