Native American Fiction, especially those books authored by Native American authors, has surprisingly few popular entries, but there are a lot of good ones if you’re on the lookout.
Most of these novels are historical fiction, but there’s a couple that cross into other genres as well. The Only Good Indians is part-horror novel and the upcoming Stargazer (to be released in April 2021) is a mystery novel. This is list is meant to be books for adults, but I tacked on a few extra books for young adults, too, at the end.
There’s two authors on this list, Louise Erdrich and Sherman Alexie, who have written many popular books about Native Americans. I limited their entries on here to two each but they both have a ton of well-loved books that are worth checking out.
General Native American Novels
What It's About: Tayo, a young Native American, has been a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, and the horrors of captivity have almost eroded his will to survive. His return to the Laguna Pueblo reservation only increases his feeling of estrangement and alienation. While other returning soldiers find easy refuge in alcohol and senseless violence, Tayo searches for another kind of comfort and resolution...Publication Date: December 26, 2006
What It's About: Librarian's note: An alternate cover edition can be found here
One of the most revered novelists of our time - a brilliant chronicler of Native-American life - Louise Erdrich returns to the territory of her bestselling, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves with The Round House, transporting readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota...Publication Date: October 2, 2012
What It's About: Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman...Publication Date: March 3, 2020
What It's About: Eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. She dreams of a fresh start at college, but when family tragedy strikes, Daunis puts her future on hold to look after her fragile mother. The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team...Publication Date: March 16, 2021
What It's About: Librarian's note: See alternate cover edition of ISBN 0061787426 here.
Set on and around a North Dakota reservation, ‘Love Medicine’ tells the story of the Lamartines and the Kashpaws – two extraordinary families whose fates are united and sustained in a harsh world by the strength and diversity of their love...Publication Date: August 23, 2016
What It's About: Tommy Orange's wondrous and shattering novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Among them is Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind...Publication Date: June 5, 2018
What It's About: The creeping horror of Paul Tremblay meets Tommy Orange’s There There in a dark novel of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.
Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives...Publication Date: July 14, 2020
What It's About: Murder, deception, Navajo tradition, and the stars collide in this enthralling entry in New York Times bestselling author Anne Hillerman’s Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito series, set amid the beautiful landscape of the American Southwest.
What begins as a typical day for Officer Bernadette Manuelito—serving a bench warrant, dealing with a herd of cattle obstructing traffic, and stumbling across a crime scene—takes an unexpected twist when she’s called to help find an old friend...Publication Date: April 13, 2021
What It's About: A young Native American, Abel has come home from war to find himself caught between two worlds. The first is the world of his grandfather’s, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons, the harsh beauty of the land, and the ancient rites and traditions of his people. But the other world—modern, industrial America—pulls at Abel, demanding his loyalty, claiming his soul, and goading him into a destructive, compulsive cycle of depravity and disgust...Publication Date: December 11, 2018
What It's About: A groundbreaking thriller about a vigilante on a Native American reservation who embarks on a dangerous mission to track down the source of a heroin influx.
Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget...Publication Date: August 25, 2020
What It's About: A contemporary classic from a major writer of the Native American renaissance, now adapted for film by Alex and Andrew Smith, starring Chaske Spencer and produced by Sherman Alexie
During his life, James Welch came to be regarded as a master of American prose, and his first novel, Winter in the Blood, is one of his most enduring works...Publication Date: July 29, 2008
What It's About: Based on an Athabascan Indian legend passed along for many generations from mothers to daughters of the upper Yukon River Valley in Alaska, this is the suspenseful, shocking, ultimately inspirational tale of two old women abandoned by their tribe during a brutal winter famine.
Though these women have been known to complain more than contribute, they now must either survive on their own or die trying...Publication Date: November 5, 2013
What It's About: One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S...Publication Date: March 15, 1998
What It's About: At the age of twelve, an orphan named Will Cooper is given a horse, a key, and a map and is sent on a journey through the uncharted wilderness of the Cherokee Nation. Will is a bound boy, obliged to run a remote Indian trading post. As he fulfills his lonesome duty, Will finds a father in Bear, a Cherokee chief, and is adopted by him and his people, developing relationships that ultimately forge Will’s character...Publication Date: October 3, 2006
What It's About: Publication Date: October 1, 1994
What It's About: A bestselling tale of passion and belief, magic and adventure from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March and The Secret Chord, coming from Viking in October 2015
Bethia Mayfield is a restless and curious young woman growing up in Martha's vineyard in the 1660s amid a small band of pioneering English Puritans...Publication Date: May 1, 2011
What It's About: The 25th-anniversary edition of "a novel that in the sweep and inevitability of its events...is a major contribution to Native American literature." (Wallace Stegner)
In the Two Medicine Territory of Montana, the Lone Eaters, a small band of Blackfeet Indians, are living their immemorial life...Publication Date: October 25, 2011
What It's About: From the lore of her people, the Sioux, Power has forged a consummate work of the imagination. Set on a North Dakota reservation, this story spins a myriad of folk motifs into the fabric of reality, giving readers a narrative about the connection among generations, how the actions of ancestors can affect a contemporary life.Publication Date: January 1, 1994
What It's About: Saul Indian Horse has hit bottom. His last binge almost killed him, and now he’s a reluctant resident in a treatment centre for alcoholics, surrounded by people he’s sure will never understand him. But Saul wants peace, and he grudgingly comes to see that he’ll find it only through telling his story...Publication Date: January 27, 2012
What It's About: Rich, colorful and bursting with excitement, this remarkable story turns James Alexander Thom's power and passion for American history to the epic story of Tecumseh's life and give us a heart-thumping novel of one man's magnificent destiny--to unite his people in the struggle to save their land and their way of life from the relentless press of the white settlers.Publication Date: January 1, 1984
What It's About: First published in paperback by UNM Press in 1976, The Way to Rainy Mountain has sold over 200,000 copies.
"The paperback edition of The Way to Rainy Mountain was first published twenty-five years ago. One should not be surprised, I suppose, that it has remained vital, and immediate, for that is the nature of story...Publication Date: September 1, 1976
What It's About: Ordered to hold an abandoned army post, John Dunbar found himself alone, beyond the edge of civilization. Thievery and survival soon forced him into the Indian camp, where he began a dangerous adventure that changed his life forever. Relive the adventure and beauty of the incredible movie, Dances with Wolves.Publication Date: November 1, 1997
Young Adult Native American Fiction
What It's About: Far off the coast of California looms a harsh rock known as the island of San Nicolas. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otter play in the vast kelp beds, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches.
Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone, and this beautifully written novel is her story...Publication Date: September 9, 1960
What It's About: "How about a story? Spin us a yarn."
Instantly, Phoebe Winterbottom came to mind. "I could tell you an extensively strange story," I warned.
"Oh, good!" Gram said. "Delicious!"
And that is how I happened to tell them about Phoebe, her disappearing mother, and the lunatic.
As Sal entertains her grandparents with Phoebe's outrageous story, her own story begins to unfold — the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother...Publication Date: January 1, 1994
What It's About: In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America's Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow, and dreams, means death for the unwilling donors...Publication Date: May 22, 2017
What It's About: In this Newbery Honor book, a thirteen-year-old boy struggles to survive on his own in the wilderness of eighteenth-century Maine.
When Matt's father leaves him on his own to guard their new cabin in the wilderness, Matt is scared but determined to be brave and prove that he can take care of himself...Publication Date: April 27, 1983
What It's About: Michael Dorris has crafted a fierce saga of three generations of Indian women, beset by hardships and torn by angry secrets, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of kinship. Starting in the present day and moving backward, the novel is told in the voices of the three women: fifteen-year-old part-black Rayona; her American Indian mother, Christine, consumed by tenderness and resentment toward those she loves; and the fierce and mysterious Ida, mother and grandmother whose haunting secrets, betrayals, and dreams echo through the years, braiding together the strands of the shared past.Publication Date: January 1, 1987
What It's About: Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot...Publication Date: September 12, 2007
What It's About: Sherman Alexie is one of our most gifted and accomplished storytellers and a treasured writer of huge national stature. His first novel in ten years is the hilarious and tragic portrait of an orphaned Indian boy who travels back and forth through time in a charged search for his true identity. With powerful and swift, prose, Flight follows this troubled foster teenager--a boy who is not a "legal" Indian because he was never claimed by his father--as he learns that violence is not the answer...Publication Date: April 17, 2007
What It's About: Lewis "Shoe" Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he's not used to is white people being nice to him -- people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force...Publication Date: July 30, 2013
You have put together another great collection of books! The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline is an amazing YA Indigenous book to add to the list.
oh awesome thank you for the tip! :)
Look forward to reading these. 😍
Thanks for the recommendations! Walk Two Moons was one of my favorite books as a kid. I’m on a waitlist for There There, so I’ll read it eventually.