Skip to Main Content

New Mexico Authors and Books: Classics


Abbey, Edward (1927-1989)

Abbey is a well-known nature writer, best known for Desert Solitaire. He wrote two books set in New Mexico: Fire on the Mountain and The Brave Cowboy.

Anaya, Rudolfo (1937- 2020)

Anaya was an extremely versatile and prolific writer. He is the author of the quintessential New Mexican work, Bless Me, Ultima, which is always included in lists of the best New Mexican books. He has written children's and young adult books, the Sonny Baca mystery series, short stories, plays and poetry. In 2001, he was a recipient of the National Medal of Arts award. In 2015, Anaya was awarded the National Humanities Medal. The Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico has the Rudolfo A. Anaya Papers, 1960-2004; and also has made available the Rudolfo A. Anaya Digital Archive.

Austin, Mary Hunter (1868-1934)

Austin was a novelist, poet, playwright and essayist, who moved to Santa Fe in 1924. Austin wrote 35 novels, and is best known for The Land of Little Rain, set in California.  She wrote one novel set in New Mexico, Starry Adventure (1931). Austin collaborated with Ansel Adams on Taos Pueblo (1930).

Bandelier, Adolph (1840-1914)

The Swiss-born archaeologist is better known for his archaeological publications, but authored a work of fiction: The Delight Makers.

Bradford, Richard (1932-2002)

Bradford is best known for his 1968 novel Red Sky at Morning, a coming of age story set in New Mexico. He was a staff writer for El Palacio magazine.

Cather, Willa (1973-1947)

Cather's 1927 novel Death Comes for the Archbishop is a work of historical fiction about territorial New Mexico, based on Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy's work building the Diocese of Santa Fe.

Chavez, Fray Angelio (1910-1996)

Fr. Chavez was a native New Mexican priest, artist, and historian. He is known for his historical and genealogical writing and also wrote fiction, short stories and poetry. The Fray Angélico Chávez History Library at the Palace of the Governor's in Santa Fe is named for him.

Chávez, Denise (1948- )

Chávez is a novelist, poet, playwright and educator who lives and works on the U.S./Mexico borderland corridor in southern New Mexico. She is a native of Las Cruces and is active in the arts community there. The King of Queen of Comezón won a 2016 Zia Book Award.

Church, Peggy Pond (1903-1986)

Church is a native New Mexican poet and author known for her evocative writings capturing the landscape and character of New Mexico. Her father operated the Los Alamos Ranch School which later became the site of Los Alamos National Laboratory. The House at Otowi Bridge is a both a memoir and biography of her friend Edith Warner that witnessed the changes on the Pajarito Plateau.

Evans, Max (1924- )

Evans, a former cowboy, is a painter and author who grew up in Lea County and lives in Albuquerque. He writes novels and nonfiction about the West, often set in northeastern New Mexico. His novels The Rounders and the Hi-Lo Country have been made into films. Evans' had two novels on 2012's 100 Best Books in NM: The Rounders and Bluefeather Fellini.

Hillerman, Tony (1925-2008)

Hillerman is an award-winning author best-known for his Navajo mystery series featuring Navajo detectives Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. The books are characterized by cultural sensitivity and accuracy regarding Navajo traditions and culture. Hillerman was born in Oklahoma, and attended a boarding school for Native American girls; he was one of the few boys at the school. This experience fostered an cultural understanding of Native American traditions and life. Hillerman was a decorated combat veteran in World War II; in 1952, he moved to Santa Fe and was a journalist at the New Mexican. He credited Santa Fe, with its rich artistic tradition, of inspiring him to become serious about writing fiction. Hillerman received a master's in creative writing at the University of New Mexico and joined the UNM faculty. Hillerman's papers are at the Center for Southwest Research at UNM. The UNM University Libraries also publishes e-Hillerman: The Tony Hillerman Portal, which includes curricular materials. His daughter, Annie Hillerman, is continuing the series.

Horgan, Paul (1903-1995)

Horgan won the Pulitzer Prize for history for Great River: The Rio Grande in North American History (1955) and Lamy of Santa Fe: His Life and Times (1976). He wrote more than 40 books of fiction and nonfiction. Most of his fiction is set in the Southwest. Horgan moved to Albuquerque with his family in 1915, and attended the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell. He was later the librarian at the New Mexico Military Institute. His  papers are at the Sibley Music Library at the Eastman School of Music.

Jaramillo, Cleofas (1878-1956)

Jaramillo was a native New Mexican who was born and raised in Arroyo Hondo near Taos. She was a founder of La Sociedad Folklorica de Santa Fe (Folklore Society of Santa Fe) with the mission of preserving the traditional Spanish folklore and customs of New Mexico. Her books include The Genuine New Mexico Tasty Recipes/Potajes Sabrosos (1939), Spanish Fairy Tales/Cuentos De Hogar (1939), Shadows of the Past/Sombras del Pasado (1941), and her autobiography Romance of a Little Village Girl (1955).

La Farge, Oliver (1901-1963)

La Farge was an anthropologist who became familar with the Southwest through his fieldwork. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1930 for the novel Laughing Boy, about a Navajo silversmith. He moved to Santa Fe in 1946, and wrote for the New Mexican.

Martin, George R.R. (1948- )

Martin is of course best-known for his Song of Ice and Fire series, the basis for HBO's megahit Game of Thrones television series. Martin lives in Santa Fe, and is active in the community. He owns the Jean Cocteau Cinema, and is a supporter of Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary and Meow Wolf.

McCarthy, Cormac

McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for The Road and the National Book Award for All the Pretty Horses. He lives in Santa Fe.

McGarrity, Michael

McGarrity is a former Santa Fe County deputy sheriff. He is the author of the Kevin Kerney series, whose protagonist is a law enforcement officer. The series often features different ares of New Mexico.

McKenna, James A. (1851-1941)

McKenna's Black Range Tales: Chronicling Sixty Years of life and Adventure in the Southwest are stories of prospecting and mining in late 19th century New Mexico; features the Black Range, the Mongollon and the Gila. Considered a work of nonfiction, although poetic license likely taken.

Momaday, N. Scott (1934- )

Author and poet Momaday was born in Oklahoma to Kiowa-Cherokee parents. His parents taught at Pueblo, Navajo and Apache reservations in New Mexico and Arizona. After graduation from the University of New Mexico with a BA in political science, Momaday began writing.  In 1969, Momaday won the Pulitzer Prize for House Made of Dawn, which is set in New Mexico and California, and draws on his experience living at Jemez Pueblo. In 2007, Momaday was awarded the National Medal of Arts for his novels and essays celebrating Native American art and oral traditions. Momaday has taught at the University of New Mexico and the University of Arizona. He is an artist in residence at St John's College in Santa 2014-2016.

Nichols, John (1940- )

Nichols moved to northern New Mexico in 1969, and is best-known for his novel The Milagro Beanfield War, which was made into a movie directed by Robert Redford. Nichols has published 20 books.  Author's website

Sides, Hampton

Sides 1986 work of narrative nonfiction, Blood and Thunder, tells the story U.S. Army's conquest of the American West. He recounts the details of Kit Carson's involvement in "resettling" the Navajo from their lands in New Mexico and Arizona. Sides is an editor at Outside magazine, based in Santa Fe, and was a 2015 Miller Scholar at the Santa Fe Institute.

Silko, Leslie Marmon (1948- )

Silko is a novelist, poet, and essayist, perhaps best known for Ceremony and Laguna Woman. Silko grew up on the Laguna Pueblo, and is the daughter of the renowned photographer Lee Marmon. Her often cited quote is "I am of mixed-breed ancestry, but what I know is Laguna." Silko is a graduate of the University of New Mexico. She is a winner of the McArthur Fellowship and the American Book Award.

Van Gieson, Judith (1941- )

Van Gieson has published two mystery series. The Claire Reynier series features an archivist at the University of New Mexico; the Land of Burning Heat is a personal favorite of the author of this guide. The Neil Hamel series features an Albuquerque lawyer, and two of the titles in the series, Ditch Rider and The Wolf Path, are on the list of 100 Best New Mexico Books.

Wallace, Lew (1827-1905)

Wallace was Territorial Governor of New Mexico from 1878 to 1881. While in residence at the Palace of the Governor's, he wrote the novel Ben Hur. He is also well-known for this quote about New Mexico: "All calculations based on experience elsewhere fail in New Mexico."

Waters, Frank (1902-1995)

Waters is a writer with deep roots in the Southwest. He was born in Colorado and lived in Taos and Santa Fe (and out of state). He was friends with Mabel Dodge Lujan and worked at Los Alamos National Lab. The Man Who Killed the Deer: A Novel of Pueblo Indian Life is considered his masterpiece.

Amy Schaefer, Southwest Librarian

Profile Photo
Amy Schaefer
1209 Camino Carlos Rey
Santa Fe, NM