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The Best Books About The Oregon Trail

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“What are the best books about the Oregon Trail?” We looked at 96 of the top Oregon trail books, aggregating and ranking them so we could answer that very question!

The top 18 titles, all appearing on 2 or more “Best Oregon Trail” book lists, are ranked below by how many lists they appear on. The remaining 50+ titles, as well as the lists we used are in alphabetical order at the bottom of the page.

Happy Scrolling!



Top 18 Oregon Trail Books



18 .) A Sudden Country written by Karen Fisher

 A Sudden Country

Lists It Appears On:

  • Library Thing
  • Read It Forward

A vivid and revelatory novel based on actual events of the 1847 Oregon migration, A Sudden Country follows two characters of remarkable complexity and strength in a journey of survival and redemption. James MacLaren, once a resourceful and ambitious Hudson’s Bay Company trader, has renounced his aspirations for a quiet family life in the Bitterroot wilderness. Yet his life is overturned in the winter of 1846, when his Nez Perce wife deserts him and his children die of smallpox. In the grip of a profound sorrow, MacLaren, whose home once spanned a continent, sets out to find his wife. But an act of secret vengeance changes his course, introducing him to a different wife and mother: Lucy Mitchell, journeying westward with her family. Lucy, a remarried widow, careful mother, and reluctant emigrant, is drawn at once to the self-possessed MacLaren. Convinced that he is the key to her family’s safe passage, she persuades her husband to employ him. As their hidden stories and obsessions unfold, and pasts and cultures collide, both Lucy and MacLaren must confront the people they have truly been, are, and may become. Alive with incident and insight, presenting with rare scope and intimacy the complex relations among nineteenth-century traders, immigrants, and Native Americans, A Sudden Country is, above all, a heroic and unforgettable story of love and loss, sacrifice and understanding. From the Hardcover edition.



17 .) Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) across the Plains written by Deborah Hopkinson

 Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) across the Plains

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Library Thing

A pioneer father transports his beloved fruit trees and his family to Oregon in the mid-nineteenth century. Based loosely on the life of Henderson Luelling.



16 .) Mr. Tucket written by Gary Paulsen

 Mr. Tucket

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Library Thing

It is 1848 and 14-year-old Francis Tucket is heading west on the Oregon Trail. When he lags behind to practice shooting his new rifle, he is captured by Pawnees. It will take wild horses, hostile tribes, and a mysterious one-armed man to help Francis come of age and survive the gritty frontier.



15 .) Rachel’s Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl written by Marissa Moss

 Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl

Lists It Appears On:

  • Home School Life Mag
  • Library Thing

Traveling by covered wagon, young Rachel and her family follow the Oregon Trail from Illinois all the way to California. The terrain is rough and the seven-month trip is filled with adventure. Rachel’s own handwritten journal chronicles every detail and features cherished “pasted-in” mementos gathered along the way.



14 .) Roughing It on the Oregon Trail written by Diane Stanley

 Roughing It on the Oregon Trail

Lists It Appears On:

  • Charlotte Mason Home
  • Library Thing

Journey alongside the Time-Traveling Twins, Liz and Lenny, and relive history in Roughing It on the Oregon Trail — now in paperback, with bright new cover art. The combination of Diane Stanley’s spirited, humorous, and historically accurate depiction of day-to-day life on the Oregon Trail in 1843 with Holly Berry’s energetic illustrations and word balloons brings the past to life!



13 .) The Devil’s Paintbox written by Victoria McKernan

 The Devil's Paintbox

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Library Thing

When orphans Aiden and Maddy Lynch first meet trailrider Jefferson J. Jackson in the spring of 1865, they’re struggling to survive on their family’s drought-ravaged Kansas farm. So when Jackson offers an escape – a 2000-mile journey across the roughest country in the world – Aiden knows it’s their only choice. They say there are a hundred ways to die on the Oregon Trail, and the long wagon journey is broken only by catastrophe: wolf attacks, rattlesnakes, deadly river crossings, Indians, and the looming threat of smallpox, “the devil’s paint.” Through it all, Aiden and Maddy and a hundred fellow travelers move forward with a growing hope, and the promise of a new life in the Washington Territory. But one question haunts them: who will survive the journey? In an adventure-filled and historically accurate new novel, Victoria McKernan captures both the peril and the stunning beauty of the frontier West. Shackleton’s Stowaway (“Truly thrilling” according to The Washington Post) was Victoria McKernan’s first novel for young adults. She lives in Washington, D.C..



12 .) The Oregon Trail (Cornerstones of Freedom) written by R. Conrad Stein

 The Oregon Trail (Cornerstones of Freedom)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Charlotte Mason Home
  • Library Thing

Children can imagine being witnesses to history-in-the-making in this series that explores important events in United States history.



11 .) The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey written by Rinker Buck

 The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Library Thing

In the bestselling tradition of Bill Bryson and Tony Horwitz, Rinker Buck’s “The Oregon Trail” is a major work of participatory history: an epic account of traveling the 2,000-mile length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way, in a covered wagon with a team of mules–which hasn’t been done in a century–that also tells the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country. Spanning 2,000 miles and traversing six states from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean, the Oregon Trail is the route that made America. In the fifteen years before the Civil War, when 400,000 pioneers used it to emigrate West–historians still regard this as the largest land migration of all time–the trail united the coasts, doubled the size of the country, and laid the groundwork for the railroads. The trail years also solidified the American character: our plucky determination in the face of adversity, our impetuous cycle of financial bubbles and busts, the fractious clash of ethnic populations competing for the same jobs and space. Today, amazingly, the trail is all but forgotten. Rinker Buck is no stranger to grand adventures. “The New Yorker “described his first travel narrative, “Flight of Passage,” as “a funny, cocky gem of a book,” and with “The Oregon Trail “he seeks to bring the most important road in American history back to life.



10 .) The Stout-Hearted Seven: Orphaned on the Oregon Trail written by Neta Lohnes Frazier

 The Stout-Hearted Seven: Orphaned on the Oregon Trail

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Library Thing

Based on a true story originally written by one of the survivors, Neta Lohnes Frazier’s account of seven children traveling westward still has the power to astonish. In the 1840s, the Sager family set off on the Oregon Trail, a dangerous and adventure-filled journey. Tragedy struck when both the mother and father succumbed to fever, orphaning the youngsters—one just a newborn. The entire wagon train adopted them, until they arrived at the Whitman Mission in Oregon. There, the Sagers settled into an ordinary life…until the day of an Indian massacre. The bravery of the Stouthearted Seven will amaze today’s young readers.



9 .) The Water Seeker written by Kimberly Willis Holt

 The Water Seeker

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Library Thing

“When I was a boy, my pa dowsed to earn extra money when we had a lean year. And when he put the branch in my hands for the first time, I felt a burning inside me because I had the gift, too. Just be thankful I didn’t hand that gift down to you.” Amos figured it was probably best not to tell his father that it was too late. What would you do if you knew you had a special gift—a sixth sense—that was passed down from one generation to the next? A gift that could help people in times of need, but one your father often saw as a trap. Would you use that gift? This is the story of Amos Kincaid, the dowser’s son.



8 .) Under a Painted Sky written by Stacey Lee

 Under a Painted Sky

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Library Thing

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail. This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.



7 .) Wagons Ho! written by George Hallowell

 Wagons Ho!

Lists It Appears On:

  • Charlotte Mason Home
  • Goodreads

Two girls move from Missouri to Oregon — one in 1846 and one in 2011. One trip takes five months and the other five days. One trip is in a covered wagon, the other in a car. But both girls will miss their old homes and worry about the long trip. Both girls stop at well-known landmarks and travel the Rocky Mountains. And as each girl reaches her new home, she finds her new room and her new friends. Wagons Ho is a unique look at both history and the concerns all kids have when moving to a new home.



6 .) Bound for Oregon written by Jean Van Leeuwen

 Bound for Oregon

Lists It Appears On:

  • Charlotte Mason Home
  • Goodreads
  • Library Thing

With only a guide book to show them the way, the Todd family sets out from their Arkansas home on a two thousand mile trek to claim unchartered Oregon Territory. Crossing rough terrain and encountering hostile people, the Todds show their true pioneering spirit. But as winter draws near, will the Todds have the strength to complete their journey? And if they make it, will Oregon fulfill their dreams? “This is a convincing picture of a pioneer journey that does a good job of showing the tremendous sacrifices people made to follow their dream of a better life.” –School Library Journal



5 .) Daily Life in a Covered Wagon written by Paul Erickson

 Daily Life in a Covered Wagon

Lists It Appears On:

  • Charlotte Mason Home
  • Home School Life Mag
  • Library Thing

Great for classroom lessons on the Oregon Trail and Westward Expansion! In 1853, the Larkin family loaded up their wagons and headed west in search of a new life. But how did they do it? What did they eat? How did they survive sickness, and attacks from cattle thieves? Drawing on diaries and letters, and illustrated with photograps of actual object from the past, Daily Life in a Covered Wagon explored what life was really lik eon the wagon trail.



4 .) If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon written by Ellen Levine

 If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon

Lists It Appears On:

  • Charlotte Mason Home
  • Home School Life Mag
  • Library Thing

If you traveled west in a covered wagon –Would you ride in the wagon for the whole trip? –How would you cross rivers when there were no bridges? –Without road signs, how would you know where you were? This book tells you what it was like to be a pioneer and travel west to Oregon in the 1840s.



3 .) The Oregon Trail written by Francis Parkman

 The Oregon Trail

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Imagine Soup
  • Library Thing

Keen observations and a graphic style characterize the author’s remarkable record of a vanishing frontier. Detailed accounts of the hardships experienced while traveling across mountains and prairies; vibrant portraits of emigrants and Western wildlife; and vivid descriptions of Indian life and culture. A classic of American frontier literature.



2 .) Westward to Home: Joshua’s Oregon Trail Diary written by Patricia Hermes

 Westward to Home: Joshua’s Oregon Trail Diary

Lists It Appears On:

  • Charlotte Mason Home
  • Home School Life Mag
  • Library Thing

In book one of this diary of life on the Oregon Trail, Pat Hermes tells the story of Joshua McCullough’s family’s experiences as they pack up their belongings and head west in a wagon train. It is 1848 when Joshua McCullough and his family leave their home in St. Joseph, Missouri, and set off for Oregon on a wagon train. During their seven-month-long journey, many of the other families on the trail suffer devastating losses, but Joshua’s is spared. However, Joshua must conquer his fear of water during the many river crossings the wagon train must make. During one dramatic crossing, Joshua heroically dives into a rushing river to save his younger sister Becky. The battered wagon train reaches Oregon after traveling over two thousand miles.



1 .) Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie : the Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell written by Kristiana Gregory

 Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie : the Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell

Lists It Appears On:

  • Charlotte Mason Home
  • Goodreads
  • Home School Life Mag
  • Library Thing

Now that we’re in the North Platte River Valley the air feels dry and thin. My lips are so chapped they bleed when I talk. The only thing to do is dip our fingers in to the bucket of axle grease and rub our lips every hour or so. It smells bad, it tastes bad, and the blowing dust sticks.




The 50+ Additional Best Fiction & Nonfiction Oregon Trail Books



#BooksAuthorsLists
19…And Then You Die of Dysentery: Lessons in Adulting from the Oregon TrailLauren ReevesGoodreads
20A Bride’s Agreement: Five Romances Develop Out of Convenient MarriagesElaine BonnerGoodreads
21A Dream for TomorrowMelody CarlsonGoodreads
22A Fourth of July on the PlainsJean Van Leeuwen
Charlotte Mason Home
23A Hero’s HeartSylvia McDanielGoodreads
24A Home at Trail’s EndMelody CarlsonGoodreads
25A Light in the WildernessJane KirkpatrickGoodreads
26A Widow’s SecretMariella StarrGoodreads
27Across the Great Divide: Robert Stuart and the Discovery of the Oregon TrailLaton McCartneyGoodreads
28All Together in One PlaceJane KirkpatrickGoodreads
29AmandaCandice RansomGoodreads
30Angle of ReposeWallace Stegner
Read It Forward
31AwayAmy Bloom
Read It Forward
32Backwards to OregonJaeGoodreads
33California SongbookKeith McNeilGoodreads
34Children of the Covered Wagon : A Story of the Old Oregon TrailMary Jane Carr
Library Thing
35Covered Wagon Women: Diaries and Letters from the Western Trails, 1840-1849Kenneth L. HolmesGoodreads
36Crown of DustMary Volmer
Read It Forward
37Desperate Crossing: The Jenny Sanders Pryor StoryBarbara RiefeGoodreads
38Don’t Know Much About the PioneersKenneth C. Davis
Home School Life Mag
39Facing West: A Story of the Oregon TrailKathleen V. Kudlinski
Library Thing
40Hank and Gertie: A Pioneer Hansel and Gretel StoryEric A KimmelGoodreads
41Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the FrontierChris EnssGoodreads
42If You Were a Kid on the Oregon TrailJosh GregoryGoodreads
43In Pursuit of a Dream 
Home School Life Mag
44Life on the Oregon TrailSally Senzell Isaacs
Charlotte Mason Home
45Little House on the Prairie 
Imagine Soup
46Maps of the Oregon TrailGregory M. FranzwaGoodreads
47Minnow and Rose: An Oregon Trail StoryJudy Young
Charlotte Mason Home
48Mountain WomanJohnny FowlerGoodreads
49
Nettie & Nellie Crook Orphan Train Sisters: Based on a True Story
 
Imagine Soup
50
On This Long Journey, the Journal of Jesse Smoke, a Cherokee Boy, the Trail of Tears, 1838
 
Imagine Soup
51On to OregonHonoré Morrow
Library Thing
52Oregon Country: The Story of the 1843 Oregon Trail MigrationT.J. HansonGoodreads
53Oregon Trail CookingMary Gunderson
Charlotte Mason Home
54Oregon Trail: Voyage of Discovery:The Story Behind the SceneryDan Murphy
Library Thing
55Our Journey West: An Adventure on the Oregon TrailGare Thompson
Charlotte Mason Home
56Overland in 1846, Volume 1: Diaries and Letters of the California-Oregon Trail editedDale L. Morgan
Home School Life Mag
57P.K. Pinkerton and the Petrified Man 
Imagine Soup
58Papa and the Pioneer QuiltJean Van Leeuwen
Charlotte Mason Home
59Passage WestRuth Ryan LanganGoodreads
60Pioneer CatWilliam H. Hooks
Charlotte Mason Home
61Pioneer Women: The Lives of Women on the FrontierLinda PeavyGoodreads
62
Ranger in Time #1: Rescue on the Oregon Trail
 
Imagine Soup
63Rescue on the Oregon TrailKate MessnerGoodreads
64Sarah. Plain and Tall 
Imagine Soup
65Sarah’s DefianceLaurel JosephGoodreads
66Savage StormPhoebe ConnGoodreads
67Seeing the Elephant: The Many Voices of the Oregon TrailJoyce Badgley Hunsaker
Home School Life Mag
68Seven AloneHonoré Willsie MorrowGoodreads
69Sisters of the ConfederacyLauraine SnellingGoodreads
70The Doctor’s LadyJody HedlundGoodreads
71The Hearts of HorsesMolly Gloss
Read It Forward
72The Journal of Jedediah Barstow: An Emigrant on the Oregon TrailEllen Levine
Charlotte Mason Home
73The Journal of Joshua Loper 
Imagine Soup
74The Mystery on the Oregon TrailCarole Marsh
Charlotte Mason Home
75The Oregon Trail RevisitedGregory M. Franzwa
Library Thing
76The Oregon Trail: A Photographic JourneyBill Moeller
Charlotte Mason Home
77The Oregon Trail: An American SagaDavid DaryGoodreads
78The Oregon Trail: Yesterday and TodayWilliam E. Hill
Library Thing
79The Prairie TravelerCapt. Randolph B. Marcy
Home School Life Mag
80The Quilt Walk 
Imagine Soup
81The Race to Chimney RockJesse WileyGoodreads
82The Ruby BroochKatherine Lowry LoganGoodreads
83The Sweetwater TrailN.L. CampbellGoodreads
84The Tragic Tale of Narcissa WhitmanCheryl Harness
Charlotte Mason Home
85The Way WestA.B. Jr Guthrie
Library Thing
86This Road We TraveledJane KirkpatrickGoodreads
87Topaz’s TrialsKate RichardsGoodreads
88Traveling the Oregon TrailJulie Fanselow
Library Thing
89Trinity’s LossIndiana WakeGoodreads
90True GritCharles Portis
Read It Forward
91UndeniableLaura StapletonGoodreads
92Wagon Trains and SettlersEllen Todras
Charlotte Mason Home
93Westward ExpansionTeresa Domnauer
Charlotte Mason Home
94Westward HeartsMelody CarlsonGoodreads
95Where Wildflowers BloomAnn ShoreyGoodreads
96Women’s Diaries of the Westward JourneyLillian SchlisselGoodreads



6 Best Oregon Trail & Pioneer Book Sources/Lists



SourceArticle
Charlotte Mason Home Books about the Oregon Trail and Pioneers
Goodreads Popular Oregon Trail Books
Home School Life Mag Read All About It: Exploring the Oregon Trail Through Literature
Imagine Soup Best Historical Fiction Chapter Books About Westward Expansion
Library Thing Oregon Trail | books tagged Oregon Trail
Read It Forward Top 6 Historical Novel of Pioneering Women