A Love Affair with Books

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Welcome back to our series on the libraries of great men. The eminent men of history were often voracious readers and their own philosophy represents a distillation of all the great works they fed into their minds. This series seeks to trace the stream of their thinking back to the source. For, as David Leach, a now retired business executive put it: “Don’t follow your mentors; follow your mentors’ mentors.”

When digging in to the best novels and authors in the Western genre of literature, there are a few names that pop up over and over again. Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, Zane Grey, and of course, Louis L’Amour. Over the course of his prolific career, L’Amour published over 100 books — most of them novels, but also over a dozen short story collections, and one brilliant autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man, which is more of a journal of his prodigious reading rather than a life telling (note: all quotes in this piece are from that book). Amazingly, not a single novel of his was published until 1951 when he was in his early 40s, though he had been writing poems and stories his whole adult life.

Though he’ll rarely be praised for writing beautiful or lyrical prose, L’Amour is one of the top 25 bestselling authors of all time, and when you ask grandpas — yes, as a whole category — about their favorite authors, he seems to almost universally top their lists. L’Amour writes with a realistic quality that isn’t easily matched in the genre, balancing both the romance and realities of Western life. His action scenes are superb, but more striking are his lifelike depictions of the landscape, the horses and horsemanship, the movements and habits of American Indians. Few have ever researched and truly lived the…

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