Books to Add to Your Summer Colo-reading List

By Emily Krempholtz

Whether you’re sitting at home and waiting until you feel safe being among people again or taking a break from a strenuous hike by perching on a sunny boulder with a snack, there’s nothing like a good book to keep you occupied. Reading books about Colorado can help you learn so much about our beautiful state, which has a rich, dynamic history and diverse wildlife full of stories and fun facts that will make you appreciate your surroundings even more than you do now. 

Books About Colorado Nature and Plants

Did you know there are hundreds of edible plant varieties that grow in Colorado? Prickly pear cactus fruit, wild onion, wild bergamot, and morel mushrooms are just some of the varieties of delicious and useful plants you’ll find at various elevations across the state. When foraging for food especially, it’s incredibly important to educate yourself, as many plants (mushrooms in particular) have similar-looking cousins that are not edible and may just earn you a trip to the hospital if you’re not careful. Foraging the Rocky Mountains by Lizbeth Morgan is a fantastic resource that will not only help you identify wild foods and herbs throughout the state, but also gives great tips on how to harvest and prepare them, and even provides recipes suitable for both the kitchen and out in the wild to help you maximize your experience. Another great option is 437 Edible Wild Plants of the Rocky Mountain West by Caleb Warnock, complete with vivid photographs, common synonyms, detailed descriptions, and even the history of the plants described in the book.

colorado wildflowers

When it comes to identifying the plants and nature around you while you’re out in the mountains, the plains, or the forests of Colorado, there are a number of great field guides available that will show you the ropes of your surroundings. Specific ecosystems are covered in books such as Field Guide to Colorado’s Wetland Plants by Denise Culver, or Desert Wildflowers of North America by Ronald J. Taylor. In fact, when it comes to wildflowers in general, there are a number of fantastic books that will teach you what they look like and where to find them. (For a quick crash course, check out our piece on Colorado wildflowers, and our more recent piece on spring varieties!) Wildflowers of Colorado by Don Mammoser and Stan Tekiela is a popular field guide that can be found in most Colorado bookstores, and not only does it help you identify and seek out more than 200 varieties of gorgeous wildflowers, it’s part of a collection that also contains a volume called Trees of Colorado.

Books about Colorado Wildlife

 Besides his books about plant life in Colorado, Stan Tekiela also has a book in his field guide series called Birds of Colorado, which is an excellent way to learn about the birds you see in your own backyard as well as out in the wilderness. (For more information on Colorado birds, check out our piece on Colorado birdwatching!) There’s also the Colorado Wildlife Viewing Guide by Mary T. Grey, part of her Watchable Wildlife series that also contains volumes dedicated to reptiles and amphibians, Colorado mammals, birds, and also her field guide for younger readers, called On the Trail of Colorado Critters.

Field guides relating to Colorado’s animal population will teach you where these animals live, what their tracks and scat look like, what they eat, and how to safely view them if you spot them during one of your adventures. 

Colorado wildlife

Read Up on Colorado Activities and Attractions

Whether it’s a new hobby you’re looking to get into, one you’ve been doing for years, or a new part of Colorado you’d like to learn about, there are some great books out there that will help you be prepared for your adventures.

Looking to tackle a 14er this summer (or maybe start checking all of them off your list)? Try Gerry Roach’s Colorado Fourteeners, which contains maps, tips, and advice for both the standard and many alternate, more technical route options. Another great hiking book, especially if you’re living or staying in the Front Range, is 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver and Boulder by Kim Lipker.

Rock climbing enthusiasts will definitely want to check out Rock Climbing Colorado, part of Stewart M. Green’s Regional Rock Climbing series, and for a great experience tent or RV camping, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Joshua Berman’s Moon Colorado Camping. If you want to see Colorado from behind the wheel, Stewart M. Green has also written a book called Scenic Driving Colorado, which lays out some truly epic road trip routes.

Reading About Colorado’s History

One of the best ways to learn about the state we live in is to understand its past. There are a ton of history books out there about Colorado, ranging from books about Red Rocks to books about ghosthunting in Colorado. Colorado Excursions by Ed Sealover is a great read, which teaches readers about Colorado’s history and culture by planning three-day excursions to get you out there to experience Colorado yourself.

Colorado History

For a visual look at the ways Colorado has changed over the years, check out Colorado Then and Now by Grant Collier, which follows the author as he retraces the steps of his great-great-grandfather, a photographer, and takes the same photos he did to showcase the changes in the landscapes, cities, and nature of Colorado. For an all-inclusive look at Colorado’s history, geography, and modern-day culture, there’s Colorado: A Historical Atlas by Thomas J. Noel.

Fiction Featuring Colorado

Nonfiction isn’t for everyone, and if you’d rather lose yourself in the stories of fictional characters who live in Colorado, past or present, there are some fabulous and compelling stories out there to keep you entertained. Some of the more famous books that take place in Colorado include The Shining by Stephen King, and On the Road by Jack Kerouac, two classics which, if you haven’t read them, definitely deserve a read. If it’s a trip in time to Wild West you’re after, check out Centennial by James A. Michener, which tells the stories of some of the settlers and frontiersmen in Colorado’s history. Fire in the Hole by Sybil Downing tells the story of women’s role in the Wild West, with an account of a female lawyer in a coal mining town. 

Fill Your Library with Colorado Books

There are entire bookshelves worth of great books about Colorado. Next time you’re out and about, check out your favorite Colorado bookstore for one of the books on this list, or ask your local librarian for more recommendations.

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