Gold Rush and Wild West: American History Reading List for Teens

Use these gold rush books during your study of the California Gold Rush and the wild west.

Teens will enjoy reading stories about these interesting times in American History in these living books. They’re just some of the fun American history activities you can add to your homeschool.

During the 19th century, Americans were heading west.

This was a time of significant growth and change for the country.  Americans were embarking on new adventures to explore the lands beyond the Mississippi River.  Many believed they would find riches during the days of the Gold Rush, while others were hoping to find their own land and settle in the Wild West.

Gold Rush & Wild West: Reading List for Teens

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Childhood of Famous Americans series

Learn about the early lives of famous Americans including:

Annie Oakley: Young Markswoman

Buffalo Bill: Frontier Daredevil

Sitting Bull: Dakota Boy

Famous Gunfighters of the Western Frontier by W.B. Masterson

A legendary lawman, buffalo hunter, Indian fighter, and newspaper columnist, Bat Masterson served as sheriff of Ford County, Kansas, ruled Dodge City, and became an eyewitness to the heyday of the Old West’s most notorious outlaws.


Indian Chiefs by Russell Freedman

Biographies of six Western Indian chiefs who led their people in a historic moment of crisis, when a decision had to be made about fighting or cooperating with the white pioneers encroaching on their hunting grounds.

Roughing It by Mark Twain

In 1861, young Mark Twain found himself adrift as a tenderfoot in the Wild West, and Roughing It is his hilarious record of his travels come to life with his inimitable mixture of reporting, social satire, and rollicking tall tales.


Children of the Gold Rush by Claire Rudolf Murphy

In vintage photos, personal stories, and related historic material, Children of the Gold Rush portrays the lives of the indomitable kids who first came to Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

Cowboys, Indians, and Gunfighters: The Story of the Cattle Kingdom by Albert Marrin

An action-packed story of the days when ranchers vied with the native peoples to rule the plains of North America.

Cowboys of the Wild West by Russell Freedman

Introduces readers to the proud young men who inspired a legend — the trail-driving cow herders of the late nineteenth century.

The California Gold Rush (True Books) by Mel Friedman

Bright graphics, statistics, resources including website and places to visit, important words and more.

The California Gold Rush: An Interactive History Adventure by Elizabeth Raum

You are the prospector, so you get to choose your own adventure as you read about the gold rush.

What Was the Gold Rush? by Joan Holub

With black-and white illustrations and sixteen pages of photos, a nugget from history is brought to life!

You Wouldn’t Want to Live in a Wild West Town! By Peter Hicks

The fun series engages readers by making them part of the story!

Gold Rush & Wild West: American History Reading List

Historical Fiction

By the Great Horn Spoon! By Sid Fleischman

Two tales of trickery and exaggeration by the Newbery Medalist feature adventures in the Old West and during the California Gold Rush.

The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London

The Call of the Wild centers on a domesticated dog, Buck, who is kidnapped and sold to Klondike gold hunters. To survive Buck must listen to the Call and learn the ways of his wolf-ancestors, who guide him from within.

White Fang tells the story of a half-wolf, half-dog nearly destroyed by the vicious cruelty of men. Brought to the very brink of his existence, White Fang is lucky enough to experience the one thing that can save him—human love.

How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush: An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fabulous Riches Discovered in 1848 by Tod Olson

Follow the life of Thomas Hartley, a young prospector as he travels to the gold fields through the Panama land passage.

Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell

The Navajo tribe’s forced march from their homeland to Fort Sumner by white soldiers and settlers is dramatically and courageously told by young Bright Morning.

The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains by Own Wister

Detailing the exploits of a gunslinger known solely as the Virginian, Wister’s novel introduced readers to a number of western motifs that are taken for granted in western fiction today.

Gold Rush & Wild West: American History Reading List for Teens

What books would your family add to this list?