While this book will not win any awards for most compelling or artistic exploration of a subject, it is packed with interesting anecdotes, and written with enough skill and clarity that it’s not a slog. Following a generally chronological path, C. Brian Kelly takes us from fur trappers and Mountain Men through the coming of the railroad, up to the beginning of the 20th Century.
The entries are typically fairly short, exploring stories of various individuals and groups in a way similar to an encyclopedia or a wikipedia entry. The book also sources a lot of websites from various historic and civic groups, if you want to do further exploration.
While I can’t jump up and down and yell, ‘run right out and buy this!’ I can say that if you’re curious about the American West, and you’re just not sure where to start, this would make a good launching point. There are plenty of diverse stories and events, from the Civil War to exploration, to unique characters who were in the right (or wrong) place at the right time.