Books that Take Place in Denver and Colorado

Join us in celebrating our neighbors and our city during Denver Days by diving into some great books from Colorado authors that take place in and around Denver!

Denver Days is a local tradition, celebrating its 10th year in 2022, designed to facilitate connections between Denverites through lively gatherings at the end of each summer. Find out more about DPL's events on our Denver Days page.

Acevedo, Mario

Felix Gomez went to Iraq a soldier. He came back a vampire. Now he finds himself pulled into a web of intrigue when an old friend prompts him to investigate an outbreak of nymphomania at the secret government facilities in Rocky Flats. He'll find out the cause of all these horny women or die trying! But first he must contend with shadowy government agents, Eastern European vampire hunters, and women who just want his body. Written by an author who calls Denver home!

Beach, Tracy

Colorado historian Tracy Beach writes about Laura Evens, who wasn't any ordinary soiled dove from the days of Colorado's Wild West. Raised by a Grand Cyclops of the KKK from the Mobile, Alabama branch, she wasn't about to let anything stand in the way of what she wanted. She wanted to be rich. From a lesbian encounter during her first audition into the trade, a gun fight to help save her business, her failed attempts to prevent her friends from poisoning themselves, selling bootleg booze ... and more. Laura worked in parlors in Denver, Leadville, Central City, and Salida, until she opened her own Salida parlor house. Laura's house stayed open longer than any other in Colorado, due largely to the unusual qualities of its owner.

Brooks, R. Alan

Image you've been paralyzed for 5 years, all because of a betrayal by those you trusted. Then, one day, you suddenly have a healthy body, and can pursue your would-be murderers. Of course, none of you are human, and you were sent to this world for a reason. What would you do? Written by a Denver author.

Cayton-Holland, Adam

Meet the Magnificent Cayton-Hollands, a trio of brilliant, acerbic teenagers from Denver, Colorado, who were going to change the world. Anna, Adam, and Lydia were taught by their father, a civil rights lawyer, and mother, an investigative journalist. When Adam sunk into a deep depression in college, it was Lydia who was able to reach him and pull him out. But years later as Adam’s career takes off, Lydia’s own depression overtakes her, and, though he tries, Adam can’t return the favor. When she takes her own life, the family is devastated, and Adam throws himself into his stand-up, drinking, and rage. He struggles with disturbing memories of Lydia’s death and turns to EMDR therapy to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder when he realizes there’s a difference between losing and losing it.

Clevenger, Jaime

Sure, lesbians love to bring a U-Haul on the second date. But what happens when the U-Haul crashes? For Amelia Stone, it's a literal question as much as a figurative one. When plans to move in with her girlfriend go sideways, she's left with more questions about their future than answers. It doesn't help that she's spending far more time with the paramedic who came to her rescue than the woman she's supposed to be in love with. When Finn Douglas responds to a routine traffic accident, the last thing she's looking for is love. But something about Amelia pulls her in. The more time they spend together, the more it feels like Amelia might be The One. If only Amelia didn't have her life all planned out with a woman who isn't Finn. Written by a Colorado author.

Dallas, Sandra

Ellen is putting the finishing touches on a wedding quilt made from scraps of old dresses when the bride-to-be-her granddaughter June-unexpectedly arrives and announces she's calling off the marriage. With the tending of June's uncertain heart in mind, Ellen tells her the story of Nell, a Kansas-born woman who goes to the High Plains of New Mexico Territory in 1898 in search of a husband. Working as a biscuit-shooter, Nell falls for a cowboy named Buddy. She sees a future together, but she can't help wondering if his feelings for her are true. When Buddy breaks her heart, she runs away. In her search for a soul mate, Nell will run away from marriage twice more before finding the love of her life. It's a tale filled with excitement, heartbreak, disappointment, and self-discovery-as well as with hard-earned life lessons about love. Another stunning, emotional novel from a master storyteller and Colorado author.

Enss, Chris

Isabella Bird was a proper Victorian lady expected to marry a man of means and position. Instead she was drawn to a gruff mountain man, a desperado named Jim Nugent. This book reveals the true story of Bird's relationship with Nugent as they traveled through the dramatic wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.

Fajardo-Anstine, Kali

Kali Fajardo-Anstine's magnetic story collection breathes life into her Latina characters of indigenous ancestry and the land they inhabit in the American West. Against the remarkable backdrop of Denver, Colorado--a place that is as fierce as it is exquisite--these women navigate the land the way they navigate their lives: with caution, grace, and quiet force.

Gibson, Andrea

Offers a breathtaking continuation of the poet's most tender and honest work. Her fist book, Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns opened the door to Gibson's unapologetic voice, yet The Madness Vase manages to take an even more intimate look at the subjects of family, war, spirituality, gender, grief and hope. The poems' topics range from hate crimes to playgrounds, from international conflict to hometowns, from falling in love to the desperation of loneliness. Gibson's work seizes us by the collar and hauls us inside some of her darkest moments, then releases out the other side. Moments later, we find ourselves inhaling words that fill us with light. Written by a Colorado author.

Greaves, C. Joseph

Returning to her small Colorado hometown to find her old high school flame newly single and a new gas field threatening her family's cattle ranch, echo - activist Addie Decker ignites an armed conflict revealing cold truths about love and family, forgiveness and self - discovery.

Hansman, Heather

Veteran ski journalist and former ski bum Heather Hansman takes readers on an exhilarating journey into the hidden history of American skiing, offering a glimpse into an underexplored subculture from the perspective of a true insider. Hopping from Vermont to Colorado, Montana to West Virginia, Hansman profiles the people who have built their lives around a cold-weather obsession.

Haruf, Kent

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf's inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis's wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.

Heller, Peter

Hig somehow survived the flu pandemic that killed everyone he knows. Now his wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and a mercurial, gun-toting misanthrope named Bangley. But when a random transmission beams through the radio of his 1956 Cessna, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life exists outside their tightly controlled perimeter. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return and follows its static-broken trail, only to find something that is both better and worse than anything he could ever hope for. Written by a Colorado author.

Houston, Pam

On her 120-acre homestead high in the Colorado Rockies, beloved writer Pam Houston learns what it means to care for a piece of land and the creatures on it. Houston’s ranch becomes her sanctuary, a place where she discovers how the natural world has mothered and healed her after a childhood of parental abuse and neglect.

Iversen, Kristen

Full Body Burden is a haunting work of narrative nonfiction about a young woman, Kristen Iversen, growing up in a small Colorado town close to Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant once designated "the most contaminated site in America." It's the story of a childhood and adolescence in the shadow of the Cold War, in a landscape at once startlingly beautiful and—unknown to those who lived there—tainted with invisible yet deadly particles of plutonium.

Kinney, Holly Arnold

Constructed as a family home and then living history museum in 1961, in Morrison, Colorado, the adobe Fort was built to emulate the frontier trading posts of the nineteenth century. Taking its cues from the architecture and the foods of the Southwest, the building and the menu hearken back to an earlier time while providing patrons with a modern and elegant dining experience. This cookbook is a celebration of The Fort with more than150 favorite recipes developed throughout its fifty-eight-year history, including some from its most recent menus, and sixty-five full-color recipe photos. The Fort was an early proponent of locavore food and features regional game recipes

Madigan, Michael

For anyone who read the Rocky Mountain News, or cradles a love of Colorado and American history. The book, written by longtime Rocky editor Michael Madigan, preserves the newspaper's history and captures the flavor and feel of all its years. The Rocky was Colorado's leading and oldest daily newspaper before closing in Feburary 2009, just 55 days short of its 150th anniversary. Heroes, Villains, Dames & Disasters chronicles its rich history in a uniquely readable and entertaining format. The author chose 150 events and characters of historical or cultural significance to Colorado and our nation and reprised them with original news reports and the actual front pages from the newspaper. 

Mayer Center Symposium (18th : 2018 : Denver Art Museum)

Published by the Denver Art Museum, this volume collects the work of nine scholars who shared their research at the 2018 symposium presented by the Frederick and Jan Mayer Center for Ancient and Latin American Art at the Denver Art Museum. This international group of scholars assembled to explore the theme of materiality in the Americas. The chapters consider materiality from a wide variety of angles, including hagiographic martyr portraiture, arms and armor in Spanish America, religious sculpture, the interpretation of the tocapu in post conquest Peru, and collections assembled both in the Americas and of goods sent back to Europe.

Michener, James A.

Written to commemorate the Bicentennial in 1976, James A. Michener’s magnificent saga of the West is an enthralling celebration of the frontier. Brimming with the glory of America’s past, the story of Colorado—the Centennial State—is manifested through its people: Lame Beaver, the Arapaho chieftain and warrior, and his Comanche and Pawnee enemies; Levi Zendt, fleeing with his child bride from the Amish country; the cowboy, Jim Lloyd, who falls in love with a wealthy and cultured Englishwoman, Charlotte Seccombe. In Centennial, trappers, traders, homesteaders, gold seekers, ranchers, and hunters are brought together in the dramatic conflicts that shape the destiny of the legendary West—and the entire country

Miller, Adrian

Across America, the pure love and popularity of barbecue cookery has gone through the roof. Prepared in one regional style or another, in the South and beyond, barbecue is one of the nation's most distinctive culinary arts. And people aren't just eating it; they're also reading books and articles and watching TV shows about it. But why is it, asks Adrian Miller--admitted 'cuehead and longtime certified barbecue judge--that in today's barbecue culture African Americans don't get much love? In Black Smoke, Miller chronicles how Black barbecuers, pitmasters, and restauranteurs helped develop this cornerstone of American foodways and how they are coming into their own today.

Omura, James Matsumoto

Omura was the English language editor of the Rocky Shimpo newspaper in Denver, Colorado, during World War II. In this memoir, which he began writing towards the end of his life, Omura provides a vivid account of his early years: his boyhood on Bainbridge Island; summers spent working in the salmon canneries of Alaska; riding the rails in search of work during the Great Depression; honing his skills as a journalist in Los Angeles and San Francisco. By the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Omura had already developed a reputation as one of the Japanese American Citizens League's most adamant critics, and when the JACL leadership acquiesced to the mass incarceration of American-born Japanese, he refused to remain silent, at great personal and professional cost. Shunned by the Nikkei community and excluded from the standard narrative of Japanese American wartime incarceration until later in life, Omura seeks in this memoir to correct the "cockeyed history to which Japanese America has been exposed."

Owen, David

The Colorado River is a crucial resource for a surprisingly large part of the United States, and every gallon that flows down it is owned or claimed by someone. David Owen traces all that water from the Colorado's headwaters to its parched terminus, once a verdant wetland but now a million-acre desert. He takes readers on an adventure downriver, along a labyrinth of waterways, reservoirs, power plants, farms, fracking sites, ghost towns, and RV parks, to the spot near the U.S.Mexico border where the river runs dry. Water problems in the western United States can seem tantalizingly easy to solve: just turn off the fountains at the Bellagio, stop selling hay to China, ban golf, cut down the almond trees, and kill all the lawyers. But a closer look reveals a vast man-made ecosystem that is far more complex and more interesting than the headlines let on.

Parker, Ann

They all came to Leadville with the same purpose: Get in. Get rich. Get out. As 1879 draws to a close, this Rocky Mountain boomtown has infected the world with silver fever ... Unfortunately for Joe Rose, a precious-metals assayer, death stakes its own claim. Joe's body is found trampled into the muck behind Inez Stannert's saloon. Inez already had much more to deal with than pouring shots of Taos Lightning and cleaning up a corpse. A lady educated on the East Coast, she has a past that doesn't bear close scrutiny, including her elopement with a gambling man who has recently disappeared. Most townsfolk, including Inez's business parter, Abe Jackson, dismiss Joe's death as an accident ... When Joe's widow Emma asks Inez to settle Joe's affairs, almost against her will, Inez uncovers skewed assays, bogus greenbacks, and blackmail.

Patton, Lee

For 21-year-old gay virgin Gabe Rafferty, the first decade of adulthood is unpredictable and intense. Flat broke upon college graduation, Gabe navigates the passage from menial work to globetrotting corporate drudge, then strives for a real chance at professional fulfillment. His journey exploring his sexuality--from inhibited innocence, to first-love crises, to random hookups--doesn't seem to lead to the more sensual, committed relationships he wants. Then he meets Marty, an African American art student, and Gabe must face his white working-class background and racist father for a chance at true love. Throughout, he traverses the joys and hazards of loving a headstrong cast of friends, including a lesbian couple, and Candy, a straight female friend whose life intersects with Gabe's in unexpected ways. For Gabe, what happens after coming of age and coming out is a scramble to survive first journeys into sex, love, and livelihood. Written by a Colorado author.

Porter, Charlene

In the 1920s, Denver, Colorado was Ku Klux Klan territory. Governor Morley, Mayor Stapleton, and 50,000-plus citizens were members. The novel, Boldfaced Lies, by Denver native/resident, Charlene A. Porter, takes place in 1925, and is about the wife of an ambitious Klan leader upon learning she is one-quarter Negro.

Queen, Khadijah

The poems that make up Anodyne consider the small moments that enrapture us alongside the daily threats of cataclysm. Formally dynamic and searingly personal, Anodyne asks us to recognize the echoes of history that litter the landscape of our bodies as we navigate a complex terrain of survival and longing. With an intimate and multivocal dexterity, these poems acknowledge the simultaneous existence of joy and devastation, knowledge and ignorance, grief and love, endurance and failure-all of the contrast and serendipity that comes with the experience of being human. If the body is a world, or a metaphor for the world, for what disappears and what remains, for what we feel and what we cover up, then how do we balance fate and choice, pleasure and pain? Queen's poems show us the terrible consequences and stunning miracles of how we choose to live. Written by a Colorado author.

Ramos, Manuel

Ex-con Gus Corral is at peace with his new life as a private investigator. He's good at his job, even if he's mostly a delivery man or a "go-for" guy trying to expose--or protect--someone else's secrets. An unexpected visit by Joaquín "Kino" Machaco, the Colorado Rockies' all-star center fielder who defected from Cuba as a teen, disrupts his routine. The famous ballplayer needs help: His brother has a gambling problem and owes a lot of money to a Cuban criminal who's threatening their family. He needs Gus to travel to the island with his brother to hand over half a million dollars in cash. Not only will Gus need to keep the money safe from the inveterate gambler, he'll have to convince the "entrepreneur" to leave Machaco's family alone after the payoff. Gus' visions of relaxing on warm, beautiful beaches accompanied by Latin jazz and rum concoctions are immediately dashed. A hail of bullets--violence virtually unheard of in the autocratic nation--leaves one dead and several wounded and leads to unforeseen ramifications that will come to a shocking, bloody conclusion in Denver. 

Raybon, Patricia

"God help me. I stopped hating white people on purpose about a year ago." With that daring confession, African-American journalist Patricia Raybon begins My First White Friend, a piercing account of how she decided, in midlife, to stop hating white America. In a hypnotic narrative that is part journal, part memoir, part social analysis, Raybon discovers that racial forgiveness is a dangerous choice. But the risk isn't in learning to love white people, it's in learning to love herself. "That is the real matter. And it takes a harsh spotlight." Written by a Colorado author.

Rocky Mountain News

Twelve talented authors celebrate Denver's 150th anniversary, each creating a unique story based on a different decade in the city's colorful history. Ranging from the pioneer days to WWII aftermath to a haunting vision of the future, this lively volume offers an eclectic mix of exceptional storytelling, each complemented by contemporary illustrations. Edited by the the Rocky Mountain News and featuring twelve Colorado authors: Margaret Coel, Pam Houston, Sandra Dallas, Nick Arvin, Joanne Greenberg, Connie Willis, Manuel Ramos, Arnold Grossman, Robert Greer, Diane Mott Davidson, Laura Pritchett, and Robert Pogue Ziegler. Illustrated by Charles Chamberlin.


Seaton, George

Retired Denver Police homicide detective Jack Dolan discovers the bodies of two brutally beaten young men while riding on the trails near his mountain home. To solve these murders, he calls upon his former lover, Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent Michael Day, the reclusive Native American woman who sold him his horse, and his unusual power of speaking with the dead--a talent he learned as a rookie detective from a cop nicknamed Old Grim.

Slayton, David R.

Adam Binder hasn’t spoken to his brother in years, not since Bobby had him committed to a psych ward for hearing voices. When a murderous spirit possesses Bobby’s wife and disrupts the perfect life he’s built away from Oklahoma, he’s forced to ask for his little brother’s help. Adam is happy to escape the trailer park and get the chance to say I told you so, but he arrives in Denver to find the local magicians dead...

Sullivan, Matthew

When a bookshop patron commits suicide in Denver, Colorado, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind. Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore (modeled after the Tattered Cover!), she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs.....the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

Swanson, Cynthia (editor)

Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city. Brand-new stories by: Peter Heller, Barbara Nickless, Cynthia Swanson, Mario Acevedo, Francelia Belton, R. Alan Brooks, D.L. Cordero, Amy Drayer, Twanna LaTrice Hill, Manuel Ramos, Mark Stevens, Mathangi Subramanian, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, and Erika T. Wurth.

Swanson, Cynthia

A provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel that will keep you turning pages into the early hours, The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who wrestles to reconcile her daily life as a single bookstore owner with the alternate reality she suddenly begins to dream about each night, in which she is a happily-married wife and mother.

Visaggio, Magdalene

Opposites attract? Elakshi and Adam Land aren't married. In fact, a month ago, they were perfect strangers, dwelling in lands foreign to one another. But now, they're forced to remain by one another's side, for their separation could mean the planet's demise. Their greatest challenge is to stay together -- even if they have to tear the world apart to do so. Written by a Colorado author.

Williams, Paula Stone

A moving and unforgettable memoir of a transgender pastor's journey from despair to joy as she transitioned from male to female and learned about gender inequity, at home and in the workplace. In As a Woman, Paula’s “critical questions about gender, personhood, and place are relevant to anyone. Her writing insightfully reveals aspects of our gender socialization and culture that often go unexamined, but that need to be talked about, challenged, and changed” (Soraya Chemaly, author of Rage Becomes Her) in order to fully understand what it means to be male, female, and simply, human.

Zwinger, Ann

Teamed with scientists and other naturalists, Zwinger was part of an ongoing study of change along the Colorado. In all seasons and all weathers, in almost every kind of craft that goes down the waves, she returned to the Grand Canyon again and again to explore, look, and listen. From the thrill of running the rapids to the wonder in a grain of sand, her words take the reader down 280 miles of the "ever-flowing, energetic, whooping and hollering, galloping" river.

Summaries provided by DPL's catalog unless otherwise noted. Click on each title to view more information.