Manly Men and Pretty, Pretty Horses: A Read Dead Redemption II Reading List

Have you found yourself questioning your decision to work in an office environment? Do you, instead, long for the great outdoors? A dusty road with your trusty horse, perhaps? Do you long to find a hat you love so much that you never forget to grab it should it be inexplicably knocked off your head? Maybe you suddenly realized that you really like boots and flannel. You might have suddenly started talking in a southern accent. Do these symptoms sound like you? 

Well, my friend, you just might be suffering from the effects of Red Dead Redemption II. It could be that you're currently playing the video game sensation; it could be you've already finished playing it; it could be you're just dying to get your hands on the game everyone (and I mean everyone) keeps talking about. Or it could be that you're not really "playing a game," and instead, Cowboy Culture is just you now. It's okay. No judgment, here.

Oh, what's that you say? You've never actually tried this game? Well, maybe you should. Who knows—it might be fun. You could like it. Maybe you should put your name on the holds list. Yeah. Super easy. Just click right here and you can put it on hold and then later start playing. Great. See you on the other side, partner. (one of us, one of us, one of us)

OKAY. So creepy cult-like behavior aside, here are a few reading options for those of you (like myself) who are absolutely obsessed with this gloriously fun video-game set in the Wild West.

West by Carys Davies reminds me of the joy and surprise of so many of the side quests in Red Dead II, when you happen to stumble upon an adventure without really meaning to. The writing style in this novel is lush, but slightly disjointed, lending a sense of purpose and even a little bit of magic to the story. In this book, a man goes on a seemingly mythic quest to discover rumored monsters roaming the uncharted West, where anything seems possible.

Days Without End by Barry Sebastian is an atmospheric and gorgeously written little novel that gives that sense of fierce loyalty and connection to characters that Red Dead II is so good at. You'll find yourself living through battles and hardship and walking alongside the characters in this novel while seeing the West through their eyes—all of the triumphs and all of the destruction. This book, to me, feels the most true read-a-like to the spirit of Red Dead II's storytelling abilities.

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy might not be what immediately comes to mind as a read-a-like since the events in this book aren't set in the Old West. However, the complexity of the narrative and the questions it raises echoes some of the themes in Red Dead II. This book is for those who want something thought-provoking and unnerving and who aren't afraid of some gruesomeness.

After you finish reading those books, and you still want more, you must watch The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The cinematography of this film is breathtaking and will appeal to those who just like how pretty the world of Red Dead II is. There is even a moment in the game that is almost shot-for-shot of a scene from this movie (hint: oil drum). Both the game and the movie are visually stunning and feature leading males who are, in fact, kind of villainous, but who are so compelling you don't even feel guilty loving them.

Good luck on this new cowboy lifestyle. Just remember—nowadays bank robberies are particularly frowned upon, and you should probably not make your living from highway robberies. Trains also aren't as big of a thing anymore. Also, where can one find a horse? (Asking for a friend.)

-Kimberly Lopez is a Readers' Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.

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