8 Books for Fans of Reservation Dogs

Spirituality meets coming of age in these beautiful tales.

reservation dogs
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  • Photo Credit: FX

If you haven’t been watching Reservation Dogs, then you’re missing out. Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi's comedy-drama follows the lives of four Indigenous teenagers in rural Oklahoma, in a small town in the Muscogee Nation. Their lives are spent committing crime and fighting it, learning the history of the reservation and the struggles of the previous generations, and figuring out what they want their futures to be. 

Reservation Dogs is the first series to feature all Indigenous writers and directors, along with an almost entirely Indigenous North American cast and production team. It's a touching, often hilarious series that stylishly smashed stereotypes while simultaneously exploring them. Reservation Dogs just wrapped up its third and final season, so, if you've never seen it before, now's the perfect time for a binge-watch! If you have seen it and are looking for more indigenous North American stories, here are eight books you should read.

i place you into the fire

I Place You Into the Fire

By Rebecca Thomas

Rebecca Thomas is a Mi'kmaw writer who was the Halifax poet laureate from 2016 to 2018. Her 2020 collection, I Place You Into the Fire, examines navigating life and love as a second-generation Residential School survivor in Canada, where thousands of First Nations children were removed from their homes by the government. 

The collection takes inspiration from the language of the Mi'kmaw and how three similarly shaped words have drastically different meanings: kesalul means "I love you"; kesa'lul means "I hurt you"; and ke'sa'lul means "I put you into the fire."

we are all crew, a book like reservation dogs

We Are All Crew

By Bill Landauer

Two fourteen-year-old boys run away from home and embark on a strange cross-country trip. Hell-bent on reaching California, they end up boarding Tamzene, a mysterious riverboat that runs on alternative fuel and is piloted by the mysterious Dr. Seabrook. 

The Tamzene travels the waterways of a bizarre, fun-house image of the US. What they encounter seems utterly unreal and often inhuman, but it's all entirely American.

Where the Spirits Ride the Wind

Where the Spirits Ride the Wind

By Felicitas D. Goodman

Felicitas D. Goodman was an American linguist and anthropologist who studied the phenomenon of "speaking in tongues" in Pentecostal congregations in Mexico. In 1990, she published Where the Spirits Ride the World, which delved into the world of trans experiences and the ritual postures of native art that are a common feature of indigenous and First Nations cultures. 

Goodman's book delves into the ancient myths and practical aspects of these experiences and how they form a crucial backbone of an oft-misunderstood community.



By Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie is arguably one of the most well-known Native American authors of the past 30 years. His young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, won the National Book Award and became a major part of many a high school's curriculum (it is also one of the most frequently banned and challenged books in American schools and libraries). 

2007's Flight was his first novel in ten years. The young hero is about to commit a major act of violence when, all of a sudden, he finds himself shot back through time to resurface in the body of an FBI agent during the civil rights era. He sees first hand some of the biggest atrocities committed against Native communities, like the battle at Little Bighorn, as well as the more mundane experiences of an airline pilot jetting through the skies of the modern day. Every jump through time allows him to better understand himself, and to answer the question, "Who's to judge?"

Cheyenne Madonna

Cheyenne Madonna

By Eddie Chuculate

In seven interconnected stories, writer Eddie Chuculate explores Jordan Coolwater, a half-Cherokee youth, and his struggle for self-discovery as he tries to distance himself from his family's chronic drinking and poverty. The stories depict Jordan's alcoholic father, his attempts to become a successful artists, and the ever-looming shadow of addiction that cannot help but dominate his life. 

Chuculate also follows the life of Old Bull, Cheyenne who, in "Galveston Bay, 1826," the collection's one stand-alone story, journeys to see the ocean for the first time before being brought to his knees by a hurricane.

Son of a Trickster

Son of a Trickster

By Eden Robinson

Jared is a burnout kid, the local weed cookie seller who doesn't do much beyond get wasted and try to avoid his weird mom and her new boyfriend. Jared can't count on his mom to stay sober and stick around to take care of him, or his dad who can't work and is too busy with his new family. 

And, to make things worse, he's convinced a bird is talking to him. He must be going mad. Or maybe his maternal grandmother was right about him being the son of a trickster. If he isn't really human, then what the hell is he supposed to do?

johnny appleseed, a book like reservation dogs

Johnny Appleseed

By Joshua Whitehead

Poet Joshua Whitehead received a nomination for Canada's prestigious Giller Prize for fiction with their literary debut, Jonny Appleseed. The title character is a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer who has left life on the reserve to try and find a new way of living in the big bad city. He becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living, taking advantage of those who leer over Native queer men. 

Jonny has one week before he must return to the "rez," and his former life, to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The next seven days unfold like a fever dream as he prepares for his homecoming and tries to piece together the shattered parts of his very unusual life.

split tooth, a book like reservation dogs

Split Tooth

By Tanya Tagaq

Tanya Tagaq is one of the leading Inuk throat singers in modern music. She has collaborated with the likes of Buffy Sainte-Marie and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, as won a slew of Juno Awards in her native Canada. Her novel Split Tooth takes inspiration from her music with its poetic prose and focus on First Nations life. A girl grows up in Nunavut in the 1970s, surrounded by beauty and brutality, including the violence and alcohol issues that permeate her home town. When she becomes pregnant, she has to confront all of these problems and more, as well as the spirits that surround her and the thrilling power of the natural world. Taraq blends fiction and memoir, poetry and prose, and gritty realism with the supernatural in this coming of age tale.