Cormac McCarthy Books
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The Full List Of Cormac McCarthy Books

Here is the complete list of books published by Cormac McCarthy, an American writer, playwright, and screenwriter best known for the exceptional characters and unique style he used in writing Western fiction. 

McCarthy remains one of the best-selling authors and living American novelists in the past hundred years, having published ten novels, two screenplays, two plays, and three as-yet-unpublished screenplays.

Who Is Cormac McCarthy?

Born on July 20, 1933, Cormac McCarthy was an American writer, screenwriter, and playwright who gained popularity for his novels set in the Mexican borderlands, rural American South, and Southwest. The violent personality and stylistic complexity of his wayward characters were what set him apart from other writers. McCarthy is still considered by many as one of the finest living American writers up to now.

Western Author Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy was the third child of the six children of Charles Joseph and Gladys Christina McGrail McCarthy. He was initially named “Charles,” but eventually changed his name to Cormac, which meant “son of Charles.”

In 1937, his family moved to Knoxville, where his father served as a lawyer for the Tennessee Valley Authority, while he studied at a Catholic High School. In 1951, he pursued a major in liberal arts at the University of Tennessee. Upon returning to the University in 1957 after serving four years in the U.S. Air Force, McCarthy found his passion in fiction writing. He started his literary career by publishing two short stories in the university literary magazine, which won him the Ingram-Merrill Award.

McCarthy published his first novel, The Orchard Keeper, in 1965, which won him the Faulkner Award, and in 1966, the Rockefeller Foundation Grant. He achieved popularity with his novel All the Pretty Horses in 1979, winning the National Book Award. Other notable Cormac McCarthy books include Child of God, Suttree, Blood Meridian, and The Border Trilogy. Furthermore, he won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 with his critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel, The Road.

He now lives Tesuque, in Santa Fe County, New Mexico, United States.

Cormac McCarthy Complete Booklist & Summary

Here is Cormac McCarthy’s list of books along with a short summary:

Cormac McCarthy Books # 1 The Orchard Keeper

Cormac McCarthy Books # 1

Book Summary: An American classic, The Orchard Keeper is the first novel by one of America’s finest, most celebrated novelists.  Set is a small, remote community in rural Tennessee in the years between the two world wars, it tells of John Wesley Rattner, a young boy, and Marion Sylder, an outlaw and bootlegger who, unbeknownst to either of them, has killed the boy’s father.  Together with Rattner’s Uncle Ather, who belongs to a former age in his communion with nature and his stoic independence, they enact a drama that seems born of the land itself.  All three are heroes of an intense and compelling celebration of values lost to time and industrialization.

A 5-Star Review: McCarthy’s lyrical prose and his ability to capture the essence of existence without turning preachy or maudlin or melodramatic is awe inspiring. While this is not my favorite of his books, it is one of my favorite books. A coming of age story, a story of rebellion, and a story of madness. Trying to put your finger on the thread of the plot and say it’s an xxx story just isn’t possible for me with McCarthy. These are human stories about characters sewn from whole cloth, all of them on trajectories of varying levels of loss, love, rage, all of the things that make us human. McCarthy creates beautifully turned phrases and characters that you loathe or love, there is no middle ground. He makes no attempt to pretty up the ugly or demean the pretty. If you haven’t read McCarthy you should. You won’t have a ho-hum reaction to any of his novels. – JM Harvey

Cormac McCarthy Books # 2) Outer Dark

Cormac McCarthy Books # 2

Book Summary: Outer Dark is a novel at once fabular and starkly evocative, set is an unspecified place in Appalachia, sometime around the turn of the century.  A woman bears her brother’s child, a boy; he leaves the baby in the woods and tells her he died of natural causes.  Discovering her brother’s lie, she sets forth alone to find her son.  Both brother and sister wander separately through a countryside being scourged by three terrifying and elusive strangers, headlong toward an eerie, apocalyptic resolution.

A 5-Star Review: McCarthy continues to be a sensational lyric poet who happens to write prose. Occasionally the flow of a narrative, that spins out mystery and dread counter-poised with a moral vision, gets stopped dead because the language choices have this showy and unfamiliar erudition. Put up with it. The characters are richly conceived and the landscape in which they move is mercurial and beautiful and itself a character. The overall effect is stunning in an original and non-hokey sense of that word.
I’d like to think that Truman Capote continued to live, matured into a potent, darker wine and became Cormac McCarthy. – James Murrell

Cormac McCarthy Books # 3) Child of God

Cormac McCarthy Books # 3

Book Summary: In this taut, chilling novel, Lester Ballard–a violent, dispossessed man falsely accused of rape–haunts the hill country of East Tennessee when he is released from jail.  While telling his story, Cormac McCarthy depicts the most sordid aspects of life with dignity, humor, and characteristic lyrical brilliance.

A 5-Star Review: Haunting. It’s the only word I have after having read this. Not haunting as in ..”it will leave you with nightmares” but haunting in a humanistic way. Makes you wonder..how many more are out there that are just like this? I’m sure more than we want to admit too. Hence the Beatles ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and all the lonely people. The ‘madness’ and isolation that must engulf them to the point of desperations. Mr McCarthy has a very different writing style, but it was still easy to get through. – Coleen Kelly

Cormar McCarthy Books # 4) Suttree

Cormac McCarthy Books # 4

Book Summary: By the author of Blood Meridian and All the Pretty HorsesSuttree is the story of Cornelius Suttree, who has forsaken a life of privilege with his prominent family to live in a dilapidated houseboat on the Tennessee River near Knoxville.  Remaining on the margins of the outcast community there–a brilliantly imagined collection of eccentrics, criminals, and squatters–he rises above the physical and human squalor with detachment, humor, and dignity.

A 5-Star Review: Cormac McCarthy is not known for comedic writing. Suttree is no exception, but humor does seep into his story at various points. I call this Cormac’s most readable book, based simply on the number of times I had to leave the book to look up a term or word. Supposedly this book has no plot. I disagree. I think that Suttree himself is a sort of drifter who we simply accompany. His driftings take him places, and we understand the motivations driving those driftings. Do any of us have a plot? – shultho

Cormac McCarthy Books # 5) Blood Meridian

Cormac McCarthy Books # 5

Book Summary: An epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America’s westward expansion, Blood Meridianbrilliantly subverts the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the “wild west.”

Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into the nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.

A 5-Star Review: It’s very,very dark and is work to read. Probable the least receptive books if all his books but the overall result is incredibly haunting and rewarding. I highly recommend that the first time,after you finish it, that you listen to Ben Nichols (lead singer, songwriter of the alt country rock band Lucero) only album without the band called A Last Pale Light in the West. It’s a short album that tells his interpretation of it through the eyes of the 5 or six main characters. It’s a worthy add on to the book and help verify some ideas expressed in the book. About as far as I can go into it because a review any deeper might lead you astray. If you want a more accessible book of his to warm up on,read No Country for Old Men. I feel it’s his most accessable book and gets you used to his strange but actually good lack of normal punctuation. – T. Parker

Cormac McCarthy Books # 6) All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, Book 1)

Book Summary: The national bestseller and the first volume in Cormac McCarthy’s Border TrilogyAll the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds himself at the end of a long line of Texas ranchers, cut off from the only life he has ever imagined for himself.  With two companions, he sets off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey to a place where dreams are paid for in blood.  Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction.

A 5-Star Review: This is my favorite of the Cormac McCarthy books I have so far read. It’s the story of two young men who travel by horseback into Mexico for fun and experience. They find a strangely beautiful country with surprises and hilarious episodes. Also, they experience the dark violence this author so descriptively portrays. It’s about young John Grady who has truly ridden horses all his life. He loves and knows horses and in a sort of Zen relationship the horses respond. I took a deep breath when I finished the book. I had Goosebumps. I had just witnessed a young man come of age and acquire wisdom and a moral code that most men never live to know. – C. Michael Bennis

Cormac McCarthy Books # 7) The Crossing (The Border Trilogy, Book 2)

Book Summary: In The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy fulfills the promise of All the Pretty Horses and at the same time give us a work that is darker and more visionary, a novel with the unstoppable momentum of a classic western and the elegaic power of a lost American myth.

In the late 1930s, sixteen-year-old Billy Parham captures a she-wolf that has been marauding his family’s ranch.  But instead of killing it, he decides to take it back to the mountains of Mexico.  With that crossing, he begins an arduous and often dreamlike journey into a country where men meet ghosts and violence strikes as suddenly as heat-lightning–a world where there is no order “save that which death has put there.”

An essential novel by any measure, The Crossing is luminous and appalling, a book that touches, stops, and starts the heart and mind at once.

A 5-Star Review: Mr McCarthy is not an easy read. He is in his own sphere as he writes. The reader is brought to the actual presence of the character, sees the actual environment, shares the actual emotion, feels the stress of danger. To fully enjoy the author, the reader must hold on to thought trains extending to several lines, paragraphs of great length, three an four syllable words. If the author does not have the perfect word, he will invent a new one for the reader to pause and puzzle upon. Many great authors are praised for the simplicity of their expression. Mr. McCarthy will not be troubled with such. He will certainly never be confused with McMurtry or Hemingway.

Cormac McCarthy Books # 8) The Stonemason: A Play in Five Acts

Book Summary: From a writer hailed as an American original — and the author of the national bestsellers All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing — comes a taut, expansively imagined drama about four generations of an African American family.

The setting is Louisville, Kentucky, in the 1970s. The Telfairs are stonemasons and have been for generations. Ben Telfair has given up his education to apprentice himself to his grandfather, Papaw, a man who knows that “true masonry is not held together by cement but…by the warp of the world.” Out of the love that binds these two men and the gulf that separates them from the Telfairs who have forsaken — or dishonored — the family trade, Cormac McCarthy has crafted a drama that bears all the hallmarks of his great fiction: precise observation of the physical world; language that has the bite of common speech and the force of Biblical prose; and a breathtaking command of the art of storytelling.

A 5-Star Review: The Stonemason is the rare work by Cormac McCarthy that is ultimately uplifting. That is not to disparage his great, dark works like the All the Pretty Horses and No Country for Old Men, but The Stonemason is McCarthy at his best with a positive message to boot. – Andrew J. Kinney

Cormac McCarthy Books # 9) The Gardener’s Son

Book Summary: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy’s acclaimed first screenplay, the basis for an Emmy-nominated film—a taut, riveting intergenerational drama of fathers and sons, power, inequality, rage, and violence set in post-Civil War South Carolina.

Set in Graniteville, South Carolina, The Gardener’s Son is a tale of privilege and hardship, animosity and vengeance brought to life through two families: the Greggs, the wealthy owners of a cotton mill, and their employees the McEvoys, a father and son beset by misfortune. After Robert McEvoy loses his leg in an accident—rumored to have been caused by his nemesis James Gregg, the son of the mill’s founder—the angry and bitter young man deserts his job and family.

Two years later, Robert returns. His mother is dying, and his father, the mill’s gardener, is confined indoors working the factory line. These intertwined events stoke the slow burning rage McEvoy has long carried, a fury that erupts in a terrible act of violence that ultimately consumes the Gregg family and his own.

Made into an acclaimed film broadcast on PBS in 1976, The Gardener’s Son received two Emmy Award nominations and was screened at the Berlin and Edinburgh Film Festivals.

A 5-Star Review: I agree that Cormac McCarthy is America’s greatest living author. I have now read all of his works, The Gardener’s Son being the last one read. It didn’t disappoint me either as none of his books have. He is truely a literary genius and I would love to know him personally. – T. J. Thomas

Cormac McCarthy Books # 10) Cities of the Plain: Border Trilogy (3)

Book Summary: In this magnificent new novel, the National Book Award-winning author of All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing fashions a darkly beautiful elegy for the American frontier.  

The setting is New Mexico in 1952, where John Grady Cole and Billy Parham are working as ranch hands. To the North lie the proving grounds of Alamogordo; to the South, the twin cities of El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. Their life is made up of trail drives and horse auctions and stories told by campfire light. It is a life that is about to change forever, and John Grady and Billy both know it.

The catalyst for that change appears in the form of a beautiful, ill-starred Mexican prostitute.  When John Grady falls in love, Billy agrees–against his better judgment–to help him rescue the girl from her suavely brutal pimp. The ensuing events resonate with the violence and inevitability of classic tragedy.   Hauntingly beautiful, filled with sorrow, humor and awe, Cities of the Plain is a genuine American epic.

A 5-Star Review: Cormac McCarthy is one of our greatest American writers, if not one of the greatest writers in prose period, in the tradition of Faulkner and Conrad. His fluidity and mastery of the language are unexcelled, as well as his sense of locale and character. His languaging will make you see life and narrative in a new way. Some of his descriptions are beyond description! This particular book is charming, with lots of touching sequences, as well as some harrowing ones, and, as always with Cormac, not for the faint of heart. The ending is poignant and moving, tying together a whole life and a whole subculture of late American cowboys in a subtle and beautifully moving manner. A masterpiece. But what else would you expect from this author? (I also highly recommend All The Pretty Horses, The Crossing, No Country for Old Men (which produced the impactful and faithful adaptation by the Coen Brothers in the movie of the same name) and, for the really courageous, Blood Meridian, undoubtedly his unparalleled masterpiece, possibly the most disturbing as well as the most beautiful book I have ever read). – Joseph Barclay Ross

McCarthy Books # 11) No Country for Old Men

Book Summary: In his blistering new novel, Cormac McCarthy returns to the Texas-Mexico border, setting of his famed Border Trilogy. The time is our own, when rustlers have given way to drug-runners and small towns have become free-fire zones. One day, a good old boy named Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a bodyguard of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law–in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell–can contain.As Moss tries to evade his pursuers–in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives–McCarthy simultaneously strips down the American crime novel and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines. No Country for Old Men is a triumph.

A 5-Star Review: What more can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said? This is an incredible book. I read The Road prior to this book and it’s difficult to say which is my favorite. Both are fantastic. I read the parts of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in Tommy Lee Jones’ voice because I just can’t think of anyone else who would’ve been better cast in that role. And Mr. Chigurh is truly a psychopath in this book. A wonderful contrast to the aging sheriff. – Frequency Jones

McCarthy Books # 12) The Road

Book Summary: The searing, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son’s fight to survive.

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

The Roadis the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

New York Times Notable Book
One of the Best Books of the Year
The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, The Denver Post, The Kansas City Star, Los Angeles Times, New York, People, Rocky Mountain News, Time, The Village Voice, The Washington Post

A 5-Star Review: The Road is a masterpiece. From the onset I was drawn into a devastated world inhabited by a father and son struggling to survive and it felt so real, so plausible. McCarthy’s prose is fluid and addictive and the story managed to keep me on edge of my seat for the entirety of the book. Some detractors say things like “I wish I knew what caused this post-apocalypse.” Or “The author never states the names of the main characters.” I view this as a strength, rather than a pitfall because the truth of it is this: none of that matters. McCarthy gives us what really matters and highlights the struggle to survive, and the way relationships endure unimaginable hardship. The road is an important book that cuts through the “who” and “why” of it all and shows that the consequences of bombs, or other anonymous cataclysms, result in real, visceral human suffering. – Steven Farr

McCarthy Books # 13) The Sunset Limited

Book Summary: A startling encounter on a New York subway platform leads two strangers to a run-down tenement where a life or death decision must be made.

In that small apartment, “Black” and “White,” as the two men are known, begin a conversation that leads each back through his own history, mining the origins of two fundamentally opposing world views. White is a professor whose seemingly enviable existence of relative ease has left him nonetheless in despair. Black, an ex-con and ex-addict, is the more hopeful of the men–though he is just as desperate to convince White of the power of faith as White is desperate to deny it.

Their aim is no less than this: to discover the meaning of life.

Deft, spare, and full of artful tension, The Sunset Limited is a beautifully crafted, consistently thought-provoking, and deceptively intimate work by one of the most insightful writers of our time.

A 5-Star Review: Seems as if McCarthy can tackle any topic and turn it into art. He’s one of our great writers and The Sunset Limited is a play that kept my attention. Not one wasted word but exactly all the right words to really say so much of the human condition. For me it was an experience of intellectual intensity and suspense. I hung on every word and was moved by both characters. During my life I have like both characters but much of the time in the gray area in between. As I read this I found myself filling in those gray areas that McCarthy purposely leaves open. This material is as deep or superficial based on one’s own thoughts and experiences. HIGHLY recommended except for people who need action or descriptive settings. The setting is in the mind and it is a mind blower. – James H. Thomas

McCarthy Books # 14) The Counselor

Book Summary: On the eve of becoming a married man, the Counselor makes a risky entrée into the drug trade—and gambles that the consequences won’t catch up to him.
 
Along the gritty terrain of the Texas–Mexico border, a respected and recently engaged lawyer throws his stakes into a cocaine trade worth millions. His hope is that it will be a one-time deal and that, afterward, he can settle into life with his beloved fiancée. But instead, the Counselor finds himself mired in a brutal and dangerous game—one that threatens to destroy everything and everyone he loves. Deft, shocking, and unforgettable, McCarthy is at his finest in this gripping tale about risk, consequence, and the treacherous balance between the two.

A 5-Star Review: From the photos on the cover of the paperback edition, I made the wrong assumptions about which actors played which characters. If having the actor in your mind as you read is important to you, I suggest you watch the trailer for the movie, “The Counselor.” I assumed that Brad Pitt was the counselor: wrong! I assumed Cameron Diaz was the angelic Laura: wrong! I assumed Penelope Cruz was the “bad” girl: wrong! And so on: all stereotyping on my part. I loved the book, and I may go back and read it again with the correct actors in mind.

As far as the writing goes, it is superb McCarthy. I almost finished the book in one sitting. Couldn’t put it down! – Tuscanyblue

Conclusion

With a writing career that started in the year 1959, Cormac McCarthy continues to be one of the most popular living western fiction writers to date. If you love action-packed western fiction, then we encourage you to check out our list of similar western authors here. And if you are looking for a book you can read for free, check out this month’s free read.

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