Louise Erdrich is a niche author with most of her works, including poetry, novels, and children’s books, featuring Native American characters and settings. Erdrich’s interest in Native American stories comes from the fact that her mother was a Chippewa woman of half-French and half-Ojibwe descent.
Erdrich’s grandfather was a chairman for the tribe of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and while Erdrich herself never grew up on the reservation, she used to go there a lot as a child to visit relatives. She is now an enrolled member of the tribe.
A Nickel For A Story
Erdrich’s parents always encouraged her to write as a young girl. Her father even used to give her a nickel for each story she wrote. She was also one of the first women to ever attend Dartmouth College in 1972, where she got a BA in English. This is where she met her husband with whom she has done many writing collaborations.
This author has received many awards and nominations for her work; she was even a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel The Plague of Doves. So far, Louise Erdrich has released twenty-eight books, but I will be reviewing her ten best ones in this article.
Best Louise Erdrich Books
|The Round House||9.34/10||368 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|The Night Watchman||9.76/10||464 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|The Sentence||9.46/10||400 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|The Master Butchers Singing Club||9.62/10||416 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
The Round House
This best book by Louise Erdrich will transport you to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is the story of a young boy approaching manhood and seeking not only justice but also understanding when a terrible occurrence changes the dynamics of his family forever. Big themes throughout this story are culture and religion.
The story starts with father and son attempting to dig up invasive tree roots from the base of their house. Both are named Antone Bazil Coutts; however, the thirteen-year-old son goes by Joe. Antone Bazil is a judge who has great respect for the law. Then there is Geraldine Coutts, Joe’s mother.
Tales And Legends
When Geraldine is brutally raped and beaten, she retreats into solitude – not only to protect herself but also her family. Throughout the story, there are small clues that tell us who committed the heinous crime and why, with Erdrich dropping hints along the way, just as a writer of crime fiction would.
Every culture has its own stories, and that is true for the Ojibwe tribe as well. We see in this Louise Erdrich novel that all the best stories influence how we understand the world around us. This compelling story is not just about tragedy, it is also a powerful story about justice. There is a focus on the bonds of friendship and a sense of belonging. I really enjoyed this one, it is a strong book to start with!
The Night Watchman
This top Louise Erdrich book is also one of her latest, winning her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2021. The story is based on the extraordinary life of her grandfather, a man who not only worked as a watchman but also fought against the dispossession of Native Americans from North Dakota all the way to Washington.
The jewel bearing plant is the first factory in North Dakota, located near the Turtle Mountain Reservation. Thomas Wazhashk is the night watchman there and a Chippewa Council member who is attempting to understand what this new “emancipation” bill would mean for him and the other Natives that live in the area.
Life On The Reservation
Everyone knows that this bill has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with Congress being fed up with Indians. The bill threatens the right that Native Americans have over their land, as well as their identity. There is also the character of Patrice, a young woman who is the primary supporter of her family, searching for her older sister in a big city.
Erdrich creates a rich portrait of a community struggling to survive, as well as giving us an inside look into the life of Native Americans. We see how they connect with one another, the living, and the dead. This is an incredible book that has a satisfying ending, and Erdrich wrote it beautifully. If you don’t give this one a read, you will be missing out!
Love Medicine Series
This Louise Erdrich series has some of her best books, with seven works in total. The main story throughout is about the long-lasting effects that colonialism had on the Ojibwe communities, which we see through many generations of characters. The first book is called Love Medicine and is about the fate of the Kashpaws and the Lamartines, two entwined families.
The second book is called The Beet Queen and is about young siblings Karl and Mary Adare, who arrived in North Dakota in 1932. They were abandoned and are seeking refuge with their aunt and uncle. We meet the most colorful and unforgettable characters while being exposed to the mystery of the human condition.
Book three is called Tracks, which boasts many familiar characters from the first two books. Erdrich takes us through how the Indian tribes were struggling to keep what little was left of their land. This is just the first three books in the series, but the rest are just as fascinating and well-written!
All the characters in these books have stories that will tug at your heartstrings. Erdrich paints a picture of Native American beliefs and traditions, exposing us to a world that most of us are not familiar with. What’s nice about these Louise Erdrich books is that you don’t have to read them in order! Enjoy them at your own pace and read the ones that pique your interest the most.
Most Annoying Ghost
This story takes place from All Soul’s Day 2019 to All Soul’s Day 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. The book is set in a small Minneapolis bookstore where Tookie, an Ojibwe woman, works. Tookie has been there for four years, selling books ever since she was released from prison.
The only problem with this bookstore: it’s being haunted by its most annoying customer. Flora was a frequent flyer at the bookstore, and Tookie quite enjoyed her, even if she did find her a little annoying. But when Flora dies on All Soul’s Day, she simply refuses to leave the store.
Tookie must now solve the mystery of the haunting while trying to navigate life during a worldwide pandemic. This is actually Louise Erdrich’s new book which came out in November 2021, and it is definitely one you will want to add to your reading list! I found it quite interesting to be taken back to the pandemic, but I have mixed feelings about reliving it.
What I did enjoy was seeing how the characters experienced it in a way that was different from my own. Louise Erdrich covers so many different topics in this best book, as well as making many references to other popular novels. I really liked this one and highly recommend it! The characters are wonderful and engaging and the story is very compelling.
The Master Butchers Singing Club
After The War
Fidelis Waldvogel, a survivor of World War I, returns to his peaceful German village and weds Eva, the pregnant widow of his best friend, who was killed in the war. The couple decides to move to America for a better life and set off, their suitcases filled with sausages and a master butcher’s knife set.
Fidelis, Eva, and their four sons end up in a small town in North Dakota, where Fidelis opens a butchery. Whilst building his business, Fidelis also builds a home for his family and opens a singing club, where all the best voices in town come to sing. During this time, a local girl named Delphine crosses paths with Fidelis and Eva.
Delphine has a difficult background, doing acts and shows in the surrounding towns to get by. When she meets Eva and Fidelis, it is the Old World and the New World coming together, and an interesting partnership is born. Eva and Delphine are fast friends, but things between Fidelis and Delphine are a bit shakier.
The impact of war is a strong theme throughout this highly-ranked Louise Erdrich book. Over and above that there is actually a lot that happens throughout the story and not all of it is happy – I will warn you of that now. What carries this Louise Erdrich novel are the best characters and unusual plotline. Definitely recommend for something a bit different!
A Tragic Accident
Here we have one of Louise Erdrich’s best-selling books, a contemporary tale about a tragic accident, justice, and atonement. It’s late summer in North Dakota in 1999, and Landreaux Iron is hunting deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. When he takes his shot and the deer springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else – a child.
Landreaux has accidentally killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty, who is best friends with his own son, LaRose. The families have always been close and Landreaux is absolutely horrified at what he’s done. He returns to the Ojibwe reservation seeking guidance. He finds a way forward, but it is a difficult one.
The Shining Light
According to one of the ancient means of retribution in the Ojibwe tribe, Landreaux and his wife have to give LaRose to the grieving parents and he will now become their son. The peace between these two families is fragile, and things only get worse when a vengeful man starts flinging accusations and raising trouble.
This Louise Erdrich story, while tragic, is so beautifully told and you need only read the book reviews to see that many people feel the same. You will see two grieving families suffering different kinds of loss and a young boy who is the shining light that will save them. I won’t lie, I shed a tear or two while reading this.
Birchbark House Series
This Louise Erdrich series contains five best books, starting with the titular novel. It is the story of a 7-year-old Ojibwe girl named Omakayas, the only survivor of a smallpox epidemic on Spirit Island. Omakayas was rescued by a woman named Tallow and taken to an Ojibwe family living on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island, whose journey we follow throughout.
The second book is called A Game of Silence, where we are once again with Omakayas. She is facing a group of white people who want her and her people to leave the island. For the first time, Omakayas realizes that her home and her way of life might just be in danger.
For All Ages
Omakayas is older in the third book, The Porcupine Year, and she and her family have set off on a difficult journey. They are in search of a new home, and while they are prepared, there are unexpected dangers that lay ahead. The last two books are called Chickadee and Makoons, about twin brothers desperate to reunite with their family.
One thing I’ve realized about all of Louise Erdrich’s best novels is that she really shows through her characterization that she has a good understanding of people. She knows how they act under stress or in dire situations – for some people you see them at their best and for others you see them at their worst. This series is classified as one of Louise Erdrich’s children’s books, but I think people of all ages will enjoy it!
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
This book left me breathless, wishing that it hadn’t come to an end. Nothing I say in this review will help you understand the magnitude of this story, you simply have to read it for yourself. The story follows Father Damien Modeste, a beloved priest of the Ojibwe people. Father Damien is slowly dying, and his biggest fear is that people will discover his deepest secret.
You see, Father Damien has served the Ojibwe people on the reservation of Little No Horse for 50 years, but all that time he has been a woman living as a man. His life is disrupted when a troubled colleague shows up at the reservation to investigate the possibly false Sister Leopolda.
A Hard Choice
Facing the most difficult decision of his life, Father Damien now has a choice to make: either reveal all he knows about Sister Leopolda and risk everything, or manufacture a false protective history. But how can he not tell the truth when he believes that the Sister is motivated by evil?
This best-rated novel by Louise Erdrich is a beautiful story that jumps between the past and present. There are parts that will make you sad and parts that will make you happy, but the characters are what truly make this book stand out. I found myself so intrigued by their interesting lives. It is truly a master of literature at work.
The Beet Queen
This best novel is part of Erdrich’s Love Medicine series, which I touched on earlier. I wanted to go a little more in-depth with this book in particular because I loved it so much. What you already know is that it is about orphaned siblings Karl and Mary Adare. They were orphaned in the most unusual way and now, in the spring of 1932, they are seeking refuge with their aunt and her husband.
This is just the beginning of a saga that spans forty years. Within this time, Mary, who is quite ordinary, causes a miracle, and Karl, the seductive one, lacks the knack for survival that his sister possesses. We also meet other colorful characters like Sita, their cousin who is slightly disturbed, and Celestine James, who becomes Mary’s best friend.
Throughout this book, we are taken on a journey about relationships and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. This book is filled with jealousy, love, sexual desire, abandonment, and humor. The writing is just fantastic (as usual) and while there are a lot of moving parts, Erdrich ties it all together nicely.
My favorite part of this book was the first chapter; it was so powerful and really moved me. I’ve never been so affected by a book from literally the first page before this one. There are also a lot of laughable moments throughout, so you will have no shortage of entertainment reading this!
The Painted Drum
Another one from the Love Medicine series, this one is about a priceless artifact of the Ojibwe people and the effect it has had on those who have come in contact with it. Agent Faye Travers is appraising the estate of a New Hampshire family that is descended from a North Dakota Indian.
During her appraisals, Faye discovers a rare moose skin and cedar drum that was made many years ago by an Ojibwe artisan. So begins the journey through the past, present, and future, following the excursions this powerful instrument has been on and the extraordinary way it has affected people’s lives.
Finishing Off Strong
This best book by Louise Erdrich is also one of her most popular ones and is an exploration of the relationship between mothers and daughters. Along with that, we are also exposed to familial strength when faced with grief. This story is unforgettable and many claim that it is Erdrich’s finest work.
It’s difficult to really explain this book in such a short space. Erdrich takes us through the mysteries that surround us in our everyday lives and really emphasizes how intricately things are woven together, even when we might not realize it. This is the last book in this article, and I think we’ve ended off on a high note! Do yourself a favor and give it a read!
All in all, I think I’ve said everything I need to say about this author. I have given you a breakdown of all the best novels by Louise Erdrich and you would be missing out big time if you don’t give at least one a read. Although, I know you won’t be able to read just one – I certainly couldn’t stop once I started!
Some of Erdrich’s other books that I would recommend are The Red Convertible, Four Souls, and The Bingo Palace. Don’t forget that she also writes children’s books, so if you have a child that loves reading, make sure to check those out too!
Michael is a graduate of cultural studies and history. He enjoys a good bottle of wine and (surprise, surprise) reading. As a small-town librarian, he is currently relishing the silence and peaceful atmosphere that is prevailing.