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8 Authors Like Cormac McCarthy

Collage of book covers of books from authors like Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy, who died on June 13, 2023, is widely considered one of the great American writers. His body of work, which includes 12 novels, two plays, five screenplays, and short stories, is primarily in the genres of Southern Gothic, western, and dystopian. Loved this author? Keep reading for our list of more authors like Cormac McCarthy.

Who is Cormac McCarthy?

McCarthy was born on July 20, 1933, in Providence, Rhode Island, raised in Tennessee, where he lived for much of his life, and later lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Late in his life, he was a trustee at the Santa Fe Institute, one of the few with no scientific background.

Fans of McCarthy’s writing praise his nontraditional prose style, which uses both fragment and run-on sentences and makes use of punctuation (or the lack of it) to influence the way his words are read, either speeding up the reader or slowing them down. His dialogue was frequently sparse and unpunctuated, while his descriptions were lush and descriptive. His work has been compared to that of William Faulkner, and indeed his debut novel, The Orchard Keeper, won the William Faulkner Foundation Award for Notable First Novel in 1966.

Several of his works have been adapted as movies, including Academy Award–winning Best Picture No Country for Old Men.

Authors Like Cormac McCarthy

Try these eight authors and additional five novels for a taste of the genres and styles Cormack McCarthy was best known for.

William Faulkner

Why not start here, where most comparisons lay? Their prose shines, and both wrote both novels and screenplays. The Sound and the Fury is famously written utilizing stream of consciousness and other literary devices, and was as divisive when it was published as The Road was for McCarthy.

Larry McMurtry

Known almost as well for his coming-of-age story The Last Picture Show and his stunning portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship in Terms of Endearment as he is for his westerns, Larry McMurtry cemented his place at the top of the list of modern western authors with Lonesome Dove and its sequels and prequels. Like McCarthy, he was also a screenwriter, including some of his own adaptations as well as co-writing the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain, based on the story by Annie Proulx.

Mary Doria Russell

If you love the philosophical underpinnings of Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian novels like The Road, Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God, both exploring the psychological effects of first contact with aliens on humanity, might be for you. Prefer a gritty western? Her take on Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, in Doc and Epitaph, would satisfy any lover of westerns.

Colson Whitehead

Best known for his alternate history novel The Underground Railroad and his bildungsromane Sag Harbor and The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead’s post-apocalyptic novel Zone One features both setting and experimental style that fans of Cormac McCarthy will find both appealing and familiar.

Toni Morrison

It would be impossible to discuss authors like one of the great American novelists without mentioning another of the great American novelists, Toni Morrison. Like Cormac McCarthy, her novels explore American identity, and like McCarthy, she also wrote plays. While most of her work is contemporary to the time in which it was written, Beloved and Jazz take place in the post–Civil War years and during the Harlem Renaissance, respectively.

Annie Proulx

Best known for her short story “Brokeback Mountain” and its acclaimed film adaptation, Annie Proulx writes about the American West with a love and attention to detail — and sparse dialogue — that fans of Cormac McCarthy will love.

August Wilson

Playwright August Wilson may seem an odd addition to this list at first glance, but perhaps no one has written more in-depth about the American experience. He is best known for his Pittsburgh Cycle — ten plays representing the 20th century with a play for each decade showing the lives of African Americans in places like Pittsburgh and Chicago.

Louise Erdrich

One of the most versatile authors working today, Louise Erdrich is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, a federally recognized tribe of Ojibwe people. Her Justice Trilogy, including the novel The Round House, was inspired largely by the work of William Faulkner, much like Cormac McCarthy, and her post-apocalyptic novel Future Home of the Living God will surely appeal to fans of The Road.

Books for Fans of Cormac McCarthy


The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin

In this gritty and powerful western, Ming Tsu elopes with Ada, whose father is a powerful railroad magnate, and when she is kidnapped he partners with a prophet and a group of magical circus performers in order to exact revenge and bring her back home.

Book cover of Heresy by Melissa Lenhardt

Heresy by Melissa Lenhardt

In this fictional oral history of the wild west’s only all-female gang, Margaret Parker and Hattie LaCour are outlaws due to desperate circumstances. As their heists attract the attention of the Pinkertons, they also find themselves pursued by a rival gang determined to wipe them out. They just need to pull off one last job…

Book cover of How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang

Set during the American gold rush, orphaned immigrant siblings Lucy and Sam travel across harsh territory in order to bury their Ba, and along the way they face their own history — familial as well as the Chinese stories they’ve been told — while exploring their new home country and finding their place in it. The writing in this one is stunning and unique, something that will surely appeal to fans of Cormac McCarthy!

Book cover of Outlawed by Anna North

Outlawed by Anna North

Apprentice midwife and newly married Ada turns to a life of crime when her marriage failed to produce a pregnancy in its first year. Running from a community that hangs barren women as witches, Ada joins the Hole in the Wall Gang, a group of outcasts looking to be a safe haven for women…and willing to risk it all to make their dream happen. A queer, feminist western for fans of Cormac McCarthy looking for something more inclusive.

Book cover of True Grit by Charles Portis

True Grit by Charles Portis

One of the most famous westerns of all time, adapted twice as award-winning movies, True Grit is the story of Mattie Ross as she seeks vengeance on the men who killed her Pa. She hires Marshall Rooster Cogburn (famously played first by John Wayne and more recently by Jeff Bridges) and insists on accompanying him to go after the men.

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