Top 15 Books By Indigenous Authors

It is very important to diversify your horizons by reading some fantastic books by Indigenous authors from all over the world.

If this is something you’re interested in, but you’re not sure where to start, then this article has all the information you need.

Top 15 Books By Indigenous Authors

On this list, you will have the chance to meet some famous Indigenous authors from around the world, and experience lots of different books from dystopian thrillers to novels about the natural world.

You will meet authors from the U.S., Egypt, and Australia.

Best Books By Indigenous Authors

The Things She’s Seen, Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

The Things She's Seen

This is written by Sally Morgan’s daughters. Sally Morgan was the author of one of the most popular books by Indigenous authors.

Her children have picked up where she left off.

This is a collaborative effort from Indigenous authors Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina.

These are siblings who both have Palyku heritage.

These are a group of aboriginal people who come from the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

This is a fantastic young adult thriller that contains themes of grief, hope, and justice.


This novel follows the story of Beth Teller after her death.

Her Dad is feeling overwhelmed with grief, and he is the only person who has been able to see and hear Beth after her accident.

Beth’s father has a mystery to solve that will hopefully remind her that his father should reconnect with the living, instead of being stuck in the past.

He is a detective, and a case takes him to a remote Australian town, where the witness speaks in riddles.

Beth and her father attempt to unravel the mystery, and they uncover a story that is under the surface of this small town.


  • A fantastic storyline with great themes running through the novel


  • Can be difficult to become gripped by this story

Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

This book, by Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, is a great mixture of traditional knowledge and academic knowledge.

It brings together the author’s knowledge as a botanist and her knowledge as a member of the Potawatomi Nation.

The essays in this book are great for shining a light on the beauty of ecological consciousness in relation to the climate change disasters that we are currently facing.

Kimmerer’s knowledge and interest in the natural world are ingrained in her culture and it was inspired and encouraged by her parents.

Although Kimmerer was raised in upstate New York, she was raised with lots of focus on her Potawatomi heritage.

Kimmerer highlights that the awakening of the ecological consciousness requires an acknowledgment of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world.


This book is made up of a series of essays that are related to science and lore.

She highlights our relationships with nature and acknowledges the role of nature as the oldest teacher of humankind.


  • Exceptional book conveying the beauty of the natural world
  • Contains lots of indigenous wisdom


  • Some people find that this book is not very gripping

Where We Once Belonged, Sia Figiel

Where We Once Belonged

The author of Where We Once Belonged, Sia Figiel, is a great Samoan novelist and poet.

She has a great way of sharing fantastic stories by drawing upon traditional forms of music and poetry in her contemporary work.

The writing is poetic and dreamlike, and it is very unique. This novel saw Figiel win the 1997 Best First Book award.

This novel was the first to be written by a Samoan woman that was successfully published in the United States.


This novel is set in the village of Malaefou. It follows Alofa, who experiences some sexual and violent encounters that shape her.

She is a Polynesian woman and these experiences shape who she is.


  • This novel has won awards for its writing style


  • Quite a hard novel to follow

Too Much Lip, Melissa Lucashenko

Too Much Lip

This is a great fictional story that follows a family and the strength of a country.

This is full of fantastic characters which help us explore the Bunjalung country which is located in far northern New South Wales.

This story portrays the idea that the country knows and sees us, and this makes its presence felt in lots of ways.

This book is about the culture in lots of ways including the way of speaking and the structures that exist around class and race.


This is a hilarious novel that follows a queer woman who returns home to protect the land of her ancestors.

She has to face her family along the way. She often uses anger to fight against the world.

When Kerry Salter’s dad is dying, she has to head back to her hometown once more.

She ends up staying in her hometown in order to try and save the family’s ancestral land.


  • This book takes you on a great journey


  • Quite a sad and traumatic story

Hearts Unbroken, Cynthia Leitich Smith

Hearts Unbroken

This is a great Indigenous book in the teen and young adult fiction genre.

The author of this novel, Cynthia Leitich Smith, is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation.

She writes books that show the lives of Native American children and teens living in the world today.


This story follows Lou who is a Native teenage girl who is attempting to navigate her first love and her high school years.

She is a budding journalist who is interested in the photographer from the paper.

The two of them cover the front page of the student paper with protests that oppose inclusive casting in their school play.


  • Follows very important storylines


  • This book is aimed at children and teens

Once Were Warriors, Alan Duff

Once Were Warriors

This is a fantastic novel that is very eye-opening when it comes to Indigenous authors. This story is very heart-wrenching.

It was written by Alan Duff who is both a novelist and a newspaper columnist.

He is from Rotorua in New Zealand, and he has both Ngáti Túwharetoa (Máori) and Ngáti Rangitihi descent.

Duff spent some years in a housing neighborhood funded by the state, but his later childhood was spent linking with a Máori aunt and uncle in Whakarewarewa.

This novel has been turned into an acclaimed film since its release and it is one of the most important indigenous novels that explores the clash between tolerance and tradition.


In this novel, you see the Hekes struggle through alcoholism, violence, and poverty. The Hekes are an urban Máori family.

This harrowing story shows a Maori woman struggling to keep her family together.

It explores the Maori tradition and the wounds that have been left behind.


  • Very strong storyline
  • Shows important history


  • Very emotional story

There There, Tommy Orange

There There

This novel is very well known, and it is popular for a very good reason!

Tommy Orange, the author of this book is a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.

He is one of the many Indigenous authors that Oklahoma has birthed.

In this novel, 12 characters from different native communities are traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow.

They are all connected together, although they don’t know it.

There is one of the best Indigenous books that showcase the diversity of stories within these communities.

It is known to have expanded the definition of what it means to be native.


These characters include Jacquie Red Feather who is recently sober. She is desperately searching for the family that she left behind.

It also follows Dene Oxendene, who is going in order to remember his late uncle.

It also follows Orvil, who is going to perform a traditional dance for the first time.

The characters all collide on one day at the Big Oakland Powwow.

Together, they grapple with a complex and painful history. It merges beauty and spirituality with communion and sacrifice.


  • Includes great history


  • The story can be disjointed at times

Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe

Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the birth of agriculture

Dark Emu is one of the best books by Bruce Pascoe.

He is one of Australia’s most controversial Indigenous writers, as well as one of the most popular!

This novel was released in 2014, and since then it has sparked debate across the world.

His revelations had large amounts of cultural implications.

He has encouraged those reading his work to consider that the things they have been told are not necessarily true, instead deeming them ‘convenient lies’.

Dark Emu, which is a bestseller in Australia, has also won lots of awards.

It won the Book of the Year Award and the Indigenous Writer’s Prize in the 2016 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards.


In this novel, he refutes the claim that the Aboriginals lived in hunter-gatherer societies before they were colonized by the United Kingdom.

He presents evidence to back up his claim by drawing upon old historical and geological records in order to highlight that Aboriginal people across Australia were cultivating grain crops and storing harvests long before the British invaded!

These are all of the main features of an agricultural society.


  • This novel is filled with a fantastic history


  • Quite a factual novel

Robopocalypse, Daniel Wilson

Robopocalypse: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries)

This novel is quite different from the others we’ve seen on this list so far.

It is an action-packed dystopian novel, and one of the best Indigenous books out there.

Daniel Wilson is part of the Cherokee Nation.

He is the author of some great novels that comment on the way that we rely upon technology, and what we would do if this technology turned against us.

This novel contains many allusions to the fate of so many Native American tribes. There is a lot there to read between the lines.


This novel is set in the future when the human race has been practically annihilated.

Those who remain are called upon to unite in a fight to save humanity. This fight is known as the Robot War.

The humans that remain are very different from each other, but they come together to fight this battle.

The story sees a single mother, a traumatized soldier, and a bachelor come together to fight.


  • This is a very thrilling and gripping story


  • It is a very sad story

The Heartbeat Of Wounded Knee, David Treuer

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present

This novel is written by David Treuer who grew up on the Ojibwe reservation.

This is located in Minnesota. He then trained as an anthropologist.

In his novels, Treuer draws upon his academic knowledge and his heritage.

He writes both fiction and nonfiction Indigenous books. These novels celebrate the preservation of Native communities.

It shows the horrors that the Native people have experienced both in the past and present are very difficult, but that the Native people shine through with stories of resilience, reinvention, and transformation.

This book highlights the very important history of the Native people and the formation of the new identity that they hold.


In the novel The Heartbeat Of Wounded Knee, he retells the past of Native Americans in an engaging and entertaining way.

It runs from the 1890 massacre that occurred at Wounded Knee through to the present.


  • Highlights a very important history


  • It is not very engaging at times

Firekeeper’s Daughter, Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper's Daughter

This book is a great one to read if you’re looking for a remarkable Indigenous book.

It is suitable for both adults and young adults, even making TIME magazine’s top 100 young adult novels of all time.

The author, Angeline Boulley, is the daughter of a traditional firekeeper.

He is responsible for striking fires at lots of different cultural events. This is where Boulley got her inspiration for her novel.

This novel is filled with love interests, dramas, and a coming-of-age story.


This novel follows an unenrolled biracial girl who is learning what it means to be an Ojibwe woman.


  • A very interesting story showing Angeline Boulley’s culture


  • Presents identity issues

Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko

Ceremony: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

Leslie Marmon Silko is the author of Ceremony. She is a Laguna Pueblo Indian woman.

Her novel is one of the most important and powerful books of Native American literature.

This book was first published in 1970, but it continues to be impactful and important today.

The writing is very honest.

It is so honest that she has been criticized by some other Indigenous authors for sharing secret knowledge about certain tribes with the world.


This book follows the story of Tayo. He is a WWII veteran who is returning to his reservation after the war. He is of mixed ancestry.

This story sees him struggle with memories of the war and the death of his cousin. He ends up getting lost in alcoholism.

His family engages him in ceremonies that are designed to help him find his place as a Laguna man, preventing him from losing himself to alcoholism.


  • Very informative and historical


  • Difficult to understand at times

Brooklyn Heights, Miral Al-Tahawy

Brooklyn Heights: An Egyptian Novel

This book was translated into English from Arabic. The author, Miral Al-Tahawy, is an Egyptian writer.

She grew up in the Bedouin culture, which is a very conservative culture. Her family belongs to the al-Hanadi tribe.

She is the first novelist to present this culture beyond the use of very problematic stereotypes.

Through her work, she has drawn attention to the struggles of Bedouin women who would otherwise not be noticed in the mainstream.

This is her fourth novel, which was published in 2010. It was translated into English in 2011.


This story follows Hind, an aspiring writer who experiences flashbacks and finds that her memories of the Bedouin village show up in every corner of her new life.

She is now living in Brooklyn, New York.


  • Very moving story
  • Rich in culture


  • Difficult to follow at times

My Heart Is A Chainsaw, Stephen Graham Jones

My Heart Is a Chainsaw

This is a great novel that is written by Stephen Jones. This is great for readers who like thrills.


This story follows Jade Daniels. She likes to watch horror movies to escape her damaged home life.

She is trying to distract herself from an abusive father and an absent mother, in a town that is not very supportive.

Jade then finds that one of the horror film plots comes to life, and Jade is able to predict what is going to come next.


  • Very innovative writing


  • Can be quite a slow read

The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich

The Night Watchman: Pulitzer Prize Winning Fiction

Louise Erdrich is a very well-known Indigenous author. She has won many awards for her novels, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for this novel.

This novel explores the best and worst parts of humankind, including the peaks and valleys of life, and the pain and pleasure of love and loss.


The Night Watchman is based on the true story of Erdich’s grandfather, who was part of the fight against Native dispossession.


  • Very powerful stories


  • It is quite slow, to begin with

Buyer’s Guide

If you are looking for fantastic books by Indigenous authors, then you’ve come to the right place.

Above, you have 15 different, remarkable books by Indigenous authors.

Let’s have a look at some of the features of these books that you should consider when you are choosing which one to read next!

Fiction Vs Nonfiction

Some of the novels on this list are non-fiction or mostly non-fiction.

This means that they are based on facts, and are not fictitious stories.

Some of these may include essays. Some of the novels on the list are fiction novels.

They use the history and culture of the Native communities and base some fictitious stories around them.

Indigenous Community

If you are looking to read a book that is from a particular Indigenous community, then you should do some research into this.

If you want to learn more about Indigenous Australian people, then you should look for some books that have been written by or about this community.


Some of the novels by Indigenous authors will have a large amount of history in them.

This will mean that you can learn as you read the novels.

Whether you already know some history, but want to know more, or you are just starting your journey into Indigenous literature, then you should consider the amount of history in these novels.

If you are interested in the history of these cultures, as well as how they fit into the world now, you should definitely look for an Indigenous author who includes history in their novels!

Writing Style

Lots of Indigenous authors write in a very poetic way, or they write songs and poetry.

If you prefer reading prose, then you should consider looking for a book that is written in this way.

In contrast, if you like to read poetic work, then you should consider looking for an author who writes in this way.

The way that a story is written can have a huge impact on the way that you digest it, so this is a very important thing to consider.


If you enjoy reading and learning about characters in a novel, then you will want to ensure that the Indigenous novel that you have chosen has good characterization.

Depending on what you prefer, you should make sure that you are choosing a novel that suits you best so that you can learn and enjoy the art.

Final Thoughts

This novel has highlighted the 15 most remarkable books by Indigenous authors. There are many amazing authors out there from Indigenous backgrounds.

After reading this list, you should now have plenty of books that you can read by Indigenous authors!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Indigenous Mean?

The definition of Indigenous is the earliest known inhabitants of a place. Usually, the places have since been colonized by a more dominant group.

Are There Many Indigenous Authors?

There are lots of Indigenous authors out there. Some of these authors are on the list above, but there are many more than haven’t been mentioned.

Some Indigenous authors are very successful, but some are not so successful and may not get their work published or seen by many. The novels on this list are books by the more popular Indigenous author.

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Noah Burton