What I’ve Read: All the Pretty Horses (6/365)

Cover of Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses

If we’re connected on Goodreads, you know I’ve set a challenge for myself of 52 books this year. If you follow me in this space, you know I’m all about the importance of educators talking about their reading and lives as literate citizens. As such, I’ll be talking a bit about my completed books as they stack up this year.

The Breakdown

The first book I’ve completed this year was Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. My only other experience with McCarthy was his Blood Meridian, which I “liked” but which also made me weary going into Horses because Meridian has some pretty intense violence throughout.

Horses is a different sort of western. The tale of John Grady Cole and his decision to set out from his Texas town on horseback for Mexico in 1949. McCarthy’s prose has struck me as powerful and sparse in each of his books I’ve read so far. At one point in Horses I said aloud to myself, “I’m glad he’s read Hemingway.”

My initial description of Horses might be that it’s a coming of age story, but it’s not quite that. At the close of the book, Grady remains who he was at the beginning. Instead, McCarthy adeptly shows us and Grady what it means to be himself across situations and circumstances beyond his small-town upbringing.


I picked up All the Pretty Horses for two reasons. The first is availability. As part of a 40th birthday present, some friends and I gave my friend him all the National Book Award winners in fiction for each of the years she’s been alive. Horses won in 1992. I’d closed out the year with 2017’s winner Sing, Unburied, Sing and had read 2016’s recipient Underground Railroad. Because Sing and Railroad centered around African American protagonists, I was curious to see what through line, if any, I could detect in the Award’s panelists’ tastes across books. Wonderful writing is the answer.

My second reason was one of my best friend’s esteem for the book. He’s one of the best writers I know, and so I trust his tastes. I’ve also had a lifelong curiosity with the writers read by writers I read.

In the End

Several nights last week saw me awake much later than I’d intended because I was wrapped in the voice of this book. Not only is Grady a character I enjoyed following, but McCarthy creates a narrator at once removed and invested in his protagonist. This mix of care and every-possible demise made Horses difficult to put down and satisfying to finish.

What Else I’ve Been Reading