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Do You Need to Read Tony Hillerman’s Books in Order?


Tony Hillerman is a legend in Native American and Southwest literature, both fiction and nonfiction. A multitude of people have devoured and adored them. He was born in 1925 and began writing from 1970 until he passed away in 2008.

Hillerman reading order fiction series, Leaphorn and Chee, consists of over 25 volumes and has 35 books.

Who is Tony Hillerman?

He was born in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma, in 1925. He spent most of his teenage years going to school with the Native American people in the area, which gave him a great respect for their culture. In later years, his childhood would appear in his books’ ideas and topics.

Before becoming an author, Hillerman joined the army during the Second World War and served as a mortarman in the 103rd Infantry Division, earning many awards and honors.

Hillerman became a reporter after his time in the war. His first job was as a reporter for more than ten years. After getting his master’s, he taught writing at the University of New Mexico. He lived in New Mexico and died there in 2008.

Understanding the Tony Hillerman’s Book’s Order:

Below is the explanation of American Author House regarding the order of the books:

The Case for Reading in Order:

One argument favoring Hillerman’s reading order is the progression of character development and recurring themes. Hillerman’s novels primarily feature two main characters, Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police.

As the series unfolds, the relationship between these two characters deepens, and their personal and professional lives evolve.

Reading the books in order allows readers to witness the growth and changes within these characters, which creates a more meaningful reading experience.

After his 2008 death, his daughter Anne Hillerman has written this series. Anne Hillerman wrote the works marked with asterisks.

The Blessing Way (1970)

Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)

Listening Woman (1978)

People of Darkness (1980)

The Dark Wind (1982)

The Ghostway (1984)

Skinwalkers (1986)

A Thief of Time (1988)

Talking God (1989)

Coyote Waits (1990)

Sacred Clowns (1992)

The Fallen Man (1996)

The First Eagle (1998)

Hunting Badger (1999)

The Wailing Wind (2002)

The Sinister Pig (2003)

Skeleton Man (2004)

The Shape Shifter (2006)

Spider Woman’s Daughter (2013) *

Rock with Wings (2015) *

Song of the Lion (2017) *

Cave of Bones (2018) *

The Tale Teller (2019) *

Stargazer (2021) *

The Sacred Bridge (2022) *

The Way of the Bear (2023) *

Untitled Leaphorn and Chee #27 (Expected: April 23, 2024)

Additionally, Hillerman often references previous cases or events in his novels, building upon established storylines. Reading 100 pages speed for the book in order allows readers to fully appreciate these references and understand the connections between different story arcs.

It enhances the overall reading experience and provides a more comprehensive understanding of the Navajo culture and the world that Hillerman creates.

The Case for Non-Linear Reading:

On the other hand, some argue that Hillerman reading order does not detract from the enjoyment or understanding of the individual stories. Each novel is designed to be a standalone mystery with its self-contained plot, conflict, and resolution.

Hillerman skillfully weaves the necessary background information into each book to ensure readers can follow along without feeling lost.

Reading the books out of order allows readers to explore Hillerman’s work non-linearly, allowing for greater flexibility and freedom. It enables them to choose books based on their interests or availability without feeling obliged to follow a prescribed reading order.

This approach can be particularly useful for readers interested in exploring specific themes or locations within Hillerman’s work rather than following a specific character arc.

Achievements and Acknowledgment:

Every one of Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee books, as well as many of his nonfiction books, shows that he values Indigenous history and culture. But more importantly, that focus fits naturally into his research into murders in a way that feels real.

When he writes about myths and traditions, there is a strong sense of respect running through them.

Hillerman won two awards in 1991. The first was the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award, and the second was the Edgar Award for his second Leaphorn and Chee book, Dance Hall of the Dead. Later, the Navajo Tribes gave him the Special Friends of Dineh Award for how he portrayed and spoke for the Navajo people.

Description Tips Purpose
Reading Your Draft Like A Reader Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. To spot problems with pace and narrative flow.
Identifying Major Plot And Character Issues Look for plot holes and character inconsistencies. To ensure story and character coherence.
Sentence Structure And Variety Use diverse sentence structures. To enhance readability and engagement.
Character Development Balance character consistency with growth. To make characters relatable and dynamic.
Tools And Techniques For Self-Editing Utilize digital tools and personalized checklists. To improve writing quality and catch common errors.
Checking Style And Format Consistency Ensure uniformity in formatting and style. To provide a smooth reading experience.
Final Proofreading Tips Employ various proofreading strategies. To polish the work and ensure it’s error-free.


Some believe that not following the Hillerman reading order affects story comprehension, while others say the opposite.

I would suggest reading the books to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the characters, their relationships, and the overarching storylines.

It allows readers to witness their growth and appreciate the subtle complexities of the series. However, readers who prefer a more flexible and non-linear reading experience can still enjoy Hillerman’s novels independently, as each book is a captivating mystery.


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