Western Edge Books, Artwork, Music is an oasis of calm in the middle of of North Dakota’s #1 tourist destination.
Billed as a frontier bookstore (“We specialize in America ‘beyond the hundredth meridian’, from pre-history till the present,” declares the shop’s website) Western Edge Books, Artwork, Music is a perfect fit for bustling Medora, the pretty little western town that swells with visitors during North Dakota’s warm spring, summer and fall months.
This sense of place permeates the atmosphere in the shop and the selection. All of the books, artwork and jewelry invoke the restless spirit of the American west. And the story goes well beyond cowboys.
You’ll find a thoughtful and wide-reaching assortment of books covering Native American communities and leaders, local and regional history, gunfighters and outlaws, military campaigns that touched the region, the fur trade and early explorers, geology and dinosaurs and western fiction. There’re also lots of titles about Theodore Roosevelt, the region’s most famous resident.
Even if these topics aren’t normally your preferred reading, it’s hard not to wander the aisles and get drawn in. There aren’t many places to sit down and get lost in a book (which is by design, I’m sure — it’s tempting!) but the sturdy log posts are perfect for doing the old lean and read. And trust me — we were all doing it!
I loved how the owners Doug and Mary Ellison made a point to showcase the women of the west, since their voices are so often missing from the hyper-masculine narrative. It was fascinating to grab a handful of books and be introduced to prairie homesteaders, female ranchers, society ladies, outlaws, businesswomen and Native American warrior women.
I learned more about women in the west from just a few minutes in Western Edge than I did throughout my entire K-12 education, which is a testament to the store’s selection…and a pretty sad statement about my schooling.
My friend Liz found a biography of Alice Roosevelt, Teddy’s oldest daughter, that I’m going to beg her to lend me when she’s done. I’d never heard of Alice before, but she seemed like a fascinating person and a woman ahead of her time.
It was great to see the Ghosts of North Dakota boys’ book on the shelves and I got lost in the cookbook section for a little longer than I expected. There’s also a fun selection for young readers, so if you have a little one who’s passionate about dinosaurs, geology, the old west or history, this will be a great stop for them, too.
Be sure to set aside lots of time to browse and chat with Doug behind the counter. In addition to serving as Medora’s mayor, running the bookstore and putting up lodgers at the adjacent Amble Inn, he’s also an expert on many aspects of local history (he’s been featured on The History Channel!), especially the Sully Campaign that came through North Dakota in the 1860s.
If you’re interested in this campaign, Doug’s your guy. He corresponds with the families of several of Sully’s men and is helping plan a remembrance for the 150th Anniversary of the Sully Campaign and the Battle of the Badlands (which happened nearby) this August.
When you find yourself in Medora — or even just passing through — Western Edge Books, Artwork, Music is a soothing stop for curious souls. And check back here on August 7 for some more of my favorite spots in Medora.
If North Dakota travel isn’t in your plans, you can keep in touch with Western Edge Books, Music, Artwork on Facebook or search for books on the shop’s website. All merchandise is available via mail order, so if you see something you love, you can have it, no matter how far you are from the frontier.
Western Edge Books
425 4th Street
Monday – Sunday: 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
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