Photo by Sharona Jacobs

Hi there! I’m Megan Kate Nelson, a writer, historian, road cyclist, and cocktail enthusiast.

I am the author of The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West (Scribner, 2020), which was a Finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History.

My new book, Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America was published by Scribner on March 1, 2022, the 150th anniversary of the Yellowstone Act, which created the first national park in the world. Saving Yellowstone is one of Smithsonian Magazine‘s Top Ten Books in History for 2022, and the Colorado Sun‘s Fifty Books about the West.

I am an expert in the history of the American Civil War, the U.S. West, and popular culture, and have written articles about these topics for The New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, The AtlanticSlate, and Smithsonian Magazine.

A fellow of the Society of American Historians, I am also a regular guest on radio shows and TV documentaries about western history and popular culture.

Before leaving academia to write full-time in 2014, I taught U.S. history and American Studies at Texas Tech University, Cal State Fullerton, Harvard, and Brown. I earned my BA in History and Literature from Harvard University and my PhD in American Studies from the University of Iowa.


Contact: mkn at



Today marks a month of swimming 3x a week at the community pool to rehab a hip flexor injury that has been bothering me for more than a year.

I am not a natural swimmer. I have zero muscle memory from the swim lessons I took as a kid. It took me forever to gather up all the stuff I need (swimsuit! Towels! Goggles! Swim cap! Sandals!), and then a few weeks to overcome the social anxiety that comes with entering a space whose rules you do not know.

I am still not super-comfortable in the water. I still can’t do crawl stroke. The locker room is disgusting. Many sweet 80-year-old ladies are absolutely smoking me in the water.

I’m still going because the cardio is pretty great and the rehab is actually working - my hip flexor feels much better, and I am getting stronger. But I don’t love it. I don’t even like it, really.

Anyway. This is a very long post with no real point except that doing new things can be hard, especially when you’re not particularly good at them. But also that if something good comes from it, it’s worth doing.

The best endnote I have ever written.

#amwriting #bookstagram #TheWesterners #history #historybooks

A rare pic of me giving a talk when I’m not gesticulating wildly or having some outsized facial reaction. A miracle!

Thanks again to @concordmuseum and @reedgochberg for a great event!

#bookstagram #booktalks #history

College roommate and bestie @swu_mom’s first puzzle for @nytcrosswords!

Woot! #crossword

A behind-the-scenes image from my talk at @concordmuseum tonight (which was great!).

I print everything on recycled paper - and usually I check to make sure I put it into the printer correctly. Usually I look through my talk before I head out. I did neither of those things tonight.

So this is what pp. 4-8 looked like.

Good thing I have talked about #SavingYellowstone before …

#booktalks #wingingit

Boston and Metro West peeps! The amazing folks at @concordmuseum have invited me to talk about #SavingYellowstone this Tuesday evening!

I’ll be showing some slides and talking about Yellowstone’s complex histories, and then @reedgochberg and I will have a chat.

Come to Concord and join us!

#bookstagram #booktalk #writingcommunity #yellowstone #nationalparks @scribnerbooks

So excited to be reading @nataliapetrzela ‘s fantastic new book, FIT NATION, in preparation for our conversation about it at @brooklinebooksmith next week.

I’m 50 pages in and hooked!

#bookstagram #bookrecommendations #books #booklover #bookstagrammer #indiebookstore #history #fitness #writingcommunity #womenwriters