AWM Staff Picks April 2023

AWM Staff Picks: April 2023

Reading Recommendations from the staff of the American Writers Museum.

We can’t recommend these books highly enough! Check back every month for more reading recommendations, from classics that we reread over and over to new favorites. If you’re looking for your next book, you came to the right place.

Our April staff picks are also available on, which benefits independent bookstores. We also strongly encourage you to support your local bookstore by visiting them in person or ordering online through them directly.

Because I Could Not Stop for Death: An Emily Dickinson Mystery by Amanda Flower book cover

Because I Could Not Stop for Death: An Emily Dickinson Mystery by Amanda Flower

From the publisher: “Emily Dickinson and her housemaid, Willa Noble, realize there is nothing poetic about murder in this first book in an all-new series… Tragedy soon strikes and Willa’s beloved brother, Henry, is killed in a tragic accident at the town stables… Viewing it first as a puzzle to piece together, Emily offers to help, only to realize that she and Willa are caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse that reveals corruption in Amherst that is generations deep…”

Flower recently visited the AWM to discuss her new mystery novel and share insights into how Emily Dickinson’s life and writing has inspired her own writing career. Listen to a podcast of the event here, or watch the full program on YouTube!

—Karie, Director of Marketing

A Breath of Life by Clarice Lispector book cover

A Breath of Life by Clarice Lispector

From the publisher: “A mystical dialogue between a male author (a thinly disguised Clarice Lispector) and his/her creation, a woman named Angela, this posthumous work has never before been translated. Lispector did not even live to see it published. At her death, a mountain of fragments remained to be ‘structured’ by Olga Borelli. These fragments form a dialogue between a god-like author who infuses the breath of life into his creation: the speaking, breathing, dying creation herself, Angela Pralini. The work’s almost occult appeal arises from the perception that if Angela dies, Clarice will have to die as well. And she did.”

—Deanna, Storyteller

Burning Distance by Joanne Leedom-Ackerman book cover

Burning Distance by Joanne Leedom-Ackerman

From the publisher: “A modern-day Romeo and Juliet—set against the backdrop of deadly weapons smuggling. Jane Austen meets John le Carré in this cross-cultural love story and political thriller. Set in the years before and after the first Gulf War, Burning Distance is a journey through family secrets and competing loyalties, contemporary history, and the dark world of arms trafficking.

—Linda, Director of Development

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay book cover

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

From the publisher: “Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road. One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, ‘None of what’s going to happen is your fault.’ Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: ‘Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.'”

—Matt, Social Media Coordinator

The Crown Ain’t Worth Much by Hanif Abdurraqib book cover

The Crown Ain’t Worth Much by Hanif Abdurraqib

From the publisher: “The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, Hanif Abdurraqib’s first full-length collection, is a sharp and vulnerable portrayal of city life in the United States. Abdurraqib brings his interest in pop culture to these poems, analyzing race, gender, family, and the love that finally holds us together even as it threatens to break us. Terrance Hayes writes that Abdurraqib ‘bridges the bravado and bling of praise with the blood and tears of elegy.’ The poems in this collection are challenging and accessible at once, as they seek to render real human voices in moments of tragedy and celebration.”

—Nate, Digital Content Associate

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner book cover

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

From the publisher: “From the indie rock sensation known as Japanese Breakfast, an unforgettable memoir about family, food, grief, love, and growing up Korean American…Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.”

If you enjoy reading and discussing memoirs, join us for Get Lit: Me, Myself, and I, a happy hour event in May all about memoirs!

—Courtney, Education Program Coordinator

Crying in the Bathroom by Erika L. Sánchez book cover

Crying in the Bathroom by Erika L. Sánchez

From the publisher: “An utterly original memoir-in-essays that is as deeply moving as it is disarmingly funny…In these essays about everything from sex to white feminism to debilitating depression to the redemptive pursuits of spirituality, art, and travel, Sánchez reveals an interior life that is rich with ideas, self-awareness, and perception—that of a woman who charted a path entirely of her own making. Raunchy, insightful, unapologetic, and brutally honest, Crying in the Bathroom is Sánchez at her best: a book that will make you feel that post-confessional high that comes from talking for hours with your best friend.

—Courtney, Education Program Coordinator

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid book cover

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

From the publisher: “A gripping novel about the whirlwind rise of an iconic 1970s rock group and their beautiful lead singer, revealing the mystery behind their infamous breakup…Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend. The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.”

—Nate, Digital Content Associate

Doom Patrol by Rachel Pollack

Doom Patrol by Rachel Pollack

From the publisher: “Starting in 1989, Doom Patrol evolved into something truly bizarre—and brilliant—with some of the most unique ideas in fiction given shape…In 1993, writer Rachel Pollack took over Doom Patrol from Grant Morrison, and quickly made the title her own—retaining its offbeat spirit while pushing its characters in new directions, and tackling important social issues in the Doom Patrol’s thoroughly unconventional way. This hardcover omnibus is the first-ever collection of Pollack’s run on Doom Patrol. In these stories, the Doom Patrol must pull themselves together yet again as they move into a bizarre new headquarters, gain two new members and try to cope with the preteen menace known as the Wild Girls!”

—Carey, President

Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing book cover

Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing

From the publisher: “Electric Arches is an imaginative exploration of Black girlhood and womanhood through poetry, visual art, and narrative prose. Blending stark realism with the surreal and fantastic, Eve L. Ewing’s narrative takes us from the streets of 1990s Chicago to an unspecified future, deftly navigating the boundaries of space, time, and reality. Ewing imagines familiar figures in magical circumstances—blues legend Koko Taylor is a tall-tale hero; LeBron James travels through time and encounters his teenage self. She identifies everyday objects—hair moisturizer, a spiral notebook—as precious icons…Electric Arches invites fresh conversations about race, gender, the city, identity, and the joy and pain of growing up.”

—Nate, Digital Content Associate

Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis book cover

Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis

From the publisher: “Set in 90s Manhattan, Victor Ward, a model with perfect abs and all the right friends, is seen and photographed everywhere, even in places he hasn’t been and with people he doesn’t know. He’s living with one beautiful model and having an affair with another on the eve of opening the trendiest nightclub in New York City history. And now it’s time to move to the next stage. But the future he gets is not the one he had in mind. With the same deft satire and savage wit he has brought to his other fiction, Bret Ellis gets beyond the facade and introduces us, unsparingly, to what we always feared was behind it. Glamorama shows us a shadowy looking-glass reality, the juncture where fame and fashion and terror and mayhem meet and then begin to resemble the familiar surface of our lives.”

—Cassidy, Storyteller

The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party by Daniel James Brown book cover

The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party by Daniel James Brown

From the publisher: “In April of 1846, twenty-one-year-old Sarah Graves, intent on a better future, set out west from Illinois with her new husband, her parents, and eight siblings. Seven months later, after joining a party of pioneers led by George Donner, they reached the Sierra Nevada Mountains as the first heavy snows of the season closed the pass ahead of them. In early December, starving and desperate, Sarah and fourteen others set out for California on snowshoes, and, over the next thirty-two days, endured almost unfathomable hardships and horrors. In this gripping narrative, New York Times bestselling author Daniel James Brown sheds new light on one of the most legendary events in American history. Following every painful footstep of Sarah’s journey with the Donner Party, Brown produces a tale both spellbinding and richly informative.”

—Cristina, Guest Services & Operations Supervisor

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders book cover

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

From the publisher: “Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?”

—Christopher, Director of Operations

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan book cover

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Recently being in the driftless region of Wisconsin and passing Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin home in Spring Green, WI, I was reminded of the book Loving Frank that I read forever ago, but really liked. From the publisher: “an ‘enthralling’ novel that brings ‘the buried truths of the ill-starred relationship of Mamah Borthwick Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright to light’ (The New York Times Book Review)… Elegantly written and remarkably rich in detail, Loving Frank is a fitting tribute to a courageous woman, a national icon, and their timeless love story.”

—Karie, Director of Marketing

No Land in Sight: Poems by Charles Simic book cover

No Land in Sight: Poems by Charles Simic

This is the final book of poetry that Charles Simic published before his death in January of this year. His take on the world revealed in his poems shows witty, dark humor and observations that will haunt the reader.

—Christopher, Director of Operations

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng book cover

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

From the publisher: “Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. His mother Margaret, a Chinese American poet, left without a trace when he was nine years old. He doesn’t know what happened to her—only that her books have been banned—and he resents that she cared more about her work than about him. Then one day, Bird receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, and soon he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of heroic librarians, and finally to New York City, where he will finally learn the truth about what happened to his mother, and what the future holds for them both.”

—Linda, Director of Development

The River by Peter Heller book cover

The River by Peter Heller

From the publisher: “Wynn and Jack have been best friends since college orientation, bonded by their shared love of mountains, books, and fishing…When they decide to canoe the Maskwa River in northern Canada…a wildfire making its way across the forest adds unexpected urgency to the journey. One night, with the fire advancing, they hear a man and woman arguing on the fog-shrouded riverbank; the next day, a man appears on the river, paddling alone. Is this the same man they heard? And if he is, where is the woman? From this charged beginning, master storyteller Peter Heller unspools a headlong, heart-pounding story of desperate wilderness survival.”

—Sam, Storyteller

Sins of the Black Flamingo by Andrew Wheeler, art by Travis Moore, coloring by Tamra Bonvillain, and lettering by Aditya Bidikar book cover

Sins of the Black Flamingo by Andrew Wheeler, art by Travis Moore, coloring by Tamra Bonvillain, and lettering by Aditya Bidikar

When you look at the dictionary definition of “Be Gay, Do Crimes,” this book appears. This collection of #1-#5 of Andrew Wheeler’s Sins of the Black Flamingo is queer, sexy fun. Looking forward to what is coming next in the Black Flamingo’s story. From the publisher: “Sebastian Harlow is the Black Flamingo, a flamboyant and narcissistic thief who gets his kicks stealing mystic artifacts from the wealthy and corrupt of Miami’s occult underground. When his latest job leads him to his biggest score so far, the hedonistic outlaw discovers something he wasn’t looking for—something to believe in.”

—Matt, Social Media Coordinator

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino book cover

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

From the publisher: “In this dazzling collection of nine entirely original essays, written with a rare combination of give and sharpness, wit and fearlessness, [Tolentino] delves into the forces that warp our vision, demonstrating an unparalleled stylistic potency and critical dexterity. Trick Mirror is an enlightening, unforgettable trip through the river of self-delusion that surges just beneath the surface of our lives. This is a book about the incentives that shape us, and about how hard it is to see ourselves clearly through a culture that revolves around the self…Gleaming with Tolentino’s sense of humor and capacity to elucidate the impossibly complex in an instant, and marked by her desire to treat the reader with profound honesty, Trick Mirror is an instant classic of the worst decade yet.”

—Kaleena, Development Manager

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver book cover

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

From the publisher: “The most celebrated story collection from ‘one of the true American masters’ (The New York Review of Books)—a haunting meditation on love, loss, and companionship, and finding one’s way through the dark that includes the iconic and much-referenced title story featured in the Academy Award-winning film Birdman.

—Kaleena, Development Manager

Visit our Reading Recommendations page for more book lists.

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