AWM Staff Picks - April 2021

AWM Staff Picks: April

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 Bookshop.org, which benefits independent bookstores. We also strongly encourage you to support your local bookstore by ordering through them online directly. They need our help more than ever, and we need them to stick around.


The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen book cover

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen

This is the follow up to Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Sympathizer and continues with the main character from that effort. It just came out, so no spoilers here. Just go and read it!

In addition to being on the AWM’s National Advisory Council, Nguyen, who first came to the United States as a Vietnamese refugee in 1975, is also one of the many writers featured in our special exhibit My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today. You can learn more about Nguyen’s story here, and explore the exhibit virtually at My-America.org.

–Christopher, Director of Operations


The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher book cover

The Gastronomical Me by M. F. K. Fisher

Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher loves good food—eating it, smelling it, making it, seeking it out, writing about it. It is not trivial, it is not just something that keeps us alive. It is as wondrous as nature, as important as the arts. She guides the reader deep into their own senses and connects our food to ourselves, our hungers, and our world. I love her sentences, which were hardly edited—just came out that way—it’s like sitting at a table with her, giving what’s on the plate the respect it deserves, and doing the same to ourselves and the people around us.

–Linda, Director of Development


The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

I am re-reading The Hobbit right now and it is fun to revisit it. It’s been a long time since I’ve read it. And I know Tolkien is an English writer, but he created a whole other world so he’s beyond borders and nations.

–Ari, Data Operations Coordinator


I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I am somewhat hesitant to admit this, but I just began my first reading of Maya Angelou’s classic autobiography and wow have I missed out. I was instantly hooked. I have read quite a bit about Angelou and this book, but I was immediately captivated nonetheless by the language, imagery, and flow of the sentences and stories. It feels like Angelou is speaking directly to me. I am eager to stop writing this blog and get back to reading it!

Angelou is also the subject of our next episode of the Nation of Writers podcast, airing April 28. In it, we’ll chat with poet Nikki Giovanni and Glory Edim, founder of the Well-Read Black Girl Book Club, about Angelou’s life, work, and enduring legacy. I highly recommend you subscribe to Nation of Writers wherever you listen to podcasts so you’ll be notified when the new episode airs!

–Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator


In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien

If you have only read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, there’s much more. This book, too, has O’Brien’s strong characters and skilled writing, but it’s a “memorable mystery story with haunting ambiguity” says Entertainment Weekly. The setting of the far north woods of Minnesota adds to the thriller-feel of the story. There’s the hint of familiarity of Tim O’Brien characters, but in a totally different kind of story.

–Linda, Director of Development


The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami

The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami

I first read The Moor’s Account when I interviewed Lalami, who was born in Morocco, for our special exhibit My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today and it was a fantastic read. In addition to this book, I also strongly encourage you to check out Lalami’s other work, most notably the recent Conditional Citizens.

You can read more about Lalami’s story here and check out My America virtually at My-America.org.

–Carey, President


The Resisters by Gish Jen

The Resisters by Gish Jen

From the publisher: “The time: not so long from now. The place: AutoAmerica, a country surveilled by one “Aunt Nettie,” a Big Brother that is part artificial intelligence, part internet, and oddly human—even funny. The people: divided. The “angelfair” Netted have jobs and, what with the country half under water, literally occupy the high ground. The Surplus live on swampland if they’re lucky, on water if they’re not. The story: To a Surplus couple—he once a professor, she still a lawyer—is born a girl, Gwen, with a golden arm. Her teens find her happily playing in an underground baseball league, but when AutoAmerica faces ChinRussia in the Olympics, Gwen finds herself in dangerous territory, playing ball with the Netted even as her mother battles this apartheid-like society in court. Provocative, moving, and yet paradoxically buoyant, The Resisters is the story of one family struggling to maintain their humanity in circumstances that threaten their every value.”

–Cristina, Guest Services & Operations Supervisor


Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

From the publisher: “Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Follow Alina Starkov through Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising as she discovers her dormant powers and is swept up in a world of luxury and illusion. As Alina struggles to fit into her new life, a threat to the kingdom of Ravka grows―one that will test old alliances and challenge the very limits of magic, one that will forge a leader from a frightened girl.”

–Noelle, Education Program Coordinator


Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories by Hisaye Yamamoto

Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories by Hisaye Yamamoto

An amazing short story collection by an incredible writer that should be more widely known. (A fact that the AWM and Google Arts & Culture are working to correct, so stay tuned!) About the work: Hisaye writes with incredible subtlety and deep humanity. Think of Steinbeck, or Hemingway, but Hisaye writes from the female point of view. She conveys cultural differences and understandings in a matter-of-fact style without losing any emotion, and perhaps actually highlighting the emotion by what is unstated.

–Christopher, Director of Operations


Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher

From the publisher: “A girl: Gemma, 16, at the airport, on her way to a family vacation. A guy: Ty, rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar, eyes blue as ice. She steps away. For just a second. He pays for her drink. And drugs it. They talk. Their hands touch. And before Gemma knows what’s happening, Ty takes her. Steals her away. To sand and heat. To emptiness and isolation. To nowhere. And expects her to love him. Written as a letter from a victim to her captor, Stolen is Gemma’s desperate story of survival; of how she has to come to terms with her living nightmare–or die trying to fight it.”

–Mars, Intern


Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction edited by Grace L. Dillon

Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction edited by Grace L. Dillon

I’m a big fan of science fiction and recently I’ve found short stories to be go-to as they are the right length for my quarantine-addled brain. So when I heard about this collection—science fiction short stories from a perspective that is not my own—I was intrigued right away. I was delightfully surprised to learn that this book is more academic than I expected, as each story and section is set up with a brief introduction about the author, the literary techniques employed, and the story’s place among the science fiction canon and more specifically the indigenous science fiction canon. I highly recommend this book to science fiction lovers, especially those who like to learn and grown by reading stories from perspectives different than their own.

–Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator


Visit our Reading Recommendations page for more book lists.

3 thoughts on “AWM Staff Picks: April

  1. Sonia Adams says:

    The selection of books this month centers values of empowerment, community, and justice. The range of literary genres, geographical regions, historical periods, and diverse perspectives appeals to many different readers. I’m especially pleased that the late Nisei writer Hisaye Yamamoto was added to this collection. Her essays, journalistic pieces, and short fiction sheds light on the impact of incarceration, racism, and cultural intolerance upon Japanese immigrant and Japanese American people in modern and contemporary times. Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account is an important historical novel that counters sliences, distortions, and omissions of Black people in travel narratives, testimonials, and the archives.

  2. James Campbell Sr. says:

    I recently joined a book club, found it captivating, fascinating and very refreshing. Finishing up on Accidental Presidents by Jared Cohen. This book brought back my love for reading and learning. There were numerous facts that surfaced not previously known.
    I will forward this sitem, this month’s list to our book club.

    • American Writers Museum says:

      Thanks James!

      I hope you guys can find something to enjoy together. We would love to hear what you all choose to read next!

      -Ari

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