AWM Staff Picks: August 2022

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 June staff picks are also available on, which benefits independent bookstores. We also strongly encourage you to support your local bookstore by ordering through them online directly.

Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories by Nichelle Nichols book cover

Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories by Nichelle Nichols

Most people are aware that Nichelle Nichols was a trailblazing actress who portrayed Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek, the original series. Since her recent passing, I also learned that she was a writer as well as an activist, motivational speaker, singer, and dancer. I haven’t had a chance to pick up her books yet, but with such an extraordinary life I think it is worth checking out both her memoir, Beyond Uhura, and her novel Saturn’s Child. I will certainly also be watching some of my favorite Uhura moments soon. 🖖

–Ari, Assistant Director of Operations & Exhibits

Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram book cover

Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram

From the publisher: “In this companion to the award-winning Darius the Great Is Not Okay, Darius suddenly has it all: a boyfriend, an internship, a spot on the soccer team. It’s everything he’s ever wanted—but what if he deserves better?”

–Matt, Social Media Coordinator

Elegy for the Undead: A Novella by Matthew Vesely book cover

Elegy for the Undead: A Novella by Matthew Vesely

I don’t particularly care about zombie stories, but this book from Matthew Vesely has absolutely shaken my world. I laughed, I cried, and I haven’t stopped thinking about this book for weeks. More from the publisher: “Jude and Lyle’s newlywed life is shattered when a vicious attack leaves Lyle infected with a disease that transforms him into a violent and often incomprehensible person. With no cure for the ‘zombie’ virus in sight, the young husbands begin to face the last months they have together before Lyle loses himself completely.”

–Matt, Social Media Coordinator

Everfair by Nisi Shawl book cover

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Admittedly, I have not read this Nebula Award-nominated book yet, but I am looking forward to doing so. I recently interviewed author Nisi Shawl for a podcast episode about Octavia E. Butler, their friend and mentor. The conversation was fascinating, and you can listen to it here to learn more about Butler’s life and legacy.

More from the publisher: “Shawl’s speculative masterpiece manages to turn one of the worst human rights disasters on record into a marvelous and exciting exploration of the possibilities inherent in a turn of history. Everfair is told from a multiplicity of voices: Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and African Americans in complex relationships with one another, in a compelling range of voices that have historically been silenced. Everfair is not only a beautiful book but an educational and inspiring one that will give the reader new insight into an often ignored period of history.”

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan book cover

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

I picked up this book when authors Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and T Kira Madden visited the AWM to chat about writing and the Asian diasporic anthology Go Home! in March 2020. You can watch that program here or listen to it here. Coincidentally, it would prove to be our last pre-pandemic program. I’ve had the book for that long, but just now got to reading it and I am glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed the multi-generational story and Buchanan’s writing, which made me laugh out loud at times, feel sad at times, and better understand how tricky love can be a lot of the time.

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan book cover

The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan

After starting my Jennifer Egan experience with her two most recent books, I decided to dig into her back catalog to round out my understanding and, as it turns out, appreciation of her writing. While A Visit From The Goon Squad and The Candy House were amazing in their stories, the way that the narrative was experimented with made both books stand out for me. The Invisible Circus was an early book in Egan’s career and it is a powerful, well-told story full of emotion that compels the reader to get to the end of the journey.

–Christopher, Director of Operations

Little John Crow by Ziggy and Orly Marley book cover

Little John Crow by Ziggy Marley and Orly Marley

We are very excited to host reggae icon Ziggy Marley and his wife and co-author Orly Marley on August 14 to read and discuss their children’s book Little John Crow, beautifully illustrated by Gordon Rowe. After being abandoned by his animal friends, Little John Crow must come to terms with what it means to be part of a community when you are a vulture. Mom Read It blog calls it a “readable, unputdownable story about prejudice, acceptance, and family—the families we’re born into and found families, with a subplot about disrupting ecosystems.” Learn more about the book and event here, and join us for a special afternoon at the American Writers Museum!

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

Octavia E. Butler: Kindred, Fledgling, Collected Stories (LOA #338) book cover

Octavia E. Butler: Kindred, Fledgling, Collected Stories (LOA #338) edited by Nisi Shawl and Gerry Canavan

As I mentioned earlier, we recently released a fantastic podcast episode about Octavia E. Butler in our Nation of Writers series. In preparation for it, I have been reading this collection from the Library of America which includes her first and last novels, Kindred and Fledgling respectively. It also has a number of classic short stories like Bloodchild, as well as various essays. This collection is a great way to become acquainted with Butler’s work. But honestly, just read anything Butler wrote and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan book cover

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

From the publisher: “In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected. When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.”

–Noelle, Education Program Coordinator

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss book cover

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Many an author would tremble at the prospect of writing an epic fantasy crossover starring seven iconic characters from monstrous Victorian literature, but Theodora Goss pulls it off with a flourish. A must-read for all would-be monster girls.

–Nicole, Intern

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner book cover

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner

It is difficult for me to describe this novel, other than to say that I enjoyed it a lot. It does a great job of showing how political discourse in our country has disintegrated and how people on the “fringes” of society could react, violently, to their lot in life. But I’ll let the publisher say it better than me: “Deftly shifting perspectives and time periods, The Topeka School is the story of a family, its struggles and its strengths: Jane’s reckoning with the legacy of an abusive father, Jonathan’s marital transgressions, the challenge of raising a good son in a culture of toxic masculinity. It is also a riveting prehistory of the present: the collapse of public speech, the trolls and tyrants of the New Right, and the ongoing crisis of identity among white men.”

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey book cover

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

When a book has a tagline that is, “Are you a coward or are you a librarian?” I am immediately interested. I loved the world that Gailey creates in this short novel, a future America that is reminiscent of that in The Handmaid’s Tale in which queer librarians secretly deliver anti-fascist resistance reading materials under the guise of disseminating government propaganda. Librarians are already unsung heroes today, and Upright Women Wanted made me feel secure in knowing that librarians will continue to protect the freedom of information no matter what the future holds.

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall and Illustrated by Hugo Martinez book cover

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall and illustrated by Hugo Martinez

From the publisher: “Part graphic novel, part memoir, Wake is an imaginative tour de force that tells the story of women-led slave revolts and chronicles scholar Rebecca Hall’s efforts to uncover the truth about these warriors who, until now, have been left out of the historical record.”

–Noelle, Education Program Coordinator

Visit our Reading Recommendations page for more book lists.

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