AWM Staff Picks: December 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 December staff picks are also available on Bookshop.org, 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.


All The Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers by Alana Massey book cover

All the Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers by Alana Massey

From the publisher: “A collection of essays examining the intersection of the personal with pop culture through the lives of pivotal female figures—from Sylvia Plath to Britney Spears—in the spirit of Chuck Klosterman, with the heart of a true fan. Mixing Didion’s affected cool with moments of giddy celebrity worship, Massey examines the lives of the women who reflect our greatest aspirations and darkest fears back onto us. These essays are personal without being confessional and clever in a way that invites readers into the joke…All the Lives I Want is also an exploration of mental illness, the sex industry, and the dangers of loving too hard. But it is, above all, a paean to the celebrities who have shaped a generation of women…These reflections aim to reimagine these women’s legacies, and in the process, teach us new ways of forgiving ourselves.”

—Kaleena, Development Manager


Blood in My Eye by George L. Jackson book cover

Blood in My Eye by George L. Jackson

From the publisher: “Blood In My Eye was completed only days before it’s author was killed. George Jackson died on August 21, 1971 at the hands of San Quentin prison guards during an alleged escape attempt. At eighteen, George Jackson was convicted of stealing seventy dollars from a gas station and was sentenced from one year to life. He was to spent the rest of his life—eleven years—in the California prison system, seven in solitary confinement. In prison he read widely and transformed himself into an activist and political theoretician who defined himself as a revolutionary.”

—Cassidy, Storyteller


The Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Book by Jerry Seinfeld book cover

The Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Book by Jerry Seinfeld

From the publisher: “In his streaming show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld…has reminisced with Larry David; bantered with legends Steve Martin, Tina Fey, and Eddie Murphy; reunited with the cast of Seinfeld; and even paid a visit to President Barack Obama in the Oval Office…But in producing 84 episodes over 11 seasons, he has also created arguably the most important historical archive about the art of comedy ever amassed, with episodes featuring Garry Shandling, Jerry Lewis, Don Rickles, Carl Reiner, and Norm McDonald already serving as permanent shrines for legendary comedians…The Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Book is a beautifully designed book with iconic, never-before-seen production photos which will appeal to comedy lovers, car aficionados, coffee connoisseurs, and Jerry Seinfeld fans.”

—Cristina, Guest Services & Operations Supervisor


Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

From the publisher: “A powerful, poetic memoir of an Indigenous woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Band in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder, Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries… Mailhot trusts the reader to understand that memory isn’t exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept. Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.”

—Kaleena, Development Manager


Look at Me by Jennifer Egan book cover

Look At Me by Jennifer Egan

From the publisher: “In this ambitiously multilayered novel, a fashion model named Charlotte Swenson emerges from a car accident in her Illinois hometown with her face so badly shattered that it takes eighty titanium screws to reassemble it. She returns to New York still beautiful but oddly unrecognizable, a virtual stranger in the world she once effortlessly occupied. With the surreal authority of a David Lynch, Jennifer Egan threads Charlotte’s narrative with those of other casualties of our infatuation with the image. There’s a deceptively plain teenaged girl embarking on a dangerous secret life, an alcoholic private eye, and an enigmatic stranger who changes names and accents as he prepares an apocalyptic blow against American society. As these narratives inexorably converge, Look at Me becomes a coolly mesmerizing intellectual thriller of identity and imposture.”

—Christopher, Director of Operations


Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy book cover

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

From the publisher: “Franny Stone has always been the kind of woman who is able to love but unable to stay. Leaving behind everything but her research gear, she arrives in Greenland with a singular purpose: to follow the last Arctic terns in the world on what might be their final migration to Antarctica. Franny talks her way onto a fishing boat, and she and the crew set sail, traveling ever further from shore and safety. But as Franny’s history begins to unspool―a passionate love affair, an absent family, a devastating crime―it becomes clear that she is chasing more than just the birds. When Franny’s dark secrets catch up with her, how much is she willing to risk for one more chance at redemption?”

—Christopher, Director of Operations


Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings

Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings

From the publisher: “In this graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, the award-winning team behind Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, the author portrays a searing vision of America’s future. In the year 2024, the country is marred by unattended environmental and economic crises that lead to social chaos. Lauren Olamina, a preacher’s daughter living in Los Angeles, is protected from danger by the walls of her gated community. However, in a night of fire and death, what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny…and the birth of a new faith.”

—Noelle, Education Program Coordinator


Pricks in the Tapestry by Jameson Fitzpatrick book cover

Pricks in the Tapestry by Jameson Fitzpatrick

From the publisher: “Poetry. LGBTQIA Studies. This book is a record of my thinking and feeling during my mid-to-late-twenties. Like any record, it is incomplete and imperfect—I do not always identify with the speakers of these poems, even as I recognize their speech (and sometimes, their desires) as my own. I think of this collection as a bildungsroman of sorts: the story of a young poet coming to know, belatedly and with difficulty, the insufficiencies of the self as a subject and the lyric as a mode. —Jameson Fitzpatrick”

—Matt, Social Media Coordinator


Rules for Living by Sam Holcroft book cover

Rules for Living by Sam Holcroft

From the publisher: “Everyone creates their own coping strategies or rules for living. But what happens when an extended family gathers for Christmas and they each follow those rules, rigidly? In Sam Holcroft’s theatrically playful, dark comedy, long-held mechanisms for survival are laid bare and everyone, even Mum, becomes embroiled. Rules for Living premiered at the National Theatre in March 2015.”

—Matt, Social Media Coordinator


To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown by Berry Gordy book cover

To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown by Berry Gordy

From the publisher: “A personal account of Motown Records details its incredible recording artists—Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, among others—as well as the gossip, rumors, and myths surrounding it and the life and loves of the man who brought it all together.”

—Cristina, Guest Services & Operations Supervisor


The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas book cover

The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas

From the publisher: “Teo, a seventeen-year-old Jade semidiós and the trans son of the goddess of birds, isn’t worried about the Trials…at least, not for himself. His best friend, Niya is a Gold semidiós and a shoo-in for the Trials, and while he trusts her abilities, the odds of becoming the sacrifice is one-in-ten. But then, for the first time in over a century, the impossible happens. Sol chooses not one, but two Jade competitors. Teo, and Xio, the thirteen-year-old child of the god of bad luck. Now they must compete in five trials against Gold opponents who are more powerful and better trained. Worst of all, Teo’s annoyingly handsome ex-best friend and famous semidiós hero, Aurelio is favored to win. Teo is determined to get himself and his friends through the trials unscathed―for fame, glory, and their own survival.”

—Matt, Social Media Coordinator


The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson book cover

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

From the publisher: “Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up and see red sails on the horizon. The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They will conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, join the Masquerade, and claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free. To test her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snakepit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. But Baru is a savant in games of power, as ruthless in her tactics as she is fixated on her goals. In the calculus of her schemes, all ledgers must be balanced, and the price of liberation paid in full.”

—Allison, Program Director


White Noise by Don DeLillo book cover

White Noise by Don DeLillo

From the publisher: “White Noise tells the story of Jack Gladney, his fourth wife, Babette, and four ultra­modern offspring as they navigate the rocky passages of family life to the background babble of brand-name consumerism. When an industrial accident unleashes an ‘airborne toxic event,’ a lethal black chemical cloud floats over their lives. The menacing cloud is a more urgent and visible version of the ‘white noise’ engulfing the Gladneys—radio transmissions, sirens, microwaves, ultrasonic appliances, and TV murmurings—pulsing with life, yet suggesting something ominous.”

—Linda, Director of Development


Visit our Reading Recommendations page for more book lists.

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