American Writers Museum staff book recommendations February 2021

AWM Staff Picks: February

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 February 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.


1919 by Eve L. Ewing

1919 by Eve L. Ewing

From the publisher: “The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, the most intense of the riots that comprised the “Red Summer” of violence across the nation’s cities, has shaped the last century but is unfamiliar or altogether unknown to many people today. In 1919, her second collection of poems, Eve L. Ewing explores the story of this event—which lasted eight days and resulted in thirty-eight deaths and almost five hundred injuries— through poems recounting the stories of everyday people trying to survive and thrive in the city. Ewing uses speculative and Afrofuturist lenses to recast history, illuminating the thin line between the past and the present.”

–Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator


The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Although I read this book many years ago, I still think of Howard Roark as a hero and one of the most badass characters I’ve met in a book. He is utterly uncompromising in his ideas and his integrity—to a degree that would probably not be sustainable in real life (or would it?). The Fountainhead delves into the idea of individualism versus collectivism, as Rand says, not in politics but in men’s souls. This theme is fully explored through an epic story with several other memorable characters. Some people think The Fountainhead is a kind of conservative manifesto, but I don’t see it that way, and like Howard Roark, I stand by my opinion of this book!

–Linda, Director of Development


The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

While I had read some of Jemisin’s other work, I had not read her first novel, so I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in January. I think this book cemented her as one of my all-time favorite authors. It is a refreshing take on the fantasy genre and had me entranced throughout. The book introduces Yeinne, a “barbarian” who is summoned to the capital city state of Sky. A series of events involving the ruling family, gods, betrayal, and loss ensue. I am excited to read more in the series and hope that I get to learn a little more about Yeinne’s story, but also about the world she lives in.

–Ari, Data Operations Coordinator


Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Shattered Grid by Kyle Higgins and Ryan Parrott, illustrated by Daniele di Nicuolo and Diego Galindo

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Shattered Grid by Kyle Higgins and Ryan Parrott, illustrated by Daniele di Nicuolo and Diego Galindo

As a 90s kid, I religiously followed the “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers,” not missing a beat with the adapted TV series. In Shattered Grid, not only am I revisiting beloved characters but I’m seeing them in a darker, alternate universe. This beautifully illustrated comic series dives deep into all the questions I had as a kid. If you were as big of a Tommy Oliver fan as I was then I definitely recommend this read.

–Noelle, Education Program Coordinator


Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

From the publisher: “Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Without a shred of doubt, one of his fellow passengers is the murderer. Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again.”

–Catherine, Signature Events & Donor Relations Manager


The Queen's Fortune by Allison Pataki

The Queen’s Fortune by Allison Pataki

From the publisher: “A sweeping novel about the extraordinary woman who captured Napoleon’s heart, created a dynasty, and changed the course of history. Allison Pataki’s meticulously researched and brilliantly imagined novel sweeps readers into the unbelievable life of a woman almost lost to history—a woman who, despite the swells of a stunning life and a tumultuous time, not only adapts and survives but, ultimately, reigns at the helm of a dynasty that outlasts an empire.”

–Catherine, Signature Events & Donor Relations Manager


Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark

The most heavily researched and comprehensive Sylvia Plath biography to date, at just over 1,000 pages, it draws from vast new material. It succeeds in delivering a much more enlightening view to Plath’s brilliant, exciting life, her influences, and the persistent dedication that formed her craft. I love that this massive biography doesn’t attempt to be the end all to Sylvia Plath’s story. Rather it gives due to her eminence as a great American writer and opens countless new paths to explore her work. A great read, I’ve deeply enjoyed burning through the Winter months with Red Comet.

–Cristina, Guest Services & Operations Supervisor


Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

If you’re at risk of reading good books in one sitting rather than doing important tasks, DO NOT PICK UP THIS BOOK. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater is one that I had an incredibly hard time putting down. Stiefvater’s rich descriptions and compelling characters make it all too easy to imagine the story unfolding like a movie in your head. I don’t usually read novels with romance, but the chemistry between the two main characters, Sam and Grace, is just too good. The novel follows their struggles in keeping Sam—a werewolf whose shifts are forced by the temperature—human. The book is also the first of four in a series, and each entry is impossibly better than the last.

–Mars, Intern


Star Wars: From A Certain Point of View by various writers

Star Wars: From A Certain Point of View by various writers

From the publisher: “On May 25, 1977, the world was introduced to Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and a galaxy full of possibilities. In honor of the fortieth anniversary, more than forty contributors lend their vision to this retelling of Star Wars. Each of the forty short stories reimagines a moment from the original film, but through the eyes of a supporting character. From a Certain Point of View features contributions by bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from the literary history of Star Wars.”

–Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator


Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

From the publisher: “From the New York Times bestselling author of Invisible Girl and The Truth About Melody Browne comes a “riveting” (PopSugar) and “acutely observed family drama” (People) that delves into the lingering aftermath of a young girl’s disappearance. Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. Beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers, and half of a teenaged golden couple. Ellie was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her. And then she was gone.

–Catherine, Signature Events & Donor Relations Manager


This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends book cover by Nicole Perlroth

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth

From the publisher: “From The New York Times cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth, the untold story of the cyberweapons market—the most secretive, invisible, government-backed market on earth—and a terrifying first look at a new kind of global warfare. Based on years of reporting and hundreds of interviews, Perlroth lifts the curtain on a market in shadow, revealing the urgent threat faced by us all if we cannot bring the global cyber arms race to heel.”

I am looking forward to reading this book when it comes out, though it sounds quite terrifying. I am also excited to hear Nicole Perlroth discuss this book and the writing process when we host her for a virtual author talk. You can register for that event here.

–Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator


Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

This book and its main character are warm, intelligent, funny and still figuring out life to some degree. It is a very well told story of that time of life after graduating and before ‘real life’ kicks in, but told by a writer. A good part of this novel is about the writing process and what writers endure whether they are in their first workshop group or are best selling authors. Read this book and you will understand more about the mind of a writer.

–Christopher, Director of Operations


Visit our Reading Recommendations page for more book lists.

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