American Writers Museum staff picks July 2022

AWM Staff Picks: July 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.

Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado book cover

Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

From the publisher: “Mysterious disappearances. An urban legend rumored to be responsible. And one group of friends determined to save their city at any cost. Stranger Things meets Jordan Peele in this utterly original debut from an incredible new voice.”

“I kind of grew up not having a lot. I was, generally, a very poor kid. But the one thing I always did have was libraries…we would go every Saturday and pick out a stack of books to read. And so now when I think of who will be affected by these book bannings, it’s going to be kids like me who didn’t have much anyways.” Listen to Vincent discuss their work more here on the AWM Author Talks podcast, recorded live at the American Writers Festival.

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

Chivalry by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Colleen Doran book cover

Chivalry by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Colleen Doran

Beautiful illustrations for a Gaiman story that makes the book feel like an illustrated manuscript. And of course, it’s a Neil Gaiman story, so it already has a lot going for it.

–Christopher, Director of Operations

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram book cover

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

I grabbed this book out of a Little Free Library near my morning bus stop on a whim and I am so glad I did! I finished this book in maybe three days and have already picked up the second in the series.

From the publisher: “Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush—the original Persian version of his name—and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.”

–Matt, Social Media Coordinator

The Fae Keeper by H.E. Edgmon book cover

The Fae Keeper by H.E. Edgmon

From the publisher: “In the heart-stopping sequel to The Witch King, Wyatt and Emyr attempt to rebuild Asalin despite unexpected new enemies within their kingdom. Two weeks after the door to Faery closed once more, Asalin is still in turmoil. Emyr and Wyatt are hunting Derek and Clarke themselves after having abolished the corrupt Guard, and are trying to convince the other kingdoms to follow their lead. But when they uncover the hidden truth about the witches’ real place in fae society, it becomes clear the problems run much deeper than anyone knew. And this may be more than the two of them can fix. As Wyatt struggles to learn control of his magic and balance his own needs with the needs of a kingdom, he must finally decide on the future he wants—before he loses the future he and Emyr are building…”

–Noelle, Education Program Coordinator

Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars by Ethan Hawke, illustrated by Greg Ruth book cover

Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars by Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth

Incredible illustrations bring this little known story to modern times. The point of view of the indigenous people shines through this work that Ethan Hawke helped bring to life.

–Christopher, Director of Operations

Killers of the Flower Moon: Adapted for Young Readers by David Grann book cover

Killers of the Flower Moon: Adapted for Young Readers by David Grann

I am a firm believer that literature should be made accessible to the masses by the grace of braille, large print, dyslexic-friendly fonts, young reader’s editions, and other innovations. With that in mind, I am particularly glad that David Grann took the time to adapt Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI into a young reader’s edition for the sake of middle-grade readers, history enthusiasts, and yes, overtired college students who don’t usually have time to get through 700 pages of nonfiction. Once I started reading, I couldn’t look away. Everyone needs to read this chapter left out of history books.

–Nicole, Intern

The Lyrics of Prince: A Literary Look by C Liegh McInnis book cover

The Lyrics of Prince: A Literary Look by C Liegh McInnis

From the publisher: “The Lyrics of Prince is an analysis of the lyrical themes, movements, and development of Prince…The book shows that Prince is a metaphysical poet attempting to reconcile his individual desires in a strict and confining society. Thus, Prince’s work is a barometer for the sensibilities of the eighties as well as provides insight to the post-Civil Rights African-American who is grappling with place and otherness.”

I had the pleasure and honor to host our recent episode of Nation of Writers and chat with C Liegh about the work and legacy of Prince. We were also joined by Kerry Black, a producer of Prince: The Immersive Experience open now in Chicago. Give the episode a listen here to hear us gush about The Purple One!

–Linda, Director of Development

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle book cover

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

“Feel the power of this moment and the fullness of Being. Feel your presence.” —Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle is a German-born spiritual teacher showing people the path to enlightenment. He found how to be at peace and writes to tell the world how they can also achieve this. His main concept is existing in the NOW, not the past or future. When we live in the past, we are depressed; and when we live in the future, we are anxious. All we have is the NOW. Tolle argues that to be present and stay present needs practice. Indulge in this spiritual self-help book to see the path of the NOW.

–Emma, Intern

The Stonewall Riots: Making a Case for LGBTQ Rights by Archie Bongiovanni book cover

The Stonewall Riots: Making a Case for LGBTQ Rights by Archie Bongiovanni

From the publisher: “Three teenagers―Natalia, Jax, and Rashad―are magically transported from their modern lives to the legendary Stonewall Inn in the summer of 1969. Escorted by Natalia’s eccentric abuela (and her pet cockatiel, Rocky), the friends experience the police raid firsthand and are thrown into the infamous riots that made the struggle for LGBTQ rights front-page news.”

“As someone who grew up queer but not really understanding, not having a language, not having any sort of representation…I felt really honored I was even able to write about this subject. The thing that I would like people to get from it, one, is just knowledge that it happened, that it was an important moment in our history. And, two, that the resistance of the past can teach us how to resist now.” Listen to Archie discuss their work more on the AWM Author Talks podcast, recorded live at the American Writers Festival.

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

We Ride Upon Sticks by Amy Quan Barry

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

I first heard about We Ride Upon Sticks when Rowan Hisayo Buchanan recommended it in a 2020 blog for the AWM, but I just now finally got around to reading it and I am glad I did! It is very fun and had me turning the pages as quickly as I could. The Danvers High field hockey team—the town where accusations began that led to the Salem Witch Trials—taps into some old dark magic to help them go undefeated…but at what cost? Featuring a great ensemble cast of well-formed characters and many laugh-out-loud moments, this is a great suspenseful and fun read.

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

Visit our Reading Recommendations page for more book lists.

2 thoughts on “AWM Staff Picks: July 2022

  1. Greg says:

    Lovely list to be a part of and thank you for boosting our INDEH forward. It was a work of pure joy, and service… just one minor correction- Ethan and I co-wrote it. In Comics, more often than is understood, the artist also writes. Particularly in the non Marvel/DC realms where the demarcation of the work they do for their monthly books is absent. It is a common dismissal made by many to we who draw these books that we are mere artists, or rather gloves to execute the commands of the writer. In INDEH’s case, we spent over two years working on the script together, editing the story, writing the scenes and dialogue and researching the characters before a single line of art was ever made.

    • American Writers Museum says:

      Hi Greg,
      Thanks so much for co-writing the book! And for correcting our attribution. It’s been updated now, but you’ll notice the quote from Christopher didn’t change (we don’t want to put words in his mouth!). It’s fascinating to hear more about the process, so thank you again.

      -Ari Bachechi, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

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