AWM Staff Picks: March 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 January 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.


Dark Testament and Other Poems by Pauli Murray book cover

Dark Testament and Other Poems by Pauli Murray

From the publisher: “For readers discovering the great civil rights activist Pauli Murray, here, at last returned to print, is Dark Testament and Other Poems, Murray’s sole poetry collection and a revelatory work crucial to her identity as a “rebel, instigator, survivor…opener-of-doors, and always a devout child of God and friend to mankind” (Patricia Bell-Scott).

You can learn more about the incredible life and legacy of Murray by exploring our virtual exhibit Pauli Murray: Survival With Dignity.

–Ari, Data Operations Coordinator


Dirty Bird Blues by Clarence Major book cover

Dirty Bird Blues by Clarence Major

Clarence Major is a creative force. Poet, painter, and novelist, probably in that order, he has won awards and accolades across the creative spectrum. Major fills his writing with delicate brushstrokes and his characters with all the hues of the human experience. This novel was reissued by Penguin in honor of its 25th anniversary and you should check it out. Period.

–Christopher, Director of Operations


From A Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back book cover

From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back by various authors

As a Star Wars nerd, this collection of short stories about side characters in The Empire Strikes Back has been delightful to read. Plus, as I continue to find it hard to focus on anything for an extended period of time, the short story is the right size for me. More from the publisher: “On May 21, 1980, Star Wars became a true saga with the release of The Empire Strikes Back. In honor of the fortieth anniversary, forty storytellers re-create an iconic scene from The Empire Strikes Back through the eyes of a supporting character, from heroes and villains, to droids and creatures. From a Certain Point of View features contributions by bestselling authors and trendsetting artists.”

–Nate, Digital Content Associate


A Fool's Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump by Lonnie G. Bunch III book cover

A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump by Lonnie G. Bunch III

From the publisher: “Founding Director Lonnie Bunch’s deeply personal tale of the triumphs and challenges of bringing the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to life. His story is by turns inspiring, funny, frustrating, quixotic, bittersweet, and above all, a compelling read…This inside account of how Bunch planned, managed, and executed the museum’s mission informs and inspires not only readers working in museums, cultural institutions, and activist groups, but also those in the nonprofit and business worlds who wish to understand how to succeed–and do it spectacularly–in the face of major political, structural, and financial challenges.”

–Ari, Data Operations Coordinator


In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edwar Hopper edited by Lawrence Block book cover

In Sunlight or In Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper edited by Lawrence Block

From the publisher: “A truly unprecedented literary achievement by author and editor Lawrence Block, a newly-commissioned anthology of seventeen superbly-crafted stories inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper, including Jeffery Deaver, Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, Lee Child, and Robert Olen Butler, among many others…The results are remarkable and range across all genres, wedding literary excellence to storytelling savvy…In a beautifully produced anthology as befits such a collection of acclaimed authors, each story is illustrated with a quality full-color reproduction of the painting that inspired it.”

–Cristina, Guest Services & Operations Supervisor


In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown by Amy Gary book cover

In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown by Amy Gary

As toddler, my most favorite thing–and best friend–was a stuffed rabbit of the bunny in Goodnight Moon. I named him Bunty and brought him everywhere with me and freaked out when I didn’t have him. My grandparents even had to overnight it once when I forgot it at their house because I was so distraught and Bunty still lives at my parents’ house. So, without even knowing it, Margaret Wise Brown played a huge role in my life. Which is part of the reason why I am excited to interview Amy Gary, author of this biography, for the next episode of our Nation of Writers podcast, airing March 23. Be sure to subscribe so you’re notified when the episode is released!

–Nate, Digital Content Associate


The Monster in Theatre History: This Thing of Darkness by Michael Chemers

The Monster in Theatre History: This Thing of Darkness by Michael Chemers

From the publisher: “Monsters are fragmentary, uncertain, frightening creatures. What happens when they enter the realm of the theatre? The Monster in Theatre History explores the cultural genealogies of monsters as they appear in the recorded history of Western theatre. From the Ancient Greeks to the most cutting-edge new media, Michael Chemers focuses on a series of ‘key’ monsters, including Frankenstein’s creature, werewolves, ghosts, and vampires, to reconsider what monsters in performance might mean to those who witness them. This volume builds a clear methodology for engaging with theatrical monsters of all kinds, providing a much-needed guidebook to this fascinating hinterland.

–Matt, Social Media Coordinator


Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke book cover

Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke

As someone who has lived by myself for two years now during a global pandemic, loneliness has become very familiar. I have never felt more alone. And yet this book about loneliness somehow made me feel less alone. Part memoir, part scientific exploration, I recommend this book for anyone feeling alone, which I imagine is all of us. The illustrations are also captivating, adding to the impact. More from the publisher: “In Seek You, Kristen Radtke’s wide-ranging exploration of our inner lives and public selves, Radtke digs into the ways in which we attempt to feel closer to one another, and the distance that remains…Radtke ushers us through a history of loneliness and longing, and shares what feels impossible to share.”

–Nate, Digital Content Associate


Stop the Killing: How to End the Mass Shooting Crisis by Katherine Schweit book cover

Stop the Killing: How to End the Mass Shooting Crisis by Katherine Schweit

From the publisher: “Stop the Killing offers insight into what each of us can do to end the active shooter crisis plaguing America. Written by the former head of the FBI’s active shooter program, Katherine Schweit shares an insider look at what we’ve learned, and failed to learn, about protecting our businesses, houses of worship, and schools. The book demystifies the language around active shooters, mass killings, threat assessment teams, and more.”

You can join me and the Chicago Council of the AWM for a March 31 in-person with Katherine Schweit to discuss the book. Get tickets for the in-person event at the AWM here, and register for a link to watch the livestream online here.

–Catherine, Signature Events & Donor Relations


Tick, Tick... Boom!: Screenplay adapted by Steven Levenson from the musical by Jonathan Larson

tick, tick…BOOM! Screenplay adapted by Steven Levenson from the musical by Jonathan Larson

If you haven’t watched tick, tick… BOOM! on Netflix yet, what are you even doing? It is one of the best movie musicals ever made, in my opinion. I have had an absolute blast digging into the screenplay and the soundtrack of this beautiful film. The book cover pictured here is for the musical, but you can read the screenplay here.

–Matt, Social Media Coordinator


Visit our Reading Recommendations page for more book lists.

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