Reading Recommendations from the American Writers Museum staff

AWM Staff Picks: March

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.


The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

I don’t know how I hadn’t read it before, but I finally read Sandra Cisneros’s classic The House on Mango Street, a series of honest and touching vignettes about Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago. I bought the book back in May 2019 when we hosted Cisneros for a program alongside fellow writer Fernando A. Flores and I am so glad I did. It is a heartfelt book, at times sad and at other times joyous and funny, but ultimately it is a story about growing up and learning who you are and who you will become. I wanted to include The House on Mango Street in this month’s list because on Saturday, March 13 Cisneros will receive the Fuller Award for lifetime achievement from the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. The recognition will be presented to her in a live event beginning at 7:00 pm Central hosted online by the AWM. The event will include a stellar lineup of speakers, as well as remarks by Cisneros herself. Learn more and register here.

–Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator


Jubilee by Margaret Walker

Jubilee by Margaret Walker

A powerful epic story that centers on the life of Vyry, a slave during the Civil War. Beautifully written and impactful. I also hosted the recent episode of the Nation of Writers podcast about Walker. In it, I had a conversation with Angela Stewart, Archivist at the Margaret Walker Center, in Jackson Mississippi. Listen to the episode here!

–Cristina, Guest Services & Operations Supervisor


Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

From the publisher: “Lolita tells the story of aging Hubert Humbert who has an obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet, Dolores Haze. It is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. All in all, Lolita is filled with awe and exhilaration, along with heartbreak and mordant wit.”

We also have an upcoming program at the end of March in which we’ll talk with contributors to the essay anthology Lolita in the Afterlife: On Beauty, Risk, and Reckoning with the Most Indelible and Shocking Novel of the Twentieth Century. This book is especially exciting because it is edited by Jennifer Minton Quigley, daughter of Walter J. Minton, the original publisher of Lolita who took a major risk in publishing Nabokov’s novel. Learn more and register for the program here.

–Mars, Intern


Ordinary People Change the World by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

Ordinary People Change the World by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

This lively, New York Times bestselling biography series inspires kids to dream big, one great role model at a time.

–Karie, Director of Marketing & Private Events


Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

All of Butler’s books are engaging, beautifully written and sadly continually relevant. However, Parable of the Sower is a book that, while science fiction, looked at a potential 2024 that was probably too prescient, which is why it is such a good read.

–Carey, President


The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Just yesterday Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth, passed away at the age of 91 and when I heard the news I revisited this old favorite of mine. If anything taught me to love a good pun, it was The Phantom Tollbooth. I’ve never thought of half-baked ideas, the biggest / longest / tallest / shortest of anything, or jumping to Conclusions the same, and I certainly have never stopped searching for Rhyme and Reason. Also, flipping through this book really made me want to read it again, so maybe I’ll do that over spring break.

–Ari, Data Operations Coordinator


The Shadowglass by Rin Chupeco

The Shadowglass by Rin Chupeco

This is the final book in this fantasy trilogy, and it was so worth it. The Shadowglass completes the bone witch Tea’s story and has some very surprising revelations toward the end that I definitely did not see coming. Chupeco draws extensively from their Chinese and Filipino background to build this world and it is refreshing to read about powerful women in a genre often dominated by European-looking male characters. I will definitely be looking for their other books now that I’ve finished this series.

–Ari, Data Operations Coordinator


When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

I haven’t read this book yet, but it is another upcoming program of ours that I am very much looking forward to. Jennifer Keishin Armstrong tells the forgotten and overlooked history of four women who shaped television and whose influences can still be felt today: “Irna Phillips turned real-life tragedy into daytime serials featuring female dominated casts. Gertrude Berg turned her radio show into a Jewish family comedy that spawned a play, a musical, an advice column, a line of house dresses, and other products. Hazel Scott, already a renowned musician, was the first African American to host a national evening variety program. Betty White became a daytime talk show fan favorite and one of the first women to produce, write, and star in her own show.” I mean, they had me at Betty White. But in our current TV age, and especially in a year in which we all watched more TV than we thought possible, I am excited to learn more about these trailblazing women writers. You can learn more and register for the program here.

–Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator


You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

Some might know Amber Ruffin from her self-titled show on the Peacock streaming service, which is funny, entertaining and insightful, but most would probably know her as a writer and performer on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Lacey is Amber’s sister and the book that they wrote together describes many racist situations that Lacey has had to endure. Amber tells a few of her own, including why never to skip in front of police officers in Chicago, but most of the stories are about Lacey and her life in Omaha. While the stories are shocking, but sadly not surprising even still in modern America, they are told with humor and warmth. Amber and Lacey don’t try to preach or educate white people directly, they just write about their experiences of being Black in America. Amber points out that while many stories they retell are old, there are plenty that are post-Obama presidency too. Humor is at the core of this book, and Amber, who studied improv in Chicago, knows that there is truth in comedy.

–Christopher, Director of Operations


Visit our Reading Recommendations page for more book lists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to content