AWM Staff Picks: November

Reading Recommendations from the staff of the American Writers Museum.

Here’s what we’ve been reading recently. See any of your favorites? Let us know what you’re reading in the comments!

Our November 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.


Attempts on Her Life by Martin Crimp

Attempts on Her Life by Martin Crimp

From the publisher: “A woman with various identities links all the scenes: she is the heroine of a film in one, a victim of civil war in another, an international terrorist, a porn star, and the subject of a conversation among friends. She is the living embodiment of Crimp’s underlying declaration that coherent identity in the modern world is little more than myth.”

–Matt, Storyteller


The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

It’s especially exciting when one of your favorite authors releases a new novel during a pandemic. The story is set around the turn of the century, with characters and circumstances that are in many ways different from our lives today, which makes it a good escape. It’s about income inequality, corruption, the effects of power, and how we benefit from the sacrifices of those who came before us. Many have persevered before us, and we will too. #WritingMatters2020.

–Linda, Director of Development


A Collection of Nightmares by Christina Sng

A Collection of Nightmares by Christina Sng

From the publisher: “Christina Sng’s A Collection of Nightmares is a poetic feast of sleeplessness and shadows, an exquisite exhibition of fear and things better left unsaid. Here are ramblings at the end of the world and a path that leads to a thousand paper cuts at the hands of a skin carver. There are crawlspace whispers, and fresh sheets gently washed with sacrifice and poison, and if you’re careful in this ghost month, these poems will call upon the succubus to tend to your flesh wounds and scars.”

–Cristina, Facilities Supervisor


The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

This coming-of-age novel follows the Allbright family in the early 1970s, as they relocate to Alaska, to live off the frontier. In this remote section of the world, they hope that their family becomes what it was before the Vietnam War. This story takes you on an emotional roller coaster of hope, pain, and new beginnings.

–Catherine, Signature Events & Donor Relations Manager


Homie by Danez Smith

Homie by Danez Smith

These poems sit with you long after you read them, in your mind, your heart, your soul.

More from the publisher: “Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family―blood and chosen―arrives with just the right food and some redemption.”

–Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator


Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

From the publisher: “She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford’s campus…Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing. It also introduces readers to an extraordinary writer, one whose words have already changed our world. Entwining pain, resilience, and humor, this memoir will stand as a modern classic.”

–Courtney, Storyteller


The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd

A little old lady who is not afraid of anything must deal with a pumpkin head, a tall black hat, and other spooky objects that follow her through the dark woods trying to scare her. My daughter and I read this classic Halloween story A LOT during the month of October.

–Karie, Director of Marketing & Private Events


Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

After Mercy the pig snuggles to sleep with the Watsons, all three awaken with the bed teetering on the edge of a big hole in the floor. This is the first book in a best-selling series of six for ages 5-8. My daughter and I have read three of the six so far and they’re a lot of fun. My favorite character is the Watson’s next door neighbor, Eugenia Lincoln who has many opinions. “One of Eugenia’s opinions is that pigs should not live in houses.” Visit MercyWatson.com to read an excerpt and more.

–Karie, Director of Marketing & Private Events


No Longer Human by Junji Ito

No Longer Human by Junji Ito, original novel by Osamu Dazai

This book is nuts. I’ve never read a manga before, but the visual aspect was a fun reading experience, especially as I have found it increasingly difficult to focus on words recently.

More from the publisher: “Osamu Dazai’s immortal—and supposedly autobiographical—work of Japanese literature, is perfectly adapted here into a manga by Junji Ito. The imagery wrenches open the text of the novel one line at a time to sublimate Yozo’s mental landscape into something even more delicate and grotesque. This is the ultimate in art by Ito, proof that nothing can surpass the terror of the human psyche.”

–Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator


On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

The poet’s first novel written as a letter to his illiterate mother is memorable. Read it. That’s my only comment.

More from the publisher: “With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.”

–Christopher, Director of Operations


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’m a big sci-fi fan, but had somehow never read Ready Player One. My step-son recently read it and really wants to watch the movie, so of course that kicked me into high gear with reading. I’ve kind of blown through it as a result, but it is a fun read about a boy named Wade who is looking for the best Easter egg in the best video game ever created (to give a pretty bad summary). It definitely made me wish I had my own OASIS rig to be able to go wherever I want in a virtual world while still staying safe at home.

–Ari, Data Operations Coordinator


Taína by Ernesto Quiñonez

Taína by Ernesto Quiñonez

From the publisher: “When Julio, a teenager living in Spanish Harlem, hears that Taína, a pregnant fifteen-year-old from his high school claims to be a virgin, he decides to believe her. Julio has a history of strange visions and his blind and unrequited love for Taína will unleash a whirlpool of emotions that will bring him to question his hard-working Puerto Rican mother and his communist Ecuadorian father, his beliefs and even the building blocks of modern science (after seeing the conception of Taína’s baby as a revolution in nature).”

–Courtney, Storyteller


Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston

Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston

From the publisher: “Based on acclaimed author Zora Neale Hurston’s personal experiences in Haiti and Jamaica—where she participated as an initiate rather than just an observer during her visits in the 1930s—Tell My Horse is a fascinating firsthand account of the mysteries of Voodoo. An invaluable resource and remarkable guide to Voodoo practices, rituals, and beliefs, it is a travelogue into a dark, mystical world that offers a vividly authentic picture of ceremonies, customs, and superstitions.”

–Cassidy, Storyteller


Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, a National Book Lovers Day Staff Pick from the American Writers Museum in Chicago

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

From the publisher: “An enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of fair-skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose. A true literary wonder, Hurston’s masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published.”

–Christopher, Director of Operations


The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri

The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri

From the publisher: “In this book, Nayeri weaves together her own vivid [refugee] story with the stories of other refugees and asylum seekers in recent years, bringing us inside their daily lives and taking us through the different stages of their journeys, from escape to asylum to resettlement…With surprising and provocative questions, The Ungrateful Refugee challenges us to rethink how we talk about the refugee crisis.

Nayeri is also one of the writers in featured in our exhibit My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today. You can read more about her story here.

–Courtney, Storyteller


Visit our Reading Recommendations page for more book lists.

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