AWM Staff Picks: September 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 September 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.

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith book cover

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith

From the publisher: “A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders. But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived. With powerful verse and striking illustrations by Nikkolas Smith, Born on the Water provides a pathway for readers of all ages to reflect on the origins of American identity.”

This book is fantastic, and I was thrilled to meet the illustrator, Nikkolas Smith, this past Sunday at the AWM when he hosted his Artivism 101 Workshop, in which we learned how to combine our art with our activism!

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak book cover

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I first read this book in middle school not long after it came out, but hadn’t touched it since then. I recently found a beat up copy in one of the Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood and decided it was time for a re-read. It is an emotional look at Nazi Germany as experienced by a child and narrated by Death. It definitely meant something different to me as an adult, though I think it is an important read for everyone.

–Ari, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

Dark Testament by Pauli Murray book cover

Dark Testament and Other Poems by Pauli Murray

All of us here at the American Writers Museum are excited to launch our new exhibit Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice on September 22! The name of the exhibit is inspired by this poetry collection by Pauli Murray, a poet, lawyer, activist, priest, and so much more. Pauli Murray is a true inspiration, someone who was way ahead of their time and someone whose work continues to remain relevant. I hope you read some of Murray’s work and also visit our new exhibit, which explores racial injustice in America through the work of Black American writers from the end of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movment.

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

Hellblazer Omnibus Vol. 1 by Garth Ennis, illustrated by Steve Dillon

John Constantine is dying. As a sorcerer literally haunted by the demons of his past, John is no stranger to mystic bedevilment or supernatural horror. But it’s his chain smoking that ultimately brings death to Constantine’s front door. Between this, and investigations of a grisly serial murderer and strategies against the Lord of Hell, there is no rest for the wicked. Especially when your name is John Constantine. Written by Garth Ennis (Preacher, Punisher MAX) with art by fan favorites Steve Dillon (Preacher, Punisher MAX) Hellblazer Omnibus Vol. 1 brings together Ennis’ entire run for the first time!

–Cassidy, Storyteller

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury book cover

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

We said goodbye to our popular special exhibit Ray Bradbury: Inextinguishable earlier this month and as we were getting ready to take it down I picked up The Illustrated Man again. And I am not disappointed! This short story collection is iconic for a reason and Bradbury is a master. We’ll miss the exhibit, but as the exhibit title suggests Bradbury himself is inextinguishable. His words will always allow us to think critically about our present time and imagine a better future to work toward.

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

An Immense World: How Animal Sense Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong book cover

An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong

I’ve been loving this book. I don’t often gravitate toward science writing, but Ed Yong is an exception. I didn’t know of him pre-pandemic, but he quickly became my go-to source for COVID news with his work in The Atlantic. Yong has a special way of using relatable metaphors to turn very complex scientific terms and theories into something a non-scientist like myself can understand. And this book is no exception. I’ve been enjoying it so much that I even started taking notes with little bits of information that I did not want to forget. It is also a humbling read because as humans we have a tendency to think of ourselves as the peak of evolution but in reality there are thousands of animals who experience the world in ways that we can’t even fathom. So it is a good lesson in humility. Plus it is funny! A science book that’ll make you laugh!

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

Immersive Storytelling for Real and Imagine Worlds: A Writer’s Guide by Margaret Kerrison

Did you know you could get a job writing for theme park attractions? In her debut book, Margaret Kerrison shares her experience working at Disney Parks and creates an incredible blueprint for designing immersive experiences. From the publisher, “In this richly illustrated book, the first of its kind written specifically for writers, Kerrison lays out the craft of immersive storytelling. She uses case studies to show what works, and highlights the essential role of the writer on a complex creative team. Ready to take the kernel of an idea and turn it into a full-fledged experience?”

–Matt, Social Media Coordinator

Oddball: A Sarah’s Scribbles Collection by Sarah Andersen

From the publisher: “The fourth book in the enormously popular graphic novel series, the latest collection of Sarah’s Scribbles comics explores the evils of procrastination, the trials of the creative process, the cuteness of kittens, and the beauty of not caring about your appearance as much as you did when you were younger. When it comes to humorous illustrations of the awkwardness and hilarity of millennial life, Sarah’s Scribbles is without peer.”

–Cristina, Guest Services & Operations Supervisor

Oscar Hijuelos: The Mambo Kings & Other Novels (LOA #362) edited by Lori Carlson-Hijuelos and Laura P. Alsonso-Gallo book cover

Oscar Hijuelos: The Mambo Kings & Other Novels (LOA #362) edited by Lori Marie Carlson-Hijuelos and Laura P. Alonso-Gallo

This latest collection from the Library of America honors the work of Oscar Hijuelos and includes three of his novels: Our House in the Last World, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, and Mr. Ives’ Christmas. Hijuelos became the first Latino to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for his novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. He wrote rich and radiant novels that brought the Cuban American immigrant experience into the heart of American literature, helping to open the doors for other Latino writers. I had the honor of chatting with the editors Lori and Laura about Oscar Hijuelos for the latest episode of the Nation of Writers podcast, which you can listen to here.

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

Young Men in Love edited by Joe Glass and Matt Miner

Young Men in Love: A Queer Romance Anthology edited by Joe Glass and Matt Miner

Pirates, superheroes, and ghosts (oh my!). This collection of graphic short stories was an absolute delight to read. There are some incredible stories in this anthology, my favorite being “Living” by Terry Blas, art by Bradley Clayton; “Act of Grace” by Anthony Oliveira, art by Nick Robles; and “Big Man” story and art by Hamish Steele. Super fun read that is full of diverse stories and beautiful art.

–Matt, Social Media Coordinator

Visit our Reading Recommendations page for more book lists.

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