American Writers Museum Staff picks for September 2020

AWM Staff Picks: September

Reading Recommendations from the staff of the American Writers Museum.

In this current moment of unrest and uncertainty, there is one thing you can count on: the staff of the American Writers Museum is reading books. Check out what we’ve been reading recently and let us know what titles and writers you’re reading in the comments!

Our September 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.


Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Truly, what is there to say about this Pulitzer Prize-winning classic that hasn’t been said already? I still maintain that there is never a bad time to acquaint yourself with the powerful prose of Toni Morrison, and the beautifully haunting tale of Beloved is one that will resonate with readers for a long time.

–Courtney, Storyteller


Born for Liberty by Sara M. Evans

Born for Liberty by Sara M. Evans

From the publisher: “The most concise and comprehensive one-volume history of American women—from the indigenous women of the 16th-century wilderness to the dual-role career women and mothers of contemporary times—this book brings American womanhood to center stage, exploring the lives of pioneers and slaves, immigrants and factory workers, executives and homemakers.”

–Allison, Program Director


A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet

I did take a couple weeks off from dystopian fiction, but somehow that didn’t last long, not sure why. This book made me think that adults in the story were somehow like the Gen-Xers from Less Than Zero that now had children and forced them to go on a combined family vacation. Their children want nothing to do with them and their vapid ways, and are managing quite well on their own. Then catastrophe hits and the children eventually end up leading the way.

–Christopher, Director of Operations


The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

From the publisher: “Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.”

Emezi is also featured in our virtual exhibit My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today. Explore it today!

–Allison, Program Director


Every Day We Get More Illegal by Juan Felipe Herrera

Every Day We Get More Illegal by Juan Felipe Herrera

An impactful collection of poems that conveys the courage and hopes of immigrant voices. Join my conversation with Juan Felipe Herrera about his powerful new book on September 30, as part of our My America program series.

–Cristina, Facilities Supervisor


Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib

Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib

From the publisher: “How does one pay homage to A Tribe Called Quest? The seminal rap group brought jazz into the genre, resurrecting timeless rhythms to create masterpieces…Poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib digs into the group’s history and draws from his own experience to reflect on how its distinctive sound resonated among fans like himself. The result is as ambitious and genre-bending as the rap group itself.”

–Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator


Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

From the publisher: “After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.”

–Allison, Program Director


Hello Again; book, music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa

Hello Again; book, music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa

From the publisher: “The joys of sex are here for the asking in this adult musical fantasy suggested by Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde. As if seen through the lens of a combination time machine and bawdy, old-time kinescope, Hello Again crisscrosses beds and jumps from decade to decade, intimately examining the painful secrets that drive characters into each other’s arms and towards the bruising effects of reckless passion.”

–Matt, Storyteller


IQ by Joe Ide

IQ by Joe Ide

From the publisher: “They call him IQ. He’s a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he’s forced to take on clients that can pay. This time, it’s a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes.”

–Carey, President


The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

This is a quirky and endearing multi-generational family drama, all tied together by a love and intrigue of brewing beer. A rare read that will both pull at your heartstrings *and* make you thirsty at the same time!

–Courtney, Storyteller


Octavia's Brood edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha

Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha

Firstly, read this book, seriously. This short story collection of speculative fiction is one of those books that was sitting on my shelf for 7 or 8 months before I finally decided to pick it up. I’m so annoyed that I did that, because I have a feeling it is one I will come back to again and again. The stories all share the same idea of envisioning worlds through the lens of various social justice issues. They had me laughing out loud, crying silently on my couch at 3 AM, bugging my partner just to read a paragraph out loud, reading 4 stories in a row because I couldn’t get enough, and setting the book down after only one because it was just too hard to keep reading. Even if you’re not into science fiction, you should read this book. Like, now, not in 7 or 8 months.

–Ari, Data Operations Coordinator


This Is Not a T-Shirt: A Brand, A Culture, A Community, A Life in Streetwear by Bobby Hundreds

This is Not a T-Shirt: A Bran, a Culture, a Community–A Life in Streetwear by Bobby Hundreds

From the publisher: “Bobby Hundreds cements his spot as a champion of an industry he helped create and tells the story of The Hundreds―with anecdotes ranging from his Southern California, punk-DIY-tinged youth to the brand’s explosive success. Both an inspiring memoir and an expert assessment of the history and future of streetwear, this is the tale of Bobby’s commitment to his creative vision and to building a real community.”

–Noelle, Education Program Coordinator


Visit our Reading Recommendations page for more book lists.

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