AWM Staff Reads: January 2020

AWM Staff Reads: January

Reading Recommendations from the staff of the American Writers Museum.

This past month in Chicago we had two sunny days — days with 70% or more sunshine. For real. Just two. That left us with 29 days of cloudy darkness. The silver lining in all these clouds? It gave us a great excuse to stay inside and read books! And did we ever do some damage to our to-read lists…

Here’s what the American Writers Museum staff read in January. Do you see any of your favorites? What have you been reading? Let us know in the comments!


The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition by M.F.K. Fisher

The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition by M.F.K. Fisher

I’ve truly enjoyed consuming this collection of five works from M.F.K. Fisher, layered with personal memories and musings on food and sprinkled with recipes. Her splendid descriptions of meals elevate eating to a gratifying art.

–Cristina, Facilities Supervisor

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

I liked this book because it’s a simple and short book but it has a powerful message about the impact of storytelling.

–Elizabeth, Intern

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

The Bird King is set in 1491 during the reign of the last sultanate in the Iberian peninsula and is the story of Fatima, the only remaining Circassian concubine to the sultan, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker, and the Spanish Inquisition comes (boos and hisses coming from the crowd). The perspective the story is told from is Fatima, and the story is such a fantastic mix of history and fantasy. Hassan is a mapmaker for the ‘other,’ the woman from the Inquisition chasing Hassan and Fatima has a worm in her eye (WHAT?), and fantastical mythological characters help them through their journey.

–Emily, Development and Special Projects Coordinator

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

From the publisher: “The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it.”

–Olivia, Storyteller

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat

Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat

From the publisher: “Rich with hard-won wisdom and humanity, set in locales from Miami and Port-au-Prince to a small unnamed country in the Caribbean and beyond, Everything Inside is at once wide in scope and intimate, as it explores the forces that pull us together, or drive us apart, sometimes in the same searing instant…This is the indelible work of a keen observer of the human heart — a master at her best. ” Edwidge Danticat is featured in the AWM’s special exhibit My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today.

–Olivia, Storyteller

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg

The story is told through the style of a museum catalog, which greatly appeased my inner history nerd.

–Courtney, Storyteller

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing by Maya Angelou

From the publisher: “Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.

–Olivia, Storyteller

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


Lazarus Vol. One by Greg Ruck and Michael Lark

Lazarus Vol. 1 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

The world is in shambles and a few rich families run the world and split it up amongst themselves. They each have a “Lazarus,” which is a warrior of sorts for them to fight when they need it. I want to go on more about this book but I HIGHLY recommend it. Also, it’s written by Rucka and he’s great (the art is amazing too), but Rucka.

–Emily, Development and Special Projects Coordinator

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


Little Fish by Casey Plett

Little Fish by Casey Plett

This book follows Wendy, a 30-year-old trans woman who lives in Winnipeg, Canada. It mostly follows her daily life following the death of her grandmother and relationships with her father and small group of friends. In the aftermath of the funeral, a family friend calls and tells Wendy that her grandfather, who passed years earlier, may have also been trans. I loved this book because the humor felt very fresh, the dialogue was relatable without sounding childish, and I love that it’s a book that’s very much about trans women’s experiences and not trying to hide it. Two of Wendy’s friends are Indigenous trans women, which I don’t get to see much in literature. I really think everyone should read this!

–Bisola, Assistant Director of Programming and Education

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


Where Are The Children? by Mary Higgins Clark

Mary Higgins Clark

As a long-time fan of the “Queen of Suspense,” Mary Higgins Clark, I was saddened to hear of her death on Friday, January 31 at the age of 92. Her thrillers always kept you on the edge-of-your-seat and were impossible to put down until you’d read every page. Her first suspense novel Where Are the Children? was published in 1975 when she was in her late 40’s and she went on to write more than 50 bestselling titles, including A Stranger Is Watching, Loves Music, Loves to Dance, and All Around the Town.

–Karie, Director of Marketing and Private Events

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

This book is an apocalyptic survival story taking place on a Reservation in Canadian Anishinaabe land. All power has been cut in this town and surrounding areas, so the community is left to rely on skills passed from their elders and collective aid. Things begin to fall apart. This was a shorter read that kept up suspense all the way through, giving a fairly realistic depiction of this kind of situation. Rice introduced a pretty wide range of characters but each one was memorable, which I always like to see when I’m reading; no one felt like a disposable side-character.

–Bisola, Assistant Director of Programming and Education

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


My (Underground) American Dream by Julissa Arce

My (Underground) American Dream by Julissa Arce

In My (Underground) American Dream, Julissa Arce narrates her life as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, becoming a scholarship winner and an honors college graduate before working her way up the ladder to an executive position on Wall Street. Today she is a CNBC and Crooked Media contributor, writer, speaker, and social justice advocate for immigrants like herself. You can see Arce featured in the AWM’s newest exhibit My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today.

–Carey, President

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Akwaeke had already become a favorite after Freshwater, so I was excited to see what they would do in a YA novel. Pet follows a teen girl, Jam, who lives in a town, Lucille, that has undergone the kind of radical transformation that I dream of. They’ve gotten rid of their so-called monsters: the corrupt, vile people who only seek power through oppression and violence. One day, she accidentally releases a monster that hides in her mother’s painting, it tells her it is called Pet, and is here to hunt a monster. And so, it follows her attempt to find the remaining monster of Lucille. I mean, what’s not to love about this? The prose is beautiful and succinct, we have a young, black trans girl character as the protagonist. I love that this departs from the ever-so-popular dystopian novels that many white authors love to write about conditions that just reflect reality for marginalized people. I love the range of diaspora represented in the book, the different types of families represented, the way friendship and communication is represented. If you’re not already reading Emezi, then you should start! Emezi is also featured in our special exhibit My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today.

–Bisola, Assistant Director of Programming and Education

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I finished The Princess Bride this month, and boy did it live up to everything I expected it to from the movie. A tale of true love and high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts, it truly was one of the best things in the world, other than cough drops of course.

–Ari, Data Operations Coordinator

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


Ray Bradbury Unbound by Jonathan R. Eller

Ray Bradbury Unbound by Dr. Jonathan R. Eller

From the publisher: “At the height of his powers as a poetic prose stylist, Bradbury shifted his creative attention to film and television, where new successes gave him an enduring platform as a compelling cultural commentator…Informed by many years of interviews with Bradbury as well as an unprecedented access to personal papers and private collections, Ray Bradbury Unbound provides the definitive portrait of how a legendary American author helped shape his times.”

–Carey, President

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

We were made to read this in high school and I didn’t care for it. That might have been more of the reaction of a teenage pacifist that didn’t like being told what to do, because I went on to read everything Vonnegut had ever written before I graduated. Going back to Billy Pilgrim and his horribly fantastic story now that I’m older, I can appreciate it on more profound levels. Perhaps it takes being a little closer to death to reflect on all the moments that make up one’s life. So it goes.

–Christopher, Director of Operations

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


The Sun Magazine: January 2020

The Sun

The Sun is a literary magazine that makes my heart jump a little when I pull it out of my mailbox every month. There is nothing like The Sun. It features stories – fiction and non-fiction – poetry, photography, and a long interview that dives into one topic (and zero advertising). I usually read it cover to cover, and it is curated so you find links among the pieces. The writing and photography in The Sun get into the deep dark crevices of being human. The stories are disturbing and sad at times, and the characters in many of them live on, filed away in my mind like someone I met once who made an unforgettable impression. Whenever I meet another Sun reader, I know I’ve met a kindred spirit.

–Linda, Director of Development

THE SUN: JANUARY 2020


The 13 Clocks by James Thurber

The 13 Clocks by James Thurber

Pure fun with magical use of language.

–Christopher, Director of Operations

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON


Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer by Wendell Berry

“Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer” by Wendell Berry

This short essay, although written in 1988, remains relevant to today with its message of both environmental and economic sustainability. I like this essay because along with setting guidelines that he wishes companies to follow when in the production of new technology and the addition of the various reader responses to his work, a dialogue emerges about how readers viewed the environment in 1988 America. What really fascinates me is to think what our reality would be like if the guidelines he had set had been followed, would there be another back-to-the-land movement or would it set into motion a dissolution of the urban rural divide? But we know what happens, truly, as we are in 2020, so are the guidelines he set all just wishful thinking?

–Elizabeth, Intern

INDIEBOUND | AMAZON

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