We love books! National Book Lovers Day, August 9, AWM Staff Favorites

National Book Lovers Day Staff Picks

National Book Lovers Day Staff Picks

In honor of National Book Lovers Day, celebrated annually on August 9, we present the books we absolutely love here at the American Writers Museum.

This was no easy task, trust us. When you’re in this line of work, you have MANY books that you love and to narrow it down to one is nearly impossible. Which is why, after much office discussion, we decided to allow up to three favorites from each staff member. We just love too many and when it comes to books the more is definitely the merrier. You’ll also notice that we included non-American authors in our list. The reason behind this is simple: non-Americans write great books too and we love them!

Read on to learn more about the AWM staff and the books we love. We have a feeling you love books too, and we want to know what those books are! Help us spread the love on this Book Lovers Day by sharing your favorite books in the comments and letting us know if we have any in common. Making connections over a shared love of literature is one of our favorite pastimes (you should how easily an office meeting can be derailed by a book discussion).

Here’s to the books we love and the writers who wrote them. This list is also available on our page at Bookshop.org. Happy Book Lovers Day!

Animal Alphabet Christmas by Emmett Sutherland

Animal Alphabet Christmas by Emmett Sutherland

Karie, Director of Marketing & Private Events:

“A book I LOVE is one that my daughter received for Christmas last year called Animal Alphabet Christmas by my nephew Emmett Sutherland, who is a talented artist with autism. Emmett’s stories always involve animals because that’s what he knows and loves and his talent for drawing them in a cartoon-like style has amazed us since he was a small boy (which he’s not anymore at 6’6”!). He’s continuing to develop his skills with the hopes of publishing more books and is currently hard at work on his next one about animals doing summer activities.”

Another Country by James Baldwin

Another Country by James Baldwin

Carey, President:

“One of the most powerfully written books I have ever read. The visceral nature of the language and the complexity of emotions that Baldwin creates with these characters and their lives is painful in its reality and beautiful in its depth and artistry.”

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Sonal, Assistant Director of Programming & Events:

“I cried as I read it. I read some more and then I cried some more but I kept reading and the book kept me in touch with my emotions. It was yet another masterpiece from Khaled Hosseini.”

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Allison, Program Director:

“My apprenticeship began, on my part, without any conscious recognition of that state. I thought it was the same with Holmes, that he began by humouring this odd neighbour for lack of anything more demanding at hand, and ended up with a fully trained detective, until some years later I recalled that odd statement he had made in the garden on our very first day: ‘Twenty years ago,’ he had muttered. ‘Even ten. But here? Now?'”

“A continuation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, this tale of a young woman who adopts Holmes as a mentor in detective work and an ally in her battle to reclaim her past. A meditation on everything from aging and risk to the intimate act of teaching, as two prickly, fearful people build a partnership across generational boundaries in the midst of a world war.”

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator:

“This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.”

“Anne Lamott’s classic is ostensibly about writing advice, but it’s so much more than that. It’s life advice. I read it when I had just moved to Chicago, thinking I’d be the next Nelson Algren or whatever (side note: I’m not), and I read it looking for tips and insights to improve my own writing. What I really learned though, what has stuck with me, is Lamott’s approach to the seemingly insurmountable challenges of life: just take it bird by bird.

Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds by Gail Simone, Ed Benes (Artist), Alex Lei (Artist) & Rob Lea (Artist)

Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds

Emily, Development & Special Projects Coordinator:

“This is the book that basically cemented my love for American Superhero Comics. It showed amazing characters, written by a female author, and I miss/love Oracle.”

Catwoman Vol. 1: Trail of the Catwoman by Ed Brubaker & Darwyn Cooke (Artist)

Catwoman, Vol. 1: Trail of Catwoman by Ed Brubaker & Art by Darwyn Cooke

Emily, Development & Special Projects Coordinator:

“This is one of the books I re-read at least once a year. It has a wonderful noir feel for it and if you didn’t love Catwoman before, you’re going to after reading this. I enjoy the whole run but this is a great introduction into the character. I could probably go on more about this book and how much it defined Catwoman for me, but mostly I love that the creators go for more depth of the character without it seemingly over the top and gives her a realness that makes the character accessible for many.”

Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Cristina, Facilities Supervisor:

“I still love getting into the feel of this book by reading it on a long blustery winter night, while anxiously munching on warm chocolate cookies. It’s a 200-year-old gothic/science fiction masterpiece. And it explores themes that are still relevant and horrifying.”

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Hurd (Artist)

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator:

“Like many kids, my parents often read this to me at bedtime, but what really cements this book in my heart is the stuffed animal I had of the young bunny in the book, who I named Bunty. Bunty was (is?) my best friend. He would go everywhere with me. I loved Bunty. I loved Bunty so much that one time I left him at my grandparents’ house three hours away and they had to overnight him to my home so that I could stop crying and feel joy again. Today, a one-eyed and noticeably thinner Bunty (there’s almost no stuffing left because of all the hugs we shared) has retired to the attic of my parents’ house. Bunty might not be with me here in Chicago, but his love is always in my heart.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Catherine, Assistant Director of Marketing & Private Events:

“I was very late to the game when it came to reading Gone Girl, so this book was my favorite read of 2018. I was absolutely captivated from the start, and the story line kept me on the edge of my seat (and in need of a glass of wine) the entire read. I’m a huge thriller fan, and this book was an adventure from start to finish!”

For reference, please see this tweet:

Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow

Christopher, Director of Operations:

“This book was my first introduction to Saul Bellow’s writing and it came to me when I was living overseas. It was the first time I lived outside the United States and I was immersed in a culture and society that I didn’t really understand (not to mention a language that I couldn’t read). Humboldt’s Gift is set in Chicago, so it was a taste of home, and it is about a writer that thought art could change the world and battle against modern commodification. I was in my idealistic twenties when I read the novel and I too thought art could change the world. Bellow’s use of language is beautifully rich and thoughtful, and when a friend asked me to describe what I meant, I said ‘if literature can be compared to eating chocolate, reading Bellow is like eating fudge.'”

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Linda, Director of Development:

“Just like the Aviator, who is the narrator of this story, I never forget the Little Prince. I discovered this book as required reading in high school, and was completely enchanted (like the Aviator) the first time I met the Little Prince, through the author’s descriptions, drawings and dialogue. I love the Little Prince’s discoveries about humanity, his messages about love and friendship, his wide-eyed perspective, his direct and persistent questions, his golden curls, his adorable outfit. And what makes the messages unforgettable for me is the book’s distinctive voice. I love Saint-Exupéry’s word choice, sentence structrure, and punctuation (!) that convey the irresistible, impetuous, curious nature of the Little Prince. I could listen to him talk to me all day. I’ve read this book at least 10 times. I can always come back to it like an old friend while I’m deciding what to read next, and I discover something new every time.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Ari, Data Operations Coordinator:

“This series taught me what it means to have a friend in a book. I have read The Lord of the Rings eight times, and I still learn something new from it every time. For me, it represents my love of fantasy, my relationship with my Dad, and just a general appreciation for good storytelling.”

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Ari, Data Operations Coordinator:

“Even people who generally do not like fantasy (or even fiction) can still find something to love in this book series. The world building is phenomenal, the characters are dynamic, and the fan community is tight-knit and amazing. Keep an eye out for a supposed TV show prequel as well!”

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Christian, Summer Intern:

“This is a book about the human experience, a deeply personal endeavor that probes how and why we become the people we do. Identities and experiences rarely exist in a vacuum, and Lahiri’s ability to write on the family — from various emotional, gripping perspectives — truly resonates with me. I’ve delved into this coming-of-age novel multiple times, all at very different stages and moments in my life. Each read teaches me something new. Offers new viewpoints. Challenges me differently. But The Namesake never fails to tug at the same heartstrings. If there were to be a literary version of the Voyager Golden Record, I’d eternalize this book and have it represent humanity. Anyone and everyone can find themselves in this beautiful tale.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey

Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator:

“Because he knows you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy. He knows there’s a painful side…but he won’t let the pain blot out the humor no more’n he’ll let the humor blot out the pain.”

I love this book because it reminds me of my dad, who admires Kesey and even met him once on his farm in Oregon (yes, it was the 1970s, you do the math). At my dad’s urging, I read it in college and it has informed my outlook on life since, primarily the importance of preserving individual freedom in a world that forces conformity on us. And, perhaps most importantly, the necessity of laughter and a sense of humor in the face of a painful, sorrowful, senseless world.

Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher

Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher

Courtney, Storyteller:

“Carrie Fisher had always been a personal hero of mine ever since I watched her rule the screen as Princess Leia in Star Wars. Imagine then my excitement to find out later in my life that she was also a writer! Postcards from the Edge was her debut novel, and I have still yet to come across anything that so vibrantly and accurately captures the complexities of mental health. Maybe not everyone will be able to relate to protagonist Suzanne Vale’s Hollywood upbringing or party lifestyle, but most can sympathize with the exploration of what a second chance truly is, accompanied with the (uncomfortably) familiar depictions of self-doubt, self-loathing, second-guessing, and insecurities. And, in true Carrie Fisher style, the book is remarkably funny despite (or thanks to?) its dark premise. In the midst of its glitzy setting, Postcards from the Edge is a thoughtful commentary on the truly inane, awe-inspiring complexities of human life.”

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Artist)

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

Emily, Development & Special Projects Coordinator:

“I am not a space person, for which I blame the amount of Star Trek I was made to watch as a kid (thanks mom). However, I LOVE this space opera and is usually my go-to book if people are interested in comics but don’t want superheroes or on the fence about them. From the art to the characters, it’s all there, and it’s a great read.”

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Claire, Summer Intern:

“My great-grandmother gave me a copy when I was born, the one with Tasha Tudor’s illustrations, and I read it over and over and over again, every time just as enchanted by the mysterious old house with its locked doors and secret passages and hidden gardens and the story of a young girl learning how to love and be loved. It was really formative for me; I think I can blame it for my adult love of Gothic and Romantic literature, but it’s so much kinder and more optimistic. The Secret Garden taught me that where there’s life, no matter how small and hidden and dormant, there’s hope, that it’s possible to start over, even in the face of unimaginable tragedy. Years later, I still reread it every so often, and love it just as much as I did the very first time.”

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Carey, President:

“With one of the best opening lines of a novel, ‘Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board, Their Eyes Were Watching God is really an amazing story, with a central character whose life is a journey that is long and painful but whose spirit and strength carries through and grows across the amazing span of her life.”

Trinity by Leon Uris

Trinity by Leon Uris

Allison, Program Director:

“I stand here in a world filled with rising and angry voices which will no longer tolerate their lives being manipulated by the perverse whims of greedy men. Before this twentieth century is out it will see you packing your kits and being drummed out of every corner of the world in scorn. You’re a bunch of damned hypocrites holding yourselves up to the world as the successors of the ancient democracies while your hands are soaked in blood and your Parliament hosts this mockery. All you’re really in it for is the money!”

“The story of Conor Larkin traces the history of Ireland from the Great Famine to the Easter Rising, through rebellion after rebellion, loss after loss. The book is relentless in its depictions of the torture, corruption and brutality that create revolutionaries, but the plot never overwhelms the characters, and their humanity is what remains when the story ends the way most martrydoms end.”

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

Allison, Program Director:

“No one ever said that you would live to see the repercussions of everything you do, or that you have guarantees, or that you are not obliged to wander in the dark, or that everything will be proved to you and neatly verified like something in science. Nothing is: at least nothing that is worthwhile. I didn’t bring you up only to move across sure ground.”

“This book about New York City, time travel, true love, street gangs, the end of the world, and two great warring newspapers at the turn of the millennium contains such magnificent flights of language that the author must have returned to himself, stunned, having written what he wrote from another place than the one we occupy. Oh, and there’s a flying horse.”

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