U.S. Embassy Bern Celebrates World Book Day 2020

For #WorldBookDay on April 23, we asked our colleagues at the Embassy for their favorite book written by an American author.  If you would like to know why the books were chosen, scroll down or click on the book title to read the comments. We hope this list inspires you for some great stay-at-home-reading!

Ambassador Edward McMullen, Jr. recommends: The Garden Book by Thomas Jefferson 

“Not many people know that the author of our Declaration of Independence, President, and Ambassador to France was also a great gardener. When I want to clear the mind, I look to the brilliance of Jefferson and his approach to cultivating and archiving his passion for his Monticello Virginia garden.  Peaceful, inquisitive, and bucolic is the Jefferson Garden that this book evokes. It brings me back to that beautiful mountain outside Charlottesville where Jefferson’s writings, architecture and gardening genius exude the brilliance of the man.”

Angelou, Maya – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 

Brianna, Consular Section and Gaby, Accounting

Bradbury, Ray – Dandelion Wine 

Sarah, Executive Office

Card, Orson Scott - Ender’s Game 

Tate, family member and Karl, Office of Defense Cooperation

Cather, Willa – My Antonia!  

Tanya, Public Affairs and Ashley, Political Section

Christensen, Clayton – How Will You Measure Your Life

Julianna, family member

Didion, Joan – The Year of Magical Thinking 

Andrea, Public Affairs

Fitzgerald, F. Scott – The Great Gatsby 

Tobias, IT

Green, John - Looking for Alaska 

Tucker, family member

Haley, Alex and Malcolm X – The Autobiography of Malcolm X 

Ted, Economic Section and Toby, family member

Hemingway, Ernest – A Farewell to  Arms

Alex, Public Affairs

Irving, John – A Prayer for Owen Meany

Penny, Consular Affairs

Irving, John – Until I Find You 

Neeru, IT

Jemison, N.K. – Broken Earth Trilogy

Penny, Consular Section

Jenoff, Pam - Kommandant`s Girl  

Lisa, Consular Section

McCullough, David – Biography of Harry S. Truman 

Mike, Political and Economic Section

Millman, Dan - Way of the Peaceful  Warrior 

Rex, IT

Portis, Charles – True Grit 

Matthew, Regional Security Office

Salter, James – All that Is

Gaby, Public Affairs

Smith, Betty – A Tree Grows In Brooklyn  

Molly, Economic Section

Steinbeck, John – East of Eden

Alexis, Management and Ellen, Consular Affairs

Steinbeck , John – A Russian Journal  

Daniel, Consular Section

Styron, William – Confessions of Nat Turner 

Marcus, Political Section

Twain, Mark – Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Tracy, Political Section

Ward, Jesmyn - Salvage the Bones 

Amy, Consular Section

Ware, Christ – Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth – Graphic Novel

Alex, Public Affairs

Whitehead, Colson – Underground Railroad

Kim, Public Affairs

Yanagihara, Hanya – A Little Life 

Maida, Protocol  &  David, Ambassador’s Chef

Children’s Books

Curtis, Jamie Lee – Is there really a human race?  

Tracy, Political Section

L’Engle, Madeleine – A Wrinkle in Time

Tanya, Public Affairs

O’Brien, Robert C. – Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Tucker, family member

Paolini, Christopher James – Eragon

Tate, family member

More suggested reading by those colleagues who couldn’t choose
only one

William Gibson – Neuromancer

“Because he almost singlehandedly created the cyberpunk genre.”

Philip K. Dick – A Scanner Darkly

“Dick was one of the best sci-fi writers. The obvious choice would be the famous Do Androids Dream of electric sheep, but I always like A Scanner Darkly (also because of Linklater’s brilliant film adaptation).”

Jeff Smith – Bone

“Another comic – somewhere between Lord of the Rings and a comic strip, Bone tells a story that is both epic and whimsical.”

Robert Penn Warren – All the Kings Men 

“All the King’s Men is one of American literature’s definitive political novels, as well as a profound study of human fallibility in politics. Set in the 1930s, it describes the dramatic rise to power, as state governor, of Willie Stark, a one-time radical attorney.”

Celeste Ng – Everything I Never Told You  &    Little Fires Everywhere

“Because I worry this will be a male-dominated list, I also want to nominate Celeste Ng for her perspective as an Asian American and for shedding light on minorities issues that I never considered, particularly in Everything I Never Told You, but also in Little Fires Everywhere.”

Elizabeth GilbertBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”

Michael Chabon - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

“Read it so long ago…and just remember getting lost in the surreal tales and adventures of the two main characters; cousins Kavalier and Clay and the comic book hero ‘The Escapist” they create. Lots of historical reference spanning decades; social history, fantasy, romance and the search for identity….it really had it all.  And, it is written with the most beautiful imaginative prose that pushes you forward from page one.”

David Sedaris  

“Almost any of his books will leave the reader laughing out loud from his characters and his off the wall observations of living.”


“This book is a longtime favorite of mine as Angelou speaks to enduring themes of struggle, the role of women in society, the challenges and triumphs of the American South, racism and the complicated racial dynamics of the United States.   Now, in the time of the coronavirus, her poem about a caged bird who chooses to sing reminds me of people all over the world singing from their balconies, as they cannot connect person-to-person due to social distancing measures.   We can all choose to sing despite the difficulties in our lives, and choose freedom and joy.”
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

“I was so moved by her life story. Love her writing and her poems.”

“I started reading his books early in life and they led to a love of science fiction and fantasy from the mid-1900s.
Being from a small rural town, I assumed I was doomed to a childhood of general boredom. Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine helped me understand life is about perspective and boredom is subjective. Everything and everyone can have an interesting story.
It’s hard not to mention Bradbury without noting Fahrenheit 451. Sometime after reading it, I learned that the book was banned or censored in some places. Since I enjoyed reading Fahrenheit 451 so much, I wanted to understand more about why it was banned. This fed into my continuing interest in banned books. II still seek them out and try to understand the possible social implications people are concerned over.”

To note; this is a very graphic depiction of abuse and physical suffering for anyone that might have issues with these topics.

“Card creates incredible worlds and characters in his science fiction works.  Ender’s Game is his most famous work, but I love all of his books.”

“This book has been a favorite of mine since I was a teenager – and really fires up my imagination on the possible future conditions of humanity and technologies, and also how relationships are formed and maintained with other people and cultures. What I have pulled out of the book has also developed over time as my life experiences and understanding evolve. So this can be a simple fun and entertaining read, or a kickstart to topics such as societal controls, ethics of war, personal privacy, roles of youths vs adults, foundations for friendships, value of relationships, etc.”

“The book paints a moving picture of the American pioneer spirit-the hardships they faced and the overriding faith they had in their ability to make a better life for themselves – as well as the quiet beauty of the Great Plains.”

“I chose Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather’s My Antonia  as a favorite book. I first read it as a teenager over a summer while working at a YMCA summer camp on an island in New Hampshire, which couldn’t be more distant from the prairies of Cather’s Nebraska setting. Nevertheless, I love how Cather vividly captures the struggle and beauty of life on the plains, and was able to capture the emotional nuances of settlers of recent and distant immigrant backgrounds living their lives in a “new” country. While historical fiction and written within the social confines of the past, Cather also infused a gay sensibility barely beneath the surface which at my first reading in the late 1990s seemed so subversive even then, and something even reading it now makes me feel like I am in on a secret only divinable to readers “in the know”. It is easy even a century later to feel the emotions of the characters over the arc of their lives and have a glimpse of the pioneer experience, warts and all.”

“A New York Times bestseller, this book explores strategies for finding meaning and happiness in life, using lessons from the experiences of Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen. For me, this changed how I viewed a lot of things in life, including how to align my resources with my priorities.”

“Joan Didion’s  ‘The Year Of Magical Thinking’ is a brutally honest recounting of the grief Didion felt after losing her husband, John Gregory Dunne, after forty years of marriage. By writing about it, Joan Didion tries to find a meaning to the events, to place them in the context of cause and effect, of order and purpose – a brilliant and moving study of grief. Her writing is powerful in several ways: aesthetically, journalistically, psychologically and morally.”

“John Green is my favorite author, but To Kill a Mockingbird is actually my favorite book.”

“This was the first “grown up” book I read, when I was perhaps 11 years old, right after the original TV series “Roots” was on, showing the family history of author Alex Haley. Seeing Alex Haley’s name on the cover of this book attracted me to it originally. As an 11-year-old white American in 1977, I had never heard of Malcolm X at the time.”

“This book opened my eyes to so many things. It starts with Malcolm X’s early life and criminal activity, and his imprisonment and conversion to the “Nation of Islam” while in prison. Then his rise to prominence as a fierce critic of racism and race relations in the America of the 1960s. Finally to his experience with true Islam and his Hajj, where he learns that race is not the defining factor he thought it was. It is a story of struggle and redemption. His tragic assassination in 1965 cut short a life that was just starting to open up to a whole new field of possibilities.”

“It has held a special place in my heart since I was a kid. I love Hemingway’s characteristic simple and direct writing style – maybe that’s why it appealed to me just as I was beginning to discover more “serious” stuff as a young reader.  I think I was living in northern Italy at the time, and of course the novel is memorably set not far from where I lived, so that might be another reason why it means so much to me.  I like melancholy – in art in general, but especially in writing – and the ending of the book is just so beautifully sad!  It’s a special story from one of the greatest American writers – I hope you’ll pick it up!”

“Also his other books, Cider House Rules, World According to Garp, etc. I was mesmerized by the story “Until I Find You” – seen through the eyes of a little boy searching for his father through the tattoo artists’ subculture – incredible! Never enticed me to get a tattoo but did ignite a penchant for European travel.”

“Jemison is the only writer to win the Hugo Award three years in a row.”

“My favorite American author is the historian David McCullough.  You can’t go wrong with anything he has written but I will single out Truman, his biography of President Harry S Truman. McCullough shows how a simple and unassuming man ascended to the presidency and made some of the most consequential decisions of the 20th century, including giving the order to use atomic weapons against Japan to end World War II. He was the most important creator of the Cold War order and put the United States on the path to win the conflict with the Soviet Union while avoiding conventional or nuclear war between the superpowers, a massive achievement of U.S. grand strategy. McCullough paints a vivid picture of Truman the man that makes his depiction of Truman the historical figure all the richer.”

“Life has three rules: Paradox, Humor, and Change.
Paradox: Life is a mystery; don’t waste your time trying to figure it out.
Humor: Keep a sense of humor, especially about yourself. It is a strength beyond all measure
Change: Know that nothing ever stays the same.”

“One of my favorite American books of all time is “True Grit” by Charles Portis. This book beautifully illustrates one young woman’s quest for justice in the American west, and highlights her remarkable strength of character and fortitude (grit). It also offers keen insight into American frontier culture, friendship, and U.S. history. It is also a deeply theological book exploring Calvinist themes such as the sovereign will of God, and God’s grace in the context of tragedy and revenge. But it isn’t a Sunday school lesson, it’s a Coen Brothers film, and is grisly, comical, and fascinating. Read or watch it.”

“Salter, who is described as America’s most ‘underrated under-rated author,’ writes this beautiful book about the life of Philip Bowman. The book excels through its modesty, but is far from boring. In my opinion the life of Bowman is like any of us could have, not too bad, not too exciting but he is happy with all that is in his life.”

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my favorite book because it introduced me to Francie, a character who will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

“Steinbeck considered East of Eden his magnum opus. Steinbeck stated about the book: ‘It has everything in it I have been able to learn about my craft or profession in all these years.’ He further said: ‘I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.'”

“It is a striking description of the Soviet Union after World War II, with a focus on how the conflict impacted ordinary people in Eastern Europe.”

“The Confessions of Nat Turner is an excellent novel that delves into the complex dynamic of race, class, sexuality, and religion in the American South.  The book’s protagonist/antagonist Nat Turner is a tragic figure, to this day he is a hero to some and a murderous religious fanatic to others.  William Styron’s novel paints a picture of a complicated and deeply flawed man who’s actions were monstrous and inevitable.
William Styron is not my favorite author but he has written in my opinion a great (if slightly dated) book.”

“Amazing writing that paints a nuanced and dynamic picture while still being highly entertaining.  With this one though, I especially loved how he dealt with such a tragic scourge as slavery with humanity and compassion.”

“In the tradition of William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, Ward further modernizes the craft of the novel set in the American South. This is a profound story of economic poverty and race against the backdrop of an incoming Hurricane Katrina. It is beautiful and devastating, and worth every moment spent in its pages.”

“May I include a graphic novel? Because this one is brilliant. Touching, smart, witty and very human. I also like how it plays with the conventions of the graphic novel.”

“The book lives up to winning the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction: It is a moving and tragic story that will keep you turning the pages; an adventure tale with a brave female lead. I liked that while it is a novel, it is a blend of fantasy and history – digging deep into America’s pre-Civil War era and the difficult topic of slavery.”

“For her intricate storytelling, incredible insight into her characters’ inner lives and because she wrote my absolutely favorite contemporary novel.”

“By far, the best book I have ever read.  I have never read anything that sent me on such an emotional rollercoaster; at times closing the cover because it was just too intense; at times literally sobbing and in tears; and at times so happy to be immersed in the lives of the characters.
It follows the lives of four friends in New York over decades of their lives from college to middle age.  It’s a very unsettling look at suffering, identity, sexual abuse, the struggles of recovery, and self-harm - without the usual contrast of comforting overtures.  All of this is interwoven into patterns of daily life and just getting by.  In the end it is the treasure of friendship that shines the most.  The characters remain vivid to me – still.”

“It is musical to read and teaches about humanity in a clear true way.”