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Molly Pieper is the Marketing Assistant for Plume. She lives in Connecticut but doesn’t mind the commute – it gives her plenty of time to delve into a good book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Other People We Married by Emma Straub

I really enjoyed Straub’s collection of short stories because of her familiar and fallible characters.

Themes of love, or rather romance in some form, is a commonality throughout these twelve stories but Straub strikes a great balance.

These stories are neither cheesy nor predictable but are relatable nonetheless.  My personal favorite is “Some People Must Really Fall in Love.”

 

 

 

 

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About a Boy by Nick Hornby

An oldie but a goodie. This is one of those books I’ve read over and over again and never tire of. It’s a great feel-good read.

Will Freeman, the classic bachelor type, has his world turned upside down when he meets twelve year old Markus as the result of his latest dating scheme.

As their friendship evolves, Hornby’s simultaneously funny and poignant novel reveals to the reader that when it comes to people, there is always more than meets the eye.

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

 

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This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

I think by now most people are aware of Tropper’s novel because of the 2014 movie adaptation—but this really is a book worth reading on its own merits.

It’s more than your typical family drama. Tropper hits that sweet spot between laugh out loud funny and emotionally gripping in this portrait of a dysfunctional American family.

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

 

 

 

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This was an emotional read. Ng’s portrait of a fractured family is painful, yet so beautifully written. Her third person narration and seamless movement throughout time make for an intelligently written and dynamic read. This novel is more than the tale of a young girls death and the aftermath and ensues, it’s about sacrifices and what can become of all of us after making one.

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

 

 

 

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

First off, I must say this book really does deserve all of the hullabaloo. It’s a smart, enthralling thriller that was hard to step away from. Hawkins protagonist Rachel is unreliable in the best kind of way; you both doubt her credibility and want to believe her. The way in which the narrative moves back and forth between different characters perspective is another element of this great book that keeps the reader devouring pages. I found myself trying to predict the ending of Girl on the Train, and was pleasantly surprised when I was completely wrong.

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

 

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page.

See Staff Picks for all our categories!


Penguin Online photo Yafa

Anyone who’s seen Jennifer Lawrence or Charlize Theron on screen knows that both of the Oscar winners for Best Actress are the real thing. It’s not surprising, at least to me, that they have no patience for phony celebs or “pretend” foods. Theron won’t go near anything gluten-free: “It tastes like cardboard!” she exclaimed in a talk-show appearance. Lawrence told Vanity Fair that gluten-free diets are “the new, cool eating disorder.”

Real foods, to both women, do not perform bait-and-switch tricks like substituting tapioca for whole wheat flour in baked goods. Real foods contain whole grains that may or may not be fashionable at the moment, but still deliver proven value.  I’m reminded that our palate and digestive system subscribe to no dietary trends, and never have.  Our bodies dwell in a microbial universe where nutritive usefulness trumps the latest fad; muscles and ligaments along with the liver and every other internal organ thrive on minerals and vitamins, healthful bacteria, fiber and phytochemicals. They’re sublimely oblivious to pop culture’s demands for the newest, coolest, latest diet.

As the author of Grain of Truth—The Real Case For and Against Wheat and Gluten I set out to discover for myself, as an investigative journalist, just how seriously I should take the campaign against gluten. Was this protein complex found in wheat, barley and rye, as William Davis claims in Wheat Belly, so injurious to our well-being that it has killed more people than all wars combined? Or were we yet again being subjected to unsubstantiated hyperbole—this time delivered by medical professionals, among others?

The gluten-free craze arrived in a thundercloud of hyperbole, like Moses delivering the Ten Commandments and warning if you fail to honor them, well, we’ll see you in hell. That’s the emotional foundation of screeds like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain. Like scripture, they are unconditional—they don’t deal with shades of gray, so we don’t have to, either. It’s all fire and brimstone. Eat wheat and grow fat, while you rot your brain. Other diet fads—Zone, South Beach, Atkins, generally call for more protein and fewer carbs, and more thought.  Gluten-free is a one-stop one-shop silver bullet.

Reliable clinical studies indicate that only .63 to 6 percent of us suffer from definable symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and 1 in 133 from celiac disease. The vast majority of men and women who think they’re reacting to gluten— about 30 percent of the general population—fall into neither category.

A recent study at the University of Florida set out to probe people’s misconceptions about gluten. It followed 97 participants who tasted two food choices, one labeled “gluten-free” and one labeled “gluten.” The majority decided the non-gluten food was healthier, even though neither food actually contained gluten. As many as 32 percent of the study subjects thought eating gluten-free would bring about weight loss. Not true. It’s the elimination of junk food, the researchers point out, that makes all the difference.

grain-of-truth-by-stephen-yafa 2I discovered too that long fermentation, as in sourdough, is nature’s way of reducing the toxicity of gluten molecules while increasing its nutritive value and edible enjoyment. A surprise to me, and proof again that the best part of authoring a book is to learn what you didn’t know when you began.

 

Read more about Grain of Truth—The Real Case For and Against Wheat and Gluten by Stepehn Yafa!


Angela Januzzi Staff Picks

 

Angela Januzzi is a Senior Publicist at Tarcher and Perigee. Previously she worked in non-profit external affairs and also in publicity for the Penguin imprints Berkley/NAL.

You can follow her on Twitter @amjanuzzi, but she writes/makes music under several names, which she may just tell you if you ask enough.

Angela likes her reading material like her coffee: strong, unsweetened, and with a little existential metaphor.

 

 

 

duneDune by Frank Herbert

There are two types of book nerds: those who have read Dune and those who haven’t. Winner of the Hugo Award and the first Nebula Award for Best Novel, either you are 1.) a sci-fi fangirl/boy who’s adored this book for years or 2.) an elitist like me who wants to love great sci-fi and should chalk this up as one of the best places to start. Dune has it all: the rise of a ‘chosen one,’ immersive sense of place, environmental and political commentary woven through the book, and, a highlight for yours truly, a powerful role for mystical forces of the all-female Bene Gesserit. Dune may also be the hero story to end all hero stories, partially because its ultimate lesson is: do not trust hero worship. And if you’re a literary reader like me who needs beauty in words as much as complex character development, every page has some gem of philosophy or language. (“There is in all things a pattern that is part of our universe. It has symmetry, elegance, and grace–these qualities you find always in that the true artist captures.”) Bonus for normal followers of cult classics/alt lit: David Lynch made the book into a movie–so you know the Dune universe is anything but predictable. Start Reading an Excerpt.

 

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Perchance to Dream by Charles Beaumont

Charles Beaumont has been cited as an influence on some of the best known writers of the last 60 years–and yet few people, including myself, have ever read any of his stories. What you DO know of his writing, though, is in black and white and forever preserved as about two dozen Twilight Zone episodes. He may be best-known as the mastermind behind one of the most beloved shows of the series, ‘#12 Looks Just Like You, ‘ in which a space-age dystopia hinges on the population conforming to only one of two approved, physically beautiful body types. Though this Penguin Classics printing of selected stories isn’t out until October 2015, I’m already fantasizing about autumn Twilight Zone marathons to prepare for this surreal, dark, eerie anthology. This collection will be one of the only of its kind in-print, and a much-deserved tribute to a gifted magician of social commentary and emotion we lost too quickly. (Beaumont was only 38 when he passed away.)

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Mariel of Redwall by Brian Jacques

When I was in Catholic elementary school in Ohio, one of my favorite weeks of the year was BOOK. FAIR. WEEK. Our musty little library had its tables moved to make room for makeshift shelves of BRAND NEW TITLES where little people like me could buy, not just borrow, shining new books shipped-in from the mysterious world of publishing. When I think of book fair days, they are inextricable for me from the author Brian Jacques and his world of Redwall, populated by its brave and cunning talking forest creatures. Mariel of Redwall, one of the only main Mousemaids–a female protagonist, to my delight–quickly became my favorite. I was a kid who didn’t see much adventure and longed for it, but who knew I would be easily frightened by it anyway. The Redwall novels allowed me to fantasize that if little valiant rodents could fight pirates and venture to unknown territories, maybe a small person like me could too. If there’s a kid in your life between 8 and 11 who would rather listen to The Beatles than Ariana Grande, and for the moment still loves animals more than texting, she may be a perfect candidate to become the next Redwall series addict. While childhood lasts.

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The Zombie Combat Manual by Roger Ma

Created in some scrappy but supernatural world between sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, and self-help satire, I was lucky enough to work with author Roger Ma on this book when I was a bright-eyed new publicist. Ma’s tongue-in-(rotting?)-cheek guide is filled with emergency-demo-grade diagrams on how to physically combat zombies of all shapes and sizes, no matter what your surroundings. (Carrying a baby and not sure how to combat a walking corpse? This book’s got your back.) If you’re dreading how to cope after “The Walking Dead” ends on AMC, The Zombie Combat Manual is here to help you through that non-dead grieving process. It’s also a great gift for the dude in your life who fancies himself Rick Grimes. And it’s essential to sharpen your hand-to-hand combat for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You know, in the meantime.

 

Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino

Yes, Cosmicomics is not textbook fantasy genre. There are no epic battlefields–just the constant struggle of life to keep shifting form and energy, to continue barreling onward through time and space, and cracking jokes the whole way. No damsels in distress. No objects containing special powers that turn their possessor good or evil (unless you count the beauty of the moon, that is.) Cosmicomics is a collection of vignettes of magical surrealism, loosely structured around the adventures of several lifeforms as they experience myriad existences throughout eras and galaxies and species. A few main characters of these stories include, for instance, a dinosaur, a mollusk, and a love triangle during a time when the moon was close enough to touch the Earth. It makes me wish I understood Italian so I could read every story in Calvino’s original language. (The English translations are so gorgeous, I can’t imagine how much more rich and alive they sound in their mother tongue.) Calvino’s fantasyworlds are composed of the magic of merged science and poetry and humor and mortality. Each tale is also a bit of a philosophical and intellectual challenge, and as such, a little vessel of escapism to sail you away from a tough day or how you thought you knew the world. And that may be what the best kind of fantasy book does for us after all. Yes? Yes.

 

Find more books on the Mystery & Suspense page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


Tessa Meischeid

 

Tessa Meischeid is a Publicity Assistant at Penguin Press. A graduate of the University of Washington, she loves all things books, chocolate, and Seattle.

 

 

 

 

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Careless People by Sarah Churchwell

History lovers, literatures lovers, and crime show lovers rejoice! Sarah Churchwell has come to meet all your needs in one book. Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby  is the true story of a murder in New Jersey and a stunning look into the jazz age that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write The Great Gatsby. It reads like a cross between a Law & Order: SVU episode and your favorite college lecture (the one that didn’t put you to sleep, but actually taught you something and kept you interested). Churchwell shows how the Mills-Hall murder of 1922 affected the glamorous world of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and ultimately influenced the plot of arguably the “great American novel”.

 

 

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Religion of Democracy by Amy Kittelstrom

In The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition, Amy Kittlestrom points out just how distanced from the provenance and meaning of the ideals of “freedom” and “equality” we’ve become in modern times. The book tracks how religion and democracy have worked together as universal values in American culture through the eyes of seven liberal thinkers throughout history. Extremely relevant in today’s political climate of sound bites and empty promises, this book explores these quintessentially American ideals as they were forged, debated, and remade across our history.

Start Reading an Excerpt

 

 

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The Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones

Everyone who has read The Plantagenets knows what a joy it is to read a Dan Jones book. Taking history and telling it in a way that is not only relevant but interesting can sometimes be a task, but Jones makes it feel easy in his books. The War of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors includes some of the names we all know from history classes but also some new (to me at least!) and incredibly interesting characters. The struggle of power, war, intrigue, and death makes this book read like a novel and will stick with you long after you’ve finished. Another big plus, he’s got another book, Magna Carta, coming from Viking this fall that sounds like it’s going to be equally as fantastic as his first two.

Start Reading an Excerpt!

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When the United States Spoke French by Francois Furstenberg

In 1789, the French Revolution shook Europe to the core. At the same time, the United States was battling for its survival along ideological, financial, and regional lines. In When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation, Furstenberg tells the story of five political refugees who came to call Philadelphia home after fleeing a revolution of their own making. What I love most about this book is that it tells the story of America at a time that gets glossed over by most history classes. Too late to be the American Revolution and not yet hit the War of 1812, but this period in history was paramount to creating the America we know today.

Start Reading an Excerpt!

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Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells edited by Graydon Carter and David Friend

As someone who’s always been fascinated by the jazz age, this compilation of essays really spoke to me. Written in honor of the 100th anniversary of Vanity Fair magazine, Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells features works by Dorothy Parker, P. G. Wodehouse, Gertrude Stein, Edna St. Vincent Millay, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, Langston Hughes, and many others. It’s a great book to pick up and put down as you please, allowing you to dive into the roaring twenties whenever you like.

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

 

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The Mercy of the Sky by Holly Bailey

I loved this book because it felt less like a great piece of investigative reporting and more like a thriller, so much so that I had to keep reminding myself that these events actually happened. The Mercy of the Sky: The Story of a Tornado tells the story of May 20, 2013, when the worst tornado on record landed a direct hit on the small town of Moore, destroying two schools while the children cowered inside. Holly Bailey is from Moore and also Newsweek’s youngest White House reporter ever. Her unique perspective into the culture of the town and her investigative reporting skills make this book unique in all the best ways. Unfortunately, the sky wasn’t done with Moore, OK and in March of this year another tornado ripped through the town making the story of what happened here in 2013 more relevant than ever.

 

Find more books on the Current Events & History page!

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LindseyAndrewsLindsey designs middle grade and young adult book covers for all of Penguin’s Children imprints. In her spare time she reads even more YA with her book club and fits literary trips into her travels (for example, Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter throughout the UK). She also loves wine nights in with a good rom-com or two.

 

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Guys. This book. So many feels. Me Before You came out a few years ago, but it deserves to be at the top of peoples’ to-read stack. A movie is currently in the works and you’ll be able to see Emilia Clarke (Daenerys from Game of Thrones) and Sam Claflin (Finnick from Hunger Games) take the leading roles in 2016! This book will put you on a roller coaster of emotions as you see Louise Clark try to break through the impenetrable wall that is Will Traynor after his motorcycle accident makes him a quadriplegic. But, oh how sweet it is when those walls start to crumble. Get those tissues ready (both for tears of laughter and joy and some of heartbreak).

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

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Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Do you ever just get this urge to run away to Paris and fall in love with a cute boy and run around Europe together? Well, you can at least pretend and gather all of the warm fuzzies that you can in Isla and the Happily Ever After. This is the third book by Stephanie Perkins set in the same world as Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. Isla and Josh are both from New York City but are attending the School of America in Paris. And you even get a dash of Barcelona thrown in. This book is for those travel lovers who also love a good, fun beach read. Isla and Josh’s relationship isn’t all sunshine and roses , there are some real bumps thrown in. But, it makes it all worth it.

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

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Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

We need more diverse books. And this is one of them! Aisha Saeed gives you the star-crossed lovers kind of romance that you love. But, she delivers it in the form of a Pakistani-American teen whose strict immigrant parents thrust her into an unwanted marriage. Her only hope of escape is Saif, the boy she fell in love with back in America who was forbidden to her. Can he find her before it’s too late? This book is smart and eye-opening while giving you a side of love you don’t often hear about. I highly recommend it!

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

 

 

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Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Richelle Mead is one of the best fantasy writers out there, heavy on the romance! She’s created some of the most swoon-worthy characters and seriously complicated relationships. In the Vampire Academy series, you’ll fall for Russian bodyguard, Dimitri. He just so happens to be our main heroine’s teacher at a school for vampires. Add in some evil vampires, lots of kickbutt action, and some atypical high school drama and you get a really fun read. Also check out Richelle’s spin-off series, Bloodlines, where you get to fall in love with artistic, bad boy Adrian.

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

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Hold Me Closer by David Levithan

Okay, so maybe this isn’t your typical romance. If you read Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, then you’ve already met Tiny Cooper. If you haven’t, you’re about to. Written as a screenplay to an onstage musical, (not-so-) Tiny Cooper tells you his life story through song. And lots of glitter. I don’t know how you can’t see this as a romance with titles of songs like “Summer of Gay”, “Parade of Ex-boyfriends”, and “You’re Wonderful! I Don’t Want to Date You!”. For fans of John Green, musicals, and Barbra Streisand, get out there and GET THIS BOOK!

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

 

Find more books on the Romance page.

See Staff Picks for all our categories!


Michelle_Picture

Michelle Caamano is a member of Penguin’s Office Services department where she is better known as the keeper of the conference rooms. When she’s not doing that, she’s battling the forces of evil on the MTA with nothing but her wits and a good YA book to protect her. She takes her Goodreads yearly challenge a little too seriously and Disney music is constantly playing in her head.

 

corduroy-40th-anniversary-edition-by-don-freeman-illustrated-by-don-freemanCorduroy by Don Freeman

Corduroy, written and illustrated by Don Freeman was published in 1968 and is what I like to call a classic, and as they say, a classic never dies. Corduroy is a toy bear who sits on a shelf at a department store, waiting for someone to take him home. One day, a little girl named Lisa comes into the store and knows that he’s the bear she has always wanted, but her mother says no on account of his green overalls missing a button. This determined bear then sets out on an adventure through the mall after hours looking for a way to fix what’s wrong with him. Unfortunately, he never finds it, but it doesn’t matter because the very next morning, Lisa returns to buy him. She even sews on his missing button saying, “I like you the way you are, but you’ll be more comfortable with your shoulder strap fastened.” I remember reading this book as a kid and strongly believing that every stuffed animal I owned had their own personality. Some were not as new as others, but they all deserved to be loved and taken care of. This concept of home and acceptance along with the simple lines and poignant colors of the illustrations are some of the reasons why I think this book is still so popular today. Children can possess a fierce loyalty when it comes to their favorite toys and to them, the imperfections only make them more endearing.

 

one-cool-friend-by-toni-buzzeo-illustrated-by-david-smallOne Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo with Illustrations by David Small

I first read this 2012 Caldecott award winning book in a class I was taking and afterwards, I had absolutely no qualms about purchasing it for my own personal collection. Written by Toni Buzzeo with illustrations by David Small, this book made me laugh out loud so many times. Elliot is an adorable little boy who wears bow ties and is a very proper gentleman. One day his slightly eccentric looking dad proposes a family day at the aquarium and despite having to deal with loud kids, Elliot politely accepts. He becomes captivated with the Magellanic penguin exhibit and asks if he could take one home. His father, thinking Elliot is asking for a stuffed animal agrees to let him have one. What he doesn’t know is that Elliot decides to take home a live penguin as his very own pet and of course, hilarity ensues. Elliot has countless adventures with his penguin (who he names Magellan, of course) from ice skating in his room to luxurious dips in the bathtub. I don’t even know where to start with this clever book. Beyond the teachable moments with Ferdinand Magellan, the illustrations alone are amazing and do so much to bring the words to life. From Elliot’s red freckled face to his father’s green turtle attire, the color scheme is simple, but lends enormously to the plot and its surprising twist ending. Whether you’re eight years old or slightly older, One Cool Friend will delight you and have you dreaming of bringing home a wild animal of your own.

 

emberAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I’m going to be really honest with you all. If the suspense in An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir doesn’t kill you, then the realization that a sequel isn’t available yet just might do it. Be prepared for this page-turner to spark some serious emotion in you. Tahir has created a world that is harsh and unforgiving, yet completely captivating, with complex characters that continued to surprise me through the end. The setting is akin to that of Ancient Rome; the Scholars, a once prosperous people have been taken over by the violent Martial nation. The story is split between two points of view. Laia is a Scholar who has lost most of her family to this devastation, and when her brother is accused of treason, she must go undercover as a spy for the resistance in order to save him. She is placed as a slave in the prestigious and extremely dangerous military academy, Blackcliff. Elias is about to graduate at the top of his class in Blackcliff and he would be the golden boy of the Martials if he didn’t secretly hate everything about them. These two characters must learn to survive in this vicious environment while battling both human and supernatural elements that will force them to question their own loyalties and the distinction between what is right and what is unjust. This book definitely doesn’t shy away from the realistic and brutal nature of these opposing peoples and I simply cannot wait to see what’s in store for the explosive sequel. Read an Excerpt.

 

Bloodlines, by Richelle MeadBloodlines Series by Richelle Mead

So technically I am recommending six books here instead of just one, but I dare anyone to tell me they’re not hooked on this Vampire Academy spin-off series after the second book. The alchemist Sydney Sage has a major role in protecting Queen Lissa’s little sister, Jill Dragomir by posing as her sister in an elite prep school in California. What follows is an immensely addicting story filled with magic, friendship, betrayal, conspiracy and forbidden love. Got your attention yet? One of Mead’s major strengths is her ability to create enticing secondary characters that you care about just as much as the main protagonists. The Scooby gang in Bloodlines certainly does not disappoint, with the return of both fiery Angeline from the Keepers and Eddie Castile (who, in my opinion, should have had a bigger role in the VA series, but Mead certainly makes up for that here).

But let’s face it: Sydney Sage and Adrian Ivashkov make this series. While Rose and Dimitri had their fair share of obstacles in Vampire Academy, it wasn’t quite so shocking that two dhampirs would fall in love with each other. However, could a vampire and an alchemist make it work? (Insert finger-snapping, West Side Story theme music here) Adrian is that classic bad boy character looking to redeem himself for the love of a good woman, and there is a major vulnerability to him that makes it impossible not to fall in love with him. Meanwhile, by-the-book Sydney undergoes a major character arc throughout the series, growing into a confident woman who is willing to fight for what she believes in, even if that means going against everything she has ever known.

Will the gang be able to keep Jill safe from harm? Will Adrian and Sydney be able to share their relationship with the Vampire/Alchemist communities? Will someone forget to feed the baby dragon? All important questions. Throw in some seriously steamy scenes and a touch of magical Latin incantations and you have yourself quite the addicting series.

 

The-Wrath-and-The-Dawn-by-Renee-AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

If I were you, I would put Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn on top of your “to-read” list this month. I cannot even begin this recommendation without first bringing to your attention the absolutely gorgeous red cover that shows just a hint of the girl you are to meet within its pages. This story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights hits the shelves on May 12th, and it will attack all of your senses. Ahdieh not only weaves together an intricate story, but also creates a visually stunning painting, complete with colorful imagery and captivating characters. After her best friend is killed by the Caliph of Khorasan, Shahrzad volunteers to become his bride, secretly vowing to avenge the lives of all of the young girls who have inexplicably died at dawn. However, the more she comes to know Khalid, the harder it is to reconcile the image of the heartless monster she has in her head with the sad, hopeless king before her. Shrouded in mystery, this book will keep you guessing, all the while entertaining you with delightful secondary characters like Shahrzad’s opinionated Grecian handmaiden, Despina (I loved her and trust me, so will you), and her brave and loyal childhood friend, Tariq, who will stop at nothing to save her from this fate. As with Aladdin’s magical lamp, nothing is what it seems with this story and it leaves you with just a hint of magic that promises to explode off the pages in the sequel. And before you ask, yes- there is indeed a magic carpet. Read an Excerpt.

 

Find more books on the Young Readers page.

See Staff Picks for all our categories!


CassieB_PGStaffPicks

 

Cassie Bosse is the Email Marketing Manager at Penguin Random House.  In her free time she can usually be found reading a good book, binge-watching British TV shows, or whipping up a decadent feast for friends and family.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I fell in love with this book after reading it for the first time in high school, and have read it countless times since. And while I recognize that few of us revere the required reading we come across at that age, I urge you to take a second look. While at its heart Jane Eyre is a romance, there is so much more to it than that. There are elements of the supernatural, discussions of morality and religion, and of course, one of the earliest portrayals of feminist ideals in English literature. But what has surprised me the most on each re-reading is how relatable the characters remain. Jane’s agony over seemingly unrequited affection, her self-doubt, and awkward attempts at flirting are just a few examples. Brontë’s uncanny ability to capture the deepest thoughts and feelings of a young woman striving for independence in a time period when that was virtually unheard of is exactly what makes this book a classic. Read an Excerpt.

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Forget everything Hollywood and popular culture has ever taught you about this book. There’s no giant green monster with bolts in his neck who only communicates via unintelligible grunts. The action doesn’t take place in some creepy castle on a hilltop. There isn’t even an Igor. Rather, it is the tale of young medical student Victor Frankenstein, whose fascination with the occult leads him to conduct a fateful experiment that results in the creation of a sentient, albeit grotesque, creature—who is also surprisingly articulate for being a reanimated corpse. The outcome of a friendly competition between Mary, her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron to see who could write the best ghost story, this book is so much more terrifying than any silver screen adaption because it depicts a man so blinded by his obsession that he loses all he holds dear. Read an Excerpt.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The first time I read this book I couldn’t help but think that it had all the makings for a great episode of the Twilight Zone. The story begins as a young Dorian is having his portrait painted. A vain and frivolous man, he makes a secret wish that he will stay as young and beautiful as he is in his portrait forever. And guess what. His wish is granted—with a slight twist, of course. Each cruel deed he commits during his lifetime—and boy, does he commit a lot of them—is reflected in his portrait until the figure in the painting is transformed into a hideous monster. Fortunately, this is one that Hollywood got right. If you haven’t seen it, be sure to check out the 1945 film adaptation, which is famous for it’s pioneering use of Technicolor to reveal Dorian’s macabre portrait. Read an Excerpt.

 

travels-with-charley-in-search-of-america-by-john-steinbeck

Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck

In 1960, John Steinbeck set out on a road trip across the U.S., accompanied by his French poodle Charley, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years. He stops at roadside diners and camps out on country roads, all the while capturing the stories of the people he meets along the way. I think what’s most interesting about this book is Steinbeck’s own reflections on the “new America” of 1960. As we now know, the 60s were a tumultuous decade full of social change, but Steinbeck’s portrait of America at this time is not what you’d expect. He sees the nation as complacent and fears that the American people are no longer interested in rebellion. Social commentary aside, if you’re going to pick this one up be forewarned: you just might be inspired to embark on a road trip of your own. I know I was.

 

the-tao-of-pooh-by-benjamin-hoff 2

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

Think you don’t know anything about Taoism? Well if you’ve ever read Winnie the Pooh, think again because as it turns out the Bear of Very Little Brain and his Hundred Acre Wood cohorts are all perfect examples of the fundamental principles of this ancient Chinese belief system. This clever and quick read from Benjamin Hoff is a great introduction to the basic tenets of Taoist thought. Be sure to check out the companion book, The Te of Piglet, for even more philosophizing with Pooh and the gang.

 

 

 

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patricia-morrisroeHow do you choose what to write about?

I’ve written a biography of the controversial biography Robert Mapplethorpe, a book on sleep, and now a memoir about shoes.  On the surface, they would seem to have nothing in common, but each subject was very topical.  Mapplethorpe would soon become notorious as the man whose work resulted in the famous censorship trial in Cincinnati – the first time a gallery in the United States faced prosecution for the art it displayed.  From that standpoint alone, it was an important story, but Mapplethorpe’s life, from his early beginnings as a Catholic schoolboy in Floral Park, Queens, to reaching the top of the art world as he was dying of AIDS, was a powerful narrative.

I decided to write about sleep because I’ve long suffered from insomnia, and after spending a crazy night in a sleep clinic, I thought, “This is too good to waste.” At the time, there was a lot about sleep in the news, focusing on the bizarre side-effects of sleeping pills, such as “sleep eating, sleep driving,” etc.  So again, it was a topical subject that in this case touched me personally.

9 ½ Narrow: My Life In Shoes came out of a conversation I had with an editor who wanted to see if I was interested in doing a book on Alexander McQueen.  When you write about someone’s life, you really have to be willing to walk in his or her shoes, and among the last shoes McQueen designed were his 12-inch crustacean-clawed Armadillo booties.  They were terrifying, but it started me thinking about women and shoes, and how they provided a marker for the important events in our lives.

 

What does a typical writing day look for you?

 I’m a very regimented person, so after drinking a cup of tea, eating Greek yogurt with fruit, and reading the New York Times on my iPad, I usually start to work around 9:30 am.  I take a break around 1pm to pick up something for dinner and my all-important latte, and then I’m back writing around 2:15 or so.  I usually work until about 5:30.  I’m someone who can’t write after dinner because if I did my head would be spinning all night long, which it often does anyway, but then I’d never fall asleep, and since I’ve already written that book, it wouldn’t be productive.

 

You’ve also written for New York magazine and Vogue.  How does writing a book differ from journalism?

The obvious answer is that writing a book takes much longer and represents a huge emotional investment.  There isn’t the immediate gratification of seeing your name in print and getting quick feedback from editors and readers.  With a book, you have to be sure that you’re fascinated enough in the subject that it will keep you going for at least several years.  With magazines, even if you’re not completely in love with the topic, you know it’s not forever, and with some books, it can seem like forever.  But of course in the end, you have a book.  They may not be forever, but they’re usually around longer than a magazine piece.

 

What surprised you most about writing 9 ½ Narrow?

My mother died two months before I signed the book contract, and my father died two months before my publication date.  They acted as bookends, as it were.  I’d started out writing a humorous memoir about shoes.  I knew it wouldn’t be without its poignant parts.  Friends died along the way, but I wasn’t fully prepared for the death of a parent.  Throughout the book, my mother acts as my sparring partner and foil.  She’s both hilarious and frustrating, but her voice helped move the book along.  Shoes, as everyone who’s ever read a fairy tale knows, provide the perfect metaphor for life’s journey.  I didn’t know where 9 ½ Narrow would take me, or how I’d end it, but my mother got me there, and in doing so, provided the book with an added depth, for which I am grateful.

 

What do you hope readers will gain from the book?

I hope they will laugh and cry and recognize a little bit of themselves in my story.  For me, writing this book was enormously fun and at times very sad.  Some weeks I’d find myself smiling, other weeks, I’d be writing with tears rolling down my cheeks.  In a way, this book saved me during a difficult time in my life.  So I’d love for readers to enjoy the full scope of my story, and then, with my blessing, go out and celebrate their own lives with a new pair of shoes.

 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Don’t do it unless you really love it, because it’s a difficult profession, and getting more difficult.  I could say don’t get discouraged by rejections, but everyone gets discouraged.  Moving on after the rejections is the important thing.  Set up a schedule and stick to it.  I once interviewed Raymond Carver and I remember him telling me that he used to get up early in the morning to write in his car.  Don’t try to mimic another writer’s voice.  Find your own.  It will take time, but once you do, you’ll realize it was there all along.   Pay attention to the way you talk and bring that distinct rhythm into your writing.  And, as clichéd as it sounds, it’s really all about the pleasure of the process.

 

9-12-narrow-by-patricia-morrisroe

A funny, poignant coming-of-age memoir told through the shoes that she wore.

Morrisroe’s “coming-of-age” is, at its heart, the story of a generation of women who’ve enjoyed a world of freedom and opportunity that was unthinkable to their mothers. Spanning five decades and countless footwear trends, 9 ½ Narrow is, like Love, Loss and What I Wore, about how we remember important events through a coat, or a dress, or in this case, a Beatle boot or Confirmation “wedgie.” 

 

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When Dennis is not at work, he spends his time cooking classic recipes, making classic cocktails, listening to classical music, and studying classical languages—and reading classics, of course. (Yes, he’s involved in an array of non-classical activities as well, but we’re not interested in those right now.) He likes to read novels in which you learn things.

 

the-saga-of-gosta-berling-by-selma-lagerlofThe Saga of Gösta Berling by Selma Lagerlöf

Right away, let me also recommend that you see the silent film of this novel, starring Greta Garbo—if you have any interest at all in the silent screen, this is a must-see. This early twentieth-century novel, for which the author won a Nobel Prize in Literature, is told in episodes yet has an overarching sweep to it as well. Set in 1820s Sweden, it follows a handsome defrocked minister of singular character as he teams up with a bunch of veterans, cavaliers, eccentrics, and raffish fellows. I can’t quite put my hand on what exactly it was that made this novel so endearing. It’s melodramatic in the best sense of the word and does a good job of capturing the human heart—both in the ways it can stay true despite everything as well as the ways it can constantly shift and change.

• You will learn about rural Sweden, the price of vengeance, what it means to follow your own path.

 

moby-dick-by-herman-melvilleMoby-Dick by Herman Melville

Yes, we know, you read it in high school. But let’s be honest: You didn’t understand anything about anything back then, and if I were a betting man I’d wager that you didn’t really take this book in properly. Moby-Dick has everything: philosophy, adventure, existential dread, beautiful writing, sailors, the age-old thrill of the hunt, humor, cetacean taxonomy, obsession, the mystic bonds of friendship, peg-legs, and so much more. Just do yourself a favor and read it—and when you do, be sure to savor every line.

• You will learn about whales, human nature, existence itself.

 

 

the-red-and-the-black-by-stendhalThe Red and the Black by Stendhal

Ah, Julien Sorel—he’s one of those characters that you can’t decide if you love or hate. Despite his scheming and self-interest, there’s something about Julien that somehow pulls you in as he works his way up the rungs of post-Napoleonic Parisian society. To my eye, he is such a strange mixture of earnestness, even naïveté, and power-playing hypocrisy, someone who (thinks he) knows his own mind and stands apart from the crowd yet who is all too aware of the importance of what others think of him. Most charmingly he has the honesty to be shocked at the changes that happen within himself even as he boldly moves ahead on a new path. And one last thing: Stendhal is a master of tempo and pacing, so give yourself the pleasure of reading The Red and the Black.

• You will learn about France after Napoleon, French society in general, the mysteries of character and the human heart.

 

strange-tales-from-a-chinese-studio-by-pu-songlingStrange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling

This collection of Chinese short tales is one of the great collections of fantastic literature in the world, bar none. Written in the late 1600s and early 1700s, and filled with fox-spirits, ghosts, otherworldly bureaucratic offices, metamorphosing family members, magical animals, erotic peccadilloes, haunted temples, enchanted musical instruments, and more, the stories ranges from the supernatural through various gradations of “the extraordinary.” Witty, funny, chilling, enlightening, bawdy, moralizing—this collection covers a lot of ground, but the effect is absolutely one of being charmed and entertained.

• You will learn about China in the early Qing dynasty, the effects of karma, and the many nuances of the human psyche.

 

 

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Danielle Dill graduated from Ramapo College and works in the publicity department at Berkley and NAL. In her spare time she enjoys camping (especially the s’mores), watching Dexter and taking her golden retriever, Tana, for walks.

 

 

 

 

eeny-meeny-by-m-j-arlidgeEeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge

If you have a lot of things to get done don’t pick up this book. When you do, you might realize it’s 2AM and you just finished it in one sitting (yes, that was me). I typically love fast paced thrillers like this one, but what I especially liked about Eeny Meeny was the unique story line. The method of the serial killer – pinning two captured people against each other and having them choose whether to kill or be killed – was unlike anything I’ve read before. This is a good pick for anyone who enjoys questioning their own moral judgment and the shocking twist at the end is an added bonus.

 

 

the-other-side-of-midnight-by-simone-st-jamesThe Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James

I love a good ghost story and no one does them better than Simone St. James. The story takes place in London, 1925 and revolves around two psychic mediums, Gloria Sutter and Ellie Winter. You find out in the beginning of the book that Gloria has been murdered at one of her own séances and leaves a message for her former friend and rival, Ellie, asking for help. Although Ellie doesn’t wish to contact the dead anymore, she finds herself tangled up in the mystery of Gloria’s death.  In the midst of it all, she cannot get rid of the handsome James Hawley who runs tests on psychics for a living.

Although I love all things relating to ghosts, psychics, the supernatural, etc., my favorite part about this book was the chilling atmosphere Simone St. James created. Even though I do most of my reading on the train in broad daylight, reading The Other Side of Midnight completely absorbed me and made me feel like I was walking alone on a dark street with a ghost breathing on my neck. If you’re really brave, I recommend trying to read this one at night.

 

the-liar-by-nora-robertsThe Liar by Nora Roberts

If you’re a fan of both mysteries and women’s fiction like I am, this romantic suspense novel is the perfect fit for you. Although Nora Roberts’ books are always a guaranteed good read, I particularly loved that this one takes place in Rendezvous Ridge, a small Smoky Mountain town in Tennessee.  Shelby Foxworth and her three-year-old daughter, Cali, move back home to the Ridge for a new beginning after Shelby loses her husband and is left with his crippling debt.  However, Shelby comes to find out that her husband wasn’t the man she thought he was. He was a liar whose secrets can put Shelby, her family, and Griff, a successful contractor Shelby meets, in danger.  I found myself laughing, smiling and holding my breath while reading The Liar and only wished it didn’t have to end.

 

the-last-dead-girl-by-harry-dolanThe Last Dead Girl by Harry Dolan

I don’t want to give too much away here, but if dark and twisted is your thing (it’s definitely mine) you’ll love The Last Dead Girl, the prequel to Bad Things Happen. Every time you think you know where the story might be going, you find out you’re wrong. Dolan’s story shocked me at least three times and I strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a fast paced and engaging crime novel. The interwoven stories are genius and each of the characters are people you are dying to find out more about, especially David Loogan.

 

 

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