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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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

jane-eyre-by-charlotte-bronte

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.

frankenstein-by-mary-shelley

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.

the-picture-of-dorian-gray-by-oscar-wilde

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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Simon MajumdarI was genuinely delighted when Penguin Random House agreed to publish my latest food and travel adventure, Fed, White, and Blue.  Not just because they are, of course, one of the finest publishers in the world, but also because it felt very much like I was coming home.

A little under thirty years ago, after the good Lord and I both decided that a life in the Episcopalian clergy was not for me, my first “proper” place of employment was as a sales associate in a small, short lived chain of bookshops owned by Penguin Books.  It began a happy ten year association with the publisher that saw me move up through the ranks until I had gained the heady title of “Special Sales Manager,” a position which earned me my own little office, with its own coveted little window, in their London headquarters.

The majority of my time during that decade, however, was spent out on the road, as a sales representative for the Penguin Paperback list. It was a period which, even given some of the extraordinary adventures I have experienced in the last few years of travel around the world, still remains one of the most enjoyable of my career, and I still retain the fondest memories of my years servicing a select group of large bookstores in central London.

It was a job which not only tested my ability to consume gallons of tea (or “English Penicillin” as we call it back in Blighty) every day as I met with the managers of the book stores, but also gave me a true insight into the sharp end of the book business, which I think has served me well in my second life as an author.

As a sales person for Penguin, the notion of “author care” was drummed into me from the very beginning. My list of new books to sell each month was sizeable, but I was always well aware that every title I offered up to my customers represented the heart and soul of the author, and often years of hard work to bring the book to fruition. It was a mindset that I never forgot, whether I was selling a new title from a blockbuster author or a niche work from a specialist that would find its home in our midlist. I can promise that I always gave every effort to sell every book, and it is a mindset that I am delighted to say seems to be very much at the heart of the Penguin Random House philosophy today.

I can also say that my time on the road has definitely helped me become a more involved author.  Each new book I write is like my new baby, and I, of course, want everybody to admire it and for it to reach the widest audience possible. However, having spent so much time on the front line of book sales, I am also aware what a tough battleground it can be and that there are thousands of new books each month are fighting for the attention of customers.

fed-white-and-blue-by-simon-majumdar 2I also know, after spending nearly twenty years of my life in the business, just how much the publishing landscape has changed. Now, more than ever, making a book a success depends on a joint effort between the authors, editorial, marketing, publicity and the sales teams. It takes, as they say “a village” to produce a good book, and I am thrilled that, with the publication of Fed, White, and Blue I am allowed to be a resident of one of the best villages in the business.

Like I said, it feels like coming home.

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Jessica works with romance titles from Berkley and NAL and is also a YA enthusiast. She lives in Brooklyn and is a huge fan of Supernatural, all things Joss Whedon, and live music.

 

 

 

 

 

the-shadows-by-jr-wardThe Shadows by J. R. Ward

As a long time Black Dagger Brotherhood series fan, needless to say I was SO excited to start reading The Shadows. Little did I know this would be one of the most emotional installments in the series so far, but that’s a good thing! With her now infamous blend of multiple plot lines, hilarious pop culture references and intricate world-building, Ward gives an unstoppable emotional ride with Trez and iAm’s story.

 

 

 

 

silver-bastard-by-joanna-wyldeSilver Bastard by Joanna Wylde

Joanna Wylde first hooked me into her world with Reaper’s Legacy, and now as a fan for life I was giddy when I found out there was going to be spinoff series set in a mining community with close ties another motorcycle club. Wylde’s writing remains gritty and raw but still very much emotional. These characters don’t have an easy life and they don’t really rise above it either – they actually plow right through it to get to their happy ever after. This one is dark, twisted, and definitely not for the faint of heart, but absolutely worth it. Sons of Anarchy fans, Silver Bastard is a must read along with all of her Reapers MC books!

 

 

still-the-one-by-jill-shalvisStill The One by Jill Shalvis

I’m sure I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to repeat myself, but no one mixes humor and steam quite like Jill Shalvis. The sassy ladies, bromances, humor, sexy times, and adorable animals make the Animal Magnetism series, set in small-town Idaho, stand out for me as far as contemporary romances go and Still The One is no exception. Plus, I can’t get enough of a good hero/heroine pair who can give each other a hard time and still be so completely in love.

 

 

 

 

captive-prince-by-c-s-pacatCaptive Prince by C. S. Pacat

So #DiverseBooks isn’t just a YA thing – we LOVE them in romance too! Captive Prince is not only a superbly written fantasy, but it features a male/male couple! Their relationship is so layered and complicated that it’s impossible not to be completely enthralled with this book. Did I mention it’s a master/slave story line surrounded by impending warring countries and nefarious enemies? One word – EPIC. Okay, one more hyphenated word, must-read!

 

 

 

too-dangerous-for-a-lady-by-jo-beverleyToo Dangerous For A Lady by Jo Beverley

It is so much fun getting swept up in a historical romance and New York Times bestselling author Jo Beverley’s Too Dangerous for A Lady has everything I’m looking for. A strong heroine, a rogue-type man with a hero complex, a pinch of danger, and the world of corsets and stays…I’m so in! There’s something about the dialogue between our hero and leading lady (and most historicals for that matter) that just gives you the sense that our modern day flirty banter is just utterly lacking in comparison. I always end up thinking “it would so be so much more fun if we still talked like that” so when I read TDFAL, at least I got to live in that mindset for a while…

 

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Bria Sandford with Do Over by Jon AcoffWhen I first heard that Portfolio was signing Jon Acuff, I was thrilled. I grew up in an evangelical Christian home, and Jon’s early book Stuff Christians Like had delighted me with its good-humored skewering of the quirks in Christian culture. My little sister was obsessed with another of his earlier books, and I knew she’d be over the moon to hear that Jon’s next book would be published by my imprint. It didn’t look like I’d be the editor, but I’d still get some bragging rights. Little did I know that I’d have the good luck of “inheriting” the book when Jon’s original editor left.

The spectacular Maria Gagliano started out working with Jon, and I followed the progress of the book with interest as the two of them produced a really stellar book. Based on his own hard-earned experience, Jon explains how to launch or prepare for a career Do Over by depositing in a “Career Savings Account,” made up of investments in relationships, skills, character, and hustle. He comes alongside the reader with kindness and humor (This guy is hilarious!), but he doesn’t pull punches—when I first read an early version, I winced a little at some of the real talk and began taking notes for my own career.

do-over-by-jon-acuff 2When Maria left, I began working with Jon. Most of the editorial work on Do Over was complete, but I get to be his editorial liaison and will get to work on his next book with us (He’s so nice, we signed him twice!). I couldn’t be more pleased, since he’s the real deal. He’s as pleasant as he sounds in the book, and everyone at Portfolio who has worked with him adores him. What’s more, his book is that elusive career book that is truly helpful to people of all ages and stages in their careers. I can’t wait to see how Do Over changes lives.

 

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Brooke Parsons is a Senior Publicist at Penguin Press. She enjoys documentary films, Lydia Davis stories, Broad City, and aimless walks around Manhattan.

 

 

 

 

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Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen

The story of the Russian feminist political punk group Pussy Riot was unbelievable to the West. What’s so exceptional is not the group’s existence but rather the fact that three young women were on trial for an act of artistic political outrage: a performance piece staged inside the Russian Orthodox Church that vilified the newly reinstated President Putin. The arrest and trial of Nadya Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich became an international story full of questions demanding answers. Journalist Masha Gessen was on the front lines in Moscow and brings us the entire story in Words Will Break Cement. Published after the documentary release of Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, which focuses on the trial but ends before time served, this book takes readers deep inside the story of Pussy Riot: their origination, the personal lives of the women involved, and their thoughts on Russian feminism and Putin’s dark reach. For bonus points, check out the documentary Ukraine is Not a Brothel, a profile of Femen (the feminist protest group founded in Ukraine).

 

journey-without-maps-by-graham-greeneJourney without Maps by Graham Greene

Graham Greene is perhaps best known for his novels The Quiet American and The End of the Affair. However, his travel writing is not to be missed—particularly Journey without Maps. This is the story of Greene’s first visit to Africa in 1935 when he walked some 350 miles from Sierra Leone to Liberia. At the time, Liberia was a new country intended to be settled by freed slaves from America. Greene’s sense of discovery and self-discovery is thrilling. And, as the reader, I like learning more about a place I know little about—especially when news concerning Liberia seems to be negative. In recent years, Liberia has suffered civil war, extreme poverty, and a recent Ebola outbreak. (To learn more about this West African country, check out VICE’s Guide to Liberia).

 

galileos-middle-finger-by-alice-dregerGalileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science by Alice Dreger

No, this is not a biography on Galileo Galilei; the title refers to his encased digit, mounted on display in Italy. It was too ironic: the man condemned by the Catholic Church for teaching that the Earth revolves around the Sun was now flipping everyone the bird. Author Alice Dreger, a medical historian and patient rights activist, discusses modern instances where scientists, like Galileo, revealed inconvenient truths about the world, truths met with outrage and personal attacks from political activists. She travels the country to interview people like anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, who was falsely accused of committing genocide against a South American tribe; the psychologist Michael Bailey, whose research into sex and gender identity led to accusations of abuse by transgender women; and the famous evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson, whose theories about sociobiology resulted in accusations of racism. Dreger herself was at the forefront of advocating for intersex rights in the late 1990s. But through the course of research for this book, she unexpectedly finds herself in the midst of her own controversy. Dreger’s argument? We must be more open-minded and not deny the scientific facts, even when they challenge our identity. (This might sound like heavy stuff, but Dreger has a wicked sense of humor that makes this book quite the page-turner!)

 

the-journey-of-crazy-horse-by-joseph-m-marshallThe Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III

Crazy Horse is a legend. The world remembers him as the Lakota warrior who, along with Sitting Bull, aided in the defeat of the U.S. Army under Colonel George Armstrong Custer, or what we now refer to as Custer’s Last Stand. Marshall’s book is the definitive biography of Crazy Horse. His portrait of the man behind the myth is unforgettable. What makes this biography even more compelling is Marshall; Lakota himself, he preserves his people’s rich history of oral tradition. This book is a celebration of Crazy Horse, the man who helped save his people—their culture, community, and way of life.

 

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Katherine_Stewart

 

Katherine Stewart is the Marketing Coordinator for Penguin Press. Being from Maine, she loves the outdoors and stays healthy by walking her dog and riding her horse!

 

 

 

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Moody Bitches by Julie Holland, M.D.

Women are meant to be moody—embrace it! In this book Julie Holland explains why moodiness can be a strength, not a weakness, which is so refreshing to hear. Her tips about hormones, medication, diet, exercise, and mood are helpful for women of ALL ages and will show you why you need to embrace your inner bitch. This can be an awkward topic but the frank/funny style of this book makes it so approachable.

 

 

 

the-good-gut-by-justin-sonnenburg-erica-sonnenburg

 

The Good Gut by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg

Gut bacteria sound disgusting, and while that may be true, they’re also very important! I didn’t realize how much they affect our health until I read Michael Pollan’s article “Some of My Best Friends Are Germs.” The article discusses the Sonnenburg’s work and how the microbes that reside in our gut affect everything from our immune response to our weight, allergic reactions, aging, and emotions. Who knew? While you may not be hungry after reading that, The Good Gut has delicious recipes that will encourage microbial health.

 

 

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Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

My grandfather used to play a memory game with us. He would put 30 random objects on a tray and would give us one minute to look them over. Then he would cover them up and whoever could remember the most objects would win (I never did). My sister has a great memory and won every time. Moonwalking with Einstein will not only help you improve your memory, it also makes for a fascinating read. I’m betting that I’ll win next time we play!

 

 

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SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal

Don’t hate me but this title isn’t coming out until September. Make sure it’s on your to-read list though because it’s amazing. You may remember Jane from her first book Reality is Broken but if not, she’s a game designer. In 2009, she suffered a severe concussion and had trouble healing.  Afraid of never recovering, she decided to turn healing into a game. I’m not a big fan of gaming (other than Mario Kart), but I’ll play SuperBetter any day. So far 400,000 people have played SuperBetter, including Oprah. Look out for this one in the Fall!

 

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