Ashley McClay is marketing director for Putnam. She lives in Jackson Heights with her husband and a tiny, very loud black cat who is constantly trying to gnaw her way-too-large home library to shreds.

Okay, I’m starting off my list with a few geopolitical thrillers. When I was younger, I wanted to be a spy–and while for some reason that never really came to fruition, it totally informs my reading tastes now. (Message to the CIA: if you do happen to be looking for publishing industry professionals with so-so schoolgirl French and the ability to run a mile in ten minutes or sometimes very slightly less, I am available on nights and weekends.)


Todd Moss, formerly the deputy assistant secretary of state, now the COO at the Center for Global Development, has all of the real-life experience needed to make his novels completely gripping, and, at the same time, totally realistic. His latest, Minute Zero, follows Judd Ryker, former professor and now state department advisor, as he tries to take advantage of a brief moment of chaos to change the course of world events. It’s smart, fast-paced, and totally impossible to put down. And the end left me pacing through the office, counting down the moments until the next book to arrives.


Next up: another thriller in a very similar vein. If you’re into shows like Homeland (and if you, like me, are kind of suffering from Homeland-withdrawal at the moment), you will love Matthew Palmer’s books, guaranteed. I’m kind of cheating here, because this one isn’t actually out for a little while. But trust me when I say that you should be lining up at your local bookstore for The Wolf of Sarajevo on May 24th, because this book is that good. Set mainly in the Balkans, Palmer — another author with diplomatic chops (25 year veteran of the foreign service and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations)–takes the reader on a whirlwind tour through the labyrinthine politics of the Balkans. I was half reading, half shielding my eyes through some of the most tense scenes. If you like twists that come out of nowhere (and what suspense reader doesn’t?), get on board.


Now for a totally different kind of mystery – M. J. Carter’s The Strangler Vine. Set in colonial 19th century India, following the sometimes bumbling but always good-hearted Avery, and his very begrudging “partner” (and I use that term quite loosely), master-of-disguise Blake, this is a tour-de-force. The historical Indian setting is captivating by itself; combined with Blake and Avery’s investigation into the elusive Thugee cult, and the profound British corruption sweeping across the continent, it’s completely impossible to put down. And if you start reading now, you won’t have too long to wait for more: Carter’s sequel, The Infidel Stain, is out in March.


Last, but not least, Tana French’s In the Woods. Again, a completely different sort of book from the last three, but one of my all-time favorites. If you wrote in to the Penguin hotline looking for suspense this year and got me, I am sure I recommended this to you. French’s lyrical writing grabbed me from the very first few pages, and the mystery of what happened to three children deep in the woods of Ireland one night in the 1980s kept me riveted all the way through. Rob and Cassie, two detectives working a present-day murder in those same woods, are both wonderfully drawn characters, and the nuanced story of their relationship is every bit as absorbing as the mystery plot.

FullSizeRenderKellie Schirmer is Director of Trade Production for The Berkley Publishing Group. Originally from Western NY, she now resides in Bergen County, NJ. When not making books…or reading books… she enjoys genealogy, baking, and travel.


9780141392462The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Originally published in 1844-1845, The Count of Monte Cristo revolves around a young man named Edmund Dantes, whose future is bright. He’s just been promoted and is soon to be married to a beautiful woman, but on the very day of his wedding, he’s accused of a crime he did not commit and is taken away….for a loooong time. Unbeknownst to him, three of his acquaintances, each jealous of him for different reasons, had banded together and plotted against him.

This book is often described as “the ultimate revenge story” and that may be true…the core of the story revolves around Dantes, his transformation into the “Count of Monte Cristo” and how he goes about punishing those who wronged him…but in my opinion, it’s also a story of adventure, friendship, envy, jealousy, love (and love lost), death, loyalty and deceit. Whew!

There are many versions of this book floating around, but if you are interested in a great read I’m recommending you pick up the Penguin Classics Unabridged edition, translated (and with notes and intro) by Robin Buss. The translation is excellent — the 200+ year old story reads as though it was written in present day – and the notes section is exhaustive, which saved me a lot of Googling!)

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9781101075821 2Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

“What do you mean, ‘Angle of Repose?’ she asked me when I dreamed we were talking about Grandmother’s life, and I said it was the angle at which a man or woman finally lies down. I suppose it is; and yet … I thought when I began, and still think, that there was another angle in all those years when she was growing old and older and very old, and Grandfather was matching her year for year, a separate line that did not intersect with hers. They were vertical people, they lived by pride, and it is only by the ocular illusion of perspective that they can be said to have met. But he had not been dead two months when she lay down and died too, and that may indicate that at that absolute vanishing point they did intersect. They had intersected for years, for more than he especially would ever admit.”

Published in 1971 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction in 1972, Angle Of Repose may be one the most beautifully written stories I’ve ever read. The story’s narrator is Lyman Ward, a former history professor who was forced to retire due to health issues. He moves into his deceased grandparents’ home and begins organizing their personal effects. As he reads through his grandmother’s correspondence, he reflects on his own life and marriage while imagining his grandparents life living in various mining towns in the west at a time when the land was still wild and untamed.

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9780142437254 2On the Road by Jack Kerouac

It took me a long time to pick up On the Road but once I did, I was diggin’ it! There has been so much written about this book, there’s probably nothing more I can add that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll let Kerouac speak for himself. The plot is a simple one….the adventures of two guys criss-crossing the country….but it’s the way the story is told….the frenetic pace….that keeps you turning the page:

“Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’

‘Where we going, man?’

‘I don’t know but we gotta go.”

“I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.”

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

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The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution and The Federalist Papers

9780143121961 2I’ve always been interested in the historical, but the last few years I find myself interested in the Founding Fathers and the early years of our country. I’ve been reading Ron Chernow’s bio of George Washington, and waiting patiently for the new season of AMC’s Turn.

9780143121978 2I had  been wanting to read The Federalist Papers (which are a series of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, making the case for the Constitution) but  I found them a bit daunting. So when I came across these two volumes the other day, I was very excited. Both are annotated by Professor Richard Beeman, who provides context and notes making the text easy to digest. If you have even a passing interest, I would recommend  you check these out. You will be pleasantly surprised.

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Reinhart_bioColleen Reinhart is a Designer at Berkley NAL and reads more books than her tiny Brooklyn apartment can hold.



The Book of Other People edited by Zadie Smith 

The premise of The Book of Other People is delightfully simple: make somebody up, write a story about them and then name that story after them. The collection is full of gems but among my favorites is gorgeous comic Jordan Wellington Lint by Chris Ware that follows a boy from birth to age thirteen, the heartbreaking Puppy by George Saunders which depicts two mothers struggling to care for their families, and the hilarious Roy Spivey by Miranda July about a woman’s encounter with a famous actor on an airplane.





My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki 

I love when fiction tackles topics that most would shy away from if packaged in a non-fiction context. Take for example Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats. The heroine, Jane Takagi-Little, is a documentary filmmaker stuck working on a show that peddles beef to Japanese housewives by showing “wholesome and attractive” Americans cooking and eating it. Throughout the production of the show Jane struggles with the limited America she is promoting while discovering unsavory truths about the beef industry. Things really start to get interesting when Jane has the opportunity to direct and defies her bosses’ directions.




My Education by Susan Choi 

The premise of Susan Choi’s novel may sound familiar, young grad student Regina falls for charismatic older professor, But the book takes a sharp turn when the beautiful and angry professor’s wife Martha is introduced and the reader sees that the real attraction is between Martha and Regina. Choi uses their tumultuous relationship to explore the way opinions of love and desire change as you age and gain more experience. She stresses this even more in the final part of the book, which jumps 15 years into the future, when Martha and Regina are meeting again as equals.

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Everything Matters! by Ron Currie Jr.

Everything Matters! reads like a “what if” question. “What if you had voices in your head that told you the world was going to end when you turned 36?” That’s exacrtly what happens to Junior Thibodeau who has had these voices telling him about the future since he was still in his mother’s womb. This special “ability” makes Junior question the point of concepts like loyalty, love and devotion when the world faces certain demise. Even though the set-up sounds incredibly dark, Currie keeps it from being so by embedding Junior with an incredible wit. Currie is in on the cosmic joke and he invites you to laugh with him.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 

I had to include Little Women because it’s the first book I ever fell in love with. The family at the center is instantly relatable even though the four sisters fit into archetypal molds so easily. The oldest, Meg March, is the “good” daughter who follows all the rules, Jo is the rebel, tomboy author, Beth is the desperately shy one and Amy is the spoiled, beautiful artist. The book follows them as they fight, fall in love, put on plays, deal with loss, get married, have children of their own, and discover what it means for them to be women.

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HealthandSelfImprovementPhotoRoshe Anderson works in Avery Books. When she is not preparing recipe to-do lists from the cookbooks, she can be found reading other health and self-improvement books as well as fiction. She also enjoys exploring health-related topics on her blog.


cook-for-your-life-by-ann-ogden-gaffney 2

Cook for Your Life by Ann Ogden Gaffney

“Comforting” and “unique” are two words that quickly come to mind whenever I think about this phenomenal cookbook. Author Ann Ogden Gaffney, who is a two-time cancer survivor, designed the recipes specifically for men and women dealing with the fatigue and altered taste buds associated with cancer treatment. Simplicity is a key ingredient to the book, and Ann encourages her readers to take advantage of the convenience of modern supermarkets to find prepped food items. In addition to the extremely well-thought-out design, I love the diversity of the recipes and the representation of various world cuisines. More specifically, I was excited to find recipes for “Jamaican Sorrel Tea,” “Kimchi Grilled Cheese,” and “Moroccan Pumpkin Stew with Chermoula Sauce” among the pages. I’ve already enjoyed the simple potato salad made with a vinaigrette instead of mayonnaise, and I look forward to trying the soothing, banana-rice smoothie recipe soon.

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Simply Scratch by Laurie McNamara

This cookbook had me at the DIY seasoning blends. Me: “You mean, I can make my own Italian seasoning!” I was also enamored with the author’s variations on the traditional pesto, substituting other herbs for basil. Author Laurie McNamara enlivens the book with her humor and inviting tone; she’s “the girl next door” who makes everything from scratch. In addition, Laurie brings a lot of originality to her creations and the names of the dishes. Since the book shows you how to create all of the ingredients in your pantry as well as the dishes it’s so comprehensive and a great resource. Laurie’s approach highlights how cooking from scratch offers greater control over health factors like sodium levels.



Woman On Fire by Amy Jo Goddard

Woman On Fire is one of the most powerful emotional toolkits I have ever encountered. Amy Jo is that brilliant and compassionate best friend, eloquently delivering insights to accelerate your personal growth. She shows readers how to approach the work of maintaining a relationship with great thought and intentionality. The book also contains compelling advice for understanding and then communicating your needs to a romantic partner. The incredible chapter on body image offers innovative ideas for rituals to help celebrate your body. As many others have already said, every woman deserves to read Amy Jo’s book and engage in this amazing work!

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Triumph of the Heart by Megan Feldman Bettencourt 

The mind-blowing story of a man who forgives his son’s killer sets the stage for all of the remarkable accounts shared in Triumph of the Heart. Author Megan Feldman’s personal story of her career and relationship struggles is also incredibly relatable and impactful.  The thoroughness of Megan’s investigation into forgiveness is impressive: she travels to Rwanda and throughout the United States, interviewing adult children who have chosen to forgive abusive or absent parents, heads of a school in Baltimore who are implementing principles of restorative justice with amazing results, as well as survivors of the genocide in Rwanda. I really enjoyed such a complex view of forgiveness, which includes the notion that the act of forgiveness can release repressed positive memories.

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Bri1Bri Lockhart is a Marketing Coordinator at Penguin Young Readers focusing on young adult and middle grade titles. Born and raised in New Jersey, Bri spends most of her time reading, writing about pop culture, and watching horror movies. If you stop hearing from her, it’s because the book piles have fallen over and smothered her to death in the night.




The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

I’m a huge fan of Andrew Smith’s b-movie style coming-of-age story Grasshopper Jungle, so I wasn’t surprised that I adored The Alex Crow. The Alex Crow follows Ariel, a refugee that finds himself in a tech detox camp thanks to his adoptive family. Ariel’s story has the same genre-bending style as Grasshopper Jungle, but packs a powerful emotional punch—something that might not be wholly expected from a book that boasts about featuring a depressed, bionic, reincarnated crow.

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Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ally, ashamed of her trouble with reading, acts out in class to distract her teachers from the problem at hand. When the substitute teacher Mr. Daniels walks in, he sees Ally’s troubles for what they are and helps her learn to work around her dyslexia and develop confidence again. Reading Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s sophomore novel will make you want to hug both the book and your favorite teachers.

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Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys is a master when it comes to historical fiction—anyone who has read Between Shades of Gray or her upcoming Salt to the Sea can attest to that. Her sophomore effot Out of the Easy tells the story of Josie, the daughter of a prostitute in 1950’s New Orleans, who wants nothing more than to get out of the Big Easy—a dream that might be dashed when a mysterious dead body makes an appearance in the Quarter. A savvy heroine, the New Orleans backdrop, and a dash of noir add up to one compelling read.

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Pom Pom Panda Gets the Grumps by Sophy Henn

There are some days (like yesterday, for instance) where everything is going wrong and there’s nothing you can do to stop that black cloud from following you around. Pom Pom gets it. Like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day, Pom Pom Panda Gets the Grumps shows us that bad days are universal (even among adorable pandas) but usually temporary.





The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

I’m fascinated by the psychology behind cults, so The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly was an auto-read for me. Jumping between the present day at a juvenile detention center after the murder of the cult leader and the past under the Kevinian Cult, Stephanie Oakes’s debut explores the dangers of blind faith and what happens when someone challenges those beliefs. I couldn’t put it down.

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Brianna Kelly Staff Picks Headshot

Brianna Kelly is a Production Assistant for Berkley Publishing Group. Her words to live by are those of Ms. Amy Poehler: “Kiss every baby, and pet every dog. Walk slowly, and lie down when you’re tired.”



The Aeneid by Virgil

Many people have read Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, but far fewer have read Virgil’s The Aeneid, which chronicles the journey of the defeated Trojan army after their city has been sacked (thanks, Odysseus.) If you enjoyed the epic poems of Homer, you are doing yourself a disservice by not reading Virgil’s tale. After the destruction of their homeland, Aeneas and his army sail from place to place, looking to find somewhere to start a new city. Along the way they encounter kings and queens who try to help and hinder his quest. Of course the gods and goddesses are heavily involved as well—Venus, the goddess of love, is the mother of Aeneas and tries to protect him from Juno, the queen of the gods, who hates all Trojans. Despite the interference of gods and humans alike, Aeneas follows his destiny of settling in Italy where the Roman empire will one day be founded.



A Doll’s House and Other Plays by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House was first performed in 1879, but it is so progressive and sympathetic to the rights of women that it could have been written today. Nora and Torvald Helmer are a married, middle-class couple with three children living in 19th century Norway. Although she is living a relatively comfortable life that society has told her to aspire to, Nora is not happy. This play encapsulates the frustration and oppression of women like Nora, who are smart and capable but who society does its best to restrict. The ending of this play genuinely surprised me, especially given the fact that it was written at this time, and by a man.  It is still so relevant today, and with two of Ibsen’s other plays included in the text as well, this book is a great introduction to his works.




A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay positing that the poor people of Ireland should sell their babies for the rich to eat is so over-the-top macabre that you cannot help but laugh the whole way through. Swift wanted to skewer the way the wealthier people of Ireland would discuss its impoverished population as if they were livestock, without thought to their humanity. Why not just buy and eat their babies? That way the poor would get some extra money while also getting rid of an extra mouth to feed. It makes perfect sense! Swift lays out his argument so well that you could almost imagine someone making the argument seriously.  It’s like an Onion article for the 18th century.




Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This book is one of my favorites. No matter how many times I read it, it always makes me happy, sad, and mad—mad mostly because I will never get over who Laurie ends up marrying. The story follows the lives of the four young March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Living in Civil War-era New England, the girls each struggle with something different as they grow up. The thing I like best about this book is that there is really no antagonist other than the perils of real life. It’s refreshing to read a sweet story about very realistically flawed but essentially good people who are doing the best they can to be happy and good. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of drama though; life for the March sisters is not easy and tragedy befalls them just like any other family. If you haven’t already read it, do yourself a favor and just read it. If you’ve already enjoyed it, read it again!

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image001.jpgLouisa Farrar is a publicist at Avery Books. From the selection below you would think she only reads about badass women written by badass women. She doesn’t. But it’s a nice coincidence.

Louisa speaks with an accent and lives in Harlem with her black Labrador and her American husband and lots and lots of books (and a Netflix account because only dogs are perfect).



The Likeness by Tana French

So while you can read Tana French’s books in any order – you tend to start with In The Woods. That’s the one that gets you sucked in. But The Likeness? This one’s my favorite. Cassie Maddox is a wonderful character. She is strong and fearless and bold and holds your interest, even if the whodunit plot wavers a little. Tana French writes characters and dialogue and sub-plots and settings in such a way that you stay up all night – like you should with any decent mystery/thriller – but you also realize that you’re in the hands of a masterful, literary storyteller. This isn’t just pulp.

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The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison 

Oh man, this is a good book to read lying next to your husband at night. (That sounded creepier than intended I should write thrillers.) Jodi and Todd’s marriage is on shaky ground and everything is at stake – their partnership, their luxe life, and their lives. It’s an unsettling read, and is more exposition than dialogue which I don’t tend to love, but these characters are so rich and so full of mistrust that reading what’s happening inside their heads – Harrison employs dual viewpoints, with each chapter labeled Him or Her – is a serious treat. This is “psychological thriller” at its best and it breaks my heart that the publishing world lost Harrison so soon. She is worth every accolade she earned as a writer.

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Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

Whether she goes by Grace in Tennessee or Julie in Paris, Rebecca Scherm has created the perfect femme fatale. This book is unputdownable, as you’re transported effortlessly from small-town, corn-fed America to the glamorous penthouse, art-world New York City, to the seedy but intricate antique dealerships of Paris. I just exhausted myself. But, seriously. This book is beautiful and mesmerizing and I could not guess what was coming next.

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Blue Monday by Nicci French

Okay, so why isn’t Frieda Klein, the psychologist-by-day/crime-fighter-by-night created by husband and wife team Nicci French, as big here in the States as she is in the UK? Is it because she is a Londoner? Because, come on! This series is incredible! Blue Monday starts the ride, and introduces us to Frieda – a smart, careful, professional character who stands out from the usual suspects (mystery/thriller protagonists) of ex-drunk Dublin cops and white boys on the spectrum.




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Kate MeltzerKate Meltzer is an Editorial Assistant at G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. According to IMDb, she is an actress known for The Last Five Years (though she thinks her two-second role as “Handelman Twin #1” barely counts). When she’s not reading, you can find her at the theater with her twin sister, scouring the streets of Manhattan for the perfect baguette, or talking about Hamilton. You can follow her on Twitter @katemeltzer.



Max and Marla by Alexandra Boiger

Ever since Harry Potter, I’ve been obsessed with owls. Those expressive, big eyes, cunning smarts, incredible loyalty. It came as an unfortunate surprise when I found out that owls are not recommended as pets (they are predators, after all). Nevertheless, Max and his adorable best owl friend Marla might be my new favorite picture book characters. Alexandra Boiger’s beautiful watercolor illustrations and the story of friendship, dedication and fun make this my go-to picture book this fall.




The Trilogy of Two by Juman Malouf

I fell for Juman Malouf’s stunning debut The Trilogy of Two from the very first page. As a twin, I always have my eyes and ears open for intriguing tales of twindom, and Sonja and Charlotte’s story is one that really resonated with me. Juman’s captured the growing pains of being born with a built-in best friend so honestly, weaving a meaningful story of love and friendship against an enchanting landscape of imaginative creatures and thrilling adventure. Her intricate pencil illustrations are exquisite, giving readers the perfect glimpse into the fascinating world-building in this dazzling novel.



Original Fake by Kirstin Cronn-Mills and E. Eero Johnson

Epic’s a word that has duel meanings when applied to this envelope-pushing tale of sibling rivalry. With his mother, father, and sister always angling for the spotlight, Frankie Neumann’s been content as the one in the background. He keeps his artistic talents to himself, until he’s approached by disciples of local street art legend Uncle Epic. They want him to join their crew, pulling him into a world of renegade art that finally gives him the chance to get back at his sinister sister for a lifetime of torture. But when he reaches the point of no return, he’s forced to question just how far he’ll go for his revenge. E. Eero Johnson’s vibrant illustrations pulsate through Kirstin Cronn-Mill’s electrifying story of family, mayhem and art.


Ooh-la-la (Max in Love) by Maira Kalman

An oldie but a goodie. I credit Ooh-la-la (Max in Love) as the spark that first made me fall in love with Paris and children’s books. In this delightful story, poet, dreamer, dog Max Stravinsky fulfills a lifelong dream of traveling to Paris to write and find love. The incomparable Maira Kalman puts forth a text that’s equal parts sublimely absurd and supremely brilliant. The text swirls though Kalman’s colorful, quirky illustrations of Max’s adventures along the Seine, featuring the Eiffel Tower, Fritz from the Ritz and his impressively long mustache, and the lovely Crêpes Suzette. It’s a fantastic frenzy full of whimsy, wit, and, above all else, love. Don’t forget to check out the copyright page; it’s absolument magnifique.


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Katherine PerkinsKatherine Perkins is an Assistant Editor at Putnam Books for Young Readers. With parents in engineering and medicine and four siblings, Katherine is (so far) the only one in her family to choose a career in the arts over the sciences.  She’s also the only one of them in multiple book clubs (these two facts are probably related).



Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley 

Robin McKinley is one of my favorite fantasy writers, and Rose Daughter was the first novel of hers I read. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it contains plenty of elements you won’t find in the Disney version: this Beauty has two sisters, a green thumb, and a terrifying dream that has plagued her since childhood—and that just might hold the key to her (and her Beast’s) fate. What I love about Robin’s writing is that her settings and characters are richly layered and gorgeously spun, and her stories have a just-rightness to them that’s utterly satisfying. Fun fact: Robin has actually written two Beauty and the Beast retellings (the other, Beauty, was published 20 years before this one) and they’re each unique.




Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

Set in New Orleans in the not-so-distant future, this story imagines a world where a series of weather catastrophes and a devastating blood virus have turned the Gulf Coast into a quarantine zone. The region’s survivors live in tribes according to blood type. The story alternates between fifteen-year-old Fen, who’s alone with an orphaned baby after her tribe is ambushed, and Daniel, a scientist from outside the quarantine who’s illegally crossed the Wall to find a cure to the fever. Their stories converge in a way that evokes The Walking Dead (in other words: riveting). Sherri Smith is an incredible worldbuilder, and her brutal version of the Big Easy is both fantastically strange and terrifyingly realistic.

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Chime by Franny Billingsley

This is the story of Briony, a girl who happens to be a witch. A well-intentioned witch, but a witch nonetheless. Her witchy inclinations toward evil have caused the death of her stepmother and robbed her twin sister, Rose, of her wits. Chime is by turns creepy and whimsical, and even a little romantic; you’ll see what I mean when you read it. It also features one of my favorite literary elements: an unreliable narrator.





My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer

You may have noticed that I kind of have a thing for fairy tales. Besides, doesn’t this title just make you want to huddle under the blankets on a stormy October night and read by flashlight? This is a collection of short stories by some of today’s top fiction writers (including Neil Gaiman, Kevin Brockmeier, Karen Joy Fowler) that reimagine classic fairy stories for a modern adult audience. If fairy tales are at their core about the things that enchant and revolt us, that mystify us and reveal truths about our human nature—then this collection does all of the above.





The Last Star by Rick Yancey

The finale to the 5th Wave series won’t be released until next summer, but I’m giving you notice now that you will need to schedule yourself an uninterrupted block of time to devour this. If you haven’t read The 5th Wave or The Infinite Sea yet, you have time to catch up.  It’s a sci fi series about the alien apocalypse, which might sound familiar, but I can promise this is like nothing you’ve read—it’s gut-wrenchingly intense and utterly gripping. Rick Yancey is a master at orchestrating plot twists that will make you fling your book at the wall right before you snatch it up again to find out what happens next. Also: The 5th Wave movie hits theaters in January!



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Melanie Tortoroli is an editor with Viking specializing in nonfiction. She loves plantain chips, the color grey, and giving her opinions about what you should be reading.



The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

Before Big Magic, before Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote this slim but impactful account of the life of Eustace Conway who, at age seventeen, left his comfy suburban home for the Appalachian Mountains. Conway and his extreme back-to-nature lifestyle (he forages and hunts for his own food) become brilliant foils for Gilbert’s astute observations about masculinity in America today and the perennial lure of the frontier. Hand a copy to the next guy you see wearing flannel.

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Nagasaki by Susan Southard

Who among us hasn’t read John Hersey’s heartbreaking Hiroshima? More than 70 years later it’s time we consider the second bombed city in Japan: Nagasaki. Following the lives of five survivors in Nagasaki at the moment of the bomb’s impact, August 9, 1945, to the present day, readers gain an intimate portrayal of nuclear war and the staggering meaning of survival in a city long forgotten by history. The intimacy of Susan Southard’s prose set against broad historical trends—including widespread censorship of survivors’ radiation-related illnesses—are astounding, and have changed my understanding of the debates over nuclear arms that rage in today’s headlines.

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Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan, illustrated by Maira Kalman

Michael Pollan is rightly considered a pioneer in food, and his simple take on what we should be eating (hint: avoid the middle aisles of a supermarket with packaged goods) marries perfectly with Maira Kalman’s whimsical illustrations. That many of the rules new to this edition have come from Pollan’s devoted readers only adds to the value of a book that speaks to those of us who want our food system to steer itself back to fresh, locally grown produce of exceptional flavor.

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Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar

When Dwight Gardner compared this new book to Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree, it immediately went to the top of my must-read pile. In a series of profiles of “extreme do-gooders,” i.e., a woman who donates a kidney to a complete stranger, you begin to question your own capacity to sacrifice, and what giving back really means. Is it better to take a high-paying job and give away your fortune, or go to Africa and build the orphanage by hand? Where do we draw the line between being compassionate with family and altruistic to strangers? The questions Larissa MacFarquhar, a New Yorker writer, poses are startling, and her writing alone makes this a must-watch come award season next year.



The Mathews Men by William Geroux

Enough World War II stories have come across my desk that I was skeptical when we saw the proposal for a book promising a new take on the conflict. But William Geroux, a lifelong reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, capture a side of the war—the American side—that has impressed even this jaded WWII reader. The title refers to Mathews County, Virginia, a seafaring town that stretches into the Chesapeake Bay and is home to generations of merchant marines, men whose ships carried fuel, food, and munitions to the Allies in Europe. One family sent seven (seven!) sons into battle with Hitler’s U-boats. This book has everything—heroic sacrifice, shark attacks, flaming oil slicks, harrowing lifeboat odysseys…. It’s an adventure story you’ll immediately begin casting in your head in anticipation of the inevitable Hollywood movie.


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