Andrea Lam is a Publicity Assistant at Viking / Penguin Books / Penguin Classics, where she is the in-house champion for tall ships, world mythology and folklore, and Anne Brontë.





north-and-south-by-elizabeth-gaskellNorth and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favorite Victorian novelists, and North and South is easily my favorite of her novels. Gaskell wrote candidly and compassionately about class differences in British society, particularly as they applied to the heavily industrial North of England. In North and South, Southern Margaret Hale is forced with her family to move up to Milton-Northern (modelled after Manchester), where she comes into repeated conflict with mill owner and native Northerner John Thornton. As Milton-Northern’s mill workers increasingly agitate for rights, Margaret and John must come to an understanding both personally and politically, but their path is far from smooth. A bonus: the 2004 BBC series based on the novel is a wonderful adaptation, and I recommend both to just about anyone who will stand still long enough to listen.



Spunyarn by John Masefield

I usually credit my deep love for tall ships and the Age of Sail to having read the entire 20-book Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian when I was twelve years old, but I’m sure that I encountered John Masefield’s poetry some time before then. Though I know intellectually that I’d not survive the physical toil of daily life on a merchant mariner or naval warship, Masefield’s ‘Sea-Fever’ makes me long for the far-ranging view from the bow of a ship running free, and moves me like few other poems do each time I read it.




the-turnip-princess-and-other-newly-discovered-fairy-tales-by-franz-xaver-von-schonwerthThe Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth and translated by Maria Tatar

I’ve been passionate about world mythology and folklore since I was very young, and when I read the news in 2012 that a cache of previously unseen German fairy tales had been discovered, I jumped to follow the story. Imagine my surprise two years later when, shortly after I started working for Penguin, I learned that not only was Penguin Classics publishing a selection of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth’s tales, the tales were to be translated by the inimitable Maria Tatar! I’ve long admired Tatar’s scholarship, and I’m so pleased that her translation of Schönwerth’s tales are now available to the reading public and fellow fairy tale enthusiasts like myself.


passing-by-nella-larsenPassing by Nella Larsen

Nella Larsen’s short novel Passing is a poignant, painful exploration of race and racism in the Harlem Renaissance that deals with issues of racial identity formation, cultural assimilation, and self-presentation. Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry’s respective struggles with life as mixed-race women in a racist, male-dominated society still ring true today. Larsen’s other novel Quicksand, published a year before Passing, deals with related issues and is also well worth reading.




the-tenant-of-wildfell-hall-by-anne-bronteThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Jane and Emily are both well and good, but Anne is my favorite of the Brontë sisters and—I feel—the most under appreciated. Anne published only two novels, the other being Agnes Grey, and in both her straightforward depiction of casual male chauvinism stands in contrast to that of her sisters’ in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. For readers accustomed to the exploits of Edward Rochester and Heathcliff, Tenant’s Arthur Huntingdon may come as a shock. Given that popular culture through history has a deleterious tendency to gloss over abusive behavior, I appreciate Anne Brontë’s refusal to do the same.




The Penguin Book of Witches edited by Katherine Howe

If you thought you know about witches, think again. The Penguin Book of Witches is a well-selected collection of historical accounts (all primary-source documents) of accused witches and witch-hunters in North America and England that ably demonstrates that the history of witches is the history of legalized persecution of marginalized groups. Katherine Howe’s explanatory essays and notes are both intelligent and accessible, and help to contextualize the varying time periods in which the documents were written. Witches are a popular trope in fiction for good reason, and The Penguin Book of Witches is a great look at the history behind the fiction.


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Catherine Hayden is a Marketing Coordinator for the School and Library department. She has a passion for bookstores and libraries that borders on obsession. When she’s not working or looking at books, she can often be found playing in a grown-up dodgeball league, doting on her nephews, taking in New York City, and saying hi to every dog she passes on the sidewalk.




Extraordinary-Jane-by -Hannah-E-Harrison

Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison

This is the book that I give to every child (and some adults) in my life and it’s impossible not to fall in love with. Jane is a circus dog who wants to be extraordinary like her strong, elephant lifting father and her fearless tightrope walking sisters. What she finds, after many mishaps is that she doesn’t have to be extraordinary to be special. Hannah E. Harrison’s illustrations are simply gorgeous and bursting with charm and whimsy. The story is funny yet cozy and comforting for little ones and I guarantee they will want to read it over and over again.



The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

The Day the Crayons Quit is laugh out loud hilarious. It tells the story of a little boys box of crayons who are fed up with their jobs, so they quit! Each page features a different letter from an irate crayon listing it’s reasons for quitting. Red crayon feels over worked while white crayon feels like he’s not being used at all and yellow and orange crayon are downright feuding! Each letter comes with hilarious illustrations of indignant crayons and pictures they are forced to draw. The books satisfying conclusion will have kids seeing their box of crayons in an entirely new light!


Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

I am a sucker for a good graphic novel and this one is pure fun! Astrid is 12 years old and devastated when she finds out that her best friend Nicole, with whom she does everything, has chosen to take ballet rather than attend roller derby camp together. Now Astrid has to navigate roller derby camp, and all of the bumps and bruises that come with it, completely alone. This book perfectly encapsulates what it is to be an awkward adolescent and the ups and downs of friendship. Astrid’s imperfections, and the growth that comes from overcoming them, make her an incredibly relatable character for young girls and boys alike who will completely understand her pains and triumphs.



The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

As a lover of the classics, I was intrigued when I found out we were publishing a book inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. Every night a murderous boy-king takes a new bride and every morning at dawn he kills her. This reign of terror continues until a young woman named Shahrzad, vowing to avenge her best friend, offers herself up willingly. All she needs to do is stay alive long enough to kill the king. This book is so lush and every character brings their own depth and fascinating backstory to the plot. I cannot wait for the sequel!




between-shades-of-gray-by-ruta-sepetysBetween Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepeteys

Honestly, Ruta Sepeteys could probably write a grocery list and I would be captivated but I recommend her debut Between Shades of Gray first. It has been a few years since I first read this book but I still can’t get it out of my head. It follows a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl during WWII after Soviet officers invade her home, separate her father and force her, her brother, and her mother onto a crowded train to a Siberian work camp. The entire story is at once hopeful and devastating and a testament to incredible storytelling. It opened my eyes to a part of history that I knew very little about and yet is incredibly important. I think everyone should read this one.



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IMG_0918A couple years ago, I asked Patricia Briggs to write a novella for our anthology On the Prowl. We wanted something either about Mercy Thompson, the car mechanic coyote shifter heroine of her urban fantasy series, or set in Mercy’s world. But when she said, “I think I’m going to write about Charles,” it took me a moment to place Samuel Cornick’s half-brother, a werewolf of few words who makes a brief appearance in Moon Called.

Well, after reading “Alpha and Omega”, I never forgot who Charles was again. In fact, I fell so in love with him and his mate, the werewolf Anna Latham, that I asked Patty if she would want to write more stories about Charles and Anna. And thus, the Alpha and Omega series was born–an action-packed urban fantasy series that is also the heartfelt story of Charles and Anna’s relationship.

With Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer, they tend to be trouble shooters, called in to deal with problems, and rarely catch a break. In Dead Heat, Charles and Anna travel to Arizona for personal reasons…or at least it starts out that way. Soon, they find themselves in the middle of a whole lot of trouble. The cold war between the fae and humanity is about to heat up, and the werewolves may have to choose which side they’re on.

I freely admit that I have a thing for werewolves. The pack structure, the human / animal dichotomy…it’s a concept that that is ripe for storytelling. And Patricia Briggs writes some of my absolutely favorite werewolves, who may be able to change their shape, but are always human.

Dead-Heat-Patricia-BriggsIt’s a pleasure to share Dead Heat with you, and I hope you fall in love with Charles and Anna the way I have.

Explore the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs!

Malice 2014 me and teapot 2“Where do you get your ideas?” a reader asks, at nearly every book event. “From my characters,” I say, aware that this makes me sound like a crazy woman. But before you call the men in the white coats, let me explain.

The heart of every story is the characters. Even in a mystery or a thriller, where plot is critical to a story’s success, the characters are the key. When someone raves to you about a book, they don’t say “it’s about a bomb ….” They say “it’s about a woman who ….” When readers fall for a series, they remember the characters as much as the individual plots—sometimes even more.

Character is both a person and a person’s essential nature, revealed by decisions and choices, especially those made under stress. It is those choices and decisions that create the plot.

And so, for me, it’s crucial to get to know my characters before I start writing their story. Because I write series, I know my recurring characters, but they are always surprising me. I knew that Pepper Reece, the main character in my new Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, got her nickname not from the shop but from her baseball-crazy grandfather, who dubbed the fiery three-year-old “Pepper” after the legendary Pepper Martin of the St. Louis Cardinals. But not until her mother Lena returns from Costa Rica for a visit in the third book, which I’ve just begun, did I know for sure what her real name is. (And no, I’m not going to tell you until then!) I knew she was raised in a communal household along with Kristen, her BFF and part-time employee. But I had no idea that in their early forties, these closer-than-sisters friends would discover that each had kept a secret or two.

Turns out that secrets are a theme to this series, as are questions about identity and the fine line between protecting someone and interfering. In Assault and Pepper, the first installment, Pepper finds a homeless man named Doc dead on the Spice Shop’s doorstep. The discovery rocks Pepper right down to her bay leaves. Nothing in her first year selling spice or her fifteen years managing staff HR at a giant law firm prepared her for the shock—or the consequences.

(Although being a cop’s wife for thirteen years did expose her to the seamier side of life. Especially when she discovered her husband and a meter maid—she still can’t say “parking enforcement officer”—in a back booth in a posh new restaurant practically plugging each other’s meters when he was supposed to be working a shift for a friend. Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s the bike cop on the Market beat.)

What’s even worse is when the homicide detectives—Spencer and Tracy, and yes, they’ve heard the jokes, and no, they’re not amused—focus on one of her trusted employees. She considers herself a good judge of people; after all, in both HR and retail, her livelihood depends on it. How could she have been so wrong? The only other suspects seem just as unlikely. Pepper investigates in part because she can’t believe her employee is guilty—or that the young woman would withhold the truth from her. The investigation forces her to confront the limits of her own judgment and her ability to work with other people. In the process, she learns new skills and draws on internal resources she didn’t know she had.

Plot unfolds when one character acts and another responds. And so as a writer, I ask my story people to tell me what they most want out of life. To show me their struggles, internal and external. To reveal how they respond when someone stands in their way. In the planning phase, I sometimes struggle until I identify the core conflicts between the victim and the killer—but also between the victim and other characters who fall under suspicion, and between the sleuth and those who would stop her. Ultimately, the characters’ actions and responses come together like the channels of a braided river.

Assault-and-Pepper-Leslie-Ann-BudewitzGetting there can be messy. It’s a kinetic process, always changing until I reach “the end” for the last time. It’s a lot of fun. I hope that it flows on the printed page, that it keeps you reading and asking questions. I hope my stories introduce you to a cast of folks you want to know, who show you a little something about life—and character.

Discover more about Assault & Pepper by Leslie Ann Budewitz!

It's-What-I-Do-Lynsey-Addario 2


Ann Godoff, President and Editor-in-Chief of Penguin Press, offers insights into It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario. This book is the story of how the relentless pursuit of truth, in virtually every major theater of war in the twenty-first century, has shaped Addario’s life. What she does, with clarity, beauty, and candor, is to document, often in their most extreme moments, the complex lives of others. It’s her work, but it’s much more than that: it’s her singular calling.




What was the genesis of this project and how would you describe the editor/author process involved in honing the narrative voice and selecting the photographs with Lynsey?

Lynsey wanted to write a book that inspired young people, particularly young women, to follow a path that might make sense only to them. She thought her story could serve as a good example of how dealing with fear head on is a creative act. That’s where we started. Naturally her storytelling is visual first so we worked from there. It’s a memoir and the time line of her life provided the structure, but what was most important to me was that her voice be captured on the page. It’s such a positive voice, such a positive spirit, that I knew when the reader understood that Lynsey was happy in the middle of a war zone because she was able to do the work she was destined to do then everything about her would fall into place.  My job was to encourage her not to hold back or place the written word on too high a pedestal, and hold her storytelling on the page to the same standards she would if it were a photograph.


There are a number of harrowing events described in It’s What I Do that graphically portray the horrors of war, how Lynsey chronicled all, and the toll this took on her and those around her. There are also intensely personal revelations about her life, career, loves and fears. In what ways did you help her identify the most compelling ways to weave everything together?

It’s What I Do is intensely personal but then Lynsey is by nature totally candid about everything in her life. If she’s writing about a love affair that takes second, or third place, to an assignment half way around the world you understand that decision from her point of view. It’s not something men feel the need to apologize for, leaving a lover behind in the hope of a good story, and she doesn’t apologize. So when she falls in love with a man who understands her passion for her work and she is changed by the depth of their relationship we’re prepared for that shift. War zones create a special intensity for the creative artist and I asked her to conjure with that too. Making the decision to put yourself in harm’s way when it is your choice to do so and then dealing honestly with the consequences is at the heart of Lynsey’s book.


What aspects of this book do you hope will resonate most powerfully with readers?

Courage comes in small packages and in unexpected places. I think what will resonate most with readers is Lynsey’s determination that fear isn’t going to be the thing that gets her to no; in fact, It’s What I Do is all about Lynsey’s embrace of life, it’s all about yes.

Brooke_Davis_cAilsaBowyerI grew up on ten acres in a quiet bush town called Bellbrae. It was pretty idyllic: the air smelled of eucalyptus, we were friends with all our neighbours, and we had the space and time to play and imagine and create. My mum was always a great reader, and my dad became one when he had kids. I have lovely flashes of book-related memories that I sometimes catch as they float by: being read to by my parents, reading on long car trips and trying not to give into car sickness, being told off by Mum for reading in the dark, the treat of visiting a bookshop, reading well-loved books over and over. I was so proud to own books and would always ‘borrow’ my mum’s and put them on my bookshelf. She’d take them back without telling me, and I’d do the same. It became this silent, funny, ping-pong kind of game that we had with each other and didn’t acknowledge.

I look at all my childhood books now and I can feel the magic of that time, the feeling they gave me. I can’t remember not feeling like books were important. I don’t think this is something I could have explained as a kid—now I can attach language to the feeling, and suggest that perhaps it was something to do with the way reading tapped into my imagination and my love of learning and the need I might have felt to develop an understanding for the way people are. But as a kid, it felt natural and I loved it and I didn’t know why. It was just something I thought everyone did, like the way we all did colouring-in, and played the recorder, and dressed up in Mum’s old bridesmaid dress and glittery shoes. It was all play to me.

Roald Dahl was my all-time favourite, and still is. His stories were funny, imaginative, rude, and pretty violent, in a cartoonish way, and it seemed like my parents shouldn’t be encouraging me to read them. I didn’t feel like I was being patronised when I read Roald Dahl. I also loved Judy Blume, Robin Klein, John Marsden, Emily Rodda, Katherine Paterson and L.M. Montgomery. Their writing felt honest and real—even when it was wildly imaginative. I was also really taken with Tim Winton’s ‘Lochie Leonard’ books—he captured the sound of the Australian accent so beautifully and I hadn’t realised you could do that in writing, that you could give a character the sound of your own voice.

I’ve kept journals since I was quite young, and there’s a line in one when I was eight years-old that says, pretty precociously, ‘I’m determined to become a writer.’ And then, when I was nine or ten, I wrote this nonsense poem in the style of Roald Dahl in primary school about my little brother called The Pest. My teacher asked me to read it out loud in front of the class—my classmates laughed in all the right spots, and I was urged to do a sequel. The sequel was terrible and didn’t have the same impact, but I remembered the feeling of my writing giving people pleasure. I wanted more of that feeling.



Brooke Davis is the author of Lost & Found, her debut novel about the wisdom of the very young, the mischief of the very old, and the magic that happens when no one else is looking.

Tim Dowling, author of How-to-be-a-Husband-Tim-DowlingHow to be a Husband shares his suggestions on what Husbands should be reading this Valentine’s Day!

For the most part my experience of being a husband cycles around repeated failures to measure up, followed by sincere attempts to address these failings and to fail better next time, starting with my whole approach to recently used towels. The secret of being a good husband, I find, is taking the time to point out to one’s wife that she could, in fact, do a whole lot worse. That, in part,  is what the following books can do for you. Read them first to make sure you are actually a better husband than the ones featured, and discard from the pile as necessary.



Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

I was first made to read this in high school, at a time when this savage portrait of the morally bankrupt of George F. Babbit, family man and establishment stooge, didn’t mean much to me. Obviously I get it now. And how.




Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

As bleak a portrayal of married existence as you’re likely to encounter, although when I saw the movie I came over all nostalgic because they’d so faithfully recreated the suburban Connecticut of my childhood. I kept wanting to shout, “It doesn’t have to be this way! Get some ice cream! Play some tennis!” I had a similar problem with The Ice Storm.


Abbott Awaits by Chris Bachelder

An extraordinary book: funny, dark, often transcendent. It charts tiny, in-between moments – through a series of very short chapters  – in the life of Abbott, a college teacher with a small child, a pregnant wife and a tenuous grip on the point of it all. If you’re married with kids he will remind you, often painfully, of you. Fortunately this sort of book isn’t my wife’s cup of tea at all.



The Wife by Meg Wollitzer

A look at marriage from the other perspective, that of the long-suffering wife of a celebrated author. It’s not a happy prospect – she’s planning to leave him on page 1 – but how it makes you feel about your own record as a husband will probably depend on your personality. I was heartened and chilled by turns.



The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith

Charles Pooter, the suburban householder diarist of the title, is such a byword for a certain kind of unknowing self-importance that in Britain he’s an adjective: pooterish. Although it was written in the late 19th century, this comic masterpiece remains a great key to understanding the English, their humour and their preoccupations. I re-read it often, and each time it makes a little more sense.



Mr Bridge, by Evan S. Connell.

This chronicle of a distant, repressed husband living between the wars in Kansas City came out a full 10 years after Connell’s debut novel, Mrs Bridge, which covers the same ground but with the wife as the protagonist. The two books were later amalgamated and adapted for the screen as Mr and Mrs Bridge. They’re both great, but if you’re a husband this is the one that will keep you up nights.


Kendra Levin, Senior Editor

I have a confession to make:  reading isn’t my favorite part of being an editor.

As much as I love discovering a wonderful manuscript, my favorite part of this job isn’t the books—it’s the authors.  I relish getting to know such a varied range of talented, creative people.  And they never fail to surprise me with their insights, their perspective, and the stories behind their stories.

Karen Bao intrigued me before I even met her.  I had just read Dove Arising, her debut young adult novel, and was struck by its preternaturally confident voice.

I had so many questions.  Had this chilling vision of the future really been woven by an eighteen-year-old?  How did she write a book this sophisticated—and during her senior year of high school, no less?  I’d been told she was also a concert violinist and was now at an Ivy League college studying biological sciences.  The book takes place on the moon, and I couldn’t help but wonder, Where in the universe did this teenage, hyper-achieving, deft writer come from?

But when I first met Karen, it was clear she had both feet firmly planted on Earth.  Though she continued to shock me with her accomplishments (You wrote Dove Arising while waiting to hear back from colleges to take your mind off the anxiety?  This summer you read Anna Karenina for fun?), she was clearly, in many ways, a typical college student—hoping to get a good housing assignment, worrying about exams, and hanging out with her friends.

And the better I got to know her, the more I got to peek behind the curtain and see the inspiration for the book.  Set on the moon a few centuries from now, Dove Arising is filled with technology and scientific principles pulled directly from Karen’s academic studies.  But the connection between real life and fiction goes even deeper than that.

Dove Arising is the story of an introverted girl who gets thrust into the spotlight when her mother is arrested by the moon’s oppressive government. Karen told me she drew inspiration for the government of the Lunar Bases from her mother’s stories about her father, Karen’s grandfather.  When her mother was a young girl in China, her father, an academic, was sent to Mao Zedong’s “reeducation” camps for several years.  He came home a different man, and it forever changed their family.

Karen’s mother shared this with her when Karen was a teen, and the story made a lasting impression.  And, as so many powerful emotions often do, it found its way into her fiction.

This story moved me as much as the book itself.  And I thought, what an incredible tribute to Karen’s grandfather, for her to share his story in this fictitious format—to express herself in a way he was never permitted to, and use this novel to honor the very real-life battles that so many people have fought against oppression in our world.

Hearing authors’ stories is a privilege, one that makes me feel so grateful to have this special job of being an editor.

I’m thrilled to see Dove Arising take flight, but right now, Karen and I are focused on what’s next for us both:  editing the sequel!


Phaet Theta has lived her whole life in a colony on the Moon. She’s barely spoken since her father died in an accident nine years ago. When her mother is arrested, the only way to save her younger siblings from the degrading Shelter is by enlisting in the Militia, the faceless army that polices the Lunar bases and protects them from attacks by desperate Earth-dwellers. Training is brutal, but it’s where Phaet forms an uneasy but meaningful alliance with the preternaturally accomplished Wes, a fellow outsider. Rank high, save her siblings, free her mom: that’s the plan. Until Phaet’s logically ordered world begins to crumble…

Start Reading an excerpt from Dove Arising!


Juliana Kiyan is a Publicity Manager for Penguin Press. On weekends you can find her tucked under a tree with a book in Prospect Park or attempting a new pie recipe.






Year Zero: A History of 1945, by Ian Buruma

Ian Buruma’s writing never fails to engage the mind and soul. His most recent book YEAR ZERO is a remarkable global history of 1945 and how we reckoned with the aftermath of World War II. Buruma crosses the globe to show how regime change was carried out across Asia and Europe, and what the effects of war and liberation had on populations. 1945 witnessed the emergence of a new world, and reading this book, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the scale of transformation on both geopolitical terms and for everyday people on the ground. But then Buruma introduces his own father’s story, which serves as deeply personal thread throughout the book. His journey home after being forced into a labor camp in Berlin and his attempt to return to “normalcy” puts a face to the experiences of so many in his generation. The introduction is an incredibly moving piece of writing—read it and you won’t be able to put the book down until you turn the last page.


afterthemusicAfter the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead, by Alan Blinder 

Alan Blinder is a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and economics professor at Princeton, and this is his wide-angle, very readable account of the financial crisis. There have been many terrific, informative books, articles, and films about the meltdown and its immediate aftermath and how the Bush and Obama administrations grappled with the many ensuing crises. What stands out about Blinder’s book to me is the comprehensiveness of the narrative—step by step, he identifies the origins, the government’s reaction and actions both administrations took, and next steps for recovery. It’s an important reminder of where we’ve come from and how not to repeat the same mistakes.



Redeployment, by Phil Klay 

Phil Klay’s collection of stories is searing and beautifully observed. It’s impossible to highlight one, as each is a different voice or lens through which Klay examines and untangles the American experience in Iraq. As we reckon with our foreign policy of the past decade and look ahead to the next election and the choices we’ll be faced with, Redeployment is a vital reminder of what war does to the hearts and minds of individuals who serve and to our collective soul as a country. Redeployment has rightfully been touted as an instant classic, Klay as one of the most talented new writers. To add my voice to the chorus: read it, read it now.




Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, by Eric Schlosser

Command and Control reads like a thriller but is all-too-terrifyingly true. Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, writes a groundbreaking history about the management of America’s nuclear arsenal over the past half century and explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: How do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? He opens the book with a minute-by-minute account of the “Damascus accident” at a nuclear missile silo in Arkansas, which begins with a simple mishap, then quickly spirals. It had my heart pounding, and Schlosser interweaves this incredible story with a wide-ranging narrative. A riveting, unnerving read.



Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng’s exquisite debut novel is a portrait of the Lee family in a moment of crisis, then grief. The Lees live in Ohio in the 1970s, and their prized middle daughter, Lydia, has been discovered dead in the town’s lake. (This isn’t a spoiler! The first line of the book is, “Lydia is dead.”) The father, James, is a second-generation Chinese American who aches for his children to fit in; the mother, Marilyn, is a white woman from Virginia who hopes her daughter won’t face the same limitations that she did when she was younger. Their children—Nath, Lydia, and Hannah—straddle two worlds of belonging and wanting, as they attempt to understand who they are and who they want to become.  The book is a moving examination of being an outsider and the spectrum of what it’s like to be treated as different. It takes place during a time when Loving v. Virginia had only recently struck down interracial marriage bans, before our anguished conversations about motherhood and “having it all,” before Cheerios featured a multiracial family in a Superbowl ad. Yet many of the issues the characters face are just as relevant today—I find myself thinking about them all the time. Ultimately, though, Ng tells a beautiful, deeply felt, and heartbreaking story of an American family and their universal struggles to communicate and understand one another.


Find more books on the Current Events & History page!

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Carolyn Telesca is an Associate Director in Berkley Production, managing the backlist production for all Berkley formats and imprints, along with Perigee and Riverhead Trade.  She is passionate about reading and publishing, and loves that she gets to come to work every day, and make books!




some girls bite

Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampire Series – starting with “Some Girls Bite”

This is a great series for anyone that loves a vampire series without an overtly romantic undertone.  While there are romantic relationships, Neill is able to continually develop her characters on a believable arch and plot line, which continues to draw me in even 11 books into the series. I also love all of the references to the great city of Chicago. Merritt is an amazing heroine thrust into a world she never asked for and certainly didn’t want.  As she continues to fight for her independence and retain who she is inside, while taking her responsibilities to her new “family” seriously, it’s difficult not to root for her and want to be her friend.




Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series – starting with “Moon Called”

Another fantastic author with a strong female heroine at the heart of it all, Moon Called kicks off the Mercy Thompson series in a captivating way.  As a no-nonsense mechanic by day, coyote shifter by night, Mercy finds herself embroiled in the local Pack politics.  Having grown up with werewolves, she is no stranger to the dangers and ways of this culture.  Briggs gives you an amazing story with believable and lovable characters that you find yourself cheering for time and again.  As the characters grow through the series, you find yourself wanting to know more and more about them.  As I tend to find myself drawn to strong female characters, this is a definite win in my book for the promise of a great read!



Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series – starting with “Fool Moon”

Taking place in Chicago, IL the Dresden Files series centers around Harry Dresden – a gruff wizard for hire that is hard not to love.  Butcher’s development of this sarcastic and witty down-on-his-luck hero is absolutely brilliant.  I found that Fool Moon was incredibly entertaining but I actually came to love the series more and more with each book that followed.  The way Butcher is able to draw you in, you feel sucker-punched once you realize that you are emotionally invested in what happens to his characters, and find yourself heart-broken at times right alongside them.




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