JanStaffPicksWelcome to a shiny new year, readers! It’s a time for resolutions, reflection, and goals for 2015.

If you’re resolved to read more or branch out into new genres, look no further. Nine Penguin employees picked their favorite books from all different genres. This month is especially good – I’m always getting intrigued by new titles I hear about through this feature.






In fact, over the holidays, I read THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, just because the last two lists of Mystery/Suspense Staff Picks included it. I don’t even read mysteries! I ended up really enjoying it, and gobbled it up in just a couple days. The writer is quick and sharp and smart, the storyline keeps you guessing, and the characters each get a rounded-out voice and point of view. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN comes out this month if you’re looking for an exciting read.





I try not to be too strict with myself with reading goals, but last January I decided to keep track of every book I read in 2014. It’s just a simple grid, no ratings, no long responses or notes, but it’s almost like a diary: I remember parts of the year based on what book I was reading at the time. I think I’ll keep it up this year too – what about you? Do you note down what you read?

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What are you looking forward to reading this year? I’m excited for THE HALL OF SMALL MAMMALS, MEET ME IN ATLANTIS, and THE TUTOR.


Happy reading!


I’m Patrick Nolan, Vice President, Editor in Chief and Associate Publisher of Penguin Books and I never go on vacation without a few Penguin Classics in my suitcase.







The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard

Be warned: this is the kind of book you can’t help but to sit around all day underlining every phrase (when you’re not staring off into… well, space). A book that speaks to those who love interior design and architecture like me, Gaston Bachelard’s musings on the spaces where we spend our lives and the worlds we create within them is rare among even the greatest thinkers: a work at once full of moments of dense philosophy as well as stunning insight into daily life.  This beautiful edition includes a foreword by Mark Z. Danielewski, who drew inspiration from Bachelard for his mind-and-page bending House of Leaves, and let’s just say he’s included some of his signature surprises – Penguin Classics forewords will never be the same.



Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange, Translated by Malcolm C. Lyons

The stories in this medieval Arab fantasy collection have had quite a trip before they made it to your bookshelf! Some date back over a millennium ago, and they have all spent centuries closed within a ragged old manuscript in a library in Istanbul. Now these tales of sword wielding, princes and princesses, monsters and prized jewels are finally available in English, in a beautiful translation by Malcolm C. Lyons, and gorgeous foil-stamped package.





Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio

Fans of Edgar Allan Poe should drop everything and read this 14th century classic, the major influence for The Masque of the Red Death. Seven women and three men huddle in an abandoned villa outside Florence, hiding in fear of the Black Death. As the few survivors spin tales to pass the time, readers are introduced to the world of 14th century Italy and the endless imagination of master craftsman Boccaccio. Is it a precursor to post-apocalyptic fiction? Who cares – it’s great!





The Essays, by Michel de Montaigne

One way of defining a classic is when someone writing centuries ago can so perfectly express exactly what I need to hear right now, today. For me, there’s no better example than the work of Michel de Montaigne, the French statesmen and writer who popularized the essay as a literary genre and influenced generations of thinkers to come, from Nietzsche to Hitchens. For almost five centuries readers have been turning to Montaigne for his thoughts on love, friendship, work, and just about anything else life has to throw at you.





Autobiography, by Morrissey

What can I say about Morrissey he hasn’t said about himself? After decades of pouring his literature-loving genius into songwriting, we now have the story of Manchester’s Muse on the page, written in his own flowery prose. Take a trip back to a young Steven Morrissey’s childhood on the streets of 1960s working class England, and follow him in his own footsteps on his rise to becoming music’s pop darling. No pompadour required.





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As a copywriter for Berkley and NAL, Carly Hoogendyk writes all the words you see on the outside of genre fiction books. In her spare time, she likes to read the insides of literary fiction books. She’s been an employee at Penguin since 2013.







The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

Following a group of friends from their childhood arts summer camp to adulthood in New York City, The Interestings is an insightful story of talent, opportunity, and envy told with equal parts humor and heartbreak. I book-and-wine-clubbed this with a group of old college friends—a perfect choice, since the themes and characters hit close to home with our creatively-inclined friend group. (And not for nothing, that cover is like high book-fashion—a must-have accessory for your next subway ride.)





The Magicians Trilogy, by Lev Grossman

I’ve heard more than a few recommendations of The Magicians Trilogy that conjure the “grown up Harry Potter” comparison. Here’s why I think that is fair: The last time I tore through a fantasy series with such absorbed, maniacal velocity was when I inhaled six books about everyone’s favorite boy wizard (…and obviously, no regrets). But what Lev Grossman achieves with this series is uniquely marvelous (and for many reasons it merits the “literary fiction” classification). Quentin’s passage from childhood to adulthood is as filled with magical heroics as it is by mordant realism. Because as soon as Quentin graduates from his enchanted boarding school, he faces a life exactly like ours: where the search for adventure and meaning has a FAR lower success rate than in our beloved escapist fiction.



I Am Radar, by Reif Larsen

After hearing that the plot drew on “the furthest reaches of quantum physics, forgotten history, and mind-bending art,” I knew I needed to snag an advance reader’s copy (this releases in February 2015). And it turned out to be the most gloriously surreal and imaginative book I read this year—also, I’ll say without trying to brag or scare you off, the one with the most pages. It’s an ambitious novel that only gets better and better as you go—especially if you like novels with storylines that converge satisfyingly despite what at first seems like a too-epic scope.





High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby is an impeccable storyteller. He writes books that are intellectual yet completely unpretentious—and best of all, he drops effortless one-liners that dependably make me laugh out loud. High Fidelity is the story of a heart-sick slacker with an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music re-tracing his romantic steps to determine whether there’s something wrong with him (spoiler: there is). You might remember it as a John Cusack movie, but I lovingly credit Hornby’s canonical masterpiece of “dick lit” with any understanding I will ever have of my boyfriend’s relationship to his vinyl collection. And in case you’ve already read everything by Nick Hornby (good on you!), he’s got another wit-fest of a novel that you can look forward to this summer called Funny Girl.


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Wendy McCurdy is an Executive Editor at Berkley Books.  As you can see from her picture, in which she is holding several childhood favorites that she rescued from her parents’ house before they down-sized, she has been a romance reader pretty much since she learned how to read.  So the fact that she is able to indulge her taste for romantic fiction in her profession is a dream come true.





The Forbidden Rose, by Joanna Bourne

Joanna Bourne’s books have been staff picks at least twice before.  Pretty soon we are going to run out of titles.  Joanna, if you are reading this, please write faster!  But in the meantime, I’m highlighting THE FORBIDDEN ROSE, a beautifully written, completely captivating historical romance that accomplishes what I might have thought impossible: turning Doyle, the unforgettable and gruffly lovable British spy who is Grey’s partner in THE SPYMASTER’S LADY, into a romantic lead.  And what a hero he turns out to be. THE FORBIDDEN ROSE is a tour de force of sheer romance.




The Last Renegade, by Jo Goodman

Jo Goodman has been writing excellent western historical romances  filled with intelligence and humor for many years now, and she just keeps getting better.  Even her love scenes are filled with intelligence and humor.  THE LAST RENEGADE is one of her finest, along with IN WANT OF A WIFE, which I also can’t resist mentioning.






The Red Bikini, by Lauren Christopher 

A lovely debut novel  about a divorced mother who flees to her sister’s California beach house for a two-week getaway and encounters romance in the form of a very hot celebrity athlete who is lying low after some mistakes in the past. This is charming and funny–a delicious read.







The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne, by Madeline Hunter

All of Madeline Hunter’s romances are wonderful, but this one is a particular favorite of mine. Watching the headstrong Emma Fairbourne take on the arrogant Earl of Southwaite is a pleasure.  What I really appreciate here are the undercurrents, the way Madeline conveys what’s really going on—usually something pretty hilarious—without ever overtly stating it.  The hot love scenes don’t hurt either.






Practice Makes Perfect, by Julie James

Julie James has also been a staff pick in the past for JUST THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE.  I’m choosing to highlight PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT,  her second novel, and a real gem of romantic comedy.  Our two main characters are lawyers who are battling it out to make partner at a Chicago law firm.  How they try to get the better of each other results in some of the funniest scenes I’ve ever read—and also makes it that much more romantic when their dislike for each other begins to turn into something else.





Pieces of Sky, by Kaki Warner

What a wonderful piece of romantic western fiction this is.  Kaki deservedly won kudos for this splendid novel that kick-started her career as one of the today’s finest western romance writers.  It is one of my favorite books that I ever acquired, not only because it’s such a great read, but because I still remember how it felt to take the rubber band off that first manuscript—which actually came in through the mail—and start reading, and to know instantly that this was going to be a great read.  (This may actually be my last acquisition that came in via mail rather than email!)





Ravishing the Heiress, by Sherry Thomas

After the hundreds—probably thousands—of romances that I have edited, it is rare for me to be as moved by a romance as I was by this one.  I’m not even going to try to articulate what it was about this novel that so got to me.  All I will say is that those with a taste for an exquisitely rendered historical romance should not miss RAVISHING THE HEIRESS or any of Sherry Thomas’s novels.





A FINAL NOTE: It was very difficult to limit myself to seven romance picks.  I have at least seven more that I want to add. But I will save those for next time.


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Carmela Iaria is the Executive Director of School and Library Marketing for Penguin Young Readers. She’s worked in children’s publishing for over 15 years and really loves kids’ books, so choosing 5 favorites was really hard.




janeExtraordinary Jane, by Hannah E. Harris

This was my very FIRST favorite picture book from Penguin Young Readers. I read it in my first month at Penguin, about one year ago, and was utterly delighted. The story is simple but charming, and the illustrations are darling. I immediately took it home to read to my two-year-old daughter.  And she LOVED it for many reasons…

Jane is an ordinary dog in an extraordinary circus. She isn’t strong, graceful, or brave like her family. But what she learns is that being herself – kind and loyal – makes her just as special.




Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson

This review is courtesy of my colleague Venessa Carson, who chose it as a staff pick for our librarian newsletter last month – and sums up the beauty of the book so perfectly…

We should all ride the bus time and again with CJ and his Nana, simply to be reminded that there’s beauty all around us, most especially in the unexpected. “Crumbling sidewalks and broken-down doors, graffiti-tagged windows and boarded up stores.” CJ asks his grandma how come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”

This award-winning pair of picture book collaborators, Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson, take readers on a trip through a vibrant urban town in LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET, reminding us to look on the bright side and to take in the charm and magic around us, no matter where we live in the world.


 Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon

Every so often, I see a chapter book that demands to be recommended to scores of young readers. This is one of them! Dory is a lovably energetic little sister with a BIG personality—and an imagination to match. The writing is fresh, funny, and true (the author is a teacher and obviously pulls from the hilarity of every day life). The illustrations are irresistible and compliment the text perfectly. Stay tuned for more books in the series coming later this year!





Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

Winner of the National Book Award for Young People’ Literature, Brown Girl Dreaming is one of the most stunning novels I have ever read. Beloved author Jacqueline Woodson shares the poignant, the gritty, and the sweet memories of her childhood—as well as revealing the first sparks that ignited her writing career—in these lyrical poems about growing up in the North and South. This book is for everyone: teachers, librarians, young readers, adult readers, audio book listeners, everyone. It will make you feel as you simultaneously admire the luminous language and radiant soul.



alexcrowThe Alex Crow, by Andrew Smith

My professor in college, Justin Cronin, taught me to love modular storytelling. To masterfully blend multiple storylines to tell one cohesive story with a powerful message is pure writing magic. Andrew Smith is a magician. The Alex Crow is the story of a fifteen year-old refugee from the Middle East who is the sole survivor of an attack on his village. Now living in Sunday, West Virginia his story is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic “melting” bomber and the diaries of a failed Arctic expedition from the late nineteen century. How will their lives converge?

As with Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Winner Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith delivers a genre-bending literary piece of awesome that explores both the realities of our modern world and the absolutely absurd. It is surprising and smart and, perhaps most impressive of all, utterly original.


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Roshe Anderson works in Gotham and 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.






The 52 New Foods Challenge, by Jennifer Tyler Lee

I love the simplicity of the recipes. Because the challenge encompasses taking on one new food a week, the recipes also cover a wide variety of whole foods. Whether or not you attempt to prepare all fifty-two foods, you will find the book to be a gentle guide, helping you take small steps toward what is often intimidating: trying something new. I have a list of recipes from the book which I am eager to make for the first time, including a simple butternut squash soup, pumpkin puree, and Jennifer’s version of an avocado-based chocolate pudding.



Simple Recipes for Joy, by Sharon Gannon

Imagine a summer salad with real flowers…The gorgeousness of the cover and the dishes within Simple Recipes is undeniable. Thus, food intertwined with Sharon’s philosophy of compassion make a strong impression. The passionate foreword written by Kris Carr, a well-known natural food advocate, adds an extra wow factor to what already feels like a work of art. For people who have been to Sharon’s restaurant, the Jivamuktea Cafe, this cookbook will feel like being let into a secret. The spirulina millet and “Spaghetti All’aglio e Olio” are among my favorite recipes. I love forward to making the “Brown Rice Salad” soon.



365 Vegan Smoothies, by Kathy Patalsky

365 is a non-prescriptive road map, helping you to enjoy the fun and creativity involved in making smoothies. All of the ingredients the author suggests are available at your local market. Kathy also offers advice on how to substitute one ingredient for another, further encouraging you to use what you have on-hand or experiment. The book is perfect for people like me, who would prefer that their nutrient-dense smoothies taste like cinnamon buns or decadent desserts.





The Oh She Glows Cookbook, by Angela Liddon

Two words: overnight oats. I am addicted to the opening recipe which features uncooked oats soaked in plant-based milk. All of the dishes displayed in the book are stunning! Angela’s reputation as well as her commitment to reworking recipes and seeking approval from non-vegans reassures you that you are in good hands. Creative, smart snacks like “Salt & Vinegar Roasted Chickpeas” and vegan remakes of popular dishes like cookie dough make eating healthfully look really cool.





Success Through Stillness, by Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons explains the effects of stress in clear language, elucidating the connection between stress and brain chemistry. Russell’s goal to dispel the myth that one is simply not good at meditation struck a chord with me. The book offers real tools for persisting in the practice of meditation. Also, I loved Russell’s description of being focused on the process and the work rather than the success or the failure.





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Meredith Dros

Executive Managing Editor/Publishing Manager: I am responsible for coordinating the editorial, production, copyediting, art, and design processes for seven imprints here at Penguin.








The Gods of Gotham, by Lyndsay Faye

Set in 1845 as new York City is forming its first police force, this is a detective story that has been compared (with good reason) to The Alienist. The story and the writing are that good.  







yardThe Yard, by Alex Grecian

It is the late 1880s in the newly formed Scotland Yard in London. A group of homicide detectives dubbed “The Murder Squad” must solve a bizarre string of crimes, where the latest target is one of their own.








The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

Stop what you are doing and read this book. Do it now. This is such an exciting, twisty, must-get-to-the next-page-to-see-what-happens novel. It starts with Rachel, who sees something terrible one day on her daily train commute. I’m not going to tell you anything else; you’ll see why.







Broken Harbor, by Tana French

Everyone has their own favorite Tana French novel, and this is mine. The setting is a half-finished development in the suburbs of Dublin left abandoned in the global economic crisis where a family is found murdered, and what looks like it should be an open-and-shut case turns out to be way more complicated.







The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters is on fire right now with her wonderful novel, The Paying Guests. I would invite you to take a stab at The Little Stranger. It is one of the creepiest, most mysterious books I have ever read.







Rules of Prey by John Sandford

I love John Sandford. In 2015, we will publish his 25th “Prey” novel, so I decided to go back and read the first one in the series where we first meet Minneapolis detective who plays by his own rules, Lucas Davenport. Rules of Prey is so scary because we get our hero’s point of view as well as the killer’s. Sleep with the lights on after reading this one.






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Anne Sowards

Anne Sowards is an Executive Editor at Ace and Roc. She taught herself to read at age 4, started with fairy tales, moved on to her dad’s science fiction collection, and hasn’t stopped since. She’s currently obsessed with Korean boy bands and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Find her on twitter as @AnneSowards.






Asking an editor to pick her favorite books is a bit like asking a parent to choose her favorite child. So I’m going old skool and sharing some of my favorite backlist titles with you. These are wonderful reads with strong resonance for me–some of the stories that stayed with me over the years.


Ariel, by Steven R. Boyett

I was absolutely obsessed with this book when I was a teenager and have reread it many, many times. It’s post-apocalyptic fantasy, about a young man struggling to survive in a world where technology no longer works…but magic does. As a fantasy reader, this story of what might happen if dragons and unicorns showed up in the “real” world fascinated me, and felt true to me on many levels.






The Once and Future King, by T. H. White

This is hands down one of the best King Arthur retellings ever. Ironically, I read a ton of King Arthur books before I read this one, and in fact resisted the lure of The Once and Future King for many years because I thought I was “tired of King Arthur stories”. When I finally read it, I was kicking myself for waiting so long to try this charming and delightful novel!






The Black Jewels Trilogy, by Anne Bishop

OK, I’m cheating a bit since this is an omnibus of the first three books in Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series, but they really do make up one epic storyline. With its dark tone and morally ambiguous heroes, Anne Bishop turned the tropes of fantasy upside down in this series, in a way that was groundbreaking for its time. It’s the story of Jaenelle, who as Witch, the most powerful magic-wielder in thousands of years, is destined to free and protect her people. And it’s also the story of Daemon Sa Diablo–the man who was born to be her lover. This is a sweeping, passionate, enthralling story; a page-turner well-worth reading.




Dune, by Frank Herbert

This is a classic science fiction novel for a reason. I first stole this from my dad’s bookshelf when I was too young to really understand all the nuances, but I persevered because of the amazing, epic storyline. It’s about so many things: adventure, politics, genetic breeding programs, prophecy, ecology…but as a starting point, it’s the story of Paul Atreides, the scion of an aristocratic house THAT RULES AN ENTIRE PLANET. (As a young person I was blown away by this idea.) It’s the kind of novel you will not be able to stop thinking about.




guilty pleasures

Guilty Pleasures, by Laurell K. Hamilton

This is the book that began my love for urban fantasy. I was always more of an epic fantasy girl–until I read this first entry in the Anita Blake series, about a woman who raises the dead and is also the legal vampire executioner in the state of Missouri. I’d never read anything like it before, and the way Laurell K. Hamilton integrated magic with modern-day life was groundbreaking–and hugely entertaining.





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john cassidy

Manager, Online & Digital Sales










Napoleon, by Andrew Roberts

if you’re a sucker for a big, fat, epic biography on one of the greatest military and political minds of the past 500 years: here it is. Sure, there’s a lot of bios out there on Napoleon – but what makes this the edition you should read is because of Roberts’ incredible gift for storytelling and the extensive research he undertook: accessing more than 33,000 of Napoleon’s letters. What he presents is a totally new take on the general you thought you knew.




snowThe Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen’s catalog ranged from fiction to nature writing, to sociology; even memoir. All of it is good. But The Snow Leopard is the one you should read if you haven’t read him (or want to). You might think that a travel memoir/1st person history about a writer trailing a biologist in the Himalayan mountains to study a mysterious cat seems like a boring read; it’s anything but.






D-Day, by Anthony Beevor

Anthony Beevor’s incredible one-volume history on the battle of Normandy. In my opinion few historians can match Beevor’s gift for capturing the experience of battle: whether it be through the eyes of the grunts storming Omaha Beach; or all the way up the chain of command where a wrong decision ends up costing thousands of human lives. I learned so much from this book and after reading it had an incredible respect for any soldier that fought in this battle.





Meet Me in Atlantis, by Mark Adams

Where do you stand on the subject of Atlantis? You know, the possibly real / possibly made-up city-state-island of Ancient Greece that Plato wrote about, the one that sunk into the Mediterranean sea? You say: Just a Loch Ness-esque hype? Or are you a believer? Mark Adams gets to the bottom of the debate and seeks to uncover the truth once and for all in possibly one of the funniest and readable travelogues you’ll read this year.





Blood Aces, by Doug Swanson

Never heard of Bunny Binion? Well, then, you don’t know Las Vegas all that well, do you? Buckle up and let Swanson take you on wild ride of the life of racketeer turned Casino owner Binion, who put Sin City on the map, who created The World Series of Poker Tournament, and, a larger than life figure: “the most unforgettable character I ever met.” Corruption, violence, greed, redemption, gambling – this has it all!





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christina brower

Christina Brower is an assistant editor at New American Library, where she happily edits romances and sci-fi/fantasy. In her other life, you can find her sitting in her favorite armchair with a cup of tea and a good book, or marathoning Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time. And despite a lifetime of looking, she has yet to find the door to Narnia.




Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris

New to the world of paranormal books and supernatural beings? Try the first book in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series on for size. When I first picked this book up, I had a hard time putting it down—and one week later I was four books into the series. It’s the perfect mixture of paranormal romance, mystery, and action with cast of enchanting characters to keep you entertained (and swooning). Really, it’s no wonder why this series is so popular.





Fireborn, by Keri Arthur

What, may you ask, could be better than a book paranormal about werewolves and vampires? A book about phoenixes. Now, I’m sure Keri Arthur isn’t the first author to pen a book about these supernaturals, but throw in some fascinatingly unique mythology, a different spin on vamps, and three strong fictional crush candidates, and you have one fiery series debut.






Avengers Heat, by Katie Reus

A wolfishly sexy read that will leave you howling for more! This was the first book I picked up by Katie, and I loved it so much that I went back and started the series from the beginning. Readers looking for a unique paranormal series, will find this one full of potential and brimming with sexual tension.







The Shadow Reader, by Sandy Williams

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of books about fae, but this one completely changed my mind. It’s almost impossible to review this book without gushing. For me, one of the hardest things I think an author can take on is writing a believable and engaging love triangle. If handled badly, it can ruin the whole story. Sandy Williams has not only written an excellent love triangle that will have readers torn, but an outstanding paranormal fantasy with an equally amazing heroine.




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