Erica

Erica Martirano is the associate director of marketing for Berkley, Celebra, DAW Books, and InterMix. In her spare time she harasses the editors for early manuscripts on her favorite books (a publishing perk!) and has been known to pester the NAL publisher in particular for JR Ward. To date the publisher has not acquiesced.

 

 

Lover Awakened

Lover Awakened, by JR Ward 

I’ll admit it—I’m a JR Ward junkie and basically love everything she does—but this is a standout favorite of mine throughout the entire BDB series. Zsadist’s story never fails to literally bring me to tears (something my husband will never stop making fun of me about), and is really where I got hooked on the story of the brothers.  Of all the brothers, he’s the most damaged, and before you know it, you’re rooting for Bella to help try to repair him. The series as a whole really just rocks, but if you read nothing else JR Ward you have to read this one!

 

 

 

Dragon Bound

Dragon Bound, by Thea Harrison

This book is unfairly good.  Like, slap-the-person-who-wants-to-talk-while-you’re-reading good. Pia Giovanni is blackmailed into stealing a relic from one of the most powerful members of the Elder Races, Dragos Cuelebre, and the romance that develops between the two of them basically sets the pages on fire.  This is an outstanding start to a series and somehow manages to make DRAGONS sexy!

 

 

 

 

Blood Games

Blood Games, by Chloe Neill

Before everyone starting thinking I only do the romances…the Chicagoland Vampires series is AMAZING, and Blood Games is no exception.  Merit is a vampire, Sentinel of Cadogan House in Chicago, and she basically kicks all sorts of ass, humans and paranormal creatures alike.  In this installment, a killer is going after the human population in Chicago and leaving his victims with magical souvenirs.

And okay, she also has a super hot boyfriend, Ethan, who’s the head vampire of the house.  But these are completely urban fantasy books, so if you like your heroines bold and with a sword, Chicagoland is for you!

 

Night Broken

Night Broken, by Patricia Briggs

The Mercy Thompson novels are like chips—you can’t have just one!  I just started reading this series this year and zipped through the eight of them in what felt like a week.  Mercy’s another badass heroine, a shapeshifting VW mechanic who somehow manages to find herself in sticky situations.  Here, her mate’s ex is being stalked by a paranormal creature leaving bodies all over the Tri-Cities of Washington state, and Mercy needs to put aside her personal feelings in order to stop him.  It also doesn’t hurt that the cover art on these books is absolutely fantastic—Dan Dos Santos is a master!

 

 

Find more books on the Paranormal page!

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lydia

I LOVE Summer and I like to think I’m really good at it (if one can be “good” at a season).  There’s nothing more enjoyable than the sun, a beach, waves (of the pool or ocean variety), and a novel that matches your outfit. So here are my literary fiction selections to take you from the sand to al fresco dining.

 

 

 

Vacationers

The Vacationers, by Emma Straub

This book is the clear beach choice, and what I will be reading in my American flag swimsuit over the 4th of July. The Post family travels from NYC to the beautiful island of Mallorca, but can’t escape their problems. Emma paints a beautiful portrait of a family experiencing change, and this will likely make you laugh as well as cry.

 

 

 

 

Interestings

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

This rainbow book selection will brighten any day! Meg’s novel follows a group of friends from summer camp all the way through middle age, and touches on the questions we all have at one time or another. It’s introspective as well as enlightening, and will make you think fondly of your childhood friends, and maybe try to reconnect over a beach bonfire.

 

 

 

 

Girl in Translation

Girl in Translation, by Jean Kwok

One of the first books I read as an early manuscript when I started at Penguin five years ago, the story of Kimberly Chang has stayed with me. We can all relate to feeling like an outsider, and Jean Kwok’s lyrical tale of ambition, family expectations, and forbidden love should not be missed.

 

 

 

 

 

City of Women

City of Women, by David R. Gillham

I admit I love World War II novels, and this one is my favorite. This incredibly written novel follows Sigrid Schröder of Berlin, who appears to be the perfect soldier’s wife, until she meets a Jewish man that changes her entire world.

 

 

 

 

 

Weird Sisters

The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown

The perfect green-grass picnic read, this novel introduces three sisters who have returned to the home in which they grew up. I think we can all relate to the feeling of coming home, and Eleanor captures it beautifully, and intersperses words from Shakespeare that add to the delight.

 

 

 

 

 

Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

Wear a headscarf and get a convertible – this book is the perfect summertime romp back to New York City in 1937, and all that entails. You’ll meet Katey and Eve and Tinker, and you won’t soon forget them.

 

 

 

 

 

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page!

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samraim

Sam Raim works in editorial for Penguin Books and Penguin Classics, where he advances his longtime goal of convincing everyone to read Saul Bellow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henderson the Rain King

Henderson the Rain King, by Saul Bellow

One of my favorite parts of working in Penguin Classics is having a row of Saul Bellow novels right above my desk. Bellow’s characters go through struggles relevant to us all and I’ve found his work to be a constant companion regardless of where my life has taken me. I’ll confess that my favorites are Herzog and Collected Stories, but Henderson has a special worth to me as the first Bellow I ever encountered. It’s full of his deeply profound and hilarious (yes, Bellow is funny!) musings on the human condition and I think it makes a perfect starting point for his work.

 

 

On Reading The Grapes of Wrath

On Reading the Grapes of Wrath, by Susan Shillinglaw

I love short, thoughtful books on big classics, like Nathaniel Philbrick’s Why Read Moby-Dick? So in the months leading up to the 75th anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath, I devoured Susan Shillinglaw’s concise study of Steinbeck’s classic. It’s a delight to climb into Professor Shillinglaw’s jalopy and let her guide us along the journey taken by both the Joads and John Steinbeck.

 

 

 

 

Dubliners

Dubliners, by James Joyce

Anniversaries are perfect opportunities and excuses to revisit books we haven’t read in far too long. I recently reread Joyce’s short story collection for its hundredth anniversary and found myself amazed by the capacity of its pivotal moments to move me just as strongly they did upon my first reading. The little boy staring up into the darkness at the end of “Araby,” the tragic inability of Eveline to follow her lover, and of course the snow falling “upon all the living and the dead”—these are the literary moments that have stayed with me like few others.

 

 

 

Book of First World War Poetry 2

The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry

2014 marks the centennial of the Great War (last anniversary, I promise!) so I’ve been digging back through the incredible literary output that resulted from what Wilfred Owen called “the pity of war.” The diverse poems in this collection — such horror so masterfully documented — are astonishing. It’s not only great war poetry, but it’s also some of the 20th century’s best poetry. Owen and Sassoon are of course household names, but Isaac Rosenberg and Edward Thomas are two of my favorites. In fact, Thomas’s “Rain” may be my favorite WWI poem.

 

 

 

Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary (translated by Lydia Davis), by Gustave Flaubert

“One had to discount, he thought, exaggerated speeches that concealed commonplace affections; as if the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow in the emptiest of metaphors, since none of us can ever express the exact measure of our needs, or our ideas, or our sorrows, and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when we long to inspire pity in the stars.” It shouldn’t take much more than that to convince you that it’s time to read Lydia Davis’s translation of Flaubert.

 

 

The Iliad

The Iliad (translated by Robert Fagles), by Homer

I like to think that the Iliad vs. Odyssey debate is a bit like the literary version of Beatles vs. Stones. Everyone has a side to take and though I love Odysseus’s journey, I can’t help finding myself drawn always to the epic scale of The Iliad. I’ve read this in numerous translations but my money’s on Fagles every time. No one else succeeds as he does in capturing the atmosphere and feeling of the Trojan War, the sheer grandeur of gods and men at battle. By this point, my copy looks as if it’s been through a war of its own.

 

 

 

Jacob's Room

Jacob’s Room, by Virginia Woolf

I’d be remiss if I didn’t end this with my favorite author. Jacob’s Room was Woolf’s attempt to do away with all the material trappings of the Edwardian novel (“no scaffolding; scarcely a brick to be seen,” she said). As the narrator and characters consider the eponymous Jacob, sifting through the people and places that made up his life, Woolf asks essential questions about how we know both the characters in our books and the people in our lives. The first of Woolf’s modernist efforts, Jacob’s Room perhaps lacks the elegance of later masterpieces, but that’s what keeps me coming back time and time again to search through those cracks for signs of Jacob.

 

 

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Sarah

Sarah is a Marketing Manager at Viking, specializing in nonfiction. She lives in the Bronx and is obsessed with sketch comedy.

 

 

 

 

Redeeming the Dream

Redeeming the Dream, by David Boies and Theodore B. Olson

Just over one year after the Supreme Court decision to overturn Proposition 8, the two lawyers who argued for the plaintiffs offer an insightful and riveting look inside the inner workings of the case. Theirs is an unlikely pairing—one conservative, the other liberal, they argued against each another in Bush v. Gore—but they were able to put aside their political differences and join forces to fight for what they believed in, which is hard not to get inspired by.

 

 

 

Careless People

Careless People, by Sarah Churchwell

This book achieves the trifecta of history, literature, and murder. By weaving together F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing of The Great Gatsby with the unfolding criminal investigation of the 1922 Hall-Mills murder, Churchwell looks for clues as how to how aspects of the case—which was a major ongoing news story that year—may have made their way into Gatsby. It also details the Fitzgeralds’ lives in Great Neck and the fascinating characters they hobnobbed with, from newspapermen to bootleggers to criminal bosses. We of course have no way of confirming if Churchwell’s suspicions are true, but it’s fun to think about regardless.

 

 

Blood Aces

Blood Aces, by Doug Swanson - On sale 8/14/14

This is the pulp-infused true story of Benny Binion, the Texas gangster and pioneering Las Vegas casino owner whose legacy can still be felt today (he founded the hugely successful World Series of Poker). As Dallas’s reigning mob boss, Binion could be brutal, yet he was fiercely protective of his family and philanthropic when it was to his advantage. Brimming with tales of the criminal underworld and Binion’s shrewd business practices, which often turned violent (he is quoted as having said “I ain’t never killed a man who didn’t deserve it”), this dark slice of Americana is compelling and vivid—you can almost smell the stale Camels and last night’s beer at Binion’s Horseshoe.

 

The Fires

The Fires, by Joe Flood

Counter to popular lore, this book argues that the majority of the fires ravaging parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan in the ‘70s were caused by a faulty computer model. In the ‘60s Mayor Lindsay teamed up with a think tank called the RAND Corporation to develop a way to govern the city more efficiently and statistically, starting with the fire department. But their methods were deeply flawed, resulting in severely reduced service in the neighborhoods that needed it desperately. It was an aspect of New York City history I hadn’t been aware of—and I’ve read a lot of books on New York City history. With so much of our current world moving to statistical analysis to predict just about everything from customer buying habits to election outcomes to the nation’s best burrito, this seems especially relevant.

Pictures Revolution

Pictures at a Revolution, by Mark Harris

If you’re anything like me, you love reading about the culture of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Pictures at a Revolution profiles the five movies that were nominated for Best Picture of 1967, offering not just the stories of the making of each individual film, but a broader picture of Hollywood in the ‘60s and the overall culture and atmosphere of the era. In a year that marked a real turning point for American movies, not to mention the culture at large, the five nominees represent both the new and the old, the generational divide sharply on display. The book offers some fascinating on-set stories and priceless trivia—who knew that at one point Bonnie and Clyde was to be directed by Jean-Luc Godard, who wanted to cast Elliott Gould as Clyde Barrow? (I actually kind of wish that had happened.)

 

Find more books on the Current Events & History page!

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Anne

Anne Kosmoski is the Assistant Publicity Director for Gotham and Avery. She has books her in blood … and all over her apt, which makes choosing the right one at bedtime easier for her two daughters. Books, daughters, mom and dad all live in Brooklyn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crossword Century

The Crossword Century, by Alan Connor

To be honest, I am more of a Tuesday – crossword gal than a Sunday. But Alan Connor’s book about the history and secret lives of crosswords, made me feel like a Crossword Queen. Spies, secret codes, upside down words – it’s all in there and more. Everything you need to know about a subject you didn’t know you were fascinated by. This is my kind of beach reading!

 

 

 

 

Geek Dad.indd

Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects for Dads and Kids to Share, by Ken Denmead

It’s summer which means school is out and the playgrounds and backyard projects are in. Our family loves Ken Denmead’s Geek Dad. It is a treasure trove of crazy experiments (exploding soda) and fun projects (the Best Slip-n-Slide ever). And he has clear cut, easy to follow instructions for those who aspire to be geeks but wouldn’t know binary if this was written in it.

 

 

 

An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails

An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails by Orr Shtuhl, Illustrator: Elizabeth Graeber

Aah, summer. It is not often that we entertain, but when we do I love a themed cocktail. This book looks like a classy party with beautiful people and witty repartee. One or two vespers and your party will look that way too.

 

 

 

 

 

This Book Will Save Your Life

This Book Will Save Your Life, by A.M. Homes

I am an evangelist for this book. First, I love the title and I love watching people react when I give it to them. Second, it’s just a great read. A M Homes take on modern living is sarcastic, deadpan, and brilliant.

 

 

 

 

 

Dude and Zen Master

The Dude and the Zen Master, by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman

Even a mom needs some downtime and I am lucky enough to get in a yoga class here and there. One teacher began a class with a quote from this book and I haven’t looked back since. As the book says, a beautiful mix of enlightenment and entertainment. It keeps me grounded, makes me laugh, and reminds me to step back and just take it all in. The dude abides.

 

 

 

Lama Lama Time to Share

Llama Llama Time to Share, by Anna Dewdney          

I couldn’t help it. This is a current family favorite (and even the one year old reads along). If you have young children and have not ventured into the world of Llama Llama, you should.

 

 

 

 

To find Health & Self-Improvement books, click here.

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


9780399167775H

What better place for inspiration to strike than at your local Midas? So it was for bestselling author Katherine Howe. In the autumn of 2012, as she was waiting for her car’s broken taillight to be fixed, half-listening to the local news on the waiting room’s television, she heard something that caught her attention. The anchor reported that doctors had finally concluded what really happened to the girls of Le Roy, New York.

That previous spring, sixteen high school classmates in upstate New York came down with sudden and strange symptoms, including uncontrollable tics, hair loss, and disordered speech. The story captured the attention of local media, and soon the small town had made national and international news. Experts from across the country came to investigate and to offer their own assessments—the girls were diagnosed with everything from PANDAs to Tourette’s. The HPV vaccine was to blame. Or maybe it was the polluted groundwater.

Meanwhile, as these girls were suffering through a very strange and very public ordeal, Katherine was just miles away, teaching The Crucible to a group of college students in her sophomore historical fiction seminar. As Katherine tells us, she was “eager to discuss the parallels between the ‘afflicted girls’ at Salem and these teenagers that lived so close. To my surprise, my students didn’t see a parallel. After all, the girls in the past were just crazy, whereas the girls in Le Roy had something really wrong with them. The more I watched the story unfold, however, the more struck I was by the disjuncture between what the Le Roy girls thought about their own experience, and what the assorted ‘experts’ brought in to comment on their situation had to say. I reflected at length about the Salem girls, and specifically about Ann Putnam, who was at the very center of the accusations in the Salem panic, who really did issue an apology (which is reproduced verbatim in this story) and who had been effectively written out of the most popular fictional account of that period in American history, The Crucible. In the past, as in the p

resent, the experts had one story to tell about this unique and frightening experience, while the girls, I suspected, had an experience all their own, that no one but them could fully understand.”

Conversion is very much a work of fiction, a novel set in a contemporary all-girls school in Danvers, Massachusetts, as well as in seventeenth-century Salem Village, but the story is grounded in exhaustive research and true-life details. What Katherine has created by weaving together these two narratives is an exciting and unsettling mystery. Working alongside Katherine, I marveled as she wrote, in a seemingly effortless way, a story that is both incredibly fun and a very thoughtful look at the pressures that modern-day high schoolers are under.

In the end, the girls of Le Roy were diagnosed with Conversion disorder, a condition in which the body “converts” psychological stress into physical symptoms. Is that what happened to the girls during the Salem panic?  To our young heroines in modern-day Danvers? Are they truly ill? Crazy? Faking it? Thank goodness for the long wait at Midas—it’s given us a perfect, chilling summer read.

 


celestengHow would you recommend creating and getting to know your characters?

The same way you’d get to know a friend. Hang out with them: plop them into an intriguing scenarioand see what happens. Or just listen to them talk: freewrite in their voice or from their point of view, and odds are, you’ll find them sharing their opinions, voicing their dreams, and confessing their secrets. None of it may make it into your project, but it will help you get to know your characters and understand their personalities—and the stories they have to tell.

After developing an idea, what is the first action you take when beginning to write?

I try to get the first line down—that sets the voice, tone, and scope of the story. Nine times out of ten, the first line I start with is the first line of the final piece. I also have an ending line in mind, so I have something to write towards—that sometimes shifts as the story develops, but I’m surprised how early that falls into place, too. Filling in the middle is the hard part.

Is there something you do to get into a writing mood? Somewhere you go or something you do to get thinking?

My magic formula changes: for a while, I needed Cherry Coke and Swedish Fish to get started; in another period, a cup of Earl Grey seemed to be the key. The most foolproof thing I’ve found—so far—is that when I’m having trouble writing, I turn to my favorite cafes—Darwin’s in Harvard Square or Café Zing, inside my local indie bookstore, Porter Square Books. Something about being in a new space, and the coffee shop noise, gets me working.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you have received?

Something Ann Patchett said in her keynote address at the Muse and the Marketplace conference in Boston a few years ago: “The muse is bullshit. Get your work done.” It’s a typically Patchettian, no-nonsense reminder to stop being precious about being inspired, or having the right pen or view or snack (see above)—sometimes, you just need to sit down and write.

What clichés or bad habits would you tell aspiring writers to avoid? Do you still experience them yourself?

My characters always seem to be standing in doorways, holding cups of coffee, and feeling things in their chests or throats at moments of strong emotion. And in my (almost) final draft, my agent pointed out that I started a lot of sentences with “But”—two or three times per page! Those are my nervous tics, and it’s a constant struggle to edit them out. Your bad habits will be individual to you—that’s part of developing your own voice—so figure out what words, phrases, and gestures you overuse, and practice weeding them out.

 

Everything I Never Told You is on sale Thursday, June 26th.


Beaks & Geeks

I’m so excited to announce that Beaks & Geeks, the new Penguin podcast, has launched! I live and breathe podcasts, so I feel so lucky to do one for work. Lindsay and I are co-hosts, and we’ve been busy interviewing some of your favorite authors.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and who you’d like to be a guest on the show! Tweet us: @penguinusa with the hashtag #beaksandgeeks

Start listening on our SoundCloud page here.

 

 

Most Dangerous Book

It’s been a very James Joycean work-week for me! Monday was Bloomsday, and I was lucky enough to interview author Kevin Birmingham – his new book is about the writing and publication of Ulysses. We had a great conversation about obscenity laws, literary piracy, and modernism. Today, Ulysses is considered classic literature, but its journey to publication was full of scandal and controversy. Luckily, some early champions of Joyce recognized the greatness of the novel. Birmingham said,

“For them it was powerful and it was dangerous and it was important and it was rebellious and that’s the sort of Ulysses that I want to recover in this book”

Listen to my interview with Kevin Birmingham, author of The Most Dangerous Book:

 

Dubliners

That same day, Symphony Space celebrated its 33rd annual Bloomsday on Broadway event, and the centennial anniversary of The Dubliners!

The event was a mix of musical performance and readings, featuring Cynthia Nixon, Malachy McCourt, Kelli O’Hara, Colum McCann.

Everyone was wonderful, but I especially enjoyed hearing “The Dead” read aloud- I’m planning on revisiting that story soon. Is there any great piece of literature you’ve been meaning to pick up again?

 

 

symphony space

Pictured above is the special anniversary edition of the book – I can’t stop looking at the gorgeous cover art.

Colum McCann wrote the introduction and is pictured here with Belinda McKeon at the event (photo credit: Symphony Space).

So glad I got a chance to see these talented readers and writers celebrating James Joyce’s life and work.

Have a great weekend, readers!

-Amy


Wendy McCurdy 5

Every editor has worked on books that he or she looks back on with particular pride. Sometimes they are gifts from the cosmos—manuscripts that simply landed on one’s desk in perfect or near-perfect condition. But sometimes they are books with a different kind of genesis, one that is more collaborative.

At the end of 2012, I was a huge “Downton Abbey” fan, having binge-watched the first two seasons over the holiday break. As probably every other editor in New York was doing, I tried to think how I could find a novel to publish that would appeal to the same audience. I thought of several excellent historical fiction writers that I’d worked with over the years, but one stood out. Years before, I had worked with Elizabeth Cooke at a different publisher when she had been writing as Elizabeth McGregor, and I had never forgotten the beauty of her writing. She was also British—definitely in keeping with the “Downton Abbey” spirit—and a highly regarded British historian at that. She had taken a break from writing novels for many years, and it struck me that possibly she needed just the spark of a new idea to get her back into writing.

rutherford_parkA few weeks later, following several phone calls, emails, and a very happy lunch with Liz’s New York agent, a proposal arrived on my desk. This proposal was an editor’s dream. It turns out that Liz’s grandfather had been the stablemaster at Kiplin Hall, one of England’s country estates–very much like the fictional Downton Abbey–and she had grown up with the stories of his time there.

Here is how the proposal opened:

One of the first stories I ever remember hearing was of a great Shire horse. It was born in the stables of Kiplin Hall in North Yorkshire in 1906, and the imprints of its hooves were so massive that the farmhands would walk behind it through the snow, placing their feet where the horse had trod. My grandfather knew that horse: he saw it being born, and in time he worked Kiplin’s hay carts and the delivery carts with it, and, after that first hard winter, it was he who re-named it Wenceslas.

wild_dark_flowersLiz went on to describe the day in late 1914 when Wenceslas was drafted to pull artillery guns in France. “My grandfather followed it in tears down the great beech-lined drive, and stopped to lean on the door of the gatehouse as the horse was walked on.”

I was completely hooked.

That was how Rutherford Park came to be born, a gorgeous novel published last summer, which received wonderful praise from Natasha Solomons (“Beautiful”) and Kate Furnivall (“A breathtakingly beautiful book”) among many others.

Now on July 1, 2014, The Wild Dark Flowers will continue the compelling tale, told on an epic scale, of a privileged British family on the precipice of catastrophic changes.

I am happy to report that Wenceslas has made it into the story, although his ultimate fate is yet to be revealed…


photoThe secret to reading Ulysses for the first time is letting go. You’re not going to understand every allusion, every historical reference, every inside joke. So put that annotated guide away. Accept that you will be confused, probably often and profoundly. You’re supposed to be. Read on. Don’t let its reputation as modern literature’s Everest get in your way. It wasn’t always widely read, universally praised, relentlessly pored over and taught.

If you can do this, if you can let go, you’ll see that Ulysses is really a simple story about a man, out for a walk, trying to distract himself. (Of course, it’s also about Everything Else in the Universe, but that can wait until your second or third or fourth reading.)

It might also help to read Kevin Birmingham’s The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses. A former Dublin bartender and current Harvard history and literature lecturer (two jobs that make him uniquely qualified to write this book), Kevin has set out to write a biography not about James Joyce, but about Ulysses. And by doing so, Kevin reminds us that it was written in the same way every other book is written: by a human being and sentence-by-sentence.

It’s easy now to picture Joyce at his desk, watching confidently as the words poured from his pen, but the reality was much different. Joyce struggled for years on each scene, writing and re-writing and re-writing again. It’s easy now to picture the millions of readers cheering him, begging him to finish, but Joyce was a relative unknown, a destitute and failed writer who could barely support his young family. And even if the book was finished, there was no guarantee that anyone would read it – in fact, if the few published chapters were any indication, the only guarantee was that it would be censored around the world. It’s easy now to think of Ulysses as a given, but it wouldn’t exist without the support (financially, legally, and otherwise) of a ragtag group of booksellers, publishers, poets, lawyers, literary magazine editors, and readers.

The Most Dangerous Book is first and foremost wonderfully entertaining. It’s funny, it’s thrilling, and it’s even kinda raunchy. But what I love about it most, as someone who works in publishing, is that it celebrates the unsung heroes of the book world. Without Sylvia Beach at Paris’s Shakespeare and Company bookstore, without Margaret Anderson at The Little Review, without Bennett Cerf and his lawyer Morris Ernst at Random House, Ulysses may not have been read at all. These people, and many others, believed in the power of words, story, art, and they fought large institutions that wanted to repress and control freedom of expression. The stakes were high – many served time in prison and many were ruined financially – and the struggle must have seemed to them unending. But ultimately, spurred by a federal judge who was unexpectedly moved by Molly Bloom’s soliloquy at the end of the book, art beat censorship. Ulysses was finally published.

That reminds me: Molly Bloom. Push through. Get to the Molly Bloom section. That’s when you may realize that Ulysses is not an abstract, literary puzzle; it’s a book about people – their flaws, their uncertainties, their love, and especially their bodily functions. Oh, and when you get stuck, it helps to have Guinness nearby. (This is good advice for any book, really.)

Read Biographile’s article on James Joyce’s Ulysses and its debt to feminism here.