The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

This weekend I made two recipes from Rob Lustig’s new book THE FAT CHANCE COOKBOOK. It’s not as cold as the polar vortex right now but it’s still chilly and I was happy to test out Old-Fashioned Beef Stew and Quick Chicken Tikka Masala. Both recipes were very easy to follow with simple ingredients and I was lucky enough to check out the new Brooklyn Whole Foods in Gowanus to stock up. The stew took longer to make than I expected – all the chopping of the vegetables added up to about an hour but the rest of the evening I spent letting it simmer (for three house) while catching up on Game of Thrones, so I can’t complain!

The Tikka Massala came together very quickly and the spices were delicious – I was a little disappointed that it didn’t turn out as vibrant and red as the chicken tikka masala I usually order in from a nearby Indian place but I felt good about the ingredients and as Rob points out I’m sure it was much healthier! Hardly any fat and I used chicken thighs to add flavor – they are so much more delicious than the chewy bits of chicken that come in fast food Indian orders. And the best part is I’ve been enjoying the many leftovers from both dishes for lunch all week.


OLD-FASHIONED BEEF STEW AND VEGETABLES

Ingredients

½ cup oil: olive, safflower, or rice bran

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped and peeled onions

1 cup chopped carrots

1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat

8 cups liquid (water, wine, stock, or a mixture)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper

2 cups 1-inch pieces scrubbed carrots or parsnips

2 cups scrubbed diced potatoes

STEP 1: Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a cast-iron or stainless steel pot. (Make sure it has a tight-fitting lid.) Saute the celery, onions, carrots, thyme, and garlic in the pot until brown and tender. When aromatic vegetables are brown, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and reserve in a small bowl.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

STEP 2: Place the flour in a bowl. Dredge the meat, shaking off the excess flour. Add the remainder of oil to the pot and cook the meat over medium-high heat, quickly browning but not cooking. Do this in small batches. Take the meat out and reserve on plate.

STEP 3: Add the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil while scrapping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. While it dissolves it will add flavor to the gravy.

STEP 4: Reduce the heat to low and return the meat and the aromatics to the liquid. It’s very important that the stew must simmer and not boil. Slowly cook the stew over low heat so the liquid barely simmers.

Cover and cook for 2 hours.

STEP 5: After the meat has had a chance to cook for a while, add the 1-inch pieces of carrot and the potatoes. Cook until the meat is fork tender, about an hour. Adjust the salt and pepper and serve.

QUICK CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA

Ingredients

4 teaspoons garam masala*

1/2 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ cup unbleached all-purpose fl our

1 pound chicken tenders

4 teaspoons canola oil, divided

6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 large sweet onion, peeled and diced

4 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger,

or 1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 can (28 ounces) plum tomatoes with their juices

1/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

* Garam masala is a blend of spices used in Indian cooking. Usually includes cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, fennel, cumin, and coriander.

STEP 1: Stir together the garam masala, salt, and turmeric in a small dish. Place the flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle the chicken with ½ teaspoon of the spice mixture and dredge in the flour. Reserve the remaining spice mix and 1 tablespoon of the remaining flour.

STEP 2: Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

STEP 3: Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the pan over medium low heat. Add the garlic, onion, and ginger and cook, stirring often until starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the reserved spice mix and cook, stirring until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Sprinkle the reserved 1 tablespoon flour and stir until coated.

STEP 4: Add the tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a simmer, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring often, until thickened and the onion is tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

STEP 5: Stir in the cream. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat until the chicken is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Garnish with the cilantro.

—Caitlin O’Shaughnessy, Viking Adult


Cursed in the Act, Raymond Buckland

Bram Stoker was a busy man. As theatre manager he oversaw several hundred employees: actors, designers, wardrobe, properties, scenery-builders, plus front of house such as caterers, ticket vendors, ushers. He also handled publicity, finances, special guests, and so on. He very much admired Henry Irving and did a lot of extra-curricula work for him.

Most productions had at least two matinées a week. If it were approaching the end of one production, then rehearsals for the following production would have to be scheduled so as not to interfere with the previous one. With this in mind, I felt that Stoker would not have enough spare time to investigate all of the mysteries that I intended to provide for him. I realized that he needed some sort of an assistant; a Dr. Watson or an Archie Goodwin character to do some of the legwork. I therefore invented Harry Rivers, the Stage Manager.

Although many of the characters I use in my stories are based on actual people from that time period, there are a few created from whole cloth. Harry Rivers is one such. He and his boss, Bram Stoker, work very well together and Harry is able to run around doing whatever is necessary to help with the crime solving. Harry is also able to mingle with the lower classes where Stoker would stick out in that group.

I was not planning any love interest in the Bram Stoker Mysteries but there seems to be an interest developing for Harry. I hadn’t originally intended it but you can never tell what your characters might decide to do themselves! As it turns out, the young lady involved becomes very much a part of the story in the second book in the series, Dead for a Spell due out in October 2014, though I won’t spoil things by saying any more than that here.

I do hope you’ll enjoy the Bram Stoker Mysteries as much as I enjoy writing them!

 


The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 is to cook more and another is to eat healthier, so the timing of Robert Lustig’s “Fat Chance Cookbook” was perfect.

I am by no means a cook; and I actually sort of hate cooking. Things always seem to go horribly wrong when I do try to cook, and I have absolutely no patience (or timing). As a result, my culinary skills involve heavy microwave use and a lot of takeout. So for the first recipe of the New Year, I decided to go with something easy. I chose “Green Pasta” (p. 226-227) of The Fat Chance Cookbook.

 

 

Recipe:

Makes: 4 cups

Serving size: 1 cup

Active time: 20 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

½ pound whole-grain angel hair pasta or spaghetti

1 cup packed fresh spinach, chopped

1 cup basil leaves, packed

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup low-fat milk

Salt and pepper, to taste

½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Step 1: Cook the pasta according to package directions. In a blender, or food processor if you have one, blend the spinach and basil until mixed.

Step 2: In a large saucepan, sauté the garlic in olive oil. Add the milk and spinach mixture to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Stir occasionally until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat. Add the pasta; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the cheese. Serve immediately.

Sounds easy enough, right? 8 ingredients and 2 steps. I think even I can handle this one.                  The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigI already had all the ingredients except the spinach and basil, so I headed to the store to pick them up. Problem number one: the grocery store didn’t carry fresh spinach, so I had to buy frozen. Make that three steps! Frustratingly, I had to cook and drain the spinach, and it was soggy and warm. I figured it wouldn’t hurt the taste of the pasta, but I’d highly recommend driving around and finding fresh spinach to cut out this step.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig drain

I then moved on to cooking the pasta. I prefer angel hair because I like my pasta soft and it cooks pretty quickly. I dumped a whole box of angel hair into a large pot and let it boil. Step 1 down! On to the next one.

“In a blender…” And here we encounter problem number 2.  (See? Bad luck). At the time of this cooking adventure I was staying at a friend’s house—a lovely friend, but a friend without a blender. After digging through her cupboards, I found a food processor. Or really, parts of a food processor. After trying for about ten minutes to put the thing together I gave up. Plan B? I threw the soggy spinach and basil leaves on the cutting board, grabbed a huge knife, and just went at it.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigI then sautéed the garlic (smelling good!) and added the milk and spinach mixture. While that was cooking, I drained the pasta. I let the sauce cook for about 5-7 minutes and then added it to the pasta.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

Mistake #3 (you knew it was coming) I cooked double the amount of pasta the recipe called for, so the sauce didn’t go very far! However, I tasted the spinach/basil mix on its own and it was fantastic.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

Voila!

Despite my inevitable mishaps, the pasta turned out great. Even the most inexperienced cooks can pull this one off. And I didn’t feel guilty for eating it! I also had some as leftovers the next day (this time I cooked an egg over-easy in a pan and then tossed the leftover pasta in) and they were DELICIOUS. This dish would also go well with chicken. It’s a fast, easy recipe that tastes great!

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

Now that I have a blender and fresh spinach I may just try again!

—Amanda Oberg, Publicity Assistant, Plume and Hudson Street Press


Cursed in the Act, Raymond BucklandI was sitting in the local tire store, having the winter tires put on my wife’s RAV4, and while waiting was thinking about a theme for a new mystery series. I had written three books in a series set in Victorian London and my agent was urging me to come up with a second series. When most people think of Victorian mysteries they immediately seem to lock onto Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle certainly produced the quintessential Victorian investigator when he created Holmes, so much so that quite a few modern writers have picked up the character and created new adventures for him. So many have done this, in fact, that I wanted to stay well clear of Mr. Holmes. And yet . . . there was much to be said – from a writer’s point of view – for working with a character already well established in the minds of readers.

So who else was available, I thought? Perhaps Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu? Or H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quartermain? I ran various characters through my mind but couldn’t fully relate to any of them.

I briefly thought of Dracula but discarded the idea, not wanting to get into the whole vampire scene. True, vampires are very much “in” these days but . . .    And then I thought of Dracula’s creator, Bram Stoker. I knew that he had been an extremely interesting man in his own right. Perhaps I should forget about previously created characters and concentrate on those who had created those characters? And who better to work with than Bram Stoker?

I left the tire store on my new set of wheels, with my mind running over all that I knew of Mr. Stoker. I realized that he and I had a lot in common; so much, in fact, that he was the perfect character for me to work with. “The Bram Stoker Mysteries”, I thought!  Yes, that had a nice ring to it.

Stoker’s background

Abraham Stoker was the third of seven children born to Abraham Stoker Sr. and his wife Matilda Charlotte Blake Thornley. Known generally as Bram, Stoker was born November 8, 1847, in Clontarf, Ireland (a suburb of Dublin). Like so many Irishmen, he had a healthy respect for the unseen world: for the little people, the second sight, the ghosts and phantasms of tradition. Throughout his life he studied and absorbed beliefs of religio-magic found in many different people. It was knowledge of Transylvanian Gypsies and their belief in vampires that eventually led to his penning “Dracula” in 1897. Prior to that he had written a number of short stories, several drawing on this occult knowledge.

When the great Shakespearean actor Henry Irving visited Ireland, Stoker – who freelanced as a theatre critic – wrote a glowing review of Irving’s “Hamlet”. This led to Irving inviting Stoker to relocate to London and become Theatre Manager at Irving’s Lyceum Theatre. Stoker took up that position in 1878 and held it till his death in 1912.

My background

My own background was in writing non-fiction books on various aspects of the same occult, or metaphysical, world. I, too, had a background in theatre, from a first appearance on stage at the age of ten, in 1944, until my emigration to the United States in 1962. The world of the theatre and that of mystery seem to run a parallel course. I found myself thinking of “Phantom of the Opera”, for example. I could see that basing a mystery series around Bram Stoker would be something that I would not only be knowledgeable about but that I would very much enjoy. So The Bram Stoker Mysteries has become a reality, with Cursed in the Act the first of the series now available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigIt was like, fifteen degrees outside all this weekend in New York.  I just want you to appreciate that.  Fifteen degrees is cold.  Very cold.  When I remembered that I was supposed to make this recipe and blog about it, I was a little disappointed to see that all I had in my fridge was a tub of possibly questionable creme fraiche and a bag of carrots.  So I had to go outside in the ridiculously bitter cold to buy potatoes, cheese, and broccoli.  I lost a toe to frostbite all in order to bring this recipe to you, Penguin blog readers!  Well, ok, that’s not really true, but I could have.

However, if your fridge is reasonably well-stocked (by “well-stocked,” I basically mean that you have other groceries beside hoity-toity expired dairy and rabbit food), then this is a great recipe for you because it’s easy, healthy, and very tasty.  It really doesn’t even feel like health food, which is why when we were divvying up recipes for these blog posts, I jumped on it.

Potatoes? Delicious. Cheddar cheese? Delicious. Broccoli covered in cheesy potatoes? Delicious. Cheesy broccoli potatoes topped with a dollop of creme fraiche that is a little bit….off?  Still delicious.

Recipe from Fat Chance Cookbook:

Broccoli-Cheddar Cheese Potatoes

3 baked russet potatoes

2 bunches of broccoli, steamed until just tender

½ c. milk

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground pepper

12 ounces cheddar cheese, grated

Toss broccoli, milk, salt, pepper and 10 ounces cheese with scooped out baked potato flesh. Stuff skins and sprinkle remaining cheese over all. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Posted by:  Ashley Pattison McClay, Associate Director of Marketing, Plume and Hudson Street Press


The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigA lot of people assume being a vegetarian means I am a healthy eater. While I’m sure there are plenty of vegetable-loving vegetarians out there, I do not happen to be one of them. I stopped eating meat at the age of eight, and constant lectures from my parents about protein and fiber never really stuck until a few years ago. In college, I would often eat half a can of Pringles and call it dinner. I know you’re reading this, Mom, and I’m sorry.

Now that I am a semi-adult, I manage to incorporate vegetables in my diet on a fairly regular basis. I wouldn’t call my diet a tragedy, but I am still a die-hard frozen yogurt addict, and the occasional (okay, frequent) bag of Smartfood graces my kitchen cabinet. I have loved to cook since I was a little girl, so I was eager to test out some of the recipes from The Fat Chance Cookbook. It isn’t filled with diet recipes disguised as real food. It has recipes that would sound great to me anyway, and, fortunately, they have little or no sugar. While visiting my parents recently, I cooked us dinner using recipes from the Cookbook, and it was a definite success.

Tofu crusted with oregano pesto, cheese, and bread crumbs. This was a little time-intensive, but it really was worth it. I substituted walnuts for pine nuts and they worked well. I can never have too many tofu recipes, so I’ll be sure to add this delicious version to my repertoire. Even my dad, a stubborn carnivore, conceded that it tasted good, although he still doesn’t like the texture of tofu.

“Almost risotto” brown rice pilaf with veggies. My semester in Florence in college made me fall in love with risotto. Even though I enjoy cooking, I’ve never actually attempted to make it on my own. This recipe is godsend: easy, vegetarian, and very yummy. Since it is not the right season for zucchini, I used twice the amount of mushrooms suggested as a substitute. The result was a creamy, cheesy, fragrant dish. I really couldn’t tell the difference between this and real risotto, and, from what I gather, it is much quicker rendition. I could see nearly any other vegetable working well in it, and I definitely plan to try some out.

I am eager to try out some more of these recipes on my friends in the city. Dinner party at my place coming soon!

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigTOFU CRUSTED WITH OREGANO PESTO, CHEESE, AND BREAD CRUMBS

= Serves: 4

= Serving size: ¼ recipe

= Active time: 15 minutes

= Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 carton (12 ounces) fi rm tofu

. cup dry cornmeal or quinoa

. cup fresh oregano leaves, or 3 tablespoons dried oregano

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons pine nuts or chopped almonds or sesame seeds

. cup olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup grated Parmesan, Manchego, or pecorino romano cheese

STEP 1: Drain the tofu on paper towels. Slice crosswise into 6 pieces.

Cut each piece into triangles.

STEP 2: Put the quinoa or cornmeal into a small bowl.

STEP 3: In a blender, or food processor if you have one, add the oregano, garlic, and nuts. Process until all are fi nely chopped. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Process until a paste forms.

STEP 4: Season the dry tofu lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Rub the pesto mixture over the tofu triangles. Toss the cheese and the quinoa or cornmeal together in a small bowl. Press this into the tofu.

STEP 5: Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu pieces and fry on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig“ALMOST RISOTTO” BROWN RICE PILAF WITH VEGGIES

= Serves: 6

= Serving size: 1 cup

= Active time: 20 minutes

= Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup peeled and chopped onion

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon peeled chopped garlic

1 cup diced zucchini

1 cup diced mushrooms

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

2 cups cooked brown rice or barley

1 cup water or vegetable stock

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

STEP 1: Saute the onion in the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat until it begins to soften and brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Then add the zucchini, mushroom, and rosemary and continue to saute 5 more minutes. Add the brown rice or barley to the pot. Cook until the grain begins to brown a little.

STEP 2: Stir in the water or vegetable stock and Parmesan cheese to the pot. Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes, melting the cheese and allowing the flavors to meld. Turn off the heat, and let it sit until ready to serve.

Posted by: Laura Berlinsky-Schine, Marketing Coordinator, Plume and Hudson Street Press


Penguin’s list of Golden Globes nominees is below.

12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup - Author; Henry Louis Gates - Editor; Ira Berlin - Introduction by; Steve McQueen - Foreword by Philomena,  Martin Sixsmith - Author; Judi Dench - Foreword by

BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
12 YEARS A SLAVE
and
PHILOMENA

Winner: 12 YEARS A SLAVE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
CHIWETEL EJIOFOR in 12 YEARS A SLAVE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
JUDI DENCH in PHILOMENA

BEST DIRECTOR – MOTION PICTURE
STEVE MCQUEEN for 12 YEARS A SLAVE

BEST SCREENPLAY – MOTION PICTURE
JEFF POPE & STEVE COOGAN for PHILOMENA
and
JOHN RIDLEY for 12 YEARS A SLAVE

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – MOTION PICTURE
HANS ZIMMER for 12 YEARS A SLAVE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
LUPITA NYONG’O in 12 YEARS A SLAVE

We would also like to congratulate our friends at Random House for its The Wolf of Wall Street nominations: Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy and Leonardo DiCaprio as Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy.

You can get more great coverage of the Golden Globes at Word and Film

If you can’t get enough Downton Abbey, check out these books on our Pinterest board and on our website.

secret rooms

whilewewerewatching

camellia

9780452297647H

making

Flawed male protagonists are cropping up everywhere in film and TV. If you liked Breaking Bad or were a fan of the now late James Gandolfini, you should pick up Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad, by Brett Martin

Posted by: Amy Brinker, Online Content Coordinator


Fantasy Life, Matthew BerryThis holiday season, our Penguin authors can help you find the best book for everyone on your list.

View more holiday recommendations on the Random House Tumblr.

When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, by David Maraniss

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” I’ve been knocked down a lot in my life, and Vince’s famous quote always reminded me to keep going. He’s become a legend, but this book shows that he was very much a man, full of doubts and flaws but also determination and greatness.

The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy, by Bill Simmons

Bill’s a good friend of mine, so I’m biased, but I promise you, this is a great book. Bill has an encyclopedic mind when it comes to basketball, and it’s not just hilarious, but the passion oozes out of every page.

Read an Excerpt »

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis

Fantasy sports is all about statistics. And no one’s made statistics as interesting as Michael Lewis. He tells the stories behind the stats. It’s not a numbers book; it’s a book about the people who use those numbers.

Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream, by H.G. Bissinger

Growing up in Texas, I saw firsthand how crazy high school football can be. Here, Buzz Bissinger follows a high school team in small-town Texas for one season, and it’s amazing. You feel like you’re living in Odessa, Texas. And oh yeah, the movie and the TV show are great, too.

The Myron Bolitar series, by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is my favorite writer, and anything he writes is a stop what I am doing and read it for the next two days straight kind of deal.  Impossible to put down.  I discovered him through his Myron Bolitar series.  Myron’s a sports agent and that’s the window Coben uses to let us into a captivating world where lines are crossed, secrets are kept, and there are no lengths people won’t go for their families.  Always featuring Wyn, Myron psychopathic best friend and the best sidekick in the world of mysteries, a new Myron Bolitar book is serious business.

The Games That Changed the Game: The Evolution of the NFL in Seven Sundays, by Ron Jaworski

I’ve learned so much from Jaws in my time at ESPN, and this book shows you how football has evolved into the sport we all love today. No one knows more about football than Jaws.

Read an Excerpt »

Semi-Tough, by Dan Jenkins

Going a little old school here, but growing up in Texas, I loved Dan Jenkins books and frankly, any one of them would do for this list. If you like your sports, your characters, and your women with attitude, Dan Jenkins is for you.  Perfectly captures the atmosphere around, be it pro football or just Texas.

The Dixie Association, by Donald Hays

A send up of the crazy, sometimes hypocritical South set against the backdrop of minor league baseball, I must have read this book a billion times when it came out.  The redemption of a man is at the center of a hilarious and poignant book that has a lot to say while still being ridiculously entertaining.  Love, hope, friendship, and second chances are at the center of one of the all-time great baseball books. If you like baseball, you’ll love this book.

Rotisserie League Baseball, by Glen Waggoner and Daniel Okrent

The original Rotisserie League Baseball Book isn’t a typical book, so fine, I’m cheating a little, but the importance of this book cannot be overstated.  Introducing a brand new game that was very stat heavy is no easy task, but these guys made it all seem so fun.  The spirit and joy that comes from playing fantasy baseball leaps off the page and you not only quickly understand the concept, you can’t wait to find 9 other people to start a league with.  If this book had been dry at all, it fails.  Instead, it spawned a multi-billion dollar industry.

Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

Quite simply, I wish I had read this book before I started working for ESPN.  I’d have had so much more knowledge about where I was coming to work and the inner working of a truly remarkable company.  If you’re at all fascinated how a small town in middle Connecticut became the World Wide Leader in Sports, this book is for you. This oral history tells the funny, the insane, the uplifting, and the controversial moments that went into building the most recognizable brand in sports media today.


The Vanishing Thief, Kate ParkerOne of the joys of writing is discovering new source material. On a trip to England, I discovered a reprint of “The Lady’s Dressing Room” by Baroness Staffe, translated from the French by Lady Campbell, in 1893.

Baroness Staffe has opinions and suggestions on everything, from the sensible (green is a “dubious” choice for an olive-skinned brunette, very fat women shouldn’t wear a low cut dress) to the incredible (using cocaine on insect stings, rubbing in arsenic for the complexion).

Along with her opinions comes information about everyday life in the 1890′s for Georgia Fenchurch, the heroine of The Vanishing Thief and the other books of the Victorian Bookshop Mystery series. These suggestions and directions of the baroness’s give wonderful clues about a character to plant in a story.

Buttoned and laced boots were both popular at that time, and the baroness gives directions for putting both on. I would never have guessed you don’t button the first two buttons on the boots by the toes until after you close the boot from the instep to the ankle. That might be another case of the baroness’ opinion, but it could be used in describing a character’s actions.

She recommends if your “fingers are square or wide at the ends, you may narrow them a little by pinching and squeezing the tips.…in time you will become aware of a notable and pleasant change.” Can’t you see a possibly guilty woman doing this while being questioned?

“A woman should speak in a rather low voice, but distinctly. To shout in speaking denotes vulgar habits, and sometimes shows a domineering spirit…We should have self-command enough never to shout, even when under the influence of anger, indignation, or pain. Such outcries spoil forever the chords of a musical voice.” A character who carries on in a mild voice while everything is falling apart around her would be interesting. What would make her finally scream at someone?

“A badly-dressed woman is only half a woman, if her being so comes from indifference.” Can you imagine a meeting of Baroness Staffe and a suffragette?

On the other hand, the baroness recommended walking and housework for exercise. She preferred using chamois leather or cotton satin for corsets which should be short and only boned in the front and back, allowing freedom of motion.

A woman like Georgia who is running a bookshop and investigating crime in the Victorian Bookshop Mysteries would need to move easily. It’s nice to find evidence that upper crust dispensers of advice in the books in Georgia’s shop would approve of her corset, if not of her occupations.


This holiday season, our Penguin authors can help you find the best book for everyone on your list.

View more holiday recommendations on the Random House Tumblr.

Liane Moriarty is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the reading group hit, What Alice Forgot, as well as The Hypnotist’s Love Story, Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, and the Nicola Berry series for children. Liane lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two small, noisy children.

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

I had such a sense of movement when I was reading this book, it was as though the author was spinning me round and round, leaving me laughing, dizzy, breathless and exhilarated. I didn’t quite get the ending, but that’s just because I was so dizzy (and also I read it too fast and greedily). It would be a wonderful book club choice because everyone could argue over the ending, and perhaps someone could e-mail me and explain it.

Light Between Oceans, by M. L. Stedman

I shouldn’t really suggest this one because it’s already been such a huge book club hit, you’ve probably already read it and loved it. But if you haven’t, you should. Beautifully written and such a moral conundrum to get everyone all worked up.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

This is a wonderful, original story about an unforgettable family. I laughed and cried the whole way through. Lots of interesting ethical issues for your book club to discuss.

Read an Excerpt »
View the Reading Group Guide »

A Corner of White: Book 1 of The Colors of Madeleine, by Jaclyn Moriarty

Every now and then someone in your book club selects a book that is unlike anything you’ve read before, and you’re so grateful to them for choosing it. If you’d like to be that person, choose A Corner of White. It’s the first in an extraordinary three-book fantasy series that takes you on an incredible journey between Cambridge, England, and the Kingdom of Cello. (It was written by the award-winning YA writer Jaclyn Moriarty, who happens to be my sister.)

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

This is an amazing postapocalyptic adventure novel. It was so good, I even forgave the author for not putting his dialogue in quotation marks. The writing style is very different, and you can all argue over whether this worked for you or not. The correct answer is that it did work and if someone didn’t like it, you should be really mad at them and forget to refill their wineglass.

Read an Excerpt »
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Big Brother, by Lionel Shriver

I adored this book, but if you look at the Amazon reviews you’ll see that it’s one of those books that people love or hate, and that’s perfect for book clubs, because you’ll have such a heated, interrupting-each-other debate. I can already anticipate what some of your members will say, and I understand but I disagree, and I would love to tell you why but then I would give away an important element of the book. Serve a big chocolate cake.