Illustration by Rafael Mantesso

Illustration by Rafael Mantesso

Rafael Mantesso, author of A Dog Named Jimmy and favorite human of Instagram sensation Jimmy the Bull Terrier, shares his top five books about art with the Penguin Hotline:

Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts by Chip Kidd and Geoff Spear

Because I love everything from Charles Schulz and this is my pursuit every day: do more with less. Imagine how difficult it is choose what is really necessary from Charles Schulz. For me, everything from him is necessary.

Picasso & Lump: A Dachshund’s Odyssey by David Douglas Duncan and Paloma Picasso Thevenet

Dachshund isn’t my favorite breed, of course. Bull terrier is. But Picasso is my favorite artist ever, and if Picasso loved this kind of dog, there must be a good reason, and I want to know it!

Kill Your Pets by David Shrigley

I love David Shrigley because it’s amazing to know that you don’t need to know how to draw, or you can draw like a kid and be famous, you just need to have a crazy mind. His sense of humor is always one degree forward, so I’d like to know why he wants me to kill my pet.

LaChapelle: Heaven to Hell by David LaChapelle

David LaChapelle is one of my favorite photographers. He is insane and his photos are like Renaissance paintings, I cannot stop looking at them. I hope one day I can do the same with my photos.

600 Black Spots: A Pop-up Book for Children of All Ages by David A. Carter

I think the most difficult thing to do is a book for children. They have the most amazing minds and if you are able to entertain them, my friend you are the guy! My best pictures are the simplest pictures with less elements. Imagine how creative you need to be to get a child’s attention with black spots.

Thank you, Rafael! The Penguin Hotline can’t help but recommend one of our favorite books: A Dog Named Jimmy.

And for more custom recommendations, please don’t forget to head to the Penguin Hotline!



Not sure what to gift the English major in your life? The Penguin Hotline’s got a few ideas for you:

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For the thespian:

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

For the satirist:

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

For the writer:

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr



For the riot grrrl:

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

For the flaneur:

The Odd Woman and the City by Vivian Gornick

For the geek:

Book of Numbers: A Novel by Joshua Cohen



For the fan of dystopian fiction:

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

For the artist:

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

For the one feeling Mad Men nostalgia:

The 50s: The Story of a Decade by The New Yorker Magazine




For the one who seems to have read everything:

The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

And for more custom book recommendations, be sure to check out the Penguin Hotline!

Photo credit: Xue Tan

Photo credit: Xue Tan

Janice Y. K. Lee, author of The Piano Teacher and The Expatriates (forthcoming in January 2016), shares some perfect gift ideas for your friend who’s in a book club (oh so helpfully arranged by category!):

LITERARY FICTION: Euphoria by Lily King

I am a wild evangelist for this book, which I always introduce by saying, it sounds like it will be really boring, an imagined chapter in Margaret Mead’s life when she was in Papua New Guinea, but from the first page, you are helplessly drawn in and seduced by this amazing world and its characters.  Breathtaking.


LIKE THEIR GOSSIP, LIKE THEIR WINE: China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

A pitch-perfect and knowing foray into the bazillionaire world of Asia, complete with designer labels and resort and restaurant names.  A fantastic read that you will finish in one setting.

SOCIAL ACTIVIST: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Animal rights have never been so lyrically and delicately explored as in this captivating book about a woman and her highly unusual family.

INTERNATIONAL: In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar

This Filipino writer illuminates the diaspora of her migrant people with empathy and grace.


FUTURE APOCALYPTIC DYSTOPIA: On Such A Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee and Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

My former writing teacher and former classmate have both written incredible books about imagined worlds (Gary’s may come true!).  A trope made new by these skillful and graceful writers.

TECH: The Circle by Dave Eggers

What happens when a company thinks it is the answer to everything?  And that company is made up of fallible humans?

Thanks, Janice Y. K. Lee! The Penguin Hotline can’t help but recommend one more book perfect for the book club: The Expatriates.

And for custom book recommendations, head to the Penguin Hotline!


Deborah  Harkness credit Scarlett Freund 1dark (2)

Photo credit: Scarlett Freund

Deborah Harkness, author of the New York Times and internationally best-selling All Souls Trilogy, shares a holiday gift guide with the Penguin Hotline:

Books+: A Hands-On Gift Guide

Books really are the perfect gifts.

I know, I know. Some of you are rolling your eyes, but it’s true. Still, there are some people who claim that they don’t like to read (gasp!). On the other hand, there are also book lovers who have so many titles on their shelves that you might struggle to give them a title they don’t already own.

Here is a list of five titles that can be your go-to gifts no matter if you are giving to a book avoider or a book lover. Even better, I’ve combined each title with a small item that will encourage the recipient to dive in and start making and doing.

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Lost Ocean: An Inky Adventure & Coloring Book by Johanna Basford + a box of PrismaColor Premier Colored Pencils

Coloring is a soothing, addictive activity that isn’t just for children any more. Adults of all ages are turning to coloring as a way to relax, unwind, and express their creative side. On my recent family vacation, everyone between the ages of 13 and 80 was coloring. I love Johanna Basford’s coloring books. Her latest title, Lost Ocean, celebrates nature and captures the magic that is all around us, just as her earlier books did. Exquisitely detailed images of underwater life, mermaids, sailing ships, and sea creatures will keep you entertained for many hours. Because the images are so precise, you can’t use crayons but must instead use fine-tip markers or colored pencils. My favorite pencils are the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils. They come in boxes containing anywhere from 12 to 150 different shades, blend beautifully, and can be layered to produce new colors.

9781594634710 (1)Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert + a Moleskine Classic Unlined Notebook

You don’t have to be a writer, artist, or musician to live a creative life. Gilbert encourages all of us to move beyond the doubts and fears that might be holding us back and live life fully and completely. Written with Gilbert’s characteristic warmth and humor, you will feel at the end of it that you’ve received an insightful and inspiring pep talk from an old friend. To encourage your recipient to tap into their creativity, why not give them my favorite Moleskine notebook so they have a place to doodle, journal, and otherwise capture their thoughts? I heartily recommend the unlined version as the most flexible in terms of format, and the bright turquoise soft-cover never gets lost in my bag or on a table in a sea of black notebooks. It harmonizes beautifully with Big Magic’s cover, too. 

Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan + a Kuhn Rikon 4th Burner Pot

Who doesn’t love a jar of homemade jam, pickles, or chutney? It turns out that you don’t need to own a fruit orchard or feed an army to enjoy home canning. Most of McClellan’s recipes use between 1-2 pounds of fruit and yield three ½ pint jars, so they are perfect for small kitchens, small families, and small batches. Her clear instructions will take you from your CSA box or grocery store to jewel-colored jars of Honey Lemon Pear Butter, Orange Curd with Cardamom, and Pickled Hot Pepper Rings. One of my favorite things about this book is that McClellan recommends a Kuhn Rikon 4th Burner Pot to process your jars of goodness, not a kettle the size of a bathtub. It’s a lot less intimidating, and takes up a lot less storage space.

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi + a jar of Sumac

I own all of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, but this is the one that I cook from most often. Packed with beautiful pictures and stories from the cosmopolitan city where many cultures and traditions come together to produce delicious, healthy food like Clementine Chicken and Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad. Some of the spices in the book, like Sumac, are not exactly pantry staples in most cupboards—yet. So get some Sumac from an online spice retailer like Penzey’s or check a Middle Eastern or larger supermarket near you for some of this essential Jerusalem spice. Decant it into a clean mason jar or other container, tie a bow around it, and give it to your loved one with this wonderful book. If you are lucky, they will invite you over for a meal in the New Year.


Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack + Vacu Vin Wine Saver Pump with Stoppers

This is the perfect book for anyone who would like to explore wine or who has struggled to pick out a nice bottle for a special dinner. Written for beginners, Puckette and Hammack have drawn together a lot of information and presented it in an easily navigable format that relies on graphics rather than paragraphs of dense text. With hints on how to taste wine, coverage of grapes grown around the world, and tips on pairing wine with food to bring out its best side, this gift will get a budding oenophile off on the right foot. Since your loved one might have the occasional wine leftovers, give them a set of Vacu Vin stoppers and pump. This gadget will allow your recipient to preserve bottles of wine for a few days without turning to vinegar, encouraging them to keep tasting and exploring.


Wow — thanks, Deborah Harkness! We are bowing down to a gift-giving master. The Penguin Hotline can’t help but recommend another go-to holiday gift: the All Souls Trilogy boxed set.


 And for more custom book recommendations, head to the Penguin Hotline!


Photo credit: Chet Carlson

Photo credit: Chet Carlson

Craig Johnson, author of the New York Times-best selling Longmire series, shares his top five mystery novels with the Penguin Hotline:


To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee: I still remember reading this book for the first time and thinking, this is what literature is supposed to be. People ask me why Lee never wrote another book. Now we know that she did, but she didn’t have to.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens: I’ve read this opus a couple of times, and it’s like trying to figure out a magic trick that you’ve seen over and over again. No one but Dickens could’ve threaded all those plot lines together in that amazing tapestry.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: People sometimes compliment me for writing in the margins of good and bad, but Dostoyevsky is an author who did it infinitely better with moral ambiguity taken to the extreme.



The Third Man by Graham Greene: One of my favorite movies, but Graham Greene’s book is better.

Sanctuary by William Faulkner: More accessible than the majority of his work, Faulkner called it his potboiler, but I call it one of the most gripping novels I’ve ever read.

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad: There are authors who some of my friends call men’s-writers, but Conrad superseded himself in this one and was finally able to wrench himself from the sea.

Thanks, Craig Johnson! The Penguin Hotline can’t help but recommend the latest Longmire installment, Wait for Signs. Start reading it here.

And for more custom book recommendations, head to the Penguin Hotline!


Celeste Ng (c) Kevin Day Photography

Photo (c) Kevin Day Photography

Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You, shares some of her favorite conversation-sparking coffee table books with the Penguin Hotline:

For me, these books spark stories, but they make great gifts for almost anyone, too: I guarantee people will pick them up to flip through and become totally immersed.

Retronaut: The Photographic Time Machine (Chris Wild) – I’ve long been a fan of the Retronaut blog, which collects vintage color photographs. The photos challenge your perception of the past—but they’re also just delightful, like a shoe-shaped delivery car form the 1920s, or Lyndon B. Johnson driving his “Amphicar” into the water to startle his friends.

Letters of Note (Shaun Usher) – Who can resist reading other people’s letters? From Elizabeth II’s letter to President Eisenhower (sharing her recipe for scones) to Jack the Ripper’s taunting note to the police to the Campbell’s Soup Company’s thank-you to Andy Warhol—sent with a case of tomato soup—every page is fascinating.

Found: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items from Around the World (Davy Rothbart) – A collection of intriguing, funny, and just plain odd lists, notes, and objects that give you a glimpse into other people’s lives. One of my favorites: the angry note left on a boyfriend’s windshield that begins “You said you had to work then whys your car here at HER place?…. I hate you” and ends “p.s. page me later.”

Earth From Above: 365 Days (Yann Arthus-Bertrand) – The title is self-explanatory—aerial photos of the earth—but the pictures inside are breathtaking and will remind you of the beauty and diversity on our planet. They’ll make you feel small, in the best way.

Part Asian, 100% HAPA (Kip Fulbeck) – Fulbeck’s intimate portraits of part-Asian people are paired with their handwritten responses to the question “What are you?”–making for thought-provoking reading.

Food Landscapes (Carl Warner) These whimsical, amazingly detailed “foodscapes”–from a Taj Mahal made of onions to a forest of broccoli studded with potato boulders–will delight both kids and kids at heart.

The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy (Ursus Wehrli) – Swiss Artist Ursus Wehrli likes things tidy—so in this collection of “before” and “after” photos, he’s alphabetized his alphabet soup, sorted his fruit salad, and arranged a group of sunbathers by towel and umbrella color. The results are beautiful and hilarious.

Big Appetites: Tiny People in a World of Big Food (Christopher Boffoli) – A tiny man mows a neat strip of orange peel; pea-sized poachers pry out strawberry seeds with crowbars; miniature miners hike through a sea of coffee beans—Boffoli’s humorous photos and captions create tiny, mesmerizing stories.

Humans of New York (Brandon Stanton) – Stanton’s streetside portraits of New Yorkers, paired with quotes and anecdotes about each, is pure people-watching in book form: a cross-section of the vibrant, diverse population of the city.

Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals (Dinah Fried) – Designer Dinah Fried pairs famous literary passages—from Proust’s madeleine to Queequeg’s clam chowder to the avocado-crabmeat salad of The Bell Jar—with artfully staged photos of each meal. Perfect for foodies and book lovers alike.

Thanks, Celeste Ng! The Penguin Hotline can’t help but recommend one more book that sparks conversation (and, incidentally, would look great on just about any table): Everything I Never Told YouRead an excerpt here.

And for more custom book recommendations, check out the Penguin Hotline!

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Not sure what to gift the little one in your life? The Penguin Hotline has a few suggestions!


For a fun read-aloud:

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

For a heartwarming, multi-generational story in an urban setting (perfect for the kid who rides public transportation!):

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena and Christian Robinson

For a book that adults love as much as kids do:

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

9780140555837For a no-brainer holiday gift:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

For the budding historian:

Eleanor by Barbara Cooney

For the budding conversationalist:

Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever


For an award-winning, wintertime classic:

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

For a good laugh:

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri

9780525429678For the one reading chapter books:

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

For a preteen-friendly graphic novel:

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

And for custom book recommendations, check out the Penguin Hotline!


Illustration by Kate Gavino

Kate Gavino, author and illustrator of Last Night’s Reading, shares her “Seven Book Characters and Authors I’d Like to Have at My Ideal Dinner Party” with the Penguin Hotline:

My “ideal dinner party” is something I’d rather fantasize about than actually make a reality. The thought of cleaning, cooking, looking Instagram-appropriate, and organizing the affair sounds exhausting. The more I think about it, the more elaborate it becomes, because I know it will never happen. First of all, the party would take place in a dog-friendly apartment that looks and smells like an Anthropologie store. Secondly, all the food will look as though it came straight from a Miyazaki film. Lastly, the party will exist in an alternate universe where all my guests are alive at the same time and are also my close, personal friends, so there will be no awkward introductions needed. Now that we have the rules settled, here is who I would invite:


Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy: I would invite Tess because during lulls in the conversation, she could launch into a dreamy soliloquy about the stars. Then we could all lecture her on her life decisions.

The Dud Avocado by Elaine by Elaine Dundy: Charming but kind of obnoxious, Sally Jay would be the life of the party. She would bring wine from France and mispronounce its name. She’s also most likely the first person to cry at this party.

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston: Fa Mu Lan is at this dinner party because she always has my back, especially in uncomfortable social situations. Much like the way she beheads generals and barons, she quickly cuts off anyone who brings up GamerGate.

Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith: This is my way of having Zadie Smith at the party, which will lead to her being my best friend. I will arrange the seating so that I am on her right and Tess is on her left. She has to choose me over Tess.9780143117957

Claudine by Colette: I mostly want Claudine there to be a foil to Sally Jay. I think it’s fun to have good-natured tension at a party. Once Sally Jay has one too many glasses and begins complaining about France, I’m sure some Colette-penned clapbacks will be greatly entertaining.

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser: I’m inviting Carrie for Tess, in the hope that Carrie’s sinful, material-loving ways will rub off on provincial, God-fearing Carrie. Around 11pm, they’ll leave together to score some sock garters.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: At the end of the night I will corner Marie because I just have so many questions. What do you do with clothes that don’t spark joy now but have the potential to spark joy in the future? What was with that chapter about bowel movements and cleaning? Should I talk to my shoes more? Then we’ll all hug it out and cry together because it’s not a party unless someone cries.

Thanks, Kate Gavino!

The Penguin Hotline can’t help but recommend Last Night’s Reading, to help you brainstorm your own dream dinner party. And for more book recommendations, please check out the Penguin Hotline!


Author Geraldine Brooks be interviewed in the company of her canine friends. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

Author Geraldine Brooks being interviewed in the company of her canine friends. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

Geraldine Brooks, author of The Secret Chord, shares her list of “Great Books About Dogs” with the Penguin Hotline:

1. Unleashed:  Poems by Writers’ Dogs edited by Jim Shepard and Amy Hempel

A gorgeous and indispensible volume for any literate dog lover. Celebrated writers channel their beloved dogs to produce verses that are by turns comic, insightful and heartbreaking.

2. Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men  by Donald McCaig

Of all the collaborations between dog and man, the relationship between shepherd and collie is one of the most sophisticated and longstanding.  In this introspective and page-turning adventure, McCaig travels from his Virginia farm through the Scottish borders, ISO his perfect canine partner.


3. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

An intense, beautifully crafted novel that channels Hamlet, with a boy’s beloved dog Almondine in a role that echoes Ophelia.

4.  Stepdog by Nicole Galland

In this delicious romp, boy meets girl only to discover that he’s also married her dog.  A comic novel with much to say about the compromises of marriage and the expansive capabilities of the human heart.

5. Dog Boy by Eva Hornung  

A harrowing, original and beautifully written novel in which an abandoned Russian four year old  is raised on the streets of Moscow as the member of a dog pack.

9781594632693 (1)6. Dog Man by Martha Sherrill

The true story of the Japanese mountain man who risked his life to save the Akita breed in the darkest days of World War II.

7. A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home by Sue Halpern 

A warm-hearted memoir of transformation as the remarkable Pransky learns his trade as a therapy dog and embarks on his own late life career, easing the pain of diminishment and loneliness.

Thanks, Geraldine Brooks! For custom book recommendations, be sure to check out the Penguin Hotline. And start reading The Secret Chord here.

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Photo credit: Nina Subin

Photo credit: Nina Subin

Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring, the forthcoming novel At the Edge of the Orchard (out in March 2016), and, most recently, The Last Runawayshares her list of the “5 Best Recent Civil War Novels” with the Penguin Hotline:

1. Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles

A young Missouri woman navigates a state wrecked by war in search of her father. Instead she ends up in prison, finding love in an unlikely place and with an unlikely man. It’s entertaining, romantic and beautifully written – I was not surprised to discover Jiles is a poet.

2. Coal Black Horse by Robert Olmstead

Another youngster searches for his father, this time at Gettysburg, with the help of the titular horse. Poetic and harrowing.


3. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Forget the tepid movie stars from the film and focus instead on the wonderful characters Frazier creates in words: Inman, who walks away from battles and back through the South to Ada, the woman he loves; Ada, who has to learn to survive by getting her hands dirty; and Ruby, her salty, earthy helpmate. This is about the people affected by war rather than about battles, and how you manage to live and love in extremes.

4. Neverhome by Laird Hunt

A woman leaves her farm and husband to take his place and fight in the Civil War. You think she won’t manage it, but she does, thrillingly and violently.

5. March by Geraldine Brooks

Ever wonder what was happening to the father Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women were writing to? Brooks takes a great premise and makes it even better, painting a bold, complex character in March as he joins the war and reveals how unprepared he is either physically or mentally for a fight that extends well beyond battles and uncovers the cruelty and racism at the heart of his country.



Thanks, Tracy Chevalier! And the Penguin Hotline can’t help but recommend one of our favorite Civil War novels – The Last Runaway


For more book recommendations for the holidays, check out the Penguin Hotline!