HeadshotNatalie Maester is a production assistant at Berkley. Born and raised as a European nomad, Natalie considers travelling as important as breathing. Graduating with a BA in English, she hopes one day to obtain a PhD in military history and revolutionary studies.

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Lucrezia Borgia by Sarah Bradford

The first topic that got me interested in history was the femme fatale: women of unparalleled power, will and persuasion that tore through the epicenter of male dominion. But their stories have always been clouded in mysticism since they deviated so far from norms, they could not be “normal women”.

One of many illegitimate children of Pope Alexander VI (aka Rodrigo Borgia) but by far his favorite, Lucrezia Borgia has been labeled by history as a succubus, a jezebel, and a schemer. But how did she get there? Used by her father as a pun to increase his sphere of power and influence, she was married 3 times by the time she was 22 years old. Divorced from her first husband due to allegations of impotence, her second husband was killed by her own brother, the power-hungry Duc of Valentinois, Cesare Borgia. Bred to obey in a family that did everything but, Lucrezia remained powerless to refuse her father’s wishes yet fiercely loyal and protective of him. In this latest biography of her life, Bradford attempts to uncover lifelong intrigues, shifting family alliances and a fight for survival that characterized most of Lucrezia’s life. As a result, she became a calculating woman, focused on gains and prospects, casting aside emotional, peaceful and love-seeking image so often expected of women. Lucrezia Borgia is, like all femme fatale, a complicated story but a fun one to try and piece together.

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Churchill and the King by Kenneth Weisbrode

At first glance, they can’t be any different: a king and a prime minister. The first, a sickly spare, who never fit in, shy and seemingly insecure, he became a king after his brother’s shocking abdication. The second, a rowdy troublemaker with swaying alliances and beliefs, he could not stay in one political party for long yet eventually made leader of a nation. Born of a different social stock and decades apart, both men developed skills and backbones to stand up and stand strong during England’s greatest crisis. Despite the apparent differences, George VI and Churchill had similar struggles and challenges: childhoods with strict fathers whom they both feared and adored, outcastes each in his own way, they shared a love of the sea and the navy, facing off against their enemy when war broke out in 1914. When they took command of England’s defense in 1940, they were a perfect yin and yang. Weisbrode side by side comparison is a unique look into lives otherwise completely unrelated of two of 20th century leading men.

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Army of Evil by Adrian Weale

Being a military history junky, I have learned that one of the biggest faux pas committed by people is group labeling. People are by far more complicated in their intentions and decision making processes than checking off a male or a female box on a driver’s license app. In this in-depth study of the SS or Schutzstaffeln, Weale separates the horrible deeds of the Holocaust from the men that perpetrated them in order to attempt to understand what drove their actions. First created as an elite group of Aryans with black uniforms, knee-high boots and SS style ruins pinned to the shirt collars, the SS quickly became symbols of terror and certain end. Compromised of Einsatzgruppen (killing squads), camp guards, police patrol and spies, they were the deadly muscle of the Third Reich. Yet the majority of these men were a bit more than civilians, playing soldiers in military-style clothes, without criminal records, with wives and children at home. How could so many go so wrong? Weale introduces many potential reasons for their willingness such as the introduction of dangerous convicted criminals to lead the units and train their men to kill, to alcohol induced killing parties, to severe brainwashing combined with centuries of racism. Whatever reason each of us leans towards, it is an important lesson to study, learn and prevent.

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Inglorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll

Sometimes the most interesting stories come wrapped in scandal, rebellion and shame. And this is a Leslie Carroll specialty: focusing on the stuff not taught in schools. Charming, witty and straight to the point, Carroll introduces us to little known royal characters whose titles implied anonymity and irrelevance yet influenced the course of history. Inglorious Royal Marriages showcases the likes of Margaret Tudor, sister of the famous Henry VIII, whose descendants occupy the thrown of England today. After the death of her husband King James IV of Scots, she secretly married two noble, both of whom stole her money and left Margaret for their mistresses, while she died penniless from a stroke. The double life of Monsieur Philippe of France, younger brother of the Sun King Louis XIV, is also a fascinating read. Married twice to two princesses, he was fond of dressing up as a woman (jewels and all), which his mother fully supported as he was growing up. Great at commanding an army, he never wore hats on expeditions because they would have ruined his hair. Whatever scandalous pleasure makes you smile on the train, Inglorious Royal Marriage is a quick and fun read that teaches interesting tidbits of peculiar characters so far ignore by major history.

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Tyler Fields is the publicity assistant for Tarcher & Perigee. He is from Texas, has lived in Indiana, and is glad finally to call NYC home.  @TD_Fields


Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

To begin, allow me to recall Porochista Khakpour’s (author of the stunning novel, The Last Illusion) New York Times review of Oyeyemi’s inimitable Boy, Snow, Bird in which she references both Kanye West’s infamous “Bound 2” music video and Freud’s notion of the uncanny in the first paragraph. If this doesn’t absolutely sell you – as it did me – then here’s more: Oyeyemi’s fifth novel contorts itself through myriad genres as it investigates, comments upon, and criticizes the complexities of race, identity, gender, and so much more in the modern age.

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Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya

What point to highlight first? Akhtiorskaya’s beautiful and swift prose? That this is my favorite emigrate-to-America novel since Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex (2002)? Or that such a brilliant novel could possibly be a debut? Regardless of why you choose to begin this searing novel, you’ll finish wondering why you hadn’t yet devoured the cross-cultural portrait of hope, ambition, and discovery in the first place.

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Frog by Mo Yan

Nobel-laureate Mo Yan’s eleventh novel, Frog is about a woman called Gugu whose staunch attempts to prove her alliance to China’s Communist Party and its one-child policy lead her to performing compulsory IUDs, vasectomies, and late-term abortions. It is about loyalty, allegiance, and the fine line between the two. And above all, Yan’s epic is a pointed commentary about political, economic, and social behavior under which women continue to suffer at the hands of reckless male politicians and son-fixated husbands.

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Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

For those of you reading this before September 15, 2015, delight in this preview to what is sure to be one of the most widely talked about and highly acclaimed novels of the year.

For those of you reading this post-publication, delight in the knowledge that Groff’s unforgettable novel is available to read at this very moment.

Personally, I will glean joy in remembering how a galley described to me only as “an exhilarating novel about marriage, creativity, art, and perception,” stunned me with penetrating, surprising prose and a unique, wholly original narrative. This book is not about the aforementioned aspects, it is an immersive experience with them.

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Hiding in Plain Sight by Nuruddin Farah

To my mind, by and far the most striking element of Farah’s novel is his uncanny ability to utilize the narrative of a woman’s journey to Nairobi as a mirroring device from which he reflects upon the instability of the region wherein the novel is set. Absolutely, Farah is a gifted writer, but more importantly, he is able to highlight beautifully the consequences of displacement – both as it affects a single woman, but also as it applies to an entire population.

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BONUS because this is, as far as I can tell, not the second, but the third time the following title has been recommended.

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

The potential energy wrapped into the opening of Ng’s novel, “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet,” is tantamount to the zenith of a rising object – all that’s left is to fall. Everything I Never Told You is the story of a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio, forced to confront and live with the death of a child. Poignant, profound, and deeply moving, this novel is the portrait of a family and its individual members whose lives come crashing from a highest height.

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photo (1)Hope Ellis is a Managing Editorial Assistant with Berkley. She likes candle-lit dinners, long walks on the beach, and—oh sorry, is this not a reality dating TV show? In addition to telling not-super-funny jokes, Hope can usually be found reading books with strong female heroines, watching bad TV, and painting random animal portraits (ask her about the pigeon, if you dare).



Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Perhaps my favorite author on this list, Patricia Briggs writes paranormal urban fantasy at its most realistic. Mercy Thompson, mechanic by day and coyote by night, is one of my favorite characters, an unlikely hero with a trickster’s sense of humor. Patricia Briggs doesn’t shy away from dark subjects in this series, and she incorporates both the most loveable characters and the best plot twists. Her Mercy Thompson series is one of my favorites to read and reread.


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Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead

Richelle Mead has done some amazing post-apocalyptic world building in her Age of X series. I read Gameboard last year on vacation and was hooked, absolutely oblivious to the world, from the minute I started reading. If you’re looking for a complex (but still recognizable) dystopian world, some science-fiction genetics, and a fascinating take on the power of religion, go grab a copy of Gameboard.


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Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

Take everything you think you know about the world and twist it upside-down. Daughter of the Blood is a dark, riveting fantasy about power, strength, and survival. It is seriously chilling, with a really great, nuanced portrayal of dark subjects (e.g., slavery, rape, and mental illness). Anne Bishop is a visionary, and while it’s not as evident in Daughter, she has a wicked sense of humor (“humor with a bite, scary with a wink,” as she writes in Tangled Webs).


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Touch the Dark by Karen Chance

If I could be any urban fantasy character, I think I’d want to be Cassie Palmer. Or at least have her powers of premonition, ghostly communication, and time travel. Karen Chance is an author who definitely knows her way around a plot twist, and the world she’s created is suspenseful and fun. Touch the Dark is a to-read for anyone who likes a good paranormal series.



Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

The thing I love most about Charlaine Harris is how very realistic her portraits of daily life in the South are. She grounds the paranormal elements of her Southern Vampire Mysteries (better known to some as “the True Blood series”) with some no-nonsense reflections on budgets, cleaning house, and small-town gossip. Of course, the sexy vampires and weres are no small draw, either. If you haven’t already learned what all the fuss is about—go learn what all the fuss is about!

 Start Reading an Excerpt!

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Obsidian Butterfly by Laurell K. Hamilton

No paranormal book list (of mine, anyway) would be complete without Laurell K. Hamilton. As much a part of the history of vampire books as Anne Rice, Laurell K. Hamilton’s books are always gritty, sexy, thrilling reads. She’s a master genre-bender, combining three of my favorite genres: mysteries, romances, and the Sci-fi/Fantasy/Paranormal conglomerate. (Fun fact: did you know it took her years to publish her first book, Guilty Pleasures, because no one in publishing knew how to market it? I know this because, nerd that I am, I wrote a paper on vampire fiction in college.) This is actually the ninth book in Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, but it’s my personal favorite—lots of action, uncanny vampire powers, and Anita gets to use more of her crime-solving skills than we usually see. She gets bonus points for both blood-and-guts and [slight spoiler alert] a creepy serial-killer stalker in Obsidian Butterfly.


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Briana Woods-Conklin is an Associate Manager of Advertising and Consumer Marketing for Penguin Young Readers. Books are one of her favorite things, and she loves surrounding herself with them. But boy, are they heavy when you’re moving to a new apartment!

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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

I remember reading this book in sixth grade. And I remember it so clearly because when I was reading, I was so engrossed in the story that I didn’t want to do anything else. Everything just seemed to get in the way. Years later, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is still one of my favorite books, as rich and lovely as ever. A story of family, struggle, and the fight to understand both the world and ourselves, this book is as timeless as it is powerful.


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Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

The best books are the ones that make me want to read slowly — to linger over the language, to reread that excellent piece of dialogue, to turn the pages just a little bit slower, delaying the end and prolonging my time with the narrative. And this book made me do just that. From the very beginning, I knew this book was special. Giving the reader a look into the lives of often overlooked individuals, Counting by 7s is full of humor, sadness, joy, hope, and that intangible bit of story-magic that makes a book one you want to go back to again and again.

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Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.” I love the way this text sounds aloud! Full of rich artwork and simple but compelling text, Madeline’s grand adventures and misadventures have a special place in my heart (as does Miss Clavel!). There are so many great Madeline books, but this is the one that started it all!


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Ratscalibur by Josh Lieb

An unexpected story where squirrels do “squagic” instead of magic, and magical rats are called “ragicians,” and one seventh grade boy-turned-rat is expected to save the kingdom, Ratscalibur is an action-packed page-turner that will keep you engaged all the way through. With fun character names, new magical terms, and an abundance of wordplay, and this is a great read-aloud. A little bit scary, a little bit gross, and full of danger, Ratscalibur is definitely a whole lot of fun.

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Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Roller Girl! Every time I mention this title, I feel like I need to put an exclamation point at the end of the sentence. Because Roller Girl is just so much fun! This graphic novel tackles the difficulties of friendship and the fear of trying new things through the wonderful setting of the roller derby. Not only is the art fantastic, but the story is great, too. Roller Girl speaks to all of us, who sometimes need a little encouragement to follow our passions and the bravery to be a little bit different from our friends.



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Image(1)William Owen is the Digital Production Manager at Penguin. Western New Yorker, softball player and Spartan racer, he can often be found on the stairs in Prospect Park, writing in Brooklyn cafes, or working from a hammock in his boss’s office. He will graciously accept any pie you have left over. Twitter: @William_A_Owen

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The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

I’d been meaning to read Nnedi Okorafor’s works for some time, so when I saw she had a new book forthcoming I could not wait to read it and darkened the editor’s door until he gave me one. Everything I’d heard about The Book of Phoenix was spot on. The story is astounding and insightful, and weaves together the futuristic ideas of Phoenix’s world with the sights and sounds of our world beautifully. Reading this was like seeing Jurassic Park for the first time in the theatre, the way something surreal and uncanny can seem to fit so fluidly into a vision of our world. I cannot wait to read Okorafor’s other books now.

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Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones

One of, no, THE most original book I have ever read. Sirius, the Dogstar, is accused of murdering another celestial and sentenced to live out existence in the body of a dog unless it can find the weapon used in the crime. What? Are you even allowed to use that as the premise for a story? Diana Wynne Jones took what seems is just a sloppy mess of ideas – celestial entities, a murder, terrestrial gods, an orphaned child and a bunch of dogs – and did what less than a handful of other writers in the world could have done: made an incredible, compelling, brilliantly told story. If you’ve never read her work, this is a terrific place to start.

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 The Price of Valor by Django Wexler

The third novel in Django Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series is another book I couldn’t wait to read (in the middle of it right now), and continues the masterful storytelling of the first two novels. Set in a Napoleonic colonial world, Wexler constantly builds, expanding the history and the fantastic elements without ever sacrificing his characters. Three books in and I’m still as invested in Janus, Winter and Marcus as I have been from the beginning, and the mysteries surrounding the Thousand Names and the Priests of the Black are only getting deeper.

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Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman

I heard a lot about this book from a friend of mine. She is a grad school buddy and we were talking about werewolves and she said, “I just read this great book about werewolves. It’s super creepy, southern gothic horror.” I said I didn’t really get into horror that much. Turns out I’m really a fan of horror if its written by Christopher Buehlman. Unsettling, eerie, sometimes back of neck prickling.


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Idoru by William Gibson

I had to put William Gibson on the list. I chose Idoru, the second book in his second trilogy, for a couple of different reasons. To me this is a book that has always felt tuned up a step on quality while it was tuned down a step on the sometimes whipsaw pace of the Sprawl Trilogy or the other Bridge trilogy books. It is a better chance to see what is happening. The story seeps off the page a little more, a little deeper, and being able to get that much closer to the complexities of Gibson’s stories, and his writing method (which is a fascinating and intimidating approach) takes his lauded and praised work and turns up to 11.


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Molly Pieper is the Marketing Assistant for Plume. She lives in Connecticut but doesn’t mind the commute – it gives her plenty of time to delve into a good book!









Other People We Married by Emma Straub

I really enjoyed Straub’s collection of short stories because of her familiar and fallible characters.

Themes of love, or rather romance in some form, is a commonality throughout these twelve stories but Straub strikes a great balance.

These stories are neither cheesy nor predictable but are relatable nonetheless.  My personal favorite is “Some People Must Really Fall in Love.”






About a Boy by Nick Hornby

An oldie but a goodie. This is one of those books I’ve read over and over again and never tire of. It’s a great feel-good read.

Will Freeman, the classic bachelor type, has his world turned upside down when he meets twelve year old Markus as the result of his latest dating scheme.

As their friendship evolves, Hornby’s simultaneously funny and poignant novel reveals to the reader that when it comes to people, there is always more than meets the eye.

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This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

I think by now most people are aware of Tropper’s novel because of the 2014 movie adaptation—but this really is a book worth reading on its own merits.

It’s more than your typical family drama. Tropper hits that sweet spot between laugh out loud funny and emotionally gripping in this portrait of a dysfunctional American family.

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This was an emotional read. Ng’s portrait of a fractured family is painful, yet so beautifully written. Her third person narration and seamless movement throughout time make for an intelligently written and dynamic read. This novel is more than the tale of a young girls death and the aftermath and ensues, it’s about sacrifices and what can become of all of us after making one.

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

First off, I must say this book really does deserve all of the hullabaloo. It’s a smart, enthralling thriller that was hard to step away from. Hawkins protagonist Rachel is unreliable in the best kind of way; you both doubt her credibility and want to believe her. The way in which the narrative moves back and forth between different characters perspective is another element of this great book that keeps the reader devouring pages. I found myself trying to predict the ending of Girl on the Train, and was pleasantly surprised when I was completely wrong.

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Penguin Online photo Yafa

Anyone who’s seen Jennifer Lawrence or Charlize Theron on screen knows that both of the Oscar winners for Best Actress are the real thing. It’s not surprising, at least to me, that they have no patience for phony celebs or “pretend” foods. Theron won’t go near anything gluten-free: “It tastes like cardboard!” she exclaimed in a talk-show appearance. Lawrence told Vanity Fair that gluten-free diets are “the new, cool eating disorder.”

Real foods, to both women, do not perform bait-and-switch tricks like substituting tapioca for whole wheat flour in baked goods. Real foods contain whole grains that may or may not be fashionable at the moment, but still deliver proven value.  I’m reminded that our palate and digestive system subscribe to no dietary trends, and never have.  Our bodies dwell in a microbial universe where nutritive usefulness trumps the latest fad; muscles and ligaments along with the liver and every other internal organ thrive on minerals and vitamins, healthful bacteria, fiber and phytochemicals. They’re sublimely oblivious to pop culture’s demands for the newest, coolest, latest diet.

As the author of Grain of Truth—The Real Case For and Against Wheat and Gluten I set out to discover for myself, as an investigative journalist, just how seriously I should take the campaign against gluten. Was this protein complex found in wheat, barley and rye, as William Davis claims in Wheat Belly, so injurious to our well-being that it has killed more people than all wars combined? Or were we yet again being subjected to unsubstantiated hyperbole—this time delivered by medical professionals, among others?

The gluten-free craze arrived in a thundercloud of hyperbole, like Moses delivering the Ten Commandments and warning if you fail to honor them, well, we’ll see you in hell. That’s the emotional foundation of screeds like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain. Like scripture, they are unconditional—they don’t deal with shades of gray, so we don’t have to, either. It’s all fire and brimstone. Eat wheat and grow fat, while you rot your brain. Other diet fads—Zone, South Beach, Atkins, generally call for more protein and fewer carbs, and more thought.  Gluten-free is a one-stop one-shop silver bullet.

Reliable clinical studies indicate that only .63 to 6 percent of us suffer from definable symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and 1 in 133 from celiac disease. The vast majority of men and women who think they’re reacting to gluten— about 30 percent of the general population—fall into neither category.

A recent study at the University of Florida set out to probe people’s misconceptions about gluten. It followed 97 participants who tasted two food choices, one labeled “gluten-free” and one labeled “gluten.” The majority decided the non-gluten food was healthier, even though neither food actually contained gluten. As many as 32 percent of the study subjects thought eating gluten-free would bring about weight loss. Not true. It’s the elimination of junk food, the researchers point out, that makes all the difference.

grain-of-truth-by-stephen-yafa 2I discovered too that long fermentation, as in sourdough, is nature’s way of reducing the toxicity of gluten molecules while increasing its nutritive value and edible enjoyment. A surprise to me, and proof again that the best part of authoring a book is to learn what you didn’t know when you began.


Read more about Grain of Truth—The Real Case For and Against Wheat and Gluten by Stepehn Yafa!

Angela Januzzi Staff Picks


Angela Januzzi is a Senior Publicist at Tarcher and Perigee. Previously she worked in non-profit external affairs and also in publicity for the Penguin imprints Berkley/NAL.

You can follow her on Twitter @amjanuzzi, but she writes/makes music under several names, which she may just tell you if you ask enough.

Angela likes her reading material like her coffee: strong, unsweetened, and with a little existential metaphor.




duneDune by Frank Herbert

There are two types of book nerds: those who have read Dune and those who haven’t. Winner of the Hugo Award and the first Nebula Award for Best Novel, either you are 1.) a sci-fi fangirl/boy who’s adored this book for years or 2.) an elitist like me who wants to love great sci-fi and should chalk this up as one of the best places to start. Dune has it all: the rise of a ‘chosen one,’ immersive sense of place, environmental and political commentary woven through the book, and, a highlight for yours truly, a powerful role for mystical forces of the all-female Bene Gesserit. Dune may also be the hero story to end all hero stories, partially because its ultimate lesson is: do not trust hero worship. And if you’re a literary reader like me who needs beauty in words as much as complex character development, every page has some gem of philosophy or language. (“There is in all things a pattern that is part of our universe. It has symmetry, elegance, and grace–these qualities you find always in that the true artist captures.”) Bonus for normal followers of cult classics/alt lit: David Lynch made the book into a movie–so you know the Dune universe is anything but predictable. Start Reading an Excerpt.


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Perchance to Dream by Charles Beaumont

Charles Beaumont has been cited as an influence on some of the best known writers of the last 60 years–and yet few people, including myself, have ever read any of his stories. What you DO know of his writing, though, is in black and white and forever preserved as about two dozen Twilight Zone episodes. He may be best-known as the mastermind behind one of the most beloved shows of the series, ‘#12 Looks Just Like You, ‘ in which a space-age dystopia hinges on the population conforming to only one of two approved, physically beautiful body types. Though this Penguin Classics printing of selected stories isn’t out until October 2015, I’m already fantasizing about autumn Twilight Zone marathons to prepare for this surreal, dark, eerie anthology. This collection will be one of the only of its kind in-print, and a much-deserved tribute to a gifted magician of social commentary and emotion we lost too quickly. (Beaumont was only 38 when he passed away.)

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Mariel of Redwall by Brian Jacques

When I was in Catholic elementary school in Ohio, one of my favorite weeks of the year was BOOK. FAIR. WEEK. Our musty little library had its tables moved to make room for makeshift shelves of BRAND NEW TITLES where little people like me could buy, not just borrow, shining new books shipped-in from the mysterious world of publishing. When I think of book fair days, they are inextricable for me from the author Brian Jacques and his world of Redwall, populated by its brave and cunning talking forest creatures. Mariel of Redwall, one of the only main Mousemaids–a female protagonist, to my delight–quickly became my favorite. I was a kid who didn’t see much adventure and longed for it, but who knew I would be easily frightened by it anyway. The Redwall novels allowed me to fantasize that if little valiant rodents could fight pirates and venture to unknown territories, maybe a small person like me could too. If there’s a kid in your life between 8 and 11 who would rather listen to The Beatles than Ariana Grande, and for the moment still loves animals more than texting, she may be a perfect candidate to become the next Redwall series addict. While childhood lasts.

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The Zombie Combat Manual by Roger Ma

Created in some scrappy but supernatural world between sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, and self-help satire, I was lucky enough to work with author Roger Ma on this book when I was a bright-eyed new publicist. Ma’s tongue-in-(rotting?)-cheek guide is filled with emergency-demo-grade diagrams on how to physically combat zombies of all shapes and sizes, no matter what your surroundings. (Carrying a baby and not sure how to combat a walking corpse? This book’s got your back.) If you’re dreading how to cope after “The Walking Dead” ends on AMC, The Zombie Combat Manual is here to help you through that non-dead grieving process. It’s also a great gift for the dude in your life who fancies himself Rick Grimes. And it’s essential to sharpen your hand-to-hand combat for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You know, in the meantime.


Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino

Yes, Cosmicomics is not textbook fantasy genre. There are no epic battlefields–just the constant struggle of life to keep shifting form and energy, to continue barreling onward through time and space, and cracking jokes the whole way. No damsels in distress. No objects containing special powers that turn their possessor good or evil (unless you count the beauty of the moon, that is.) Cosmicomics is a collection of vignettes of magical surrealism, loosely structured around the adventures of several lifeforms as they experience myriad existences throughout eras and galaxies and species. A few main characters of these stories include, for instance, a dinosaur, a mollusk, and a love triangle during a time when the moon was close enough to touch the Earth. It makes me wish I understood Italian so I could read every story in Calvino’s original language. (The English translations are so gorgeous, I can’t imagine how much more rich and alive they sound in their mother tongue.) Calvino’s fantasyworlds are composed of the magic of merged science and poetry and humor and mortality. Each tale is also a bit of a philosophical and intellectual challenge, and as such, a little vessel of escapism to sail you away from a tough day or how you thought you knew the world. And that may be what the best kind of fantasy book does for us after all. Yes? Yes.



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Tessa Meischeid


Tessa Meischeid is a Publicity Assistant at Penguin Press. A graduate of the University of Washington, she loves all things books, chocolate, and Seattle.





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Careless People by Sarah Churchwell

History lovers, literatures lovers, and crime show lovers rejoice! Sarah Churchwell has come to meet all your needs in one book. Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby  is the true story of a murder in New Jersey and a stunning look into the jazz age that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write The Great Gatsby. It reads like a cross between a Law & Order: SVU episode and your favorite college lecture (the one that didn’t put you to sleep, but actually taught you something and kept you interested). Churchwell shows how the Mills-Hall murder of 1922 affected the glamorous world of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and ultimately influenced the plot of arguably the “great American novel”.



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Religion of Democracy by Amy Kittelstrom

In The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition, Amy Kittlestrom points out just how distanced from the provenance and meaning of the ideals of “freedom” and “equality” we’ve become in modern times. The book tracks how religion and democracy have worked together as universal values in American culture through the eyes of seven liberal thinkers throughout history. Extremely relevant in today’s political climate of sound bites and empty promises, this book explores these quintessentially American ideals as they were forged, debated, and remade across our history.

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The Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones

Everyone who has read The Plantagenets knows what a joy it is to read a Dan Jones book. Taking history and telling it in a way that is not only relevant but interesting can sometimes be a task, but Jones makes it feel easy in his books. The War of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors includes some of the names we all know from history classes but also some new (to me at least!) and incredibly interesting characters. The struggle of power, war, intrigue, and death makes this book read like a novel and will stick with you long after you’ve finished. Another big plus, he’s got another book, Magna Carta, coming from Viking this fall that sounds like it’s going to be equally as fantastic as his first two.

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When the United States Spoke French by Francois Furstenberg

In 1789, the French Revolution shook Europe to the core. At the same time, the United States was battling for its survival along ideological, financial, and regional lines. In When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation, Furstenberg tells the story of five political refugees who came to call Philadelphia home after fleeing a revolution of their own making. What I love most about this book is that it tells the story of America at a time that gets glossed over by most history classes. Too late to be the American Revolution and not yet hit the War of 1812, but this period in history was paramount to creating the America we know today.

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Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells edited by Graydon Carter and David Friend

As someone who’s always been fascinated by the jazz age, this compilation of essays really spoke to me. Written in honor of the 100th anniversary of Vanity Fair magazine, Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells features works by Dorothy Parker, P. G. Wodehouse, Gertrude Stein, Edna St. Vincent Millay, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, Langston Hughes, and many others. It’s a great book to pick up and put down as you please, allowing you to dive into the roaring twenties whenever you like.

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The Mercy of the Sky by Holly Bailey

I loved this book because it felt less like a great piece of investigative reporting and more like a thriller, so much so that I had to keep reminding myself that these events actually happened. The Mercy of the Sky: The Story of a Tornado tells the story of May 20, 2013, when the worst tornado on record landed a direct hit on the small town of Moore, destroying two schools while the children cowered inside. Holly Bailey is from Moore and also Newsweek’s youngest White House reporter ever. Her unique perspective into the culture of the town and her investigative reporting skills make this book unique in all the best ways. Unfortunately, the sky wasn’t done with Moore, OK and in March of this year another tornado ripped through the town making the story of what happened here in 2013 more relevant than ever.


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LindseyAndrewsLindsey designs middle grade and young adult book covers for all of Penguin’s Children imprints. In her spare time she reads even more YA with her book club and fits literary trips into her travels (for example, Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter throughout the UK). She also loves wine nights in with a good rom-com or two.


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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Guys. This book. So many feels. Me Before You came out a few years ago, but it deserves to be at the top of peoples’ to-read stack. A movie is currently in the works and you’ll be able to see Emilia Clarke (Daenerys from Game of Thrones) and Sam Claflin (Finnick from Hunger Games) take the leading roles in 2016! This book will put you on a roller coaster of emotions as you see Louise Clark try to break through the impenetrable wall that is Will Traynor after his motorcycle accident makes him a quadriplegic. But, oh how sweet it is when those walls start to crumble. Get those tissues ready (both for tears of laughter and joy and some of heartbreak).

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Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Do you ever just get this urge to run away to Paris and fall in love with a cute boy and run around Europe together? Well, you can at least pretend and gather all of the warm fuzzies that you can in Isla and the Happily Ever After. This is the third book by Stephanie Perkins set in the same world as Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. Isla and Josh are both from New York City but are attending the School of America in Paris. And you even get a dash of Barcelona thrown in. This book is for those travel lovers who also love a good, fun beach read. Isla and Josh’s relationship isn’t all sunshine and roses , there are some real bumps thrown in. But, it makes it all worth it.

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Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

We need more diverse books. And this is one of them! Aisha Saeed gives you the star-crossed lovers kind of romance that you love. But, she delivers it in the form of a Pakistani-American teen whose strict immigrant parents thrust her into an unwanted marriage. Her only hope of escape is Saif, the boy she fell in love with back in America who was forbidden to her. Can he find her before it’s too late? This book is smart and eye-opening while giving you a side of love you don’t often hear about. I highly recommend it!

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Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Richelle Mead is one of the best fantasy writers out there, heavy on the romance! She’s created some of the most swoon-worthy characters and seriously complicated relationships. In the Vampire Academy series, you’ll fall for Russian bodyguard, Dimitri. He just so happens to be our main heroine’s teacher at a school for vampires. Add in some evil vampires, lots of kickbutt action, and some atypical high school drama and you get a really fun read. Also check out Richelle’s spin-off series, Bloodlines, where you get to fall in love with artistic, bad boy Adrian.

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Hold Me Closer by David Levithan

Okay, so maybe this isn’t your typical romance. If you read Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, then you’ve already met Tiny Cooper. If you haven’t, you’re about to. Written as a screenplay to an onstage musical, (not-so-) Tiny Cooper tells you his life story through song. And lots of glitter. I don’t know how you can’t see this as a romance with titles of songs like “Summer of Gay”, “Parade of Ex-boyfriends”, and “You’re Wonderful! I Don’t Want to Date You!”. For fans of John Green, musicals, and Barbra Streisand, get out there and GET THIS BOOK!

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