Meaghan Wagner is an Assistant Editor and has been with Penguin since 2010. She is definitely the MVP of the Penguin Random House Downtown softball team, despite rumors you might have heard to the contrary.
Admittedly this is more of a story that has crime and thrills in it, rather than your more traditional thriller, but since it is hands down the upcoming title I am most excited to see coming up, I must include it. David Joy so beautifully etches out the internal struggle between family loyalty and the personal hope for something better against the evocatively etched backdrop of the North Carolina meth trade.
So this whole series really could go in here, but I figure it’s best to start at the beginning. This is the first series I obsessively collected – starting with the first 10 at a library book sale in 8th grade. I immediately fell in love with tough-as-nails Eve Dallas (and even contemplated getting a copycat tattoo of her famous rose) and her bad-boy Roarke. Robb (the alias for Nora Roberts) has a way of keeping every case fresh and fun and I look forward to the new book’s release *every* year.
Double Play has everything about a classic Parker- snappy, clever dialogue, great characters, villains you love to hate, intricate mystery – but set around baseball and, of all people, Jackie Robinson. The plot crackles and seeing Jackie fictionalized is endless fun for a baseball fan like me. With great flashback interludes, it one of the best-written Parker novels I’ve ever read (and that, my friends, is saying something).
This book has a special place in my heart – it was the first one I recommended Putnam acquire that we actually bought. After years mired in submission after submission, getting acquainted with Thoft’s tough-but-tender P.I. Fina Ludlow and her unbelievably dysfunctional family was a breath of fresh air. The second book in the series – Identity- came out this summer and the third will follow in 2015. Keep a lookout for Fina!
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Megha Jain is an eBook Production Editor for Berkley and NAL’s InterMix imprint. She likes cats, Netflix, and misanthropes.
Dr. Diana Bishop is no ordinary historian. As the only child of two gifted witches, she possesses a power so great that all creatures—human, faerie, daemons—are automatically drawn to her. Diana suppressed her powers after she was orphaned at the age of seven. But now, two decades later, strange forces (and a very attractive vampire) will compel Diana to face who and what she really is.
Deborah Harkness transforms the sleepy, dreamy city of Oxford into a magical place filled with supernatural beings and otherworldly adventures. Danger stalks Diana through the ancient streets as she tries to grapple with dark creatures and her power. Thankfully, that very attractive vampire is along for the ride too. Fun, sexy, and a little scary, A Discovery of Witches is a thrilling start to an amazing series.
Razor-sharp wit and creepy suspense make The Necromancer’s House an incredibly fun ride. Our flawed protagonist and the fantastic supporting cast of creatures face off against Baba Yaga, an ancient Slavic creature, using modern magical warfare in a fight to the death. Along the way, you’ll be sucked into these unique characters’ backstories, all of which are richly drawn and provide layers of detail that you’ll be obsessing over long after you’ve completed this book.
The Necromancer’s House isn’t easy to classify—and that’s a good thing. It’s by turns romantic, suspenseful, horrific, and hilarious. If you are looking for a tale that will occupy your imagination to such an extent that nothing else will get done, this is the book for you. Just be prepared to sleep with the lights on.
The stories are collected by ST Joshi, a hardcore atheist who has made weird literature his life’s work. He’s got good taste, that’s for damn sure. It’s called American Supernatural Tales because all of the authors are American. In fact, this book could easily be the only required text for any high school course on American literature. And why not? The quality is superb and the fears expressed and surprises uncovered reflect the wonders and anxieties of the authors’ times.
I strongly recommend this book for fans who prefer their entertainment weird. There’s more to ghost stories than shitty Blair Witch knockoffs and torture porn. It’s high time people remember good horror is good art.
The book is inspired by Maria Mitchell, the first American woman to spot a comet with a telescope. The main character, Hannah Gardner Price, has almost all the same traits: Quaker astronomer, learned from her father, earned a reputation as a comet hunter through hard work. Unlike Mitchell, Price has significantly fewer siblings, only one, and she falls in love with a whaler seeking to improve his own station. The endless waiting (to hear from her brother, to hear from the whaler, to spot a comet) drives her. The adults’ need to control her drive them.
There’s a line that really got me: “Altair, Deneb, Vega. Eagle, Swan, Lyre. Three constellations any child could pick out of the night sky.” About the time I was reading this, those stars were bright in the western sky, but the rest of the constellations were hidden—hazards of city-living. Well over 100 years separate us from the main character, but we can still see what she saw. I didn’t read that, I felt it, and it felt amazing.
Great book for the budding astronomer. It should quickly relieve them of the idea that this lifestyle is easy. I believe it’s the author’s first book; hopefully it won’t be her last.
Melanie Landon has spent most of her life trying to keep her sister Ann’s shape-shifter secret safe from the world. But when Ann goes missing for months and a writer shows up on Melanie’s doorstep looking for information about Ann—and shape-shifters—their fragile existence shatters. Shinn weaves in a second story about Janet, a human who falls in love with a shape-shifter, while exploring love and loss in a moving and heartbreaking way.
This is one of those books that may cause uncontrollable sobbing in public places, like on the subway. You’ve been warned.
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I’ve been a publishing lawyer for over 20 years, and at Penguin since 2008. I love to taunt other lawyers by saying things like, “Why yes, I do get paid to read novels all day.” Actually most of my novel reading gets done after hours, on the LIRR. Here are some recent faves:
Who says graphic novels have to be about super heroes (although some of us may regard Lena Finkle as one)? This wonderfully immersive story lets you experience what Lena’s life just as she does—saying one thing out loud and thinking something else at the same time. In this age of multi-media, it’s a pleasant surprise to see how “interactive” two dimensions can be. Best enjoyed in paper.
Did you like the movie “Her?” Do you worry about whether/how much we can be replaced by robots? Do you believe in reincarnation? If you ponder any of these questions, this book is for you. It juxtaposes our most human hopes and fears alongside the possibility of the most advanced technology. Technology marches inexorably toward us, but the human heart beats on.
If you can, get someone to rip the cover off this book before you read it (or advance your ereader past the cover page) and don’t read a single thing about it. I read this after it was announced as the winner of the 2014 Pen/Faulkner Award with no other knowledge about it. At first I thought I’d “gotten” it right away. Then it took a turn I didn’t see coming and I had to take a break and send copies to my two best friends so that they would read it along with me.
Who among us lovers of literary fiction has not imagined what it would have been like to hang around with our favorite authors of the mid-20th Century? You know, when authors were revered, and their lives were private. Susan Scarf Merrell took it one step further. After mining archives including letters and journals, she re-creates the world of author Shirley Jackson and her husband Stanley Edgar Hyman, inserting a fictional couple into their life. Step inside this novel and see what happens when a writer asks herself “what if…”
Where can a book that begins with tragedy go? A teenage girl is dead; it’s not a place I really want to visit. And yet Celeste Ng captivates page by page. She’s never maudlin or melodramatic. Instead she unfolds this sad story in such a way that makes us appreciate her characters and want to see how they will make sense of what’s happened. Even though you know the ending won’t change the beginning—this isn’t a book about miracles—you will not want to abandon this family.
I want to make a special plug for the audio version of this one. This book is full of outrageous characters speaking in dialect circa the 1850s, and hearing it brings it to life in a way that most of us can’t possibly create in our 21st Century minds. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that there can be a new way to tell an oft-told tale, but this narrator tells us story of John Brown’s fight against slavery in a way that makes the whole story completely fresh and new. This is neither middle school social studies nor “costume drama” historical fiction—it is vital, moving, thought provoking and raucous. Listen to it and you will see the story unfold in your mind’s eye as if you were watching the year’s Best Picture.
Find more books on the Literary Fiction page!
Allison Prince is the advertising and promotion coordinator for Gotham and Avery where she has the pleasure of designing ads, promo materials, and seasonal catalogs. She loves nature, books, folk music, and Brussels sprouts.
Graphic novels have the unique power to get people who don’t consider themselves “readers” to pick up a book. With this comes great responsibility. Ellen Forney’s graphic memoir bravely shows her struggles with bipolar disorder, and delivers a larger imperative message: Mental illness—like any other illness—is a disease, not a case of choosing to feel sad, or something to just “get over.” In the wake of Robin Williams’s passing, we need more brave people like Forney to come forward and share their stories of living and thriving by seeking help on those darkest days.
One of my favorite lines of Stiches is “Beauty is a miracle of things going together imperfectly.” Anne Lamott’s incredible meditation on loss and transforming sad situations in life into hope and healing uses the metaphor of sewing and stitches throughout, showing that each “tear” in our fabric helps to make us who we are. It’s hard to adequately describe this book in a few lines, so I recommend reading it and finding solace in it yourself.
As a huge dog lover, I was horrified when I heard about Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring. Despite the atrocities they faced, almost every dog saved was able to recover from the trauma and receive a loving home. Here’s another reminder that no dog (no pit bull!) is fundamentally rotten; it was probably a human who made it that way. It is heartwarming to know these dogs will receive all the snuggles and love they deserve for the rest of their lives.
Adele Levine’s memoir about working as a physical therapist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious. Adele herself is a hero for helping our heroes. Despite the horrors these veterans faced, and continue to face which each surgery and painful rehabilitation, they still find chances to laugh. Laughter can be excellent medicine.
Since first hearing about the proposal, I was in love with Not Fade Away, a memoir from a psychotherapist, athlete, and volunteer, who also has the rare and incurable Usher syndrome type III, which is making her gradually lose her hearing and sight. But Rebecca’s story isn’t about what she’s losing; it’s about how she lives each day to the fullest. She counts every day as a gift, and reading her story reminds me to do the same.
To find Health & Self-Improvement books, click here.
Kent is the Director of Online Sales and Marketing. Being a birder (twitcher, for those across the pond), it’s kismet that he works for a company with a bird in its title. He will not be entering the Penguin Cup Fantasy Football League.
Jasper Fforde is the master of creating whole new worlds that fly off the pages. Anyone who reads must pick up his first novel The Eyre Affair which begins the hilarious Thursday Next series. In Shades of Gray, Fforde sets off on a different course with this dystopian tale of a society, Chromatacia who’s hierarchy is dictated by the color they can see. With his typical sense of humor and vivid prose Chromatacia leaps off the pages. And if there ever was a film adaptation it would win every Cinematography/Art Direction award available.
Archetype is the beginning of a post-apocalyptic two book series that concludes with Prototype. Describing Archetype without spoilers is difficult but at its heart is a very complicated love triangle which will have you turning the pages faster and faster to find out who wins Emma’s heart. And while there is a heart tug of war, Emma must figure out who she is. Archetype is an entertaining read with thought provoking theme similar to those evoked in The Handmaid’s Tale.
If anyone is old enough to remember Logan’s Run then they will be reminded of the setting when reading The Office of Mercy. After the Storm, America-5 citizens live in a high-tech, environmentally controlled Utopia, underground basically. And The Office of Mercy is in charge of the nomadic post-Storm survivors on the outside. There many twists and turns, uncovered secrets that will leave you wondering what is right and what is wrong. A great read that will leave you wanting more.
Full disclosure, The Postmortal is on this reviewer’s to-read list but it comes highly recommended. The cure has come in the near-future tail, the cure for aging that is. But of course, immortality comes with its own set of problems. Drew Magary is a 21st century Renaissance man. He writes hysterical columns for Deadspin and recently published a memoir on 21st century parenting. Thus The Postmortal is bound to be a wild ride.
Legend begins Marie Lu’s wonderful Legend trilogy. If you enjoyed The Hunger Games, you will enjoy Legend more. In Legend, the Western United States is now The Republic and perpetually at war. Day, born into slums and on the most wanted list for murder, becomes a reluctant hero to a revolution. On his tail is June, whose brother is the one Day is accused of murdering. These two well-drawn and likeable (if not loveable) characters are the yin and yang that carry this trilogy to a delightful conclusion. Legend is followed by Prodigy and concludes with Champion, each book stronger than the previous.
If you think the 1% are a problem now, in Proxy they are on steroids and the void between the haves and have-nots is gaping. Alex London’s two book series, which begins with Proxy and concludes with Guardian is creative, compelling and wholly satisfying. Proxy begins a thrilling revolution in this dystopian world led by a gay teen named Syd.
Dystopian need not be in the distant future, nor does it need to be serious. Austin and best friend Robby are our teen heroes who fend off six-foot-tall praying mantises while thinking all the thoughts a normal teen boy would be thinking. Sounds funny, and it is, this book is laugh-out-loud hilarious and a very original young adult novel. Destined to be a classic in the near future.
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Stephen Morrow, Executive Editor at Dutton
It was 1967, the summer of love, and while Haight-Ashbury was dancing to White Rabbit and the Beatles were dropping acid, twelve sober young men climbed into the worst storm ever to hit the summit of Alaska’s Mt. McKinley or Denali as the locals call it. Only five made it back. Andy Hall, the son of the Mt. McKinley National Park superintendent at the time, was five years old. Denali’s Howl is his telling of what befell those on the mountain and those at its foot trying to help. It is also a study in how we think of our past, how such tragedies can become embedded in the meaning of our lives, our unwritten autobiographies, and yet remain mysterious.
Could good old conscientious organization really be the secret to navigating the modern world’s flood of details? As Daniel Levitin shows, the latest neuroscience says yes. From how to deal with your kitchen junk drawer (what are those keys in there for anyway?) to how to organize your thoughts for the most important decisions of all, The Organized Mind is a book that brings together the ordinary everyday experience of making your life work better with Levitin’s expert insight into how attention and memory function. This isn’t just a book about being neater, it is about clearing a space in which you (and your kids) can be resoundingly creative.
We had just had our Halloween party back in 2012 at 375 Hudson Street when New Yorkers started to realize the big bad hurricane was coming to get us. As she was working on Superstorm Kathryn Miles said the storm was like the shark in Jaws–only this monster ate its way up from Jamaica to the Great Lakes, with New York City as its main course. Her story of forecasters and their science unable to make sense of this unprecedented system as it played out day by day, of the seamen whose traditional knowledge didn’t help, and of the people whose lives it destroyed is all about the unforgiving, fearsome power of nature—just when we thought we had it beat.
Ok, so Does Santa Exist? is the most profound and funny book I’ve ever worked on and probably ever will. I am pretty much unhinged about it. Eric Kaplan has a job as a brilliant comic writer on America’s most popular sit com and is finishing his Ph.D. at Berkeley, but I’m just hoping he starts a cult so I can join it. How could such a simple, childish question lead to such a dazzling, exuberant flight across the deepest questions of human existence? You will learn a bunch of philosophy, and the point of it all too. As Matt Groening said, “It is the funniest book of philosophy since… well, ever.” Just the thing for the gift giving season!
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Amy talks to Yelena Akhtiorskaya about her debut novel, PANIC IN A SUITCASE.
Read an excerpt and learn more about the book here: bit.ly/1q5bOyN
This fall, Viking will publish Max and Ruby at the Warthog’s Wedding, the latest of Rosemary Wells’s books about the bunny siblings who star in their own popular show on Nick Jr.
Despite the fact that Rosemary has written more than fifty books about Max and Ruby, she always finds a way to keep the latest book fresh. In Max and Ruby at the Warthog’s Wedding, the bunnies race through the Ritz Hotel, in search of a missing wedding ring, guided by the maps on Grandma’s iBunny phone. In a typically witty Wells touch, the iBunny phone features a glittery green lift-the-flap cover decorated with a carrot with a bite taken out of it!
Rosemary always tries to teach as well as entertain, whether by teaching ABCs, counting, or nursery rhymes, and in this newest title she is subtly imparting early map skills via up-to-the-minute technology.
It’s hard to believe that Max and Ruby are 35; they certainly are not showing their age!
See the entire Max and Ruby series!
When writing novels, one never knows where inspiration will strike. A few years ago, I was well into my research for a book on the ways that Jewish artists managed to create art during the Holocaust, when I overheard a story at the local hair salon about a couple who were separated at the beginning of the war with each of them being told that the other had perished. Sixty years later, they miraculously were reunited at the wedding of their respective grandchildren. When I overheard that story, I felt like I had been struck by lightning. My mind was filled with so many questions: why had this couple each believed the other had died? What was their initial love story? What were their second love stories that produced the children who were now the parents of the grandchildren getting married? And most importantly, how did they each survive World War II?
This story would end up being the bookends for my novel The Lost Wife, into which I invented the lovers’ histories both before and after their separation.
I wanted to draw in my readers by evoking the same questions that I had after initially hearing that story. I wanted those questions to propel them into the same journey I too would undertake while crafting the body of the novel.
The inspiration for my new novel The Garden of Letters, also began after hearing a story that ignited my curiosity. While at a dinner party, a friend shared with me the details about how her father had escaped from Hungry through Italy during WWII with forged papers that their family had spent their entire life savings on. When my friend’s father arrived in Portofino, German guards were scrutinizing everyone’s papers so carefully that he was sure he was going to be arrested.
Suddenly, out from the crowd, a big barrel-chested Italian man cried: “Cousin, cousin, I’ve been waiting for you all week. Thank heaven’s you’ve come!”
He was able to whisk my friend’s father away and take him back to his home on the cliffs of Portofino.
When my friend’s father asked this man why he had saved him, for clearly he wasn’t his cousin, the man replied: “I try to come to the port every month. I try to save the person who looks the most afraid.”
When I heard that story I immediately thought it would make an amazing beginning to a novel. I imagined the two people whose lives intersect at this occupied Italian port. One fleeing and in need of shelter. The other a person who sees that fear and sets upon helping him. “The Garden of Letters” opens with my young heroine being saved from the Germans at the Portofino port by a doctor.
As in all my novels, I wanted my main character to possess a creative gift. With The Lost Wife, I explored how art could be used as a form of Resistance against the Nazis. In The Garden of Letters, I explore how music could be used.
My main character Elodie, is a young cellist who sends coded messages for the Italian Resistance through her performances. And the book explores the many creative ways essential information was transmitted during the war.
When I traveled to Italy to meet with partisans and female messengers who were involved in the Resistance, I was introduced to a person who shared with me another unusual way information was sent during the war. Giovanni Pellizzato, whose grandfather was both a bookseller and an active member of the Italian Resistance, described how codes were cleverly hidden throughout the pages of a book, and how within the back shelves of his father’s bookstore many of the books had their paper carved out to create a space where pistols were stored inside. This information was so intriguing to me, it inspired the character of the bookseller, Luca, in The Garden of Letters.
As storytellers, we’re responsible for crafting narratives that bring our readers into a world that transport and hopefully inform. As writers, however, we must also be open to all the stories that surround us, for everyone has a unique history to share.