9781594489600H“Please turn off all electronic devices,” the flight attendant says over the speaker as we begin taxiing toward the runway. For the first time in weeks, I shut off my phone and tablet. Reaching into my backpack, I pull out my book. A calming sense comes over me and I can finally remember that I have no place to be, but here. I’m on vacation.

The thing about reading in New York City is distraction, whether it’s on the subway or hanging with your roommate. Whether your phone’s blowing up or there’s a new Netflix series awaiting your stream, attention deficit can be imminent. Of course this isn’t the case for everyone, but it certainly is for me. And when ascending into the air, an electronic free environment soothes my eyes into the pages. Lost in a new book while drifting away from the earth below, is there a better way to travel? Flipping open the pages I look down and begin a renowned modern classic, The Kite Runner, by Khaled Housseini.

What makes a vacation read innately special? Is it the entertainment or the diversion from downtime? Maybe. But I like to think that reading a book in a new environment is an individually moving experience. Without daily routine or familiarity, a book on vacation is a constant. Your imagination reaches new heights. No one around but you and these words. While away in a distant place without cell phone service, you may seek solace in your book, your companion. It’s an adventure within an adventure. Adventure-ception?

And so, my vacation began in Umbria, Italy. Umbria is a region outside Tuscany that looks like every Italian portrait you would ever paint. Surrounded by vineyards, poppy fields, and medieval castles, I was paralyzed by beauty and history. After arriving at our villa, we put our stuff down and took time to relax. I was ready to take out my book and get back to where I left off. Our new home for the next week was an 800 year old farm house converted into a dreamy, rustic home atop a mountain with breathtaking views. Enveloped by culture, this was the perfect location to read.

[Images: (left) Reading in the garden, (right) Spectacular view from my bedroom window]

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The Kite Runner is a book that relishes in culture and ethnic pride. Reading this novel alone in the pristine country, I felt at peace. While this wasn’t nearly the middle east, I was in a new land abroad. This helped me connect with the story and its characters on a personal level. Housseini taught me about self identity and the importance of contentment. Without it, you will carry this weight until the end of time. A story, one focused on love, family, redemption, and fate is meant to be learned in the midst of a journey.

* * *

Memorable quotes:

“Not a word passes between us, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t have to say anything–that’s how it is between people who are each other’s first memories…” -page 133

“‘She said, ‘I’m so afraid.’ And I said, ‘Why?,’ and she said, ‘Because I’m so profoundly happy, Dr. Rasul. Happiness like this is frightening.’ I asked her why and she said, ‘They only let you be this happy if they’re preparing to take something from you…’” -page 271

“I set my hands on the rusty bars, remembering how I’d run through these same gates thousands of times as a child, for things that mattered not at all now and yet had seemed so important then.” -page 283

“And that, I believe, is what true redemption is, Amir Jan, when guilt leads to good.” -page 326


- Lindsay Jacobsen, Online Content Coordinator

on_the_roadName: Ivan Doig, author of The Bartender’s Tale

Favorite Penguin Classic Title/Author: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Why do you love this Penguin Classic?  Jack Kerouac’s high-octane odyssey took the restless spirit of America on a joyride that lasts to this day.  With its reckless love for the highway and a writing style that blows through stop signs at will, On the Road unrolls like the great scroll of soul quest that it is.

What should I read next?
To follow on with a next classic journey, nothing beats the original master of lighting out for the territory, Mark Twain, launching us on that epic raft trip down the Mississippi with Huck and Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

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Excerpt The City Stella Gemmell (Ace)
Excerpt The Man from Berlin Luke McCallin (Berkley)
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Excerpt The Moon and More Sarah Dessen (Viking Children’s)
Excerpt The Apprentices Maile Meloy (Putnam Juvenile)
Excerpt Clockwork Fairy Tales: A Collection of Steampunk Fables Stephen L. Antczak – Editor; James C. Bassett – Editor (Roc)
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Reading Group Guide Rutherford Park Elizabeth Cooke (Berkley)

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Video Angel City Jon Steele (Blue Rider Press)
Video Arthritis Rx Vijay Vad (Gotham Trade Paperback)
Video Arthritis Rx Vijay Vad (Gotham Trade Paperback)


By: Lindsay Jacobsen, Online Content Coordinator

yonahlosseeI was nine years old when my friend Emily took me to Bar-B-Ranch.  I had no other barn to compare it to, so Bar-B-Ranch felt like a paradise, but now I understand that it was shoddily run, with horses that no one else wanted and a motley assortment of bridles, saddles, and teenagers who taught us.  The way that it worked seems unfathomable to me as an adult:  day camp, held every Saturday, officially started at 8:00 in the morning, but the first kid there got to choose any horse she wanted.  And so I was always the first kid; we would leave the house at 5 AM (that what was my parents’ limit) and arrive at 5:20; then my dad or mom, whoever drew the short straw that day, would wait in the car until the sun rose, and then drive away.  I would sleep in my breeches the night before.  But I could barely sleep—the anticipation felt so acute it was almost painful.  The next earliest child arrived at 7, and so I was always first, except for one time, when an eager girl with curly hair, a little older than I, beat me by fifteen minutes.  It did not happen again.

After you chose your horse (I always chose CJ until a beautiful white mare EPSON MFP imagenamed Crystal came along).  CJ was old and grouchy but he was fast, and had a smooth gait.  You chose your style of riding for the day:  English, Western, or bareback.  I chose bareback, or English .  Then the teenagers would herd the two dozen children and their horses into a big field, and we would ride for hour, culminating in a race back to the barn, which is, I know now, an awful, dangerous idea.

For lunch we all piled in the backs of two pick-up trucks and went to McDonald’s; we came back and re-saddled our horses and went on a trail ride, which usually meant that we alternated between walking slowly and galloping wildly through the woods behind the ranch.  Then our parents would come to collect us, and I always hated this moment, because it meant another six days between me and a horse.

EPSON MFP imageThere were so many ways that a child could have gotten hurt:  I could have so easily fallen from CJ on the race back to the barn, and been trampled beneath the other horses’ hooves.  Or been hit by a low-flung branch while galloping through the densely wooded trails.  At every other barn I rode at my parents had to sign a release form, and I had to adhere to so many safety precautions that I learned to be cautious around horses.  It seems impossible that no child was ever seriously injured at Bar-B-Ranch.  Yet no one ever was, at least to my knowledge, and the place’s continued existence seems proof that nothing horrible ever happened.   It was a place where you could do anything on a horse—you could jump bareback, you could ride backwards, you could even win a race against twenty other horses—and do all of this fearlessly.

barchestertowersName:  Sue Grafton, author of Kinsey and Me

Favorite Penguin Classic Title/Author:  Any of the novels of Anthony Trollope.
Why do you love this Penguin Classic?   I’m a fan of Anthony Trollope in part because we share a birthday, though his, I feel compelled to report, came well before mine.  I admire his work ethic, his industry, and the easy style with which he writes.  He wrote his novels between 5:00am and 8:00am each day before reporting for his full-time job as a postal worker.  His treatment of women is lovely and I’ve learned a great deal about story-telling from reading his many novels.  I started with Barchester Towers and I believe at last count, I’d read sixteen or so of his books.

What should I read next?  I’d be hard-pressed to decide where a reader should start with his works.  Pick just about any of the novels and you should be able to tell if Trollope suits you as he’s suited me all of these years

secretgarden2Name: Sarah Jio, author of The Last Camellia

Favorite Penguin Classic Title/Author: The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

Why do you love this Penguin Classic?  When I think back to the books that have influenced my writing, and also my spirit, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden is at the top of the list. Like many young readers, I devoured this book as a child, and the story has remained with me ever since. It teaches us about the beauty that lies beneath the thorns, and reminds us that when all seems lost, and when the weeds are high, in our gardens and in life, hope still abounds.

What should I read next? I get nostalgic about Christmas (and yes, I admit to listening to holiday music way before one should turn it on; ahem, in October) and so it delights me to turn to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol each season. This year, I’ll be reading it aloud to my young sons.

portraitofaladyName: Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things

Favorite Penguin Classic Title/Author: The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James

Why do you love this Penguin Classic?  It is not merely my favorite Penguin Classic; it is my favorite novel of all time, period. I care more about the life of Isabel Archer than I do about most figures in history — living or dead, real or imagined. I read this book every few years and watch Isabel grow and transform in my own imagination, as I get older and see her differently with time. She only ever fascinates.

What should I read next? Middlemarch by George Eliot. I long for Dorothea Brooke and Isabel Archer to meet, to befriend each other, to make each other’s lives better.

tortillaflatName: TC Boyle, author of San Miguel

Favorite Penguin Classic Title/Author: Tortilla Flat, John Steinbeck

Why do you love this Penguin Classic?  This is both hilarious and charming, a tale about a group of friends who shirk society (and, especially, work) in order to lie up in the sunny weeds and drink wine.  It reaches mythical proportions.  The characters–all of them, from Danny, the hero, to Torelli, the wine merchant, to the Pirate and his dogs—shine on forever inside of me.  This is a book to read and re-read.  And love.

What should I read next? Stick to California.  Stick to Steinbeck.  I’d pick Of Mice and Men.  According to my daughter, when she was a child and I read it aloud to her, she saw me break down and sob for the first and only time in her life.  Oh, that ending!

Excerpt (19)
Excerpt The Interestings Meg Wolitzer (Riverhead)
Excerpt The Cool Impossible Eric Orton (NAL)
Excerpt Archipelago Monique Roffey (Penguin)
Excerpt The Last Camellia Sarah Jio  (Plume)
Excerpt The Names of Our Tears P. L. Gaus (Plume)
Excerpt Up Hilary Tindle (Hudson Street Press)
Excerpt Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse  Alida Nugent (Plume)
Excerpt Choke Point Ridley Pearson (Putnam Adult)
Excerpt Eleven Rings Phil Jackson (Penguin Press)
Excerpt The Broken Places Ace Atkins (Putnam)
Excerpt We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves Karen Joy Fowler (Marian Wood Books)
Excerpt Heart of Obsidian Nalini Singh (Berkley)
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Excerpt No One Could Have Guessed the Weather Anne-Marie Casey (Amy Einhorn Books)
Excerpt Loyalty Ingrid Thoft (Putnam Adult)
Excerpt The 9th Girl Tami Hoag (Dutton)
Excerpt Until She Comes Home Lori Roy (Dutton)
Excerpt Gameboard of the Gods Richelle Mead (Dutton)
Excerpt An Atheist in the FOXhole Joe Muto (Dutton)

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Reading Group Guide (13)
Reading Group Guide Life After Death Damien Echols (Plume)
Reading Group Guide And the Mountains Echoed Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead)
Reading Group Guide Cascade Maryanne O’Hara (Penguin)
Reading Group Guide Help, Thanks, Wow Anne Lamott (Riverhead)
Reading Group Guide God’s Hotel Victoria Sweet (Riverhead)
Reading Group Guide When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man Nick Dybek (Riverhead)
Reading Group Guide The Memory of Love Linda Olsson (Penguin)
Reading Group Guide Appointment in Samarra John O’Hara – Author; Charles McGrath – Introduction by; Neil Gower – Jacket Illustrator (Penguin Classics)
Reading Group Guide A Sense of Direction Gideon Lewis-Kraus (Riverhead)
Reading Group Guide A Map of Tulsa Benjamin Lytal (Penguin)
Reading Group Guide Looking for Me Beth Hoffman (Pamela Dorman Books)
Reading Group Guide We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves Karen Joy Fowler (Marian Wood Books/Putnam)
Reading Group Guide The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls Anton DiSclafani (Riverhead)

Video (3)
Video  The 5th Wave Rick Yancey (Putnam Juvenile)
Video The Third Coast Thomas Dyja (The Penguin Press)
Video Blowback Valerie Plame & Sarah Lovett (Blue Rider Press)