Amy talks with Emma Straub about her new novel, THE VACATIONERS.
Read an excerpt and learn more about the book here: bit.ly/1s5dXfO
Amy talks with Emma Straub about her new novel, THE VACATIONERS.
Read an excerpt and learn more about the book here: bit.ly/1s5dXfO
At BEA I sat down with Lyndsay Faye, author Seven for a Secret, newly released in paperback. Voted one of The Wall Street Journal’s Ten Best Mysteries of the Year!
How do you get in the writing mood? Do you have a certain place that you go, do you have music that you like to listen to?
That’s a cool question, never been asked that question before. How do I get into the writing mood? I get into the writing mood by reading authors I admire. You know maybe I’m going to be reading it for ten minutes, maybe I’m going to be reading it for twenty minutes, and I am going to be sort of just absorbing awesome styles and brilliant techniques and ridiculously cool characterizations as I read them. And then if I’m lucky I’ll manage to make myself stop and actually sit down and write something. So you know, I’ll pick up – it’s easiest to make yourself stop and do it a little bit more piecemeal with poetry. So you know I’ll read Richard Siken poetry, I’ll read T.S. Elliot for a minute, because I like to use very strong metaphors and I like to use vivid language, and so often reading a couple poems for a few minutes before I start writing is nice, because I can read a phrase that I think has great imagery and I can just sort of get into the feeling that way. So that’s what I often do to get in the writing mood.
Would you say poetry is your genre of choice then?
I think any artist who uses poetic language and I mean any medium literally. So for instance like one day I might be listening to The National, uh you know, some song off High Violet, like I’ll listen to Lemon World three times and that is beautiful poetry. You know if you write the lyric ‘lay me on a table, put flowers in my mouth, and we can say that we invented a summer love and torture party’ that is poetry at the same time that I would also like to sit down and read ‘let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table’ from T.S. Elliot. Or I might you know pick up Raymond Chandler and read a few passages from The Big Sleep or something along those lines. So yeah, any medium, any genre, just as long as the language is really rich. I like a big slab of chocolate cake in language form right before I start writing.
That is a great image! (laughs) Oh I’m going to steal that one. Don’t worry I’ll always credit you.
No you can take it, you can take it. I always do eat that slice of chocolate cake and you know it could be lyrics it could be poetry it could be prose but, you know just as long as it’s really rich language I always read that first. And sometimes I have it open in tabs on the internet, like I’ll have a poem open in a tab and if I get to a place where I just want to bang my face against the keyboard until my nose goes flat (laughs) then I’ll read the poem for a second and it feels better.
What is your most unexpected or strangest hobby or talent?
Wow, um, I am the only person I know who can put vibrato in a kazoo. I am a really amazing kazoo player. I have a pretty strong vibrato anyway and I was trained in musical theater, but I can take a kazoo and I can, you know, actually put that vocal spin in it. And um, if you’d ever like to hear me play Amazing Grace on the kazoo, I can do that for you. I’d be willing to do that but I don’t have my kazoo with me. It’s in my other pants right now. The other thing I could do for you, that’s a strange talent of mine I can demonstrate right now. (Puts tongue all the way in her nose) So if you can get your tongue all the way into your nose that is like, not something everyone can do. I can pick my nose with my tongue and I can put vibrato in a kazoo. Two things, two things that I can do that are not perhaps expected.
That was excellent! Thank you for sharing that one. So going back to writing… How did you get started as a writer?
I got started as a writer because I had been an actor for a really long time, and I’d been obsessed with the Sherlock Holmes Mysteries since I was ten. And I was working in a restaurant, as you do when you’re a writer. And I picked up a book that was one of many, many, many incarnations of Sherlock Holmes trying to solve the Jack the Ripper murders, there’s countless versions of this. But I picked it up at the Barnes and Noble across the street from the restaurant I was working at, just you know on my lunch break. And I was reading it and I am so obsessed with Sherlock Holmes that every little thing that was wrong with it stood out to me. And you know, it’s actually really well written and I’m not faulting the author at all, the author had clearly done a lot of research etcetera but I’m reading it and I’m like ‘this is just not how I would do it’. There’s a tendency when writing fiction involving Sherlock Holmes particularly, that you’re going to throw in – well and also Jack the Ripper – There’s this tendency to throw in, they’re like ‘And then were going to do also vampires and Satanists, and they live in an interconnected series of underground caves in Transylvania and uh space aliens actually are the ones who infected their minds’ so like they throw everything but the kitchen sink at it. So my problem with that was that what I wanted to be reading was Sherlock Holmes solving the Jack the Ripper murders written by Caleb Carr, essentially. With forensic evidence that was true to the actual events with, you know, a certain amount of historical verisimilitude when it comes to the absolute abject poverty these women were living in in Whitechapel. And I thought it was a little bit of a disservice to the Sherlock Holmes character and to the women who actually were subjected to these horrific crimes that everything but the kitchen sink was being thrown at the narrative. I thought ‘why shouldn’t it be frightening enough that a serial killer is stalking the streets of London and no one knows who this is and at any moment you could be brutally murder and then eviscerated’? I figured that was scary enough, and so I wanted to do one without all the bells and whistles and supernatural etcetera. In an act of enormous hubris I sat down and I actually started writing it which was crazy, I’ve never taken a creative writing class before, I was an English major but it was all analytical type stuff. And then after getting a little ways into it I kind of put it down for a minute because you know you don’t realize that you can actually write a book until you finish writing an entire book, it’s an enormous enterprise. And then the restaurant I was working at was knocked down with bulldozers because they sold it to create an apple store. So then I was on six months of unemployment, and I said ‘you know what you’re probably going to get one shot at finishing this, so just tell yourself six months of unemployment is enough time to write a novel’. And since I’d already done all the research, I’d finished my research into the ripper killings, it was enough time. And I finished it, while I was, you know, out of work. And after that everything got crazy because I didn’t ever think it was ever going anywhere, I thought maybe a Sherlockian small press would maybe, I don’t know, do an e-book of it or something along those lines. I was blown away when I got an agent, and I was even more blown away when I sold it to Simon and Schuster. So that was how I got into and it was all very gratuitous but it was crazy. And I often think to myself ‘why are people letting me do this for a living’ like ‘this is not a regular job’ but that’s how it works.
So that was for your first book, and how did you then make the transition to your second?
Yeah that was a can of worms. I have a few lost novels between Dust and Shadow and The Gods of Gotham. And I still work on them and I still love the concepts, but I didn’t know what I was doing, is the problem. Because if you’re writing a Sherlock Holmes pastiche you have a lot of template laid out for you. You already have the characters and they’re already beloved characters so there’s a certain shorthand you can enter into. You’re not introducing a new character and trying to involve the reader in their lives and make the reader feel affection for this person, they already feel affections for Sherlock Holmes or they wouldn’t have the damn book in the first place. So additionally with the Ripper murders, what you have is a series of extremely specific crimes that I wanted to represent as accurately as possible. So I essentially had a historical outline written for me. And that was great too, but that doesn’t actually teach you how to write a book. So I wrote a few more books, wrong. And then I decided to become a long-haul truck driver, and my husband said ‘no, you should probably not be a long-haul truck driver’. And I was like ‘what about ice fishing?’ And he was like ‘no, that’s probably not a good idea either’. I just didn’t want to go back – acting had burned me out a little bit and I didn’t want to go back to the restaurant work. And then I sat down and I said OK here’s one more try, one more try, I want to write – and here’s the difference between those books that didn’t work and the one that did – I was trying to write – this is going to sound ridiculous – I was trying to write a literary book. I was trying to write a book that had literary value and artistic merit and had all these sorts of exciting moments and historical significance etcetera. And I wanted to do all of those things, but what I wasn’t sitting down and writing – I wasn’t putting my guts on the page. I was trying to be artistic about it, I was trying to say like you know ‘this is an artful sentence, there you go’. Writing artful sentences is bullshit. What I needed to do was take all of my feelings of you know, like, social injustice and failure, what I myself was doing, and dissatisfaction with the world of politics in general, and all of the things I was actually feeling. And I needed to put my own guts on the page and thats was what I was not doing. Because I was being timid and I thought that professionalism was, you know, being intellectually rigorous, but I was in fact just being cowardly about taking my own feelings and just, you know, like finger painting with them in words. So in The Gods of Gotham I said ‘fuck it’, Timothy Wild has just lost everything. He is a dude who walks around with his heart absolutely on his sleeve. And I know all sorts of men who are very sensitive kittens so that was not a problem to write. And he’s in love with a girl who doesn’t love him back, and he has a terrible relationship with his only sibling. And I just piled things on and on and on because I was very frustrated at the time. And Tim is a ridiculous little angst kitten, but he is way more a reflection of my actual, you know, like, style and self etcetera, and I figured at a certain point I am just going to actually be risky and put myself out there, and see if anybody wants to read that. And bizarrely it turns out they do (laughs). So um, me being artistic is not as effective as me being honest, and I didn’t know that, because no one had ever taught me how to write a book before. So I had to practice.
If you were to, in one sentence, describe why you think reading is important, what would you say?
I think that you should read so – If we don’t read how can we possibly understand each other. And, you know, if that’s the one sentence, great, if we don’t read how could we possibly understand each other. But I would add to that how could we possibly understand ourselves if we’re not reading, because reading is such a touchstone for people. It enlightens us not only in the sense of ‘Oh that’s how that life felt’ that someone else has written. But the perfect metaphor that captures exactly how you were feeling and you didn’t really know, and it was this sort of just amorphous miasma of ‘ughh, I feel like this this, but I don’t know how to say it’. Naming things is very powerful, and I think that putting concrete words onto emotions, onto experiences, onto settings onto times of day, you know, like, nailing those down and saying that – there’s this beautiful sentence at the beginning of The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler right, that still boggles my mind. The phrase he inserts into the sentence is ‘with the sun not shining’ and this is in Los Angeles, ‘with the sun not shining’ doesn’t mean the same thing as that it was cloudy, it’s like this haze right, and so you know from reading that, OK it was this sort of day, and I can picture it. And I think you can do the same thing with people’s feelings, people’s, you know, struggles and their inner turmoil if you put the words together in a row the right way and I think that everyone should read because otherwise we’re just going to keep blindly bumping into walls.
And then just to finish up with one fun question, what is your guilty pleasure at the moment? Whether it be movies or books or food.
I don’t have guilty pleasures. I mean I don’t think people should have guilty pleasures, like – that is a fun question – But I think that people should have pleasures, you know, we’re such puritans (laughs) like we’re such puritans, screw that I mean go eat a pickle straight out of the pickle jar, like go read some fan fiction, go, you know, watch Godzilla. Do what you do man (laughs). Go for it, die your hair blue, whatever. I mean the older I get the more I feel like guilty pleasures are standing in the way of forward progress (laughs). If I were to come up with one, I guess, I am obsessed with Star Trek the Next Generation. But it’s not guilty. I just got into that. I watch star trek when I’m sad, and when I’m happy, and when I’m bored, and all the time in between. I don’t know whenever I try to think of something that’s a guilty pleasure, it’s like ‘well yeah I mean yes I really love cheesy 80’s pop music’ but I think everybody does, you know, it’s like guilty pleasures are the same as pleasure pleasures they just mean that you aren’t owning it.
From Edgar-nominated author Lyndsay Faye comes the next book in what Gillian Flynn calls “a brilliant new mystery series.”
Start Reading an Excerpt of Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye!
Nita Basu is a Publicity Assistant for Berkley/NAL; namely for Ace, Roc, and DAW. You can find out more about her thoughts on books, Doctor Who, video games, and cats on Twitter @nita_basu.
There are many well-written and entertaining books that tackle the age-old story of Beauty and the Beast. But not many incorporate 12th Century Irish history with a touch of gothic mystery. An 18-year old scribe, Caitrin fled to Whistling Tor with no money or prospects where she meets Anluan, the disfigured chieftain. Caitrin helps Anluan overcome his debilitating despair and apathy to finally step up and deal with the Anglo-Norman invasion that is a prevalent threat in the book. If you like Gothic romances, fairy tale fantasy, or just riveting historical fiction novels, you definitely have to check out Heart’s Blood.
You can’t talk about fantasy epics without mentioning Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. The once-legendary hero Kvothe is now living incognito as a small-town tavern keeper when Chronicler, a travelling scribe, happens upon his inn. After agreeing to dictate his story over the course of three days, Kvothe takes us on a journey beginning with his humble upbringing as a child of the Edema Ruh, a traveling troupe of performers, and his struggle to find his way to the University to learn more about magic. Name of the Wind is just day one of Kvothe’s sweeping autobiography, and will grab your attention and wonder from the first page.
Immortal Muse is a brilliant historical fantasy that follows the French alchemist Nicolas Flamel, and his wife, Perenelle. After discovering the elixir to bestow immortal life, the two become locked in war with one another; while Perenelle feeds off of the creativity of the most successful artists and musicians of all time, Nicolas thrives on the suffering of others. The book features fictionalized versions of real historical figures, like Klimt, Vivaldi, and Robespierre, and skillfully immerses the reader into each era. Besides being a terrific story, it’s also a thoughtful way to view some of the most influential historical events in human history.
What if when the Europeans came to the Americas for the first time, they didn’t encounter the Native Americans, but instead they come across the terra indigene, creatures that are almost as old as the world they live in? Creatures like shapeshifters, and vampires that see humans as just another “kind of meat”? This is the alternate North America that Anne Bishop creates as readers are introduced to Meg Corbyn, a human and blood prophet, who escapes her life in servitude to go seek asylum in the Lakeside Courtyard, a district run by the terra indigene where human does not apply. Written in Red features compelling and intricate worldbuilding, and the readers will be fascinated by the complex relationships and politics between humans and the different types of terra indigene. If you love dark fantasy or alternative history, you can’t go wrong with the first in Bishop’s Others series.
Werewolves, vampires, and ghosts are all well and good, but Keri Arthur features a relatively unexplored supernatural being—the phoenix. In Fireborn, phoenixes have three forms: human, bird, and pure flame, and also go through a “rebirth” every hundred years. It’s not all fun and games though, as an age-old curse makes true love with another phoenix utterly impossible. The book also involves fire fae and a new take on vampires. If you’re looking for a sexy, urban fantasy with an innovative and fun twist on supernatural lore, look no further!
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Jessica works with romance titles from Berkley and NAL and is also a self-proclaimed YA enthusiast. She lives in Washington Heights and is a huge fan of Supernatural, all things Joss Whedon, and live music.
OMG EVERYONE HAS TO READ VIRGIN BY RADHIKA SANGHANI RIGHT NOW. Are you convinced? Not yet? Well how about I tell you that this book had me giggling like an idiot on the subway. Seriously, I haven’t laughed so hard at a book in years and it wasn’t just because it was funny. It’s incredibly poignant, especially to this generation of females. What we go through growing up, trying to understand boys, being afraid to ask real questions and this whole myriad of things that you might discuss with your closest friends is now written, and fantastically so, in this book.
I challenge any woman who reads this NOT to find at least one part of Ellie’s story that you don’t completely relate to, because I believe it is truly impossible.
I’m still new to reading historical romances but MY BEAUTIFUL ENEMY by Sherry Thomas is just a wonderful addition to this genre. Not only does Thomas write intelligent heroines, but this story has off-the-charts chemistry and an action-packed mystery to boot. There’s something to be said for the sexual tension in historicals because things can be a little more buttoned up, but Thomas balances heat with emotion that can’t be missed.
So I love action movies. Like really and truly thoroughly enjoy them. So when that gets combined with a steamy romance plot? Perfection! And so is BOUND TO DANGER by Katie Reus. Being on the run from terrorists and a person of interest to the NSA are some seriously high stakes and it’s those kinds of situations that rev up emotions to warp speed. It can’t be helped and I can’t help but love it. What’s different about this series so far is that our heroes and heroines have a past with each other which makes their connection so much more believable and for me, more enjoyable.
GUARDED by Mary Behre is such a unique paranormal romance. I fell in love with this world in the first novel, Spirited, last spring and loved going back. This time, the “crift” is Shelley’s, and her curse/gift is the ability to communicate with animals. ← SOLD. When she realizes animals are being kidnapped from her local zoo, she contacts an old flame who not only knows her secret, but also happens to be a detective. Fun, fast-paced, plus animals!
Maisey Yates has grown a stellar reputation for writing the perfect balance of humor, emotion, and sexual chemistry. In UNBROKEN two of my all-time favorite romance tropes are used: pretend relationship that turns very real and the friends-to-lovers. Cade is Amber’s best friend that always seems to be rescuing her (which she hates) and he does it again this time by pretending to be her live-in boyfriend with plans to fix up her grandfather’s failing ranch. But they have to keep the charade going because of course Amber’s grandfather loves the idea of them together. It’s just that kind of situation that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling as you watch two people realize their true feelings for each other.
Last, but not least at all, is TAKEOVER by Anna Zabo. First, two hot dudes in hot suits, with super-hot feelings. And secondly… wait, is there supposed to be more? Well if you need more than those reasons to check out this M/M romance, then how about because it’s not only damn sexy (yes lady readers, don’t let the slash scare you!) but the emotions that Michael and Sam have to deal while in an office setting, not to mention Sam is Michael’s boss, give this story a dose of reality. Also, did I mention 2 HOT GUYS IN SUITS?
Those are my August romance recs for you, so happy reading!
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Rebecca Brewer is an editorial assistant/professional geek at Ace and Roc. When not working she can be found attending a show, at band practice, and forcing her favorite books onto friends and loved ones.
I knew from reading her previous books that Jacqueline Carey’s urban fantasy series would be good, but I didn’t realize how much fun it was! The small resort town where the series takes place effortlessly blends many different paranormal creatures who make up the tight community. With action, romance, and Carey’s imagination, this is the start to an amazing series.
When I read Night Owls, a fantastic ensemble urban fantasy about a vampire who owns a bookstore and her group of friends, I knew I had to have it. If you’re looking for characters as vivid as those in Game of Thrones, and a new take on paranormal creatures, you have to read Night Owls.
Charlaine Harris is one of the best authors at combining genres, and this just cements her place as the master. This is a perfect blend of mystery and urban fantasy, with a fantastic setting that makes me nostalgic for my small town Texas home, though it’s just a bit more mysterious.
I’ve been counting down the days until this book is released and I can discuss it with others. In this perfectly atmospheric historical fantasy, Lizzie Border (with her axe) is fighting against something monstrous attacking people in Fall River. This is a perfect novel for those who love the Lovecraft mythos.
If a personable Agent of Death who guides soul to the afterlife isn’t enough to convince you to read this book, perhaps a very attractive (and potentially troublesome) neighbor will, along with a hilarious gargoyle with a penchant for junk food. The action packed plot and the fantastic voice will make any urban fantasy fan happy.
Most people encounter Faith Hunter’s work through her Jane Yellowrock series, but I fell in love with her book Bloodring first. It’s the first in her Rogue Mage series where Seraphs and Demons fight battle while the remaining humans must use their wits and our main character, a mage, fights for the ones she loves. Dark, exciting, and passionate, with an overarching mystery and an upcoming battle on the horizon.
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Marissa Grossman is an Editorial Assistant at Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. Like any self-respecting pop culture addict, she watches far too much television and loves all things social media. You can find her on Twitter @marissagrossman.
I might be cheating a little, since this book won’t be available until 2015, but I can’t imagine leaving it off my list. The Law of Loving Others tells the story of Emma, who returns home from boarding school to find that her mother is in the middle of a schizophrenic break. Debut author Kate Axelrod’s stunning, emotional novel takes us inside Emma’s mind as she struggles with the shocking news of her mother’s condition and the questions it raises about her own mental health. Are Emma’s moments of anxiety and distant feelings toward her boyfriend a normal reaction to something so stressful, or could they be a precursor to her own battle with schizophrenia? Can she handle such upheaval in her family, or is she just too fragile? Even if you’ve never had to deal with mental illness in your own life, you’ll definitely relate to Emma’s heart-wrenching journey as she learns what it means to love others–and herself–unconditionally.
Somehow, this South African import has remained a mostly undiscovered gem. Sharing Catcher in the Rye’s wit and prep-school setting, Spud is a rollicking update on Salinger’s classic. The novel takes place in 1990 South Africa, just as Nelson Mandela is being released from prison and the country is beginning its march toward the end of apartheid. It’s a seminal moment in South Africa’s–and the world’s–history, but it’s seen through the eyes of 13-year-old John “Spud” Milton, who’s just trying to get through his first year at boarding school. Though the novel’s setting may be specific, the coming-of-age themes are universal. Spud deals with mischievous roommates, a hilariously eccentric family, his first crush, feelings of alienation, and even death. This novel is filled with moments of intense heartbreak and unbridled joy; it’s cathartic, relatable, and uplifting. If you’re a fan of grounded YA, this one’s for you.
So here’s the thing: if you had seen my three-year-old cousin dressed up as Ladybug Girl for Halloween, you’d adore this series too. Lulu/Ladybug Girl is spunky, fearless, and imaginative. She’s basically everything you could ask for in a children’s book character. And the fact that she has a basset hound named Bingo? Well that’s just icing on the cake.
Ok, this is another one that isn’t available quite yet, but I promise it’s worth the wait. Do you love astrology? Great! Do you know little-to-nothing about astrology? Same here! While Zodiac’s premise may revolve around the astrological signs, it’s really the perfect novel for anyone who loves thrilling adventures, epic worlds, and compelling characters. Romina Russell’s world-building is magnificent, reimagining the Zodiac as 12 different solar systems, each populated with characters who personify the traits of their respective signs. The protagonist, Rho, is a sci-fi Katniss Everdeen: a badass leader with just the right mix of snark and empathy. You’ll fall in love with Rho, a protective and loving Cancer, and you’ll definitely have trouble deciding which of the men in her life you like best: the brooding, sensitive Mathias (a Cancer like Rho), or Hysan, the charming, confident Libra. No matter which sign you are, you’ll adore this jaw-dropping blockbuster of a book.
Find more books on the Young Readers page!
Rob Holden is a Marketing and Publicity Assistant for Gotham and Avery. If he could be anyone on earth, it would be the Dos Equis man. Or Anthony Bourdain. Or maybe, in a distant third, Bruce Wayne. Books are as much a part of him as true southern barbecue. And if he remembers correctly, it was Proust who once wrote (in his native French, of course) “what peanut butter can’t make better, cheese can.” No, wait – that was Rob himself.
You often hear die-hard fans refer to sports as “religion” or “a way of life.” Having played baseball my whole life and being from the land of SEC football, I totally get this. So too does NYU President John Sexton. Invoking great thinkers both within and outside of baseball, he shows us how baseball and religion go hand-in-hand, and how America’s pastime can (and does) lead to a higher plane of being. If Gehrig’s heart-wrenching speech doesn’t stir you, if Gibson’s game one heroics (my personal favorite moment in baseball history) don’t give you chills, then you may well have no soul with which to contemplate the God Sexton speaks of.
Ted Williams knew a thing or two about hitting a baseball, and he famously said it was the hardest thing to do in sports. Science, basic physics, would support that theory. And if you need more proof, take my baseball career as empirical evidence in the affirmative. But what is it that allows some players to hit the ball with such ease, while others flounder at the plate? Mike Stadler dives into the psychology behind what makes some players so good – from anticipation and intuition, to countless tidbits of knowledge and experience acquired. Baseball is a thinking man’s game, and Stadler beautifully proves it. Which is probably why my meteoric rise to the Major Leagues never quite happened.
Nothing in a person’s life should be more personal, more individually crafted, than his or her religious or spiritual beliefs. Thomas Moore advocates a sort of theoretical approach to religion – bringing together facets of multiple faiths and adopting various principles from across the religious plane. I think he’s on to something – I’ve always felt religion should be about acceptance and personal growth. Now I’ve got Tom to back me up. A profoundly humbling and enlightening read.
It’s funny to think of our most famed and revered literary characters as having come from anywhere but the grand imaginations of our most famous authors. But, as Thomas Goetz makes obvious, such is not always the case (thank goodness). Were it not for the seemingly sloppy science behind the discovery and treatment of the tuberculosis bacteria, one Sherlock Holmes may never have entered the literary cannon. And then Robert Downey, Jr. (whom I also want to be) would never have gotten to play him in those awesome movies – and we’d all be a little bit less complete because of it.
We’ve all been there – faced with a question you don’t know the answer to, you feign knowledge and familiarity. Sometimes I feel like I got a degree in that – I got really good at sounding smart by saying pretty much nothing as an undergrad. We’re scared to not know things, scared we might look incompetent or stupid. In this short volume, Leah Cohen explains why we’re afraid of the things we don’t know and in turn shows us why we shouldn’t be. Being able to say “I don’t know” can be incredibly liberating and empowering. After all, doesn’t the unknown lie at the heart of all discovery?
To find Health & Self-Improvement books, click here.
Ali Cardia is an Assistant Editor at Riverhead Books. She acquires and edits narrative nonfiction and memoir, like Jen Doll’s hilarious and insightful memoir Save the Date.
Fiction has this incredible ability to transport us to places we’ve never been, and really good fiction can open up the world. This brilliant novel about the tribes of Pakistan and Afghanistan follows Tor Baz, a young boy descended from both chiefs and outlaws, as he becomes the Wandering Falcon, travelling the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. This book is notable for a number of reasons: it offers a glimpse at a world that remains foreign and mysterious to many American readers; it’s heartbreakingly beautiful; and, amazingly, it was author Jamil Ahmad’s debut—published when he was 80-years-old. Ahmad passed away recently, and I’ve been thinking about how much I love this book, and how much I hope others will pick it up and fall in love with it, too. (Bonus points: it remains one of my favorite book jackets.)
This book left me speechless. And then, when I found speech again, the first thing I did was tell everyone in my immediate vicinity that they must read it immediately. RIGHT NOW. The book takes the form of a business self-help book—each chapter is a “lesson”—and follows a man from impoverished child to water mogul. But at its heart, this is a love story, and who doesn’t love those? This book hooks you and it does not let go—and at only 220 pages, it’s ok, because you don’t have to put it down! Just find some hours and go, go, go.
If you like novels that are: fun, clever, unexpected, funny, tragic, and full of useful new vocab words (the narrator tells us right at the start that she loved words as a young girl: “When you think of two things to say, pick your favorite and only say that, my mother suggested once, as a tip to polite social behavior, and the rule was later modified to one in three.” Genius.), then We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is for you! Bring this book on vacation; it is a pure joy.
Catherine Chung is the real deal. Her writing is smart, striking, and hits at a deep, emotional place. This book is about sisters—there is a more-than-good chance you will love this book if you have one of those—and also about family, history, tradition and loyalty. Cheryl Strayed felt similarly and said this book had her “spellbound from page one,” so maybe I’ll leave it at that.
This book is creepy—you should know that going in—but it’s weird and unsettling in the best possible way (it’s written by the phenomenal, award-winning Chang-rae Lee, after all). The novel is set in a dystopian America, and the story follows a kick-ass young woman, Fan, who becomes a legend in her own time when she does the unthinkable: set off on her own to find her boyfriend, who has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Lee is an amazing story-teller, and there are so many great stories from Fan’s journey, ones that stick with you long after you’ve finished reading the book.
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Anna Baldasty works as a copywriter in academic and library marketing, where she writes and designs promotional materials that get Penguin titles in the hands of professional readers: students, professors, and librarians.
As horror fiction that works on multiple levels, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is easily one of my favorite classics. Only Shelley could deftly explore the anxieties of her age, from the limits of science to the advancement of feminism, while spinning a gothic page-turner that takes us from Lake Geneva to the frozen waters of the Arctic. The best part? A monster so vividly and humanly rendered that we sometimes forget to root against him.
What I love most about The Age of Innocence is not its discussion of duty versus passion, but its evocation of memory—of the desire to preserve experience, protecting it from the passage of time and the weight of reality. If that seems vague, it’s because I cannot say more without ruining the book’s final scene, which I think is one of the most perfect endings ever written. Read it!
Told from two perspectives in alternating chapters, this story of love and betrayal set against a backdrop of political upheaval in early 19th-century India places national drama in domestic terms, literally moving revolution inside the home. The result is a beautifully written character study, wherein every act, every word, and every emotion carries dire consequences. Yet despite the high-stakes set-up and overarching political framework, Tagore manages to tell the story as a quiet, intimate tragedy—a stunning accomplishment.
If your summer reading list is missing the fin de siècle Norwegian soap opera you were longing for, look no further than Hedda Gabler. This play has it all: an unraveling marriage, an unwanted pregnancy, a dissolute ex-lover, blackmail, alcoholism, and lots of snarky comments. Ibsen’s sympathetic portrayal of a woman trapped to the point of desperation by traditional female roles is remarkable, especially considering the play debuted in 1891.
The Odyssey means more to me now, in my twenties, than it did when I first read it in English class as a high school freshman. Although I doubt The Odyssey has ever been marketed as coming-of-age fiction, in many ways Odysseus’s trials perfectly capture the highs and lows of growing older: he searches for adventure, tackles obstacles, and navigates an often disorienting environment. If a story written c. 700 BCE still feels relevant in 2014, it definitely earns a spot on this list.
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Matt is the Marketing Director at Penguin Press. He has never won the Penguin Cup fantasy football league.
Book publishers aren’t necessarily known for their athletic prowess, but believe it or not, we’ve got a lot of athletes here at Penguin. You’ll find us on Central Park’s Great Lawn on summer evenings, playing softball against Oxford University Press. You’ll find us on the Chelsea Piers basketball courts running up the score on Simon and Schuster. And because fake sports are just as intense as real ones, you’ll find us every August in a booth at the back of Mr. Dennehy’s Irish Pub drafting our fantasy football teams The Penguin Cup league. (My team name: The Secret Life of Brees.)
We’re just as competitive about publishing sports books. And now, in the sports doldrums of August, there’s plenty of time to catch up on your reading.
How many NBA legends can quote from both ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu and contemporary urban fantasy author Jim Butcher? Jackson is one of the most successful, innovative, and unique sports figures.
I don’t like flying. On planes. So I can’t imagine jumping off a mountain with a wingsuit. But I loved reading about the people who do – from the safety of my couch, on solid ground.
A book about rowing? A book about rowing. Trust me.
It’s got to be a fun time to be a Cleveland sports fan right now.
A novel for fans of The Art of Fielding and Hoosiers about a rising high school basketball player. Lane is 6’8” if he’s an inch, so when he talks about basketball, you listen.
If you’re wondering why your friends, co-workers, spouses are distracted every fall, read this book. You won’t believe how far people take their fantasy sports obsessions.
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