Illustration by Kate Gavino

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Kate Gavino!

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


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

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

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

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

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

2. Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men  by Donald McCaig

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


3. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

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

4.  Stepdog by Nicole Galland

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

5. Dog Boy by Eva Hornung  

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

9781594632693 (1)6. Dog Man by Martha Sherrill

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

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

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

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

9780670025770 (1)

Photo credit: Nina Subin

Photo credit: Nina Subin

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

1. Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles

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

2. Coal Black Horse by Robert Olmstead

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


3. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

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

4. Neverhome by Laird Hunt

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

5. March by Geraldine Brooks

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



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


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

Stephanie Sabol, Brand Director at Penguin Young Readers

Stephanie Sabol, Brand Director at Penguin Young Readers

What kind of work do you do at Penguin? Do you have a crowning achievement, or memorable experience from your time here?

As brand director, I get to work with some of our most iconic brands including Roald Dahl, Mad Libs, and Corduroy. I do a lot of analysis and work with publishing, marketing, and sales on maximizing the potential of these brands. One memorable experience for me is working on John Green’s The Fault in our Stars. 9780142424179  I remember when we each got copies of the top secret manuscript. I was the rep for Barnes & Noble at the time and was so excited to sell it. I remember when the pre-order button went up at BN.com and it was total mayhem (but in a good way) with customer demand. I switched positions to work in digital sales in 2011 and was so proud when Apple named it the Best YA book of the year in 2012. Now, working in the brand department, I still get to stay close to all of John Green’s great projects.

When you aren’t busy at work with books, do you have a hobby? Do you have any book recommendations related to this hobby?

I love travel and outdoor activities like running and biking. Bill Bryson is one of my favorite travel authors. He’s hilarious, accessible, and I learn so much from his books. I particularly loved A Walk in the Woods because it combines travel with the outdoors. I also love the history of New York and fiction or non-fiction books related to this. Some of my favorites are Secret New York: An Unusual Guide by T. M. Rives and Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, and I’m currently reading City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg. One hobby I don’t have but I seem to have a lot of books about is cooking. Not sure if I will ever put those books to good use. 

Which books are you most excited about gifting this year?  

9780670016839I’m glad my family can’t read this because the surprises would be ruined. I have already purchased 18 books as gifts. I’m excited to give my five-year-old niece some more Ivy & Bean books (by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall), since she just read the first one and loved it. My brother-in-law is getting a copy of Bourbon Empire by Reid Mitenbuler which is a fascinating history of whiskey. My dad is getting Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson. It’s a search for a sunken 17th-century pirate ship!  One book I am recommending to anyone who loves international thrillers is I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. Set mostly in Turkey, it’s a fast paced read about murder and terrorism. I couldn’t put it down.

What is your favorite holiday read of all time?

Hands down—The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsberg. I heard it for the first time when our school librarian read it to my first grade class. I cried at the end when the boy’s family stopped hearing the reindeer bells. I vowed I would always hear the bells!

What’s your favorite part of working the Penguin Hotline?

As a “genre expert” for children’s books, I think I have the best job. I get to offer suggestions to anyone who needs assistance without having to worry about all the work that goes on behind the scenes (thanks to everyone who does that)!

Thanks, Stephanie! For custom book recommendations for the holidays, be sure to check out the Penguin Hotline!


Not sure what to gift the book club member in your life this holiday season? Or looking for a book for your own book club? The Penguin Hotline has a few ideas to get you started!

9780525429142 (1)

For the foodies:

1. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

For the romantics:

2. The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

For an important conversation:

3. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates


9781594206276 (2)

For those dating in the digital age who could use a dose of humor (and some thought-provoking sociological insight to boot):

4. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

For the wanderlusters:

5. Euphoria by Lily King

For literary fiction with some curveballs you’ll want to discuss:

6. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff


For some gripping, Cold War-set historical fiction:

7. The Hours Count by Jillian Cantor

For National Book Award-winning short stories:

8. Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson


For a debut novel from an emerging voice:

9. Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam

For the multi-generational book club:

10. A Spool of Thread by Anne Tyler

Happy reading (and discussing)! And for more custom book recommendations for the holidays, check out the Penguin Hotline!


Photo credit: Dan Winters

Nick Offerman, author of Gumption and Paddle Your Own Canoe, shares his 2015 Holiday Book Picks with the Penguin Hotline:


Our Only World by Wendell Berry

As good a place to start as any, since I recommend his entire canon of fiction, essays and poetry. Our most important American writer, hilarious, loving, and vital.

Why We Make Things and Why it Matters by Peter Korn

A moving and personal account of the imperative to create with our hands tangible change in the world around us. A warming recipe for betterment from a master woodworker/teacher.

Lafayette in The Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

Ms. Vowell fuels her every sentence with pithy observation and caustic insight, allowing her subjects, however historical, to become completely palatable, relatable, and ultimately human. Her rendering of France’s unflagging friendship to America over the centuries made me cry. Twice.

Thanks, Nick Offerman! The Penguin Hotline can’t help but recommend a couple more of our own favorites for the holiday: Gumption and Paddle Your Own Canoe. And check out the Penguin Hotline for custom book recommendations!

9780525954675 (1)

Madeline McIntosh,  President of Penguin Publishing Group (right), with Penguin author Elizabeth Gilbert

Madeline McIntosh, President of Penguin Publishing Group (right), with Penguin author Elizabeth Gilbert

What kind of work do you do at Penguin? Do you have a crowning achievement, or memorable experience from your time here?

I have a very fun job, which is to oversee all the Penguin adult publishing imprints (meaning: imprints that publish books for grownups, not to be confused with other connotations of “adult” publishing). It probably doesn’t count as a crowning achievement, but one of the most memorable experiences of the past year was launching the Penguin Hotline in 2014. I love that what began as an off-the-cuff idea for a holiday ad developed into a way that brings the Penguins together with each other and with readers across the globe. Working on the Hotline reconnects us each with why we got into this business to begin with – we love books, and we love other people who love books.

When you aren’t busy at work with books, do you have a hobby? Do you have any book recommendations related to this hobby?

It probably wouldn’t sound right to list my 11-year-old twin sons as a hobby, but they come to mind in this case because the three of us continue to pick books for me to read out loud, even though they’re well into their own reading lives. It can be surprisingly hard to find books that appeal to older kids but which also work well as read-alouds. A few of my own favorites from the past year were Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm trilogy. Right now, we’re reading Graceling by Kristin Cashore. The boys love the adventure story. I love that they love this adventure centered around a kickass female lead character.


The other hobby-who’s-not-a-hobby is our dog Wally, a very goofy chocolate labradoodle. One of the best things about dog people is how easy we are to buy presents for – any books with dogs in them usually work. Two of my all-time favorite dog books are photo collections by Jim Dratfield: The Quotable Canine and Underdogs. There are some great new dog books this fall and winter: Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman, A Dog Named Jimmy by Rafael Mantesso, and Dog Love by Ann DeVito [out in February 2016]. And for anyone who’s about to get a dog, I think the very best dog training book is The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete.

Which books are you most excited about gifting this year?

I have been recommending Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff for months, but there are still some people left I can give it to. The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik is perfect for several people on my list. My foodie friends will get Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov. And for everyone else: Lost Ocean by Johanna Basford.

9780143122494 (1)

What is your favorite holiday read of all time?

This isn’t very original, but I’m a sucker for A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

What’s your favorite part of working the Penguin Hotline?
I love receiving a request that goes beyond my area of expertise, since then I reach out to the hive mind, either here at Penguin or to friends elsewhere in the industry. I end up with suggestions that work not only for the person who’s written in, but that I want to read, too!

Thanks, Madeline!


Check out the Penguin Hotline for custom book recommendations!


Not sure what to gift the mystery and thriller lover in your life this holiday season? The Penguin Hotline has a few ideas to get you started!



For the classics lover with a European flair:

1. Maigret by Georges Simenon

For the Millennium Trilogy junkie (Lisbeth is back!):

2. The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

For the one who appreciates a hard-edged crime novel with a female protagonist:

3. Catch Me by Lisa Gardner




For the one who wouldn’t be too scared of an eerie psychological thriller set in the countryside:

4. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

For your friend who prefers suspense with a side of Nora Roberts-style romance:

5. Devoted in Death by J. D. Robb

For the one who loves Westerns:

6. Dry Bones by Craig Johnson




For your literary friend who wants to get the chills in a major way:

7. Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh


For the film noire fan:

8. Night Film by Marisha Pessl





For a Patricia Highsmith devotee, who liked The Goldfinch and Gone Girl:

9. Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm


For your friend who always tries to guess the ending, and needs some good character development to complicate things:

10. The Secret Place by Tana French



Check out the Penguin Hotline for custom book recommendations!

Linwood Barclay, NYT and #1 international bestselling author of BROKEN PROMISE (photo credit: Bill Taylor)

photo credit: Bill Taylor

Linwood Barclay, New York Times and #1 international bestselling author of Broken Promise shares his list of “Five Classic Thrillers” with the Penguin Hotline:

It’s occurred to me that whenever I’m asked to list my favourite thrillers, the titles that show up keep changing. There’s always one I think I should have mentioned, so the next time, I put it on the list, and one of the others falls off. Here are the books that come to mind today.

11/22/63, by Stephen King: Okay, time travel plays a big part in this 2011 novel about a man’s attempt to stop the assassination of President Kennedy, which puts it slightly into the sci-fi realm, but it’s a hell of a thriller, and shows that King has no intention of coasting in the later stages of  his career. It’s a huge, ambitious book, and in addition to the excitement that comes from trying to stop Lee Harvey Oswald, there’s a powerful love story at the novel’s core.

Marathon Man, by William Goldman: Before Goldman wrote the screenplay for the Dustin Hoffman thriller back in the 1970s, he wrote the novel. When I picked it up paperback as a teenager, I hardly knew what to make of it. The first several chapters appeared to have no connection to each other. First off, we’re witness to a bizarre traffic accident in Manhattan. Then we’re with Babe, the marathon-running student. Then we’re with Scylla, the assassin. As the threads start to come together, we’re mesmerized.

The First Deadly Sin, by Lawrence Sanders: Another book from the 1970s by the prolific writer of popular fiction (now no longer with us). Police detective Edward X. Delaney is on the trail of a serial killer who uses a strange weapon. This was the first big thriller I ever read. Delaney’s methodical, step-by-step approach to getting into the killer’s mind gives the book an epic feel.

A Judgment in Stone, by Ruth Rendell: In the very first paragraph, Rendell tells the reader who has been murdered, who the murderer is, and why the crime was committed. But the circumstances are so compelling, the reader has no choice to but to go on. You think you know it all, but you don’t.

The Cartel, by Don Winslow: Did I say Sanders’ book was epic? Well, Winslow’s most recent novel is EPIC. This ambitious book, about the Mexican drug cartels, is a followup to his earlier thriller, The Power of the Dog. If Tolkien had decided to write about the battles between drug lords, and their battles with government drug enforcement agents, instead of all that Middle Earth stuff, he might well have come with something like The Cartel. Not just a terrific read, but a deeply troubling work of fiction.

Thanks, Linwood Barclay! And the Penguin Hotline can’t help but recommend one of our favorite thrillers: Broken Promise!


Check out the Penguin Hotline for custom book recommendations!

Andy Dudley, National Account Manager (right), taking a selfie with author Deborah Harkness (photo courtesy Andy Dudley)

Andy Dudley, National Account Manager (right), taking a selfie with author Deborah Harkness (photo courtesy Andy Dudley)


What kind of work do you do at Penguin? Do you have a crowning achievement, or memorable experience from your time here?

I work with a number of our online accounts, selling e-books, digital audio books, and even physical audio books!

I don’t know if it is my crowning achievement, but part of my previous job at Penguin was to do author signings in the Penguin office. I did them with a number of memorable authors but one of my favorite will always be Robert B. Parker. He would always sing, tell jokes, and talk about his wife, Joan. It also just so happens that Robert Parker is one of my parents’ favorite authors! So when I told my parents that I had spent time with him, they were both impressed. And I think finally “got” my job.

When you aren’t busy at work with books, do you have a hobby? Do you have any book recommendations related to this hobby?

I really love music and there is a series of books called 33 1/3. Each book in the series focuses on a single album and dives deep into the creation of the album, what the album is about, and the artist. There are now over 100 titles in the series, from Big Star to Celine Dion, and if you are looking to buy a book for a music fan, there is sure to be one that would be perfect to give.

9781594634475 (1)

Which books are you most excited about gifting this year? 

I have already given Yotam Ottloenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook to every home cook I know, so I am very excited that he has released his new cookbook, Nopi, this fall. Every year I buy the new Best American Short Story series title and this year there is a new collection in celebration of the centennial of the series. 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories is edited by Lorrie Moore and I’m going to give a copy of it to a few fans of short fiction that I know. Also, I haven’t given a copy of Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies to every person I know. It might be time to rectify that.

What is your favorite holiday read of all time?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is still the best! There’s a good chance I watch the cartoon every year too.

What’s your favorite part of working the Penguin Hotline?

Recommending books! I worked in a bookstore for a number of years and it was my favorite thing when a customer came into the store and asked, “what should I read next?” So the Penguin Hotline is the perfect outlet for me!

Thanks, Andy! Check out the Penguin Hotline for more custom book recommendations!