summer 2014 050Krista Ahlberg is an Assistant Production Editor for Viking, Puffin, and Razorbill. Besides books, she also enjoys Broadways musicals, wandering the city, and watching TV. But mostly books.




The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Jerry Pinkney is one of my favorite illustrators, and here his colorful and fantastical-yet-grounded pictures enhance the folk story of two girls who meet an old woman in the forest. One girl’s kindness is rewarded with riches while the other… well, has a rather different outcome.





The Golden Specific by S. E. Grove

I loved The Glass Sentence, but I think I love The Golden Specific even more. It’s great to be able to explore more of a fantasy world in a sequel, especially a world as fantastic and layered as this one, where different parts of the world have been thrown into different time periods. Now, Theo is in Boston going undercover with a secret identity (or two) in order to discover what a sinister member of parliament is up to, while Sophia is off to the Papal States to follow a lead about her parents’ disappearance. There are more maps, as well as ghosts (I always like a good ghost), mysteries, and lovely new characters, combining to make a truly magical book.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

I remember reading this book in an airport when I was thirteen, and I’ve reread it many times since then. I love fairy-tale retellings, and this is one of my absolute favorites. Switching perspective between Rapunzel, the prince, and the witch, the story becomes much more complicated than the one you thought you knew. Zel is whimsical and sometimes dark, exploring what it would actually be like to spend years locked in a tower without ever losing its lyrical, fairy-tale tone.





Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

This latest offering is bursting with everything there is to love about a Sarah Dessen book: a likeable protagonist who seems to express exactly what you always wanted to say but couldn’t find the words, a bevy of different familial relationships, a kickass best friend, and just a really good boy. I especially love the character of Layla and how she and Sydney complement and help each other. And the delicious descriptions of pizza and French fries in the novel are not to be missed.

Start Reading an Excerpt!





The Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson

As mentioned above, I love me some ghosts, and this series has all kinds. Friendly ghosts, evil ghosts, sad ghosts, annoying ghosts, and even angsty ’80s post-punk teen ghosts (easily my favorite kind). Rory is one of those teenage protagonists who is super smart (and super funny, of course; I don’t think it’s possible for Maureen Johnson to write a character who isn’t), but who also makes a lot of mistakes and doesn’t always get it right. Though the Jack the Ripper premise of the first book is hard to top, the stakes just keep getting higher, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.



Find more books on the Young Readers page.

See Staff Picks for all our categories!


Explore New York City with us this summer! In celebration of the 80th Anniversary of Penguin Books we have put together an 8-week scavenger hunt! Each week we will post 3 clues pointing to a New York City location that is linked to one of the Penguin Books 80 Bestsellers!

Each week we will post 3 clues to Instagram, one per day on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. You will have until the Sunday of that week to decipher the clues and post a photo of the location.

Each week one winner will be selected from all participants. All weekly participants will be entered into a grand prize drawing. Happy hunting!

To Enter:

  1. Follow @penguinusa on Instagram
  2. Decipher clues posted to the Penguin Instagram
  3. Post a photo of the mystery location on your Instagram account
  4. Geo-tag the location, use the hashtag #penguin80sweepstakes, and tag @penguinusa
  5. Repeat each week all summer long!

Can’t wait to get started? Sign-Up for our Newsletter to receive all 3 clues at once rather than waiting for them to be posted each day on Instagram!


Penguin 80th Anniversary Sweepstakes Official Rules

Enter for a chance to win: A copy of one of the following books, or the Grand Prize of all eight books, including A Discovery of Witches, The Omnivore’s Dilemma; The Lords of Finance; Death of a Salesman; The Rules of Civility; In the Woods; Moby-Dick and The Boys in the Boat (ARV = $14.00-$26.00 each or $145.00 for all). No purchase necessary. Entry is limited to U.S. or DC residents aged 18 and above and who have a public Instagram profile. Sweepstakes begins  July 6, 2015 and ends at 11:59:59 PM Eastern Time on August 31, 2015. Winners will be selected at random weekly and on September 3, 2015 for the Grand Prize. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited by law. For the Full Rules click here.


IMG_20150401_140930Zarren Mykhail Kuzma is a Sales Analyst for Penguin Young Readers Group. By day, he reads vertically in many excel grids. By night, he reads horizontally in many books. His B minus sense of humor is well known throughout the land. You can follow him on Twitter @zmkuzma… if you dare.



The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith

So, we read a lot of books here. (It’s the nature of the work, and, of course, many Penguins are also book nerds.) But, for me, there are some moments when lethargy strikes and it’s difficult to really get into a groove with a book. I might recklessly start and stop any number of titles, looking for something to scratch that reading itch, but nothing seems to work. Toymaker’s Apprentice is a book that brought me out of one of these funks, and in a way, reminded me why I like to read. On its surface, it’s a clever retelling of the Nutcracker, but at its core it’s an adventure, an exploration of secrets and magic, and a truly imaginative storytelling wonder.



The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove

The Glass Sentence flew under my radar at first. It sat on my shelf for ages before I decided to give it a try even though the premise always stuck out to me: Earth placed in utter chaos because of a mysterious disaster that has thrown every continent into a different historical period of time. It wasn’t until I started this book that I began to realize that it was legitimately marvelous. I mean look at this example list of things that you’ll encounter if you read it: magical maps, ghosts, pirates, plant people, train escapes, and steampunk. Can you really ask for anything else?

Start Reading an Excerpt!



Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

When I read Circus Mirandus, two images come to my mind. The first is the story itself. This book transports you to place that is warm, magical, and filled with wonder. It honestly has the feel of an instant classic in the mold of Roald Dahl or J. M. Barrie. The second image—which is related—is of a parent and a child reading together, sharing this book. This is one of those books that you keep on the nightstand and read a little every night to your children before they fall asleep. (I say that, and I don’t even have kids.) I think it’s the kind of book that can inspire a lifelong love of reading and will be remembered by many for years and years to come.

Start Reading an Excerpt!




An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

There are books that cause me to miss my subway/train stop. There are also books that—after finishing them—make me miss the main characters because of everything that I’ve endured with them. An Ember in the Ashes does both. This YA novel is particularly special because of one key trait: honesty. That might seem strange to say, but this fantasy boldly confronts some of the terrible things that we encounter in real life. Sexism, abuse, slavery, violence—Ember in the Ashes rips away the veil and forces you to openly confront the potential for people to be both good and evil.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



Philip K. Dick: Four Novels of The 1960s by Philip K. Dick

I remember the first story I read by Philip K. Dick. At the time, I didn’t know that he was one of the most famous science fiction authors of all time, whose works have spawned a hefty number of films. Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990 and 2002), and Minority Report (2002), are just a few. The story is called “Shell Game”, and I remember my exact emotional arc: utterly confused at the beginning, mesmerized by the clarity and reveals in the middle, and shocked (and a little depressed) at the end. “Shell Game” and, in fact, much of Philip K. Dick’s work plays with expectations, challenges reality, and in an odd way says quite a bit about human nature. After reading “Shell Game”, I picked up this exact collection of his novels and became a Philip K. Dick fan 4 lyfe.



The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq by Hassan Blasim

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. It’s jarring, it’s comic, it’s fantasy and reality smashed together in a bleakly dark wartime scenario. I was recently asked by a friend of mine, “What book that’s come out recently do you think that everyone should read?” I tend to recommend books based on who’s asking for the suggestion, but this question warranted only one answer: The Corpse Exhibition. There are so many reasons to read this book both social (it’s about the Iraq war from an Iraqi perspective) and literary (Hassan Blasim is, in my mind, an Iraqi Gabriel García Márquez or Julio Cortázar). But ultimately, this collection simply opens you up to something completely new. Just one story in and you know that you’re about to read something that you’ve never seen before.


Find more books on the Sci-Fi & Fantasy page

See Staff Picks for all our categories!

Happy birthday, America! In honor of our nation turning another year older, we have rounded up some of our favorite birthday picture books.
happy birthday cupcake - party
Happy Birthday, Cupcake! by Terry Border  
If you loved Terry Border’s debut, Peanut Butter and Cupcake!, then you’re in for a treat: Cupcake is back, and throwing herself a birthday party. The only problem is that it’s hard to think of an idea all of her foodie friends, from Ice Cream toHamburger, would enjoy. Luckily, Cupcake’s best friend, Muffin, has a big surprise up her sleeve. Food puns and visual laughs abound in this picture book that adults will love just as much as kids. (Ages 5-8; available 7/7)
Bernice Gets Carried Away - sharingBernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah E. Harrison
Poor Bernice. We’ve all had days like this: No frosting rose on her cake (even though every other guest at the party got one), the only soda flavor left was prune-grapefruit(yuck!), and the single prize she managed to grab from the piñata was a squished gumdrop. Luckily, a bit of perspective and a little help from her friends is all it takes to pull Bernice out of her sour mood. This gorgeously illustrated picture book is sweet, funny, and a poignant reminder that bad moods are fleeting, especially when you have great friends. (Ages 3-5; available 7/14)
froggys birthday wish - surpriseFroggy’s Birthday Wish by Jonathan London
The night before his birthday, Froggy flop-flop-flopped over to his window and made a birthday wish on the moon. But, when we woke up the next morning, his parents didn’t seem to remember that today was a special day after all. Could everyone have forgotten Froggy’s birthday? Or, just maybe, is there a surprise party waiting for him? (Ages 3-5)
Caterina is my kind of owl. As a fellow Type-A creature, I love watching her make lists, gather supplies, and prepare for the perfect party. Still, you can’t control everything, and Caterina is devastated when a rainstorm washes away all of her tireless planning. The party seems ruined, but when the guests show up and band together to salvage the day, Caterina remembers the most important element of the perfect party—good friends. (Ages 3-5)
the night before my birthday - presents
The Night Before My Birthday by Natasha Wing, Illustrated by Amy Wummer
In The Night Before series, Natasha Wing rewrites the classic The Night Before Christmas poem for different holidays and childhood milestones. The Night Before My Birthday opens as one family is putting all of the last-minute touches on the big party. There’s a minor emergency when a kitchen mishap ruins all of the ice cream, but never fear: It’s nothing Dad can’t handle! This rhyming read-aloud captures all of the fun of your birthday boy or girl’s special day—and reminds them that sometimes even great parties hit a snag or two. (Ages 3-5)

Amalia_FrickAmalia Frick hails from Boulder, Colorado and is a Subsidiary Rights Assistant at Penguin Young Readers. In her free time she can be found drinking coffee, pretending to star in her own comedy show, and searching for the perfect popsicle recipe.


Audacity by Melanie Crowder

I came to this book hesitantly, thinking that a fictional account of a historical hero told in verse might be dry or inaccessible. But within a few pages I was swept away, my reservations forgotten. This is the true story of Clara, a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant to New York City at the turn of the twentieth century who worked in the clothing factories to support her family. Passionate, curious, and tenacious, Clara studied academics after working ten hour shifts, dreaming of becoming a doctor. But she found another purpose as well: advocating for fair working conditions for the factory workers. Facing her family’s disapproval, loss of employment, and brutality at the hands of police, Clara relentlessly fought for women’s rights in the workplace. A true story celebrating kindness and standing up for what is right, Clara’s story will ignite the heart of any reader.

Start Reading an Excerpt!


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

I’ll admit that I’ve been a little slow to actually pick up this book, but when it won The Newbery Honor, The National Book Award, and the Coretta Scott King Award, I knew it was finally time to move it to the top of my list. This is the story of Jacqueline, an African-American girl who grew up moving from Ohio to South Carolina to New York during the 60s and 70s. Somewhere between lemon-chiffon ice cream cones and learning about Peter Stuyvesant, Woodson finds her brilliance in the stories she tells. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down, transfixed by the story of a girl who grew up to be as passionate and emotive in three lines as she is in thirty.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Anyone who’s spoken with me in the last three months has received some kind of regurgitated nugget from this book. It’s just that relevant. Focusing on the power of social media to shape individual behavior, Ronson interviews people who have been destroyed, professionally and personally, by a maelstrom of tweets. He discusses the actual effectiveness of shame in modifying a someone’s behavior (spoiler alert: it’s low). He investigates the various ways that people recover from shaming–from public figures to private citizens to prisoners. And, most interestingly, he wonders what motivates people to shame others in the first place. This is necessary reading for anyone who has ever felt themselves to be the victim of public shaming. Give it a look, and then share it with that friend of yours whose social media tone is one of Righteous Indignation. (If you don’t have friends like that, congratulations, you’re that friend!)

Start Reading an Excerpt!



The Brothers: The Road To An American Tragedy by Masha Gessen

There are many questions associated with the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon carried out brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev. Just as I write this post, Dzhokar, the surviving brother, has been sentenced to death for his involvement. But what happened to these brothers, Chechen immigrants to Boston, turning them from immigrants to terrorists? This is an in-depth investigation that seeks to uncover what went wrong, and how two boys, whom no one could initially believe were involved, came to commit such an act. Masha Gessen’s reporting is detailed and clear, and avoids the sensationalism so readily available. A Russian immigrant herself, Gessen tells of the history of the family, their move to the United States, and the political forces at play with deeply relevant cultural insight. This will completely change the way you think about threats of terrorism facing America today.


Find more books on the Current Events & History page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories!


Thirty-two years ago, when baseball was still inarguably the national pastime, the New York Yankees hosted the Boston Red Sox at old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The temperature soared into the 90s. Neither team was headed to the playoffs. Yet 41,077 fans found their way there, by foot or subway or car or bus, into the park just over the Harlem River from Manhattan. It was the Fourth of July.

The Yankees pitcher that day was a 24-year-old left-hander named Dave Righetti, born in California, drafted by Texas, traded to New York. Righetti was coming off a shutout of the Baltimore Orioles in his previous start. His season was off to a fine start. What might happen that day?

The beauty of baseball – one of the beauties, anyway – is in the heat of July, with half the season gone and half the season ahead, no one game is more important than the next. Baseball is not an event as much as a lifestyle. Sure, there are marquee pitching matchups and series between first-place teams. Lose that one game? Get swept in that key series? There’s another one on the way, new hope each morning.

The Fourth of July kind of tips that balance. Baseball fits the Rockwellian version of Independence Day. Toss it in with all the clichés, with the backyard barbecues and the parades and the fireworks. No ballpark with any degree of pride will host a July 4 game and not dust off the red-white-and-blue bunting.

So people go. Want to feel American? Hop in your Chevy on the Fourth of July and drive to a baseball game. Last year, major league games averaged just more than 30,000 fans over the course of a season that runs from the beginning of spring to the edge of autumn. On the Fourth of July 2014, more than 540,000 people – an average of 38,602 – attended the 14 big league games in parks from Washington to Detroit to Minneapolis to Atlanta to St. Louis to Cincinnati to Denver to Anaheim, where crowds were all over 40,000. (The game in Boston was rained out.)

Tee up the memories, then. On Independence Day in 1939, an ailing Lou Gehrig stepped to the microphone at Yankee Stadium less than a month after his diagnosis with a disease that came to be named for him. He told the crowd that he considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

On the July 4, 1980, the great Nolan Ryan recorded the 3,000th strikeout of his career. On July 4, four years later, knuckleballer Phil Niekro – the anti-Ryan in style, if not results – notched his 3,000th “K.” On the night of Independence Day in 1985, the Braves hosted the Mets in Atlanta, with fireworks scheduled for after the game. Problem: the game lasted 19 innings before the Mets won – at 4 a.m. It would have been somehow un-American to cancel the fireworks, so the Braves unleashed them anyway, though it was the morning of July 5.

This year, 15 games are again scheduled for the Fourth of July – starting with an 11:05 a.m. first pitch in Washington, a rare morning game scheduled so fans can take in the Nationals and San Francisco Giants, then make their way over to the National Mall, less than a mile-and-a-half north of Nationals Park, for the fireworks over the Washington Monument.

Yankee Stadium, albeit a newer, fancier version, will again host a baseball game this Independence Day. And no doubt some of those fans who make their way to the Bronx will think about that summer of 1983, when Dave Righetti slung baseballs at the Red Sox. With two outs in the ninth inning, Righetti still hadn’t given up a hit, and he faced Boston third baseman Wade Boggs, one of the best hitters of his generation, a Hall of Famer to be.

With the count at two balls and two strikes, Boggs fouled off a Righetti pitch and stepped back into the batter’s box. This time, Righetti got him to swing through a breaking ball. Strike three. Ballgame. A no-hitter in New York on the Fourth of July. Now what’s more American than that?


The Grind


What’s it like to live through sports’ longest season, the 162-game Major League Baseball schedule? The Grind captures the frustration, impermanence, and glory felt by the players, the staff, and their families from the start of spring training to the final game of the year; classy baseball writing in the Roger Angell or Tom Boswell tradition. 

Start Reading an Excerpt!


In 1935, Allen Lane had a revolutionary idea to offer affordable, quality paperback books through outlets like railway stations and newsagents as well as bookshops. Lane launched his new line of books on July 30, 1935, with ten inexpensive paperbacks. Within a year, Penguin had sold three million copies. Now eighty years later, Penguin Books has continued to expand. From paperback editions of block-buster bestsellers to trailblazing paperback originals, from Penguin Classics to gift books, Penguin continues its mission of bringing intelligent, accessible books to readers who know that what you read matters.

In celebration of the 80th anniversary of Penguin Books, we have compiled the a list of 80 Penguin Books bestsellers and we want to know, how many have you read?

Download a Printable Copy and start crossing off the books that you have read. Show off how many you’ve read by taking a picture and tweeting @penguinusa or tagging @penguinusa on Instagram with the hashtag #penguin80. Challenge yourself!


Download a Printable Copy!

dave-barry 2


In celebration of Father’s Day we have a special gift for you, read an Excerpt from Dave Barry’s Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster): Life Lessons And Other Ravings From Dave Barry in which he writes a letter to his daughter Sophie on her 16th birthday in preparation of her starting to drive.

Dad’s everywhere are sure to get a kick out this!



Dear Sophie—

So you’re about to start driving! How exciting! I’m going to kill myself.

Sorry, I’m flashing back to when your big brother, Rob, started driving. You and I both love Rob very much, and he has matured into a thoughtful and responsible person. But when he turned sixteen and got his driver’s license, he had a marked tendency to—there is no diplomatic way to put this—drive into things.

This was never his fault. I know this because whenever he drove the car into something, which was every few days, he would call me, and the conversation would go like this:

ME: Hello?

ROB: Dad, it wasn’t my fault.

Usually what he had driven into through no fault of his own was the rear end of another car. Cars were always stopping unexpectedly in front of Rob for no reason whatsoever. Or possibly—we cannot rule it out—these cars were suddenly materializing from hyperspace directly in front of Rob, leaving him with no option but to run into them. Whatever the cause, it stopped happening when he got older and more experienced and started buying his own insurance.

My point, Sophie, is that just because the State of Florida thinks you can drive a car, that doesn’t mean you actually can drive a car. As far as I can tell, after three decades on the roads of Florida, there isn’t anybody that the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t think can drive a car. I cannot imagine what you would have to do to fail the driving test here.

DMV OFFICER: OK, make a left turn here.


DMV OFFICER: (Writes something on clipboard.)

TEST TAKER: Does that mean I fail the test?

DMV OFFICER: Nah, she’s getting back up. You just clipped her.

You may think I’m exaggerating the badness of the drivers down here, Sophie, but that’s because you haven’t been at the wheel of a car on the Palmetto Expressway going
60 miles per hour, traveling forward—which, as you will learn, is considered to be the traditional direction for vehicular traffic on expressways—only to encounter a vehicle, undoubtedly operated by a licensed Florida driver, going backward. And not on the shoulder, either. In your lane. This has happened to me more than once; it’s how some Miami drivers handle the baffling problem of what to do when you miss an exit. When ESPN shows a NASCAR highlight in which drivers collide at 150 miles per hour and a dozen cars spin out in a whirling mass of flaming wreckage, my reaction is: “Big deal. They were all going the same direction. Let’s see them attempt to drive on the Palmetto Expressway.”

The State of Florida also does not seem to have a problem issuing licenses to drivers who are very elderly.

Q. How elderly are they?
A. Their first vehicle was a chariot.

I once had an eye exam during which the ophthalmologist was telling me about some of his older patients, who according to him were basically blind. He said: “I ask them, ‘How did you get here?’ And they tell me they drove. And I tell them, ‘You can’t drive. You can’t see.’ And they say, ‘How else am I supposed to get here?’ And I say, ‘I don’t know, but you can’t drive, because you can’t see.’ And then they drive home.”

I believe him. I once had a short but terrifying ride on the streets of South Florida in the backseat of a car driven by an elderly man. He was a perfectly nice person, but he had basically the same level of visual acuity as a corn dog. So he outsourced the actual seeing part of driving to his wife, who sat in the passenger seat and did her best to keep him posted on what was going on out there in the mysterious region beyond the windshield.

“You have a green arrow,” she’d say. “Go. Go. I said GO! No! Wait! Stop! STOP!!”

I believe this Seeing Eye wife arrangement is not uncommon among elderly couples on the roads of South Florida. And if you’re wondering why, if the wife can see, she doesn’t just drive, the answer is: The man drives.

So to summarize, Sophie: Many people who lack the judgment and/or physical skills needed to safely microwave a burrito are deemed qualified by the State of Florida to operate a motor vehicle. When you get out on the road, you will be surrounded by terrible drivers. And guess what? You will be one of them. Yes, Sophie: You will be a bad driver, and not because you’re careless or irresponsible, but because you’re teenager, and it is a physiological fact that at your stage of brain development, you are—to use the term preferred by researchers in the field of neurological science—“stupid.”

There is no shame in this. All humans start out stupid, then gradually become more intelligent as they get older (with a few setbacks along the way) until they reach a certain age, after which they start becoming stupider again.
Here’s a scientific chart illustrating this phenomenon:

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.41.33 AM

What does this chart tell us, Sophie? It tells us that according to science, even dead people are smarter than teenagers. Teenagers are barely capable of forming sentences. Allowing them to drive—especially if they are males—is insane.

But Dad, you’re thinking, didn’t you drive when you were a teenage male?

Yes I did. I got my New York State driver’s license in 1963, at age sixteen, and I spent many hours cruising on the highways and byways and occasionally the lawns in and around Armonk, N.Y. But that was different, Sophie, because I drove safely. I don’t mean “safely” in the sense of “carefully.” I was definitely your standard male teenage idiot. But I was a safe idiot, because I was driving the safest vehicle ever built: my mom’s 1961 Plymouth Valiant station wagon. It did not have modern safety features such as seat belts, air bags, antilock brakes or a computerized collision-avoidance system. What the Valiant had, which was better than any modern technology, was: Inertia. I would stomp violently down on the accelerator and basically nothing would happen for several lunar cycles, because the Valiant was no more capable of acceleration than a fire hydrant. This was the only car ever manufactured that traveled faster on the assembly line than under its own power.

You could not hit anything in a Valiant. Fully mature trees moved quickly enough to get out of its way. So it couldn’t do any damage even with me at the wheel. If I were in charge, today’s teenagers would be permitted to drive only if they drove Plymouth Valiant station wagons. Also I would require these teenagers to tune the Valiant’s AM radio to New York station WINS and listen to the late Murray the K play hit 1963 tunes such as “Da Doo Ron Ron” because THAT WAS MUSIC, DAMMIT.

Unfortunately, Sophie, I am not in charge, which means you’re going to be driving on roads teeming with modern high-speed automobiles operated by incompetent idiots such as (no offense) yourself. To prove that you’re qualified to do this, the State of Florida will make you take a test based on the information found in the official Florida Driver’s Handbook. For example, the test may ask you to identify the Florida “standard” speed in business or residential areas. According to the Handbook, the “correct” answer, the one you should mark on your test, is 30 miles per hour.

But listen very carefully, Sophie: If you’re driving in Miami and do not wish to be the target of small-arms fire, IN THE NAME OF GOD DO NOT GO AT A “STANDARD” SPEED OF 30 MILES PER HOUR. Miami drivers go faster than that in a car wash. Likewise the Driver’s Handbook will tell you that if you’re approaching a traffic light as it turns yellow, you should attempt to stop. But in Miami, doing that would cause your car to be instantly converted into a large sheet-metal origami sculpture by the seventeen cars immediately behind you.

My point, Sophie, is that there’s a big difference between how the Florida Driver’s Handbook says you should drive and how actual humans drive in Florida, especially South Florida. So to help you understand the mindset you will encounter on the roads here, I’ve prepared this:


Q. If I arrive at an intersection at the same time as another motorist, who goes first?
A. You do.

Q. But what if . . .
A. There IS no “what if.” YOU GO FIRST.

Q. Florida law strictly prohibits texting while driving. Does this law apply to me?
A. Ha-ha! Of course not.

Q. If I stop at a red light, how will I know when it turns green?
A. You will hear honking behind you. This is your cue to start wrapping up your current text, unless of course it is important.

Q. I have noticed that some roads have more than one lane. What is the purpose of the extra lanes?
A. To provide a place for you to swerve into while texting.

Q. When I come to a stop sign, do I need to stop?
A. You personally?

Q. Yes.
A. No.

Q. How is the turn signal used in Florida?
A. It is used to indicate to other motorists that you do not realize your turn signal is blinking.

Q. Could it also be used to signal your intention to turn or change lanes?
A. Interesting! Nobody has ever tried that.

Q. What is the best kind of food to eat while driving?
A. Any food—such as a sandwich, turkey leg, oyster or Ding Dong—that can be eaten one-handed, so you still have a hand free for texting.

Q. What if an emergency situation arises that might require me to operate the steering wheel?
A. Use your forehead to honk the horn until the emergency has passed.

Q. My car’s engine seems to have stopped and I hear a “burbling” noise. What could be causing this?
A. Are you a senior citizen?

Q. Yes.
A. You have driven into a swimming pool.

Q. I am a young male idiot who prefers to drive at a high rate of speed in densely populated areas while texting. How loud should my sound system be?
A. It should emit individual bass notes capable of killing a dog at 50 yards.

Q. I’m a middle-aged male, and I like to put on skintight, junk-displaying Lycra® cycling shorts and a skintight Lycra® cycling jersey covered with logos for corporations that don’t actually pay me anything, then ride around with a large clot of other middle-aged pretend racers screwing up traffic. I don’t have a question about driving, but I HAVE JUST AS MUCH RIGHT TO BE IN THIS Q & A AS ANYONE ELSE.
A. Everyone hates you.

Q. I’ve had a few drinks. How can I tell if I should drive?
A. Take this simple test: Are you wearing your underpants on your head?

Q. Not MY underpants, no.
A. Then you are good to go.

Q. What is all that shouting?
A. Are you a senior citizen?

Q. Yes.
A. You have struck a pedestrian.

Sophie, I know you think your old man is just kidding. I am not. Ask anybody who drives here: This Q & A reflects the actual situation on the roads of Florida far more accurately than the so-called Florida Driver’s Handbook. But I didn’t write this letter to make you nervous about driving here. I wrote it to make you terrified about driving here. Because I love you a lot, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. I will do everything I can to make sure you’re really ready to drive. I’m going to keep coaching you until the day you finally get your license and are allowed to drive alone. Even then, as you leave our driveway, I’ll be standing next to the car, giving you last-minute instructions. When you finally drive away, solo at last, you’re going to feel as if I’m still right there next to you, guiding you.

In fact I will be right there next to you, walking at a leisurely pace alongside your car.

Your 1961 Valiant.




The perfect book for Dad’s looking for a good laugh! During the course of living (mumble, mumble) years, Dave Barry has learned much of wisdom,* (*actual wisdom not guaranteed) and he is eager to pass it on—to the next generation, the generation after that, and to those idiots who make driving to the grocery store in Florida a death-defying experience. By the end, if you do not feel wiser, richer in knowledge, more attuned to the universe . . . we wouldn’t be at all surprised. But you’ll have had a lot to laugh about!

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Kristen O’Connell is the Sr. Director of Consumer Marketing and Social Media for Penguin Random House. In her free time you can catch her watching or playing tennis, working on her really old house, and spending time with her husband, son and dog.

When I think about my dad and books, I think about my childhood summers and the reading lists he’d assign to me in addition to what my school required. I clearly remember having to reach page 100 in my Little House on the Prairie book before I could join my friends at the pool. It’s not always easy hanging with a teacher on summer vacation when you’re 10, but I thank him for it now! When it comes to books for dad, sports bios and thrillers are always a hit—with the occasional twist thrown in for good measure.

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Tom Clancy Under Fire by Grant Blackwood

Jack Ryan Jr? Check. Political intrigue? Check. A wildly thrilling read from a beloved voice? Check. A no-brainer for dad!






The Miracle of St. Anthony by Adrian Wojnarowski 

There’s a review of this riveting story of triumph in sports from the Raleigh News and Observer praising the book as “The Friday Night Lights of Hoops.” There’s no truer statement about this riveting examination of a season following Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley’s St. Anthony’s High School basketball team. “Clear eyes, full hearts!”




The Italians by John Hooper

John Hooper’s insightful and often funny look at what makes the people of Italy tick is a wonderful read for Italian-Americans and travel enthusiasts alike. If you grew up watching soccer on the RAI channel like I did, you know Dad will love it.

Start Reading an Excerpt!




You Cannot Be Serious by John McEnroe and James Kaplan

The two most important things my father taught me about tennis was to never be afraid to go to the net (like his beloved Johnny Mac) and don’t loose your temper (like his beloved Johnny Mac). On the court, I’ve often failed on both fronts, but this fantastic memoir from one of the most beloved and reviled characters in American sport is a must-read for fans of the game.


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Susan Loomis_credit Francis Hammond

All of the sudden, it’s summer. That’s northern France for you.  Wind whistles, grass is covered with frost, flowers have that slightly frozen etch around their petals until very late in the spring then BAM! The sun is out, the air is a warm caress, and rose is in the fridge, chilling for supper.

Tomorrow is the farmers’ market in my town of Louviers, and I’m so eager to see what’s there that I can hardly wait.  You wouldn’t think much would change from one week to the next, but it does. We’ve been through asparagus season, the very early harbinger of spring, but it’s taken an age for anything else to come along.  Now, though, with this burst of warmth which has summer woven all through it, there is likely to be shiny zucchini ready to steam and cover with minced garlic and parsley, and melons will finally send their alluring aroma through the air, begging for a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkling of peppers and diced shallot, for a pre-meal salad. There may be a few early tomatoes, and strawberries will at long last lend their warm, almost syrupy flavor to a tart, a fruit salad, or a glass of red wine.

As for seafood, well, the sardines are jumping into the fishers’ nets, and I will dredge some in flour, cover them with minced sage and garlic, and bathe them in olive oil and vinegar for a summery escabeche.  I’m doing a big dinner and skate wing, straight from the English Channel, is on the menu.  I will serve it with a capery sauce atop crushed new potatoes that I’ve sprinkled with tiny strips of fresh basil and dabbed with fresh farm butter.  For a real nod to summer, I’ll add a mound of freshly boiled peas that are so sweet they belie their vegetable status and almost taste like dessert.

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Tomorrow I just know I will also find bunches of new onions, tiny beets, blushing young shallots, juicy cloves of new garlic, and carrots as thin as a pinky.  Anticipating this, I’ve made aioli to serve alongside this summer wealth, for a market picnic. I’ll follow with the sardines and a crisp baguette (for sopping up the sauce). Dessert?  A bowl of cherries in ice water.

For dinner, we’ll have the skate wing with potatoes and peas, a big crisp salad in a delicate vinaigrette, and a chocolate tart covered with sliced strawberries and dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

Oh summer, how happy we are that you are here!

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Explore Susan Herrmann Loomis’ new book In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France for everyday tips, secrets, and eighty-five recipes that allow you to turn every meal into a sumptuous occasion.

In a French Kitchen by Susan Herrmann Loomis is a delightful celebration of French life and the cooks who turn even the simplest meals into an occasion.

Start Reading an Excerpt!