People who know me know that I am a giant nerd. My friends know this. My colleagues here at Penguin know this. In fact, I think it would be safe to say, given my career path, that I’m a professional nerd. And nothing makes a professional nerd happier than a weekend when not one but two of her favorite fandoms collide. Thus it was with great joy that I greeted the return of both Doctor Who and Game of Thrones on television this past weekend. Yes, I know my joy will be short-lived; both of these shows have notoriously short seasons, and – in the case of Doctor Who – often go on a ridiculously long hiatus mid-season. (Seriously, BBC, what is up with that?) If you’re at all like me, you grok that even waiting a week between episodes can be torture. How, then, does a nerd kill time until the next episode of Doctor Who or Game of Thrones? If you’re lucky enough to work for one of the largest publishing companies on the planet – like I do! – you just might have a lot of nerdy editor pals offering book recommendations.

For all of you Doctor Who fans, we have a couple of books filled with wibbly wobbly timey wimey goodness:

shadaDoctor Who: Shada by Gareth Roberts is based on the screenplay of an un-aired episode of Doctor Who written by the late, great Douglas Adams. Shada was originally intended to wrap up Season 17 (that would be the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker’s incarnation, for those keeping score) but a strike at BBC kept the episode from being completed. The storyline is considered Doctor Who canon, however. And props to Roberts, who does a superb job of keeping the tone of Douglas Adams’ original screenplay. For the avid Doctor Who fan, Doctor Who: Shada is a must-read.


wheel_of_iceOur second recommendation, Doctor Who: Wheel of Ice, is an all-original story by award-winning science fiction writer Stephen Baxter, and features the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton’s incarnation) and fan-favorite companions Jamie and Zoe (what, you thought only the Eleventh Doctor traveled with couples?). Wheel of Ice takes place on a giant ring of ice and metal orbiting Saturn, where children mine resources for a greedy Earth. Like every good Doctor Who story, there’s more here than meets the eyes, and the Doctor uncovers a mystery that harkens back to the creation of the solar system itself. (Come on, you KNOW you want to read this!)


Game of Thrones more your style? Lots of swords and beheadings and grubby soldiers? The occasional woman disguised as a man, battling at the front? Exiled princes struggling to regain a throne? Lots of mead drinking and fisticuffs in taverns? The rise and fall of entire kingdoms? Yeah, we got the good stuff right here:

king_of_thornsMark Lawrence’s Broken Empire series – Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns and the forthcoming Emperor of Thorns – tells the tale of young Prince Honorious Jorg Ancrath. As a nine-year-old, Jorg is forced to watch a rival slaughter his family; by the time he is thirteen, he is the ruthless and amoral leader of a band of feared mercenaries. But his ultimate goal (like any good exiled royal!) is to retake his throne and wreak bloody vengeance on the men who destroyed his family. Lawrence offers up strong world building, memorable characters and an intense read; perfect for George R.R. Martin fans.



Want more epic with your fantasy? In Morgan Rhodes’ Falling Kingdoms, the murder of a young winemaker inadvertently leads to a series of events that threaten to topple three kingdoms and destroy a peace that has lasted for centuries. Written for younger readers, Falling Kingdoms is nevertheless an enjoyable read for adult fantasy fans, particularly fans of GRRM and Brandon Sanderson.



Want less magic and more history? Canadian bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay’s latest book River of Stars offers readers a breathtaking epic set in a richly reimagined Song Dynasty China. (Check out this amazing review in the Washington Post!)




In case those weren’t enough, here are some forthcoming titles to watch out for, too!

the_city thousand_names grim_company

The City by Stella Gemmell:  Stella Gemmell proves that she’s a worthy successor to her late husband David Gemmell in this extraordinary debut novel. (I was totally blown away by this book. This is some seriously dark epic fantasy.) Pubs on June 4, 2013.

The Thousand Names: Book One of the Shadow Campaigns by Django Wexler: Another fantastic debut novel, and one that has become an in-house favorite. (Don’t tell Rosanne that I stole a copy of this galley out of her office, okay?) Pubs on July 2, 2013.

The Grim Company by Luke Scull: Picture the Magnificent Seven set in an epic fantasy world. (Dude, just trust me on this.) Pubs on September 3, 2013.

Good reading, everyone!

- Colleen Lindsay





hand_me_downI’ll admit I was nervous when my semi-autobiographical novel Hand Me Down was released last year. Until I started writing this book in graduate school, I had told very few people the real reason I was forced to move out of my mother’s house when I was fourteen. The embarrassing details of your dysfunctional family are not what you want to lead with when trying to make friends in a new school. The fact that my mother, when legally forced to choose, had picked her convict second husband over her daughters was not only painful, but another implicit family secret in a long line of secrets I’d grown up keeping. I knew speaking up was against the rules.

But eventually it became too hard to keep quiet; the truth kept bubbling up in my mind. My teenage self screamed at me to let her have a voice, my childhood self asked me to stand up for her, finally, so I did. About a decade after my step-father was released from prison and my sister and I left home, I started writing the story that I’d been too scared to share with anyone other than close friends. I hoped that any potential backlash would be worth the potential gains.

Fast forward six years and now I can’t believe that I ever considered not sharing my story. Writing it helped me move through some of the hurt and anger from that defining period of my life and allowed me to find forgiveness and forge deeper relationships with my family.

But the greater gift Hand Me Down has provided is in the responses from readers who have sent me their own stories of abuse, of triumph over it, of family dysfunction and betrayal, of love and sacrifice and perseverance and healing. I had hoped opening up about my personal experience might encourage others to do the same, but I did not expect to be able to witness that relief and growth. Many of the messages have made me cry because we humans are so strong, so resilient, so determined to survive, that sometimes we forget how vulnerable we still are, how much we all just want to be loved and safe.

All the old tapes in my head cautioned me against revealing so much of myself in the pages of Hand Me Down, but readers have shown me I am not alone. I’d been worried that I would have to explain that the kind of trauma Liz and her family experience really does happen behind closed doors every day even if we can’t always see it, or don’t want to. But instead, I found an outpouring of community and understanding, along with appreciation for my courage to disclose the unpleasant reality, and gratitude for my ability to remain hopeful, for illustrating that hardship doesn’t have to mean destruction.

Healing takes time—and maybe writing—but it is possible if we stop keeping the harmful secrets, if we open up about the hard truths. So many readers have connected to this, to Liz’s and my story, and for that, I couldn’t be more thankful.

fantasy_lifeThat’s how long I have to wait until my Penguin fantasy baseball league, Sack Punch 2 – On the Move (great name, huh? Rivals Of Mice and Men…), will be drafting tonight. My team is named MetaData WorldPiece, which I would argue is better than anything Steinbeck ever came up with.

I already have drafted two other fantasy baseball teams in two public leagues, but there is nothing quite as special as preparing for the Penguin league draft, as this is the only case in which daily taunts can be hurled at one another, face to face, on a daily basis for the next six months. April, May, June, July, August, September… yeah, by then we will all loathe each other, I can assure you. And perhaps hate ourselves as well. Fantasy baseball is not a game, it’s a condition. One of those for which you can’t get antibiotics.

I will not participate in the draft tonight as a live participant, but rather as an AutoPick droid. Or drone. That means I have already ranked the players in the order of what I have determined is their respective worth, and will let the computer pick them each time my turn comes around. That will allow me to spend the hours between 9 and 11 pm tonight napping on the floor while pretending to watch my Netflix disc of Lincoln.

Such has been my “system” for the past twelve years. At times this approach has earned me some unforeseen results, such as having four catchers on my roster but no relief pitchers. But on the other hand, I have won a few championships in this manner as well. And I am almost always in the playoffs, where admittedly I usually self-destruct in one way or another. But, so what?? IT’S A GAME, ISN’T IT????? So I must be having fun. I must be…

But to prepare for the draft, one is well advised to consult the experts on the major Fantasy sites. Which brings us to Matthew Berry, the reigning expert on the site, and the author of the soon-to-be-published bible of Fantasy Sports, Fantasy Life. Which Riverhead will publish in July and grow wealthy from.

Over the past seven or eight years I have consulted Matthew Berry for months on end about baseball. And in the Fall, I have also consulted him for football advice. And he has never let me down. Or almost never. Well, if we’re being perfectly honest here—Berry has let me down about fifty percent of the time. Possibly fifty-five. Which means I could do just as well (or just as poorly) with a random choice system as by following his sage advice, right?

WRONG!! Because even incorrect advice from Berry is presented so logically, so passionately, so charmingly, that you almost decide you don’t have to slit your wrists afterward, once it’s clear your team is doomed because you believed him when he said (in 2011) that Michael Vick ought to be the first pick in the draft. Or that Adrian Gonzales was going to be a Can’t Miss when he moved to the Boston Red Sox. [Shameless plug for my pathetic real-life team.] Or that Mike Trout was a fluke. (Actually, he may not have said that one, but he COULD have.)

Because there is one thing Matthew Berry can do that many of his fantasy brethren (some of whom are quite capable, even brilliant) can’t do nearly as well, and that is—entertain while instructing you. As Fantasy Life makes clear, Berry is a master of dispensing his hard-earned wisdom in the most humble manner imaginable, while also being hilarious at the same time. Other than Oscar Wilde, who didn’t even play fantasy baseball (and who wouldn’t have been very good at it anyway, even if he had), I can’t think of another writer whose quips are so deftly leavened with profundities. And vice versa.

Consider some of the examples that Berry provides from the book. One particularly choice anecdote I hadn’t been aware of before was that Matt Hasselback, a veteran NFL quarterback for the past 14 years or so, also played fantasy football, and (a few seasons back) sensibly enough drafted himself. But he was also wise enough to draft the resurgent Brett Favre, so he could play the optimal matchups. What happened one week is that Hasselback decided to bench himself and play Favre instead, who had a more favorable matchup and was as hot as a pistol anyway. WELL—guess how that turned out? Favre earned a measly 11 points, throwing but a single touchdown, while Hasselback went out on the field and threw *four* TD passes, earning 28 points in the process, the highest total of any player that week. EXCEPT—Matt had left himself sitting on the fantasy bench. Oh, the humanity!

Along with providing such colorful player anecdotes, Berry is also superb at sharing details of how hideous the real-life players of fantasy sports can be. Engaging in the most petty behavior, lying to each other, cheating without qualms, ruthlessly preying on each other’s weaknesses, even creating fake websites for the sole purpose of dispensing mis-information to the other players in the league—and that is just describing the editor of Fantasy Life, who shall remain nameless because of those silly libel laws.

Let’s be clear—this book is not for the faint of heart. But it most decidedly *is* for everyone who appreciates clever writing, incisive analysis, and sublimely funny self-deprecation.

There is only one problem with Fantasy Life that I can anticipate, and that is—by the time it reaches bookstore shelves on July 16, I will already be in seventh place in my Penguin fantasy baseball league, trying like hell to figure out exactly how to create a fake website so I can unethically make the playoffs through someone else’s misfortune. Do you think Matthew Berry could be convinced to become my friend? Even just for six months? And then I would never ask again.

- Michael Barson, Fantasy Manager of the Century

Take me out to the ball game, you say? Check out these other baseball books:


wherever_i_wind_up baseball_as_a_road_to_godgil_hodges

Wherever I Wind Up, R.A. Dickey with Wayne Coffey
Baseball as a Road to God, John Sexton with Thomas Oliphant & Peter J. Schwartz
Gil Hodges, Tom Clavin & Danny Peary

Young Readers


Throwing Strikes, R.A. Dickey with Sue Corbett & Wayne Coffey
Fantasy Baseball, Alan M. Gratz
Who Was Babe Ruth?, Joan Holub – Author, Nancy Harrison – Illustrator

constance_hardingDear Duchess,

I hope you will forgive me the impertinence of writing to you directly. Rest assured, I spent several hours consulting the Debrett’s Internet Website on the proper way to address you, even managing to resist, in the process, an advert for a spring planted basket in the shape of a windmill. You see I do loath it when newspapers take the liberty of calling you Kate, as if you were some actress or pop singer merely famous for your talent, as opposed to whom you married.

Doubtless you are inundated with mail, at least if this corner of Surrey is anything to go by. My neighbour, Miss Hughes, managed to triple the circulation of her quarterly Cats in Need charity newsletter just by getting her grandson to photoshop a distressed Siamese into the place of your beige LK Bennett clutch bag for the cover.

But Good Lord, I digress. I have just realised, to my horror, that I am three tenths of the way down this sheet of my best Watermarked Cream Wove writing paper, and I have yet to get to the point (my husband, Jeffrey, constantly berates me for going off on a tangent, which reminds me:  as soon as I have finished this letter, I must pick up his dinner jacket from the dry cleaners). You see, I am writing to give you some advice on motherhood, ahead of the much-anticipated happy occasion. As one Englishwoman to another, I couldn’t resist passing on the following words of hard-won wisdom:

1. Nothing gets rid of stretch marks entirely. Nothing. Accept them as a badge of honour, a lasting testament to the miracle of new life; either that, or try rolling in lard.

2. I trust Royal protocol will rule this out, but just in case: do not succumb to the horrible American trend for baby showers, or – I struggle even to write these words – “gender reveal” parties. One, because they are crass, and two, because they deflect from the true purpose of pregnancy, which is to get your own way.

3. Capitalise on your pregnancy. Capitalise on it for all it is worth. For example, I waited until I was six months pregnant with my first child to persuade Jeffrey that we should have the living room redecorated in a fetching Lilly of the Valley wallpaper, and to confess to my mother that I had broken her favourite ceramic owl. If you feel like being not only the Duchess of Cambridge, but of Cambridge, Canada and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, now is the time to ask.

4. If you have a little girl, why not name her Constance?

5. Make sure your children love you more than they love their nanny. This can be accomplished through devotion, patience, kindness, and making a fright mask of the nanny’s face topped off with Donald Trump’s hair.

6. Nothing tugs at the heart strings like sending your first-born off to boarding school: the hopeful, upturned face; the crisp uniform; the surge of maternal pride that your progeny is taking his first independent steps in the world; the momentary horror when you realise that he is taking them with a piece of jam on toast crammed into his pocket. To cope with any despondence you may feel afterwards, I recommend lying in a dimly lit room reading newspaper headlines – nowadays, I imagine the Website of the Daily Mail would suffice – until you have lost all sense of ordinary human emotion.

7. Do not walk past the Harrods Christmas Shop’s festive display of champagne flutes accompanied by a child carrying a plastic pirate’s cutlass.

8. You, of all people, need not be reminded of this, but in an age where emotional outbursts are rife, one can never be too careful:  you must teach your children the British way. To wit: they should keep a stiff upper lip; get back on their horse as soon as they have fallen off it; eat boiled vegetables with a cheerful smile; believe they are the best in the world but insist, with a slight stammer, that they are the worst; and, in later life, scoff at the idea of “therapy” and address any deep-rooted psychological problems with fresh air and gin.

9. If you have a little girl, it may be unwise to leave her alone  -  even for a mere ten minutes, or the time it takes to check if the housekeeper has hoovered underneath the sofa – with a set of poster paints, child-friendly scissors and unfettered access to your new summer wardrobe.

10. Buy a parrot. Inexplicably, my children do not visit as often as they could, but I have a faithful companion in my magnificent Eclectus, Darcy. Children may fly the nest, but parrots are forever.

And that is all. Wishing you health, happiness and, if I do not presume too much, the time to send a small cutting from the rhododendron in the gardens of Buckingham Palace by return of post,

Your humble servant,

Constance Harding

Following Constance Harding on Twitter:

Author Interview (1)
Author Interview Hand Me Down Melanie Thorne (Plume)

Excerpt (8)
Excerpt What Happened to Goodbye Sarah Dessen (Speak)
Excerpt The Real Skinny Katherine Brooking and Julie Upton (Tarcher)
Excerpt Baseball as a Road to God John Sexton (Gotham)
Excerpt The Company You Keep (movie tie-in) Neil Gordon (Penguin)
Excerpt Lover At Last J.R. Ward (NAL)
Excerpt Angelopolis Danielle Trussoni (Viking)
Excerpt The Famous and the Dead T. Jefferson Parker (Dutton Adult)
Excerpt Other People’s Money Charles V. Bagli (Dutton Adult)

Podcast (1)
Podcast Breaking PointC.J. Box (Putnam)

Reading Group Guide (1)
Reading Group Guide Astonished Beverly Donofrio (Viking)

Video (6)
Video Otis and the Puppy Loren Long (Philomel)
Video A Tale for the Time Being Ruth Ozeki (Viking)
Video The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards Kristopher Jansma (Viking)
Video Bunker Hull Nathaniel Philbrick (Viking)
Video Harley Loco Rayya Elias (Viking)
Video Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles Ron Currie, Jr. (Viking)

Posted by: Lindsay Jacobsen, Online Content Coordinator

fever_tree1. Don’t quit your job before you have a book deal. Very sensible advice that I spectacularly failed to follow. I left my job as a literary agent and stepped into the terrifying world of no salary, no professional support and no real hope of achieving what I was setting out to achieve. It was a very rocky ride.

2. Do join a writing group – they will keep you sane, help you to stay on track, and remind you that there are other people in the world crazy enough to be battling all day with words on paper.

3. Don’t divulge your plot, or writing problems for that matter, to friends at dinner – they’ll say very unhelpful things like: Isn’t that a bit predictable? How can you not know what’s going to happen at the end? And – most grueling of all – hasn’t Wilbur Smith written a novel just like that?

4. When you’re writing sex scenes, don’t imagine your parents looking over your shoulder – a passionate kiss will quickly disintegrate into a prudish peck on the cheek.

5. Don’t obsess over the perfection of other novels. Read them, learn from them, but don’t let them cast your own into shadow. I always wanted my protagonist to be as dynamic and real as Cathy or Emma, but it wasn’t until I had reached the end of her story that I felt I really knew her.

6. Don’t let yourself imagine all the unpublished authors in the world being turned down by agents, like the millions of lost souls waiting at the gates of heaven. If you have written something good, then someone will spot it – you just need to have faith and determination.

7. Don’t be your own judge. After I had written my novel I shelved it in despair, convinced that it was worthless. It was only by some stroke of luck – a chance meeting with a literary agent – that I was convinced to send it out into the world. Thank goodness I did.

8. Don’t demonize the agents who reject you. More than likely your manuscript fell into the hands of some poor, unpaid 17 year old intern with a hangover, desperately trying to reduce the size of the slush pile. Wait a few months, and send it in again. I was offered representation by an agent who must have afterwards let my manuscript fall into the slush pile. A month later I received an earnest typed letter from the agency: “Dear Miss McVeigh, many thanks for sending in your manuscript. I’m very sorry to inform you that…”

9. Once you are published – in the interests of sanity – try not to check your sales rankings more than twice (OK – that’s not realistic – perhaps 5 times) a day. If sales are good your publisher will tell you, and a shift from 3050 to 2095 is almost certainly meaningless.

10. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you’ve got one novel behind you, the second will be easier. It won’t. Sweating over a novel is part of what makes it brilliant. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. I do have a very frustrating writer friend who keeps telling me that her second novel is a breeze…

constance_hardingDear Internet Readers,

Since Penguin has kindly invited me to introduce myself, I thought I would tell you about a typical day in my life. Of course, there is no such thing as a typical day, since my activities can oscillate wildly between, say, going for a stroll and decluttering the bathroom cupboard. The only predictable thing is unpredictability itself, as my neighbour Miss Hughes told me when I once arrived at bell-ringing practice one minute and thirty two seconds late.  But I digress. I hope the below account will suffice to pique your interest.  Should you go on to purchase my book, I would be most grateful, provided you only handle it while wearing silk gloves.

4.32am: Wake to the sound of Jeffrey muttering something in his sleep that sounds like “Yeeha”. Torn between instinct to lie there watching the way his dreams play across his handsome, achingly familiar features, and to stifle him with a pillow.

7.15am Alarm sounds. Allow myself to bask in triumph that it is my real, windup alarm clock that wakes us, and not the one on Jeffrey’s mobile phone, which he set to Wild Thing shortly after his 52nd birthday

7.20am Tea.

7.30am Breakfast. I attempt to tell Jeffrey all about my own dreams, which featured wedding bells for our son Rupert, a magnificent new hat for me and a chicken dancing the macarena, but he erects the Financial Times between us like a giant peach windbreak. Inexplicable.

8am Tea.

8.30am Tea.

9.15am My housekeeper Natalia emerges just as I have finished clearing away the breakfast dishes. Not only is she late, but she has also, once again, left her underwear to dry on the radiator in Jeffrey’s study. No wonder the poor man looks so distracted: cluttered house, cluttered mind.

9.30am Tea.

10am -11.30am Continue attempts to teach my parrot, Darcy, to recite all the words to the hymn Jerusalem. Progress sub-optimal. He shifts from one foot to the other, looks at me, then squawks something hoarse and unintelligible, causing me to spill my tea. Either he has bird flu, or Natalia has been teaching him Lithuanian.

11.45am Tea.

12.30pm Attempt to contact my son Rupert, who works in the IT industry, by email, text message and voice mail on both his mobile phone and his work extension to remind him of the importance of taking a proper, uninterrupted lunch break.

2pm – 3pm Take a brisk stroll around the village. The advantages are twofold: healthy exercise, and the opportunity to check that my flower beds are still superior in colour, range and vigour to those of Miss Hughes.

3.05pm Tea.

4pm Attempt to interest Natalia in a slice of poppy seed cake. She declines, patting her shapely bottom. I don’t know why she is so worried about her figure when there are so few young men in the village to admire it. I worry she must be lonely here, as I often tell Jeffrey, who takes a close and compassionate interest in her plight.

4.30pm Tea.

5pm Sherry.

6.30pm Dinner.  It is burnt. I would remonstrate with Natalia, but there is no time, since I must be punctual for bell-ringing or Miss Hughes will give me one of those looks which shoots lasers from her eyes and reminds me of a bull dog swallowing a wasp.

7.30pm – 9pm. Bell-ringing. Coordination and morale much hampered by Gerald, who has never quite been the same since his wife Rosemary left him to join a trapeze act with the travelling circus. I had tried to persuade her not to go, but she told me that the circus was quite peaceful compared with the Surrey branch of the Women’s Institute. When I pointed out that performing a trapeze act would be terrifying and dangerous, she calmly assured me that she would get the hang of it.

9.30pm. Tea and toast.

10pm Bed. I fall asleep immediately, hoping to dream of hats.

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zeusSo why waste time reading mythology when you could be getting laid or learning math or something?

Well, that’s a good question. Besides the fact that my myths are incredibly entertaining, there’s a couple other things to consider. Let me explain, starting with a little story:

Let’s pretend you and me are a primitive society. We’ve got this really sweet story about how the world is a giant papaya hanging from the tree of heaven (I don’t think this is an actual creation myth, but it’s about as plausible). So years pass, and we’re all hanging out on our giant papaya in the sky, when all of a sudden someone comes up to us like “Hey, there’s no way we’re actually living on a giant papaya hanging from the tree of heaven, because papayas rot pretty fast, and it’s been years now and the world has not gotten significantly stinkier.”

So that’s a huge blow to our worldview right there. Probably we’re not going to want to believe it. But say this papaya skeptic offers us a more believable story, like that the world is a rubber ball tossed into the air by some god a million years ago, and when it lands in another million years we’re all going to die. We are pleased with this new explanation, it’s got a nice kind of poetry to it. It also explains some things the old story didn’t, like why the sun and the moon move across the sky for example. So that becomes the new religion.

It turns out that this is pretty close to how Western science first developed. A bunch of Greek dudes back in 600 BCE called the Presocratics (because they predate Socrates) basically spent their whole lives offering ridiculous explanations for the world and the things in it, and then tearing down each others’ explanations and making better ones. And just like the first tadpoles crawling out of the primordial sea and onto land (if you believe in that kind of thing) those theories began to take shape under the weight of all that criticism, and we began to get things like math and astronomy.

Let’s skip ahead.

We’ve gotten to the point now where it takes a lifetime of study just to update one or two of the stories that already exist, but the way we understand those stories hasn’t changed. Think of how you would describe the Big Bang, or evolution. These are our generation’s myths, and science is possibly our generation’s most powerful and influential religion.

People get mad at me when I say this, and I see why. There’s this belief out there that religion equals irrational, closed-minded, unwilling to change. But that’s a very short-term view. The Tlingit people of the Pacific Northwest abandoned their tribal beliefs for Christianity in the 1800s because Christian settlers brought with them medical technology far more effective than their own. These days, many Tlingit people are moving back to their original religion because it gives them a more satisfying sense of their own identity. And many people all over the world are just straight up dropping out of religions like Catholicism because they find that these religions don’t offer them a robust enough explanation of the world and how to navigate it. Depending on who you ask, we’re either “outgrowing” religion or losing our way.

But we will never outgrow our need for explanations, and right now Science has a lot of those. It doesn’t have as much nudity and incest as our old explanations, and it doesn’t do much to explain the human spirit (yet), but it’s got loads of explosions, and those are almost as good. Even our modern physics, though, are just the best guess we’ve managed so far. We’ll keep telling new and better stories ’til our giant rubber ball hits the bottom of the universe and we all die. In the meantime, read some mythology. You’ll be surprised by how little we’ve actually changed.

zeusSo I talked a couple days ago about how maybe I’m murdering all culture. I think that raises an interesting question to try and get into: is culture dead, and if so, who’s killing it? But the weird thing about culture is that it’s one of those things that’s very hard to look at from the inside, much like a fur-suit or a nice butt. You’ve got to kind of bounce your cultural radar off of whatever is in the vicinity and see what comes back (This is possibly where the butt metaphor breaks down.)

I’m a myths guy, so I’m going to talk about culture in terms of myths. Specifically I’m going to talk about hero myths, because (as Joseph Campbell has already explained so well in “Hero With a Thousand Faces”) those types of myths arise out of a deep, shared psychological journey that pretty much every person has to deal with at some point. Hero myths get told all over the world in incredibly similar ways because the people who are telling them are all dealing with the same problems in their brains. If that’s true, we should be telling just as many new myths today as we were telling a thousand years ago.

So why is it that when I ask you to name me a myth, nine out of ten of you will give me a Greek one? If I ask for a legend, is it presumptuous of me to guess that you’re probably thinking of King Arthur? Where’s our mythology? Time was, everybody in town went to the same church, or shaman, or ritual orgy. They bonded over a mythology that were uniquely theirs, despite its universal themes. Maybe the reason we don’t seem to have a cultural mythology anymore has to do with the size of our cities, or the internet. It’s hard to keep a legend cohesive across that many people. It’s hard to bond with all of New York City.

But I think the real problem is that we know too much now. It’s hard to write a good-old-fashioned hero legend when everybody’s already sick of how the old ones end. We’ve become too classy, too embarrassed to tell the kind of un-subtle, crude, unabashedly optimistic tales our ancestors grew up on. But that doesn’t mean the stories don’t still exist inside us. The brain-problems still exist, so the stories must exist too. They bubble around under the surface and explode out of us whenever they find an opening.

Take a look at the Lincoln Memorial and tell me that’s not a temple. Look at comic books. Look at sports stars and pop stars and Elvis god-damn Presley. Look at John Henry (a real man immortalized in ballad) and Paul Bunyan (a folk-hero originally created as part of a Canadian ad campaign). Hell, look at Scientology. Mythology has gone underground, but it’s still there, and we’re still telling it in our own self-conscious ways. That’s why I’ve stuffed some American myths into my book alongside the Greek and the Sumerian. It’s my way of saying “Hey, look! I haven’t murdered culture at all! It’s right over here, under all these guns and hamburger wrappers!”

Audio Excerpt (5)
Audio Excerpt Angelopolis Danielle Trussoni (Penguin Audio)
Audio Excerpt Unintended Consequences Stuart Woods (Penguin Audio)
Audio Excerpt Die Trying Lee Child (Penguin Audio)
Audio Excerpt Tripwire Lee Child (Penguin Audio)
Audio Excerpt Running Blind Lee Child (Penguin Audio)

Excerpt (16)
Excerpt Blood Trade Faith Hunter (Roc)
Excerpt Iron Kin M.J. Scott (Roc)
Excerpt Mom’s List St. John Greene (Plume)
Excerpt True to the Law Jo Goodman (Berkley)
Excerpt Code Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs (Putnam Juvenile)
Excerpt Crossed Ally Condie (Speak)
Excerpt Otis and the Puppy Loren Long (Philomel)
Excerpt Throwing Strikes R.A. Dickey (Dial)
Excerpt Appalachian Overthrow E.E. Knight (Roc)
Excerpt River of Stars Guy Gavriel Kay (Roc)
Excerpt Assassin’s Gambit Amy Raby (Signet)
Excerpt Only Lycans Need Apply Michele Bardsley (Signet)
Excerpt The River of No Return Bee Ridgway (Dutton)
Excerpt Mistrial Mark Geragos and Pat Harris (Gotham)
Excerpt Fever  Maya Banks (Berkley)
Excerpt Focus Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins (Hudson Street Press)

Playlist (1)
Playlist Harley Loco Rayya Elias (Viking Adult)

Q&A (1)
Q&A Harley Loco Rayya Elias (Viking Adult)

Reading Group Guide (2)
Reading Group Guide The Wisdom of Hair Kim Boykin (Berkley)
Reading Group Guide The Fever Tree Jennifer McVeigh (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam)

Video (8)
VideoDead Ever After Charlaine Harris (Ace)
Video Six Years Harlan Coben (Dutton)
Video Love Irresistibly Julie James (Berkley)
Video The Madness Underneath Maureen Johnson (Putnam Juvenile)
Video Born Wicked Jessica Spotswood (Speak)
Video Out of the Easy Ruta Sepetys (Philomel)
Video Prodigy Marie Lu (Putnam Juvenile)
Video Nest of Serpents Curtis Jobling (Viking Juvenile)

Posted by: Lindsay Jacobsen, Online Content Coordinator