mobydickName: Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Bunker Hill

Favorite Penguin Classic Title/Author: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Why do you love this Penguin Classic?  I like it because it contains the meaning of life, it’s our American Bible.

What should I read next? Next read is Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast edited by the inimitable Thomas Philbrick.

BEA_Cover_2013-2The Penguin Book Truck was inspired by several things. Back in 2010 when we celebrated the 75th Anniversary of Penguin Books, we acquired and designed the Penguin Car, a Mini-Cooper, painted Penguin Orange, with our famous brand all over it. The car was a great hit, visiting some of our most prominent authors in their hometowns across the U.S., and hosting anniversary celebrations at their local bookstores. As I said, everyone loved the car, loved the use of our famous brand, but being that it was a small car, there wasn’t much room to hold books!

After that, we noticed a big increase in the presence of Food Trucks around the office, and throughout New York City. Some are quite big, all are brightly branded and of course they are mobile, eye-catching and visible. We thought, a truck, in the spirit of the prominent Food Trucks, or the idea of the retro Bookmobiles, would be a great way to promote our iconic brand and wonderful books by, as we like to say, “Bringing the writer to the reader”,

The final thing that inspired us was our colleagues in the UK. They had created a wonderfully designed and branded pushcart, to use for promotion and sales in London. We were inspired to do the same thing, but wondered “How would we deliver our U.S. version of the Penguin Pushcart to events?” This brought up the idea of going forward with the Penguin Book Truck, which had been on the back-burner for a while, as literally a vehicle (no pun intended) to store and deliver The Penguin Pushcart, and be a marketing and sales vehicle in itself.

Follow the Penguin Truck around the country, at

John Fagan is the Vice President & Director of Marketing at Penguin Books/Plume/Hudson Street Press and the Executive Director of Academic Marketing & Sales.


bleakhouseName: Donna Leon, author of Beastly Things

Favorite Penguin Classic Title/Author: My favorite at the moment is Dickens’ Bleak House, which I read as the grandfather of crime fiction.

Why do you love this Penguin Classic?  There’s a mysterious death (well, there’s more than one), a contested will, many people ruined by greed and deceit, people who pretend to be what they are not, a mad old woman, and a secret, illegitimate child.   The origin of all this pain is a series of events from decades in the past.

What should I read next?
Pride and Prejudice, which is apparently a frothy romance in which a feisty young woman finds true love with a very proper, and enormously wealthy, gentleman.  It is simultaneously a wickedly cool-eyed examination of parental irresponsibility at its worst as well as a presentation of human weakness and self-deceit.  Delicious book.

lola1Lola is my cat. As you can see from the pictures, she’s very into books. (OK there may have been catnip involved…) I didn’t grow up with pets, but a few years ago, I became a cat person when I adopted a beautiful 9 year old cat from the ASPCA. She was lovely and taught me almost everything I needed to know about cats. But she was diagnosed with cancer less than two years later and has since passed on.

I am fortunate that I have family members who live nearby. Admittedly, my grandmother is not very fond of animals, but being my grandmother, she listened to my blubbering and was sad about my cat’s death because I was sad about it. I didn’t think she could really help but then she did something unexpected: drawing on an inherently grandmotherish trait, she played cat matchmaker.

lola2Around the time I was grieving for my cat, a friend of my grandmother’s inherited a cat from a relative who had died of cancer. Now this woman was fond of cats, but didn’t really have time for a pet, and Lola had only lived with her relative for a year, so it wasn’t like she was a cherished family pet. But they still wanted to make sure Lola (who was simply called ‘Cat’ at the time) went to a good home. Lola was from a municipal shelter on Long Island and they knew if she went back there she might eventually be euthanized, if no one adopted her. So our two tragedies ended up creating an opportunity for me and ‘Cat’.

The Humane Society is a great organization because it advocates for animals on a national level. While the society doesn’t run shelters, those are run locally, it seeks make the public aware of the many animals that end up in shelters with nowhere else to go.

Lola_sleepingWe hope with Read Humane, you’ll read some great books, but also that when you think about getting a pet, you think first about going to a shelter rather than a breeder. We’ve loved sharing our pets with you on the blog this month. Click here to see a list of all our pets featured.

-Julie Schaeffer, Sr. Online Content Coordinator

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pastorswivesOwen Meany. Daenerys Stormborn. Katniss Everdeen.

As a reader, I love a great character name. When they’re done right, the name infuses the role so completely in my mind that they’re forever inseparable. How can Jane Eyre be anything but?

When I became a fiction writer, it dawned on me that I’d be the one who’d have to come up with the names. I’d be inventing a person, after all: the color of her eyes, the way she talks, her earliest memories. Of course I’d have to give her a name.

You know how you agonized over the naming of your children? Yeah. It’s like that. A terrifying responsibility, if also a joyful opportunity.

In writing my novel, Pastors’ Wives, I turned for inspiration to the Bible. That made sense to me, as the story is set in a church and is about what it’s like when the man you married is married to God. Also, the Bible is a great source for names, as parents the world over can tell you.

“Ruth” is named after the Ruth in the Bible who pledges loyalty to her mother-in-law. Like her, my Ruth is helped by an older, wiser woman who counsels her on matters of love and marriage.

“Candace” is mentioned in the Bible as queen of the Ethiopians. Scholars surmise that it may derive from a Nubian word meaning “queen mother.” My Candace is indeed that of her megachurch flock.

“Jeremiah” is a Hebrew biblical name meaning “appointed by the Lord.” The Jeremiah in my novel, called Jerry, hears a calling to serve the church.

“Aaron” means teacher or mountain of strength. I thought that was an appropriate name for the charismatic leader of my fictional megachurch.

Not all my characters’ names have such lofty origins. Some I threw in for fun. For instance, in my story, the megachurch leader forms an alliance with a local imam. The wife of that imam is a blue-eyed American named Kristin Chaudry. That’s the name of my bff growing up (though her real husband is a telecom exec…you’re welcome, Kuri!).


hershey1Hershey and I met one winter afternoon in 2007. Our first family dog, also a rescue, had recently passed away and we were looking to give another shelter dog a home. My internet search led me to Abandoned Angels, a cocker spaniel rescue group in Queens, and within days I was sitting on the floor at a vet’s office in Flushing, playing with a tentative, skinny, shaved-nearly-to-the-skin chocolate brown dog with the most adorable face and little tan socks I’d ever seen. At the end of my visit, he put his front paws in my lap and licked my face, and I was done for. Hershey came home with me just in time for the weekend, and six years on, he’s my mischievous, playful, loving, not-so-skinny fur child whose full bodied wiggle of a greeting when I walk in the door at the end of the day never fails to melt my heart.

I am so proud to be a part of a company that is committed to raising awareness about rescue animals through the Read Humane campaign, and I hope my post and the stories of my fellow co-workers inspire you to learn more and visit a shelter today!


- Farin Schlussel, Publicity and Marketing Assistant, Gotham/Avery

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pastorswivesThe day had come.

My mother lay pressed against her pillow, her skin like baking paper, her limbs disposable chopsticks. She had not moved or spoken for days.

In those last days we rarely left her side, my three siblings and I. Between us we had eleven children, the youngest my newborn, whom we had baptised a week ago right here by my mother’s bedside. The children tumbled and danced around the hospice floor, admonished by us to keep quiet, keep quiet! They had already said their good-byes to Nana. Now it was our turn.

The hospice nurses had told us of the final signs. She will cease to wake, even briefly. Her fingers and toes will turn blue. Her breathing will grow shallow and ragged.

Then we heard it. My mother took a breath. That’s all it was—a sip of air. We knew it was time. We rushed around her, my siblings and I, and all together began to sob.

And this is what I said to my mother before she died: “I’ll be all right, Mommy. Don’t worry. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be all right.”

Not “I love you.” Not “I’ll miss you.” Not “thank you for everything.”

Why? I asked myself that night as I cradled my colicky newborn, both of us wailing. Why did I choose that moment to inform my mother of my own well-being? Why did I feel this was the very thing she needed to know as she drew her last breath?

It took me years as a parent to understand: as mothers, that is exactly what we want to know. We want to know our children are safe. We need to know they’ll be all right as they journey into the world without us by their sides.

I don’t know if my mother heard me. But if she did, I hope my final words eased her journey just a hair. That she believed and trusted in my well-being, and then let go.

familyportaitI never considered myself a dog person – that is, until my husband Sean and I adopted Jacob.  Now I know that I was just waiting for the right dog.

Jacob was picked up on the street with a pack of wild dogs and dropped off at a kill shelter in Georgia.  Second Chance at Life, a New Jersey rescue organization consisting mostly of a small network of foster homes, found Jacob and posted him on their website for adoption.  When we came across the posting, we immediately fell in love with him.  Our first several months with Jacob were difficult, as we dealt with a severe case of fleas, social anxiety, and separation anxiety.  He just always looked so sad and scared.  I remember telling Sean that I thought dogs were supposed to wag their tails.

jakeAlmost three years later, Jacob is a happy, incredibly loved, and (mostly) normal dog.  While I admit getting him to this point hasn’t been easy, I wouldn’t change a thing.  Knowing that we have dramatically increased the quality of his life is the only thing that really matters.  The difference we’ve made is clear to me whenever I see Jacob happily wagging his tail (it does work!).

I am incredibly proud to work for a company that supports the fight against animal cruelty and understands the importance and impact of programs like Read Humane!

-Sonia Lynaugh, Recruiter

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pastorswivesI don’t belong to a church. Or a temple or a mosque.

I don’t kneel by my bed and pray. I don’t invoke God’s name in thanks or anger.

My children were baptised in the Catholic church, but have received no further sacraments.

Yet my new novel is set in an evangelical megachurch. And my CBS drama pilot is about an ex-priest.

Faith fascinates me—and not just in a clinical, academic way. What does it feel like to believe? Why is religious belief universal? How do you get to a place in your heart where you can stand with thousands of others and raise your arms in rapturous prayer?

As a journalist, I’ve written about many things, some of import, many decidedly not. I’ve written about plastic surgery in Asia and ranchers fighting oilers in Wyoming and the American trend toward upscale laundry rooms.

But after two decades of chasing news and trends, I longed to write about the Big Things. Like love. Death. Faith.

My first book, Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death, explored weird and wonderful funerals and burials. Though I reported on cremains turned to diamonds and mummifications, it was for me a way to understand how we as a culture are changing the way we memorialize our loved ones. Doing so helped me through the subsequent illness and death of my parents.

My second book, Pastors’ Wives, is a page-turning novel about the lives of three women inside a Southern evangelical megachurch. But for me, it was also a way to work through my crisis of faith. The loss of my parents and the birth of my daughters spun me into an existential spin cycle. My beloved characters—Ruthie, Candace and Ginger—helped me through.

Though I have moved away from religion, I learned I still have faith: in my people, in my world, in love. Writing about faith taught me so.

Visit Lisa Takeuchi Cullen at Readers can also follow Lisa on Facebook and Twitter.

Lisa Cullen was a foreign correspondent and staff writer for Time magazine, covering social trends, news, arts and business in the U.S. and Asia. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two daughters.

me and stinky I met Stinkyboy in 1998 at the San Francisco SPCA while accompanying a friend who was looking to adopt a cat. While she was busy looking at kittens, I was busy being wooed by the scraggly-looking, slightly cranky, white-and-brown alley cat in the next cage.

Stinkyboy had just been rescued the week before and was a complete mess: covered in cuts and scratches, had every kind of intestinal parasite you can imagine and his left eye was completely swollen shut. (Also? He smelled pretty bad. Thus the name Stinkyboy). Of course I took him home.

A year later, Stinkyboy and I moved to New York City to start my career in publishing; once we got buddycatthere I decided that Stinkyboy needed a cat of his own. This time I hit the Kitty Kind shelter in Union Square, and found BuddyCat, a sweet six-month old black kitten who had been found half-frozen in a snowdrift. I fell in love instantly, and BuddyCat came home to live with us. The three of us have been an oddball furry little family for nearly fourteen years now; I can’t imagine not having either of them in my life. Every day I am cognizant of the fact that my four-legged family wouldn’t exist if it were not for rescue organizations and the dedicated people who run them. I’m thrilled that Penguin donates money and time every year to the Humane Society’s Animal Rescue Team with their Read Humane partnership; I hope you’ll choose to support Read Humane as well!

- Colleen Lindsay, Marketing NAL/Berkley

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