maybe2 (1)Liz Hohenadel is a Publicity Manager at Riverhead Books, where she is lucky to get to work on a wide range of literary fiction, narrative nonfiction and popular science titles. She lives in Brooklyn and, based on her recommendations, loves very sad books and train-related hijinks.


everything-i-never-told-you-by-celeste-ng 2

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

I know I’m about the tenth PRH staffer to mention this book but there’s no way I’m not including it on my list, it is one of my favorite novels I’ve read in years! I was so engrossed reading I accidentally got on the wrong train one evening and didn’t realize until I’d gone 45 minutes in the opposite direction of my home. That should be enough of an endorsement to convince you this is literally impossible to put down! It’s the story of a family coming to terms with the tragic death of their teenaged daughter. It is suspenseful, beautifully spun, raw and absolutely heartbreaking.

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The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

At the turn of the 1930’s, a complicated girl named Thea is exiled from her isolated Florida home in the wake of a family scandal and sent to a boarding school in the mountains of North Carolina. At once a love story, a family saga and a delicious, sexy, suspenseful coming of age tale, THE YONAHLOSSEE RIDING CAMP FOR GIRLS gives voice to young women pushing at the constraints and expectations of growing up female in a very particular time and place. You’ll devour.




A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING weaves together two stories, forming an intricate, heartrending, genre-breaking novel of love, loss and loneliness. Nao is a depressed teenager living in Tokyo, who finds solace only in her diary and documenting the life of her fascinating grandmother, 100 year old Buddhist nun. Halfway across the world is Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest. When Ruth discovers a mysterious Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on shore, the two women’s stories begin to converge in powerful, nearly magical ways.

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Where All Light Tends To Go by David Joy

Oh this book just broke my heart right in two! Forgive me for mainly recommending tearjerkers, what can I say, I like a good cry. Jacob is 18, a high school drop-out and the son of a kingpin meth dealer in a rough Appalachian town in North Carolina. Over the course of the summer he struggles against the bounds of love, family obligation, choice and fate.  David Joy is a master of place, his hardscrabble landscape leaping off the page. This novel is unsettling and absolutely impossible to forget.

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The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

This was one of the very first books I read when I first started at Riverhead many moons ago and to this day stands out to me as a gold standard in fiction. Junot can knock you flat with a single sentence and this, his darkly funny first novel will linger with you long after you’ve finished. I will never forget the first time (of many re-reads) I finished this novel, being moved to tears on the subway and instantly flipping back to page one to start all over again.

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Sam is an assistant with the Young Readers Sales team. He loves to sing, dance, yell, and eat in groups. His favorite things are funny people, smart books, and like-you-mean-it hugs. He reads almost anything if it can rein his attention in. He thinks the best part about reading comes after the last page, when you can talk about it with others and make a little more sense of the art, and maybe a piece of their own lives in light of it. He is moving to Texas! He loves adventure, and hopes to live a life full of movement.


Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote this book for herself. Not for you or for me; just herself, an therein lies this book’s greatest lesson: there is great value in your own joy. She includes that she is glad for anyone that finds BIG MAGIC to be helpful or enlightening, but really, writing about fear and its governance over creative freedom was an idea of her own that she wanted to nurture and expand, as if it were a real living thing sought her care. Ideas are more than flits of inspiration to Gilbert; they’re alive.

Whether you buy that or not, Gilbert’s knack for good writing is reason enough to spend some time with this book. Without patronization, she explains that we too can live a creative life if only we would put an end to the enabling fictions we create in order to avoid the massive, abundantly rewarding responsibility of, well, creating.



So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

I picked this book up and immediately thought of Disney Villains. Imagine, if you will, Jafar or Cruella DeVil flipping through these pages now that they’ve been thwarted and shamed in their respective worlds. The genius of the book however, lies not within its potential as a satirical prop in a Disney spin-off. Because rather than center on people who have committed “villainous” acts (see: Justine Sacco’s tweet on AIDS, or Jonah Lehrer’s fabrication of quotes in a major publication), the book is really about everyone else: the Tweeters, the Facebookers, the commenters, and perhaps literal mudslingers who can safely jab the perpetrator from an anonymous sea of onlookers. We’re happy to join the avalanche of shame-throwing because, in an avalanche, no one snowflake carries the blame for the amount of damage the group ultimately causes.

In any case, there isn’t a benign moment in this book, and the last line is the best line – the hook-in-cheek phrase that drags our attention through our protective bubbles and toward the places we don’t want to look: the margins where the results of our actions tend to rot. Once you’ve finished this, you won’t regard mistakes – your own or others’ – the same way again.

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The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

This was probably not written with the intent of improving its readers. However, I make the case that it does, simply for the amount of self-reflection I experienced from the first chapter onward. What makes Jon Ronson a great journalist and author is that his curiosity begets curiosity. Questions multiply and his focus, which at first is centered on subjects he suspects are real-life psychopaths, turns inward. Is he a psychopath? How many characteristics in the very real “Psychopath Test” can he have before someone can deem him too dangerous to live in normal society? This will no doubt force you to ask the same questions of yourself (and of everyone else in your life). As I read, I was dazed by how much attention I paid to my own mind. Things I didn’t know I possessed intrigued me, as did a whole branch of psychiatric research I gave little thought to before.

Ronson deserves credit for his strong writing and exceptional research, but his crowning achievement is instilling in his readers a curiosity they didn’t know they had.



The ADHD Advantage by Dale Archer, MD

Fear not, my unfocused friends, my shiny-loving brothers, my leaf-chasing sisters. You are not lost; you are not damaged; you are not hopeless. You’re just a different kind of fantastic from our linear minded comrades. Dale Archer, MD, uses his own life, and the lives of other hugely successful and happy “ADHD-ers” to delineate the fact that a wandering, hyperactive mind is more of an asset than we’ve been lead to believe.

When we were hyper, or when we stopped listening, or when we tore all over the house, we were usually punished, and therefore told over a long period of time that we were bad. What Archer points out is that punishment and medication are not the best ways of dealing with students (and adults) who can’t sit still. Instead, we should consider how to leverage someone’s strengths first and foremost before turning to drugs, which should really be a last resort. The success stories that he includes throughout the book are proof enough that those with ADHD can help turn the world in ways that others simply cannot. What is connoted as a burden, might actually be a gift.

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Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards

I found this book (the 4th edition!) to be less of a book on how to draw, and more of a guide in perception. Edwards explains that in order to draw, we must tap into the non-verbal, non-linear, and non-logical side of our brains. To achieve this, she instructs the reader to perform various exercises – projects that require one to carve out an hour of uninterrupted time with no distractions. In a sense – she wants us to meditate. In order to speak in a language of only pictures, we have to melt away from our need to define what we see and simply see what we see. Drawing is less of an act of imitation, and more an act of perceiving. This opens an enormous space for noticing, and appreciating, how intricate each and every object is.

More than anything, this book gave me a reason to draw again – something I hadn’t done since I was a kid. After doing just one of the projects Edwards requires before moving on to later chapters, I felt physically lighter and more interested in my own atmosphere – the things that inhabit our lives are more complex than we give them credit for. What better way to pay tribute to your gift of sight than to draw what you see? What’s better, there is no rush or pressure to draw perfectly. Your drawing is yours, and nothing will be created exactly like it.

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CBJ PantheonCasey Blue James is a publishing assistant in the president’s office at Penguin. She’s a native Chicagoan and a proud resident of Jackson Heights, Queens. When her nose isn’t buried in a book on the subway, chances are you can find her in the park, on the beach, or somewhere else where the vitamin D is plentiful. (If you’re reading this bio in the winter, she’s probably eating pasta somewhere or snuggled in bed watching RuPaul’s Drag Race with a puppy named Pickles.)



The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe

Half a decade before Mary McCarthy published The Group, and fifty years before Peggy and Joan became the past-tense idols of twenty-something women working in corporate offices everywhere, Rona Jaffe wrote the original portrayal of mid-century office life that didn’t entirely relegate women to the reception desk and the coffee cart. I’ll admit it’s hard to find a true heroine in this woefully outdated storyline, but even a thoroughly 21st-century lady may find herself sympathetically nodding along with a young editorial assistant’s travails in the big office and the bigger city.  In fact, I think The Best of Everything makes a fun read for anyone who works in publishing. Remember when the whole company used to take the Jitney out to the publisher’s Hamptons house for summer soirees? Man, those were the days!


fear-of-flying-by-erica-jongFear of Flying by Erica Jong

Isadora Wing travels with her psychoanalyst husband to a conference of psychoanalysts in Vienna and hilarious trouble ensues. If you haven’t read this one yet, you’re depriving yourself. With a narrator who is witty and candid and utterly unabashed re: sex, Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying is frequently alluded to as a precursor to Sex and the City. Behind the veneer of sarcasm and snides, there’s a whipsmart woman who isn’t sure what she wants from love or sex or art or work. You don’t have to be Carrie Bradshaw, or a woman, to relate to that kind of honest vulnerability. Also, this scandalous new cover art makes for a fun subway ride. After one too many questionable glances from strangers, I may or may not have made myself one of those brown paper bag book-covers kids make for textbooks in grade school. (Don’t worry; the brilliant design is displayed in all its glory on my bookshelf at home!)



The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum by Heinrich Boll

Heinrich Boll, the Nobel Prize-winning German author famous for flaunting his liberal views in his fiction, delivers a fun and thinly-veiled allegory about yellow journalism in The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum. This sharp little novel turns the thriller/police-procedural genre on its head, telling us on page three what crime has been committed, and by whom. The rest of the story is a nimble account of why the crime took place. An admirable economy of language, the ruthlessness of Boll’s wit, and a swoon-worthy use of lists (nerd alert!) have endeared this book to me forever. Also, at 103 pages, it’s a dream-read: the kind you can finish in one sitting (or two or three short subway rides).


The Bar on the Seine by Georges Simenon

Ever wonder what the solemn and stony-faced literary heroes of yore read for sheer, escapist pleasure? William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, T. S. Eliot, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez all agreed on one author: Georges Simenon. I think that group is recommendation plenty, but since I’m meant to give you mine: This book is a treat for those who enjoy a good old-fashioned whodunit. The plot is no-frills and the writing is elegant and deadpan (you really will be able to see why Hemingway in particular appreciated Simenon). In this new-fangled age of psychological thrillers and unreliable narrators, it’s refreshing to go back and read a pared-down, unfussy classic. Plus, this is set on the banks of the Seine in summertime, and the cast of characters are fashionable artists, moneyed elite, and deplorable philanderers—fun! This is another short read (did I mention I love pithy books more than anything?) in a petite trim size. Perfect for tucking in your pocket and reading on the banks of the Hudson during your lunch break. Bonne lecture!




Civic Classics, Vol. 1: The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, edited by Richard Beeman

I won’t belabor this recommendation: SCOTUS has had a productive 2015, and we should all brush up on our constitutional knowledge. Plus, this is yet another gorgeous edition from our friends at Penguin Classics.

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1276738_10100413665148595_402025168_oAmanda Mustafic is an Associate Publicist at Penguin Young Readers. Born and raised in New York, she can often be found wondering whether she’s a book hoarder or a book collector, reading comic books, or sketching strangers on the subway. Fellow pizza and bagel aficionados, feel free to strike up a conversation. Twitter: @AmandaMustafic 




The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

One of my best friends recommended this book to me a few years ago, and I quickly got sucked into Rothfuss’s vivid, intimate writing style and the addicting storyline. His prose is deeply poetic, and fantasy buffs will be dying for more of this story-within-a-story. I’m very much looking forward to the last book in the Kingkiller Chronicle series, Doors of Stone.

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The Young Elites by Marie Lu

If you’ve ever been more intrigued by the villain than the hero in a story, you’ll love Marie Lu’s latest series, The Young Elites. Adelina is a malfetto, a plague survivor left with distinguishing marks and often, special powers. Imagine the X-Men if they were set in Renaissance Italy – it’s that thrilling, heartbreaking, and unforgettable.

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Archetype by M.D. Waters

Back when I was blogging, I was sent copies of M.D. Waters’ Archetype duology – and I was immediately hooked. Part Orphan Black, part Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I haven’t read science fiction this good in ages. We meet Emma, the main character, struggling with a case of amnesia after a devastating accident. She is fighting to be herself – but is that Emma Burke, wife of the wealthy Declan Burke, or is she someone else entirely? If I could tell you to read only one series this year, this would be it.

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The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin

Taking place many years into the future, this groundbreaking sci-fi classic took on the concept of gender and androgyny years before it became a national discussion. LeGuin is an immensely creative writer, and interweaves legend with plot seamlessly. It’s won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and for good reason. Don’t leave this off your sci-fi must-read list.




Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

This fairy-tale retelling of Sleeping Beauty is masterful, literary, and filled with gorgeous prose. I first read this as a child, and it’s stuck with me since. One of the first “modern” princess retellings, Briar-Rose is a tomboy who becomes a blacksmith’s apprentice – and can save herself, thank you very much. McKinley fills page after page with lush description, while introducing truly unique tweaks to a timeless, well-known story.

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The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

When I was growing up, I was a huge fan of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy – and now I’m an enormous fan of S.E. Grove’s Mapmakers Trilogy. The Glass Sentence introduces a world that fluidly blends science and magic, a strong and adventurous young female protagonist, and amazing world-building. The gorgeous maps included in the books just add to the fantasy and help whisk you away to another world.

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Leah Schiano


Leah Schiano is a Marketing Assistant for Penguin Young Readers. When she’s not reading or competing on NPR’s Ask Me Another (spoiler: she lost), Leah pretends she’s not addicted to Netflix.  You can follow her on Twitter: @leeschi







The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Ahdieh mixes romance, history, a little bit of action, and some seriously swoon-worthy men in this one. Shahrzad is a sixteen-year-old girl who volunteers to marry a murderous (and attractive) Sultan after her best friend becomes his latest victim. She vows to put an end to his habit of marrying a woman at dusk and killing her by dawn, but Shazi finds it a little bit more… complicated than that. If you love romantic reads, you need to pick this up immediately.

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The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Have I mentioned I love Sarah Dessen? No? Okay, well, I LOVE Sarah Dessen. If you’re into cute boys, best friends, and amazing summer reads, then you really need to pick up this one (and all ELEVEN of her other books)! The Truth About Forever introduces you to Macy and her struggle to cope with the loss of her father, manage the many demands of her mother, and navigate complicated love. It’s a tradition of mine to read this every summer, and I think you should, too!

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My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m really into the YA Contemporary Romance thing. Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door fits perfectly into that genre. One amazing, crazy, hilarious family; a picture-perfect romance (where can I get a Jase of my own?); and a bit of hold-on-to-your-seat drama had me turning the pages more quickly than I wanted to. I. Love. This. Book.

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Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

When I’m not reading romance, I like to pick up some historical fiction. Usually, the historical fiction makes me weep uncontrollably at the end, and this one is no exception. Don’t let that deter you, though.  Between Shades of Gray gives you an in-depth look at the Soviet invasion of Lithuania in 1939. Aside from the tears, though, there’s a beautiful story that will make you read slowly and carefully, savoring the pages in front of you.

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Pom Pom Panda Gets the Grumps by Sophy Henn

Okay, so this one isn’t out yet (sorry!), but I promise this is something you need to pick up when it’s available on October 6th. Pom Pom wakes up one morning, and nothing is going right. His blankey goes missing, his baby brother is playing with his favorite toy, and things don’t get much better from there. With each event, Pom Pom utters a loud “Harrumph!” And let’s be honest, don’t we all have days like this? I just wish when I was having a terrible day, I could be as cute and forgiving as this little guy.

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marisa_novelloMarisa Novello is the editorial coordinator for Puffin, at Penguin Young Readers. Originally from Seacoast New Hampshire, she loves paperback books, getting hyperlinked gifs in emails, and quoting Hyperbole and a Half with coworkers.


My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

I’m pretty sure Huntley’s first book has been recommended here before, but she’s well worth mentioning again. I suggest starting with My Life Next Door because her third book, The Boy Most Likely To (out August 2015!), centers around two of the supporting characters from this first one. Besides, it’s a really good one. Huntley has a way of building tension between her characters that makes her a romance writing queen, and these characters will give you some serious butterflies and you will fall in love. She also writes a pretty sexy story for YA, so it’s the perfect pick for a cross-over adult audience as well.

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Sweep- Book of Shadows, the Coven, and Blood Witch by Cate Tiernan

Sweep by Cate Tiernan

Sweep! This is kind of cheating, because it’s not really one book but a series. Sweep is just plain FUN! I love any kind of witchy read, but this one is like a saga that would be the perfect CW series. If you like The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle, then this one’s for you. It’s fun and fast paced with love triangles, spells, and teenagers saving the world while the rest of society has no idea they’re even in danger (especially those silly, naïve parents who are more concerned about grades and curfew. Jeez!) And it’s set in the 90s, which I also love. Don’t let the books’ page counts scare you off, the five volumes are bind ups of the original fifteen short stories but they’re quick reads.



Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

I have never been a huge fan of Westerns.  I think it’s because of all the John Wayne movies my mother made me sit through when I was growing up. Sorry, John Wayne fans! But this book is Thelma and Louise meets the Oregon Trail, and has changed my mind about the Wild West as a backdrop. I also prefer my romance tucked, wrapped, and layered inside a really great story, and that’s exactly what this is! Though it’s not the main plot, it’s definitely in the forefront and I found myself falling in love along with the characters. It’s adventure, history, and a great tale about friendship, saving yourself, and looking forward after a troubled past.  You also learn some Chinese culture that really adds to the narrative. This is Stacey Lee’s debut, but you’ll see more of her. She has another historic novel on the way in Summer 2016!

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The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

The Bourbon Kings by J. R. Ward

This one’s for those readers that like a sexier, contemporary romance. I had never read J. R. Ward before, but she deserves some serious credit for her world-building skills in this book. She compares this southern estate setting to that of Downton Abby, since the story revolves around a wealthy family and the staff that make their world possible. And I think it’s a fair comparison! Though the main thread follows a second-chance love story between two characters, it’s a third-person narrative that gives you a peek into the lives of the others entwined in their story as well. And the drama! There’s a lot of scandal, romance, money, and a heck of a lotta bourbon! That was probably the most fun for me; learning about the Kentucky bourbon business which I’m sure J. R. Ward put a lot of research into.


Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

This counts because there’s “romance” in the title, right? Plus I just had to sneak a non-fiction title into the mix. But really, this is a great book and it is about romance. So for any of you not interested in romantic fiction, this one’s for you!

 Whenever I visit my great uncle in New Jersey he shares stories about his late wife, and by the way he talks about her I always assumed it was love at first sight. Until recently, when I asked how they met and he told me his friend knew a “nice girl” that lived close by. What?! But that’s exactly what Aziz speaks to when he begins his research about the generations before us, and how proximity and limited options were a key factor in partnership. Aziz even uses his own parents as a model of reference, mentioning his dad took less time deciding on his wife than Aziz does on his Seamless order. Then you add Eric Klinenberg’s sociology research into the mix, and we learn terms like companionate marriage and soul mate marriage while they delve into the modern technologies this generation uses to meet people. It’s interesting and funny, and they raise some insightful observations while making fun of our social behaviors in the digital age. Even with all the statistics, facts, and examples, the writing is easy and conversational. It’s sociology wrapped up in a standup routine, and while you don’t need the audio version to get Aziz’s humorous tone and inflection, it’s definitely a great format for enjoying this book!

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The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

I think I read this in about one sitting. If you like a more action-packed romance, then this is it. It’s a fast read that takes you from a small town in Maine to the streets of Istanbul and Paris, while a compelling mystery narrative keeps the action moving. And though Avery’s story in this is not your typical teen drama, she still has those typical teen girl thoughts. Like, did Jack ask her to the prom for ulterior motives, or because he really likes her? It’s just pure fun, and though the content is completely PG rated, Maggie Hall builds up to a pretty intimate scene for YA romance that had me kind of fanning myself. While you will definitely fall for one boy more than the other in this one, I have a feeling we can expect to find more conflict between her two romantic prospects in her second book, Map of Fates, coming out Spring 2016.

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Love by the Book by Melissa Pimentel

Love by the Book by Melissa Pimentel

Just look at that cover! This is a really funny read that definitely holds up to its comparison to Bridget Jones. Lauren, the main character, isn’t really looking for love, though. She a modern heroine looking for a male companion to have around, serious or not. Mostly not. She gets herself into all sorts of trouble experimenting with a different book of dating advice for a certain amount of time, and seeing what kind of man and relationship she attracts. This isn’t your swoony romance, and though you won’t fall in love, the romantic debauchery will leave you feeling very entertained.

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picture - Julie KocsisJulie Kocsis is a Production Coordinator at Berkley. She loves reading biographies and memoirs, quoting Seinfeld, complaining about the MTA, and watching documentaries (the good kind, not the dull kind they forced you to watch in high school social studies classes). She lives in a fairly un-trendy area of Brooklyn, but enjoys visiting the trendy parts from time to time to eat ramen, dance to ‘90s pop music, wander aimlessly in comfortable shoes, and people watch.


Paddle Your Own Canoe- One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living, by Nick Offerman

Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living, by Nick Offerman

“This isn’t a self-improvement book,” you say? “This is just a collection of essays some clown wrote!” Well, technically you’re correct. However, this book is actually chock-full of life advice. Author Nick Offerman (the actor who played Ron Swanson on Parks & Rec) takes readers through his childhood in rural Illinois, his experiences as a theater actor in both Chicago and LA, and how he met his wife (Megan Mullally). Interspersed throughout these biographical parts are bits of life advice, my favorite being, “Choose your favorite spade and dig a small, deep hole located deep in the forest or a desolate area of the desert or tundra. Bury your cell phone and then find a hobby.” One of Offerman’s personal favorite hobbies is woodworking, particularly canoe-hulling (hence the name of the book). Overall, this is a very funny and enjoyable book that could help you lead a more fulfilling life.

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A Field Guide to Awkward Silences, by Alexandra Petri

A Field Guide to Awkward Silences, by Alexandra Petri

Perhaps you’re looking for some self-help to answer the question “How can I get more out of life? I’m bored.” In this case, I would recommend reading A Field Guide to Awkward Silences by Alexandra Petri. The biggest take-away I got from this book is that Petri simply goes for it in life. This 20-something has attended and participated in conventions of all types – whistling, pun-making, and Star Wars (“As a general rule, I advise against trying to pick up men at Star Wars conventions”). Additionally, she was on Jeopardy!, was accidentally baptized into a cult, has auditioned for America’s Next Top Model, and has personally been called “bitchy” by Rush Limbaugh on-air (“If I were president [As if we’d ever elect a lady world president!] I’d ditch certain words. I’d retire them to a farm upstate… Take slut. Take bitch. Please.”). This book is hilarious, entertaining, and full of personal stories that will inspire you to say “yes” to doing more in life so that you’ll never feel unfulfilled or bored again!

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Lizz Free or Die, by Lizz Winstead

Lizz Free or Die, by Lizz Winstead

Although I’ve only ever been a casual watcher of The Daily Show, I’ve always been particularly interested in hearing from women who work in comedy, which is what drew me to read this collection of essays by the show’s creator Lizz Winstead. The book provides a good number of hilarious stories, particularly the ones about growing up in a Catholic household where religious items hung on every wall, (“… like the Virgin Mary on the Half Shell, or the regionally acceptable portrait of the Scandinavian-looking Jesus who could have been in an ABBA tribute band”). There are also some very emotional stories about the death of her father as well as stories about getting into stand-up comedy, moving to New York and creating The Daily Show. The best piece of advice I gathered from this book actually came from the Preface where she states, “…humor is the most useful tool to help put even the most painful moments of life into perspective.”

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Elements of Wit- Mastering the Art of Being Interesting, by Benjamin Errett

Elements of Wit: Mastering the Art of Being Interesting, by Benjamin Errett

After reading the abovementioned three books by such hilarious and witty authors, you may now be thinking, “I want to be hilarious and witty just like them! How can I go about doing that?” Though some people out there are probably a bit of a lost cause in this department (hopefully you know who you are), some people might just need a little guidance, which is where Elements of Wit comes in. This fascinating book features advice from some of the wittiest people in history – from Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare to Louis C.K. and Mae West. Though it is difficult to choose just one bit of advice from this book to share with you, I’d have to go with author Benjamin Errett’s theory on why Seinfeld’s George Costanza (an unattractive, jobless loser who lives with his parents) is able to date such beautiful women – “he’s always got something clever to say… and therein lies the real-life truth of the sitcom reality: Men with something witty to say to women are naturally going to have more of a chance at striking up a relationship.” As a female, that sounds about right to me. So to the men out there desperately trying to get the attention of women, maybe put down the iron you’ve been pumping at the gym and try your hand at saying something witty. Who knows, it worked for George!

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Helen Richard_headshotHelen Richard is an Editorial Assistant at G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Originally from Colorado, Helen worked for years at the Boulder Book Store and the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver before intuiting that she should move to New York City to work in publishing. When not reading new fiction, she can be found hiking in upstate New York, loitering in independent bookstores, hunting down Brooklyn’s best craft breweries, and enjoying all things pickled.


Battleborn by Claire Vaye WatkinsBattleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins

One of the first books I read after moving to New York City and taking a job in publishing, this breathtaking collection of stories reminded me of exactly why I had made such a difficult move. Claire Vaye Watkins speaks to her readers with unforgettable passion and strength, capturing a yearning for home, the weight of familial legacy, and a ruthless understanding of human connection like no other author I’ve recently encountered. Stories like “Ghosts, Cowboys” and “Heart of Graceland” left me stunned by the power of her voice and the raw beauty of her prose.  I love that she has transcended many tired tropes about the American West and created a portrait that is brutally honest and unforgettably evocative. I can’t wait for her new novel, Gold Fame Citrus, to be out this fall!

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The Underwriting by Michelle Miller

The Underwriting by Michelle Miller

Rarely is social satire this much fun! Michelle Miller’s take on Millenials is well-observed and so hilarious. While many characters begin the novel as recognizable stereotypes, Miller’s empathy for each shines through, and I found myself understanding even the bro-iest of bankers and the brainiest of computer programmers in a new light. It’s heartening to see someone speaking so honestly to and for the tech generation, especially when it’s set against a sexy backdrop of New York wealth and San Francisco tech, and involves a twisted murder! This is the book I’ve been telling all of my friends to read—it’s endless fun, and it’ll make you think twice before the next time you “swipe right” on a dating app.

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The Sound of Things Falling, by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

I’ve long been a fan of South American fiction, and there is just something so special about Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s novel. He’s able to transform one man’s troubled memories into an unforgettable portrait of Colombia. I was mesmerized by the settings: an abandoned zoo once owned by a Colombian drug lord, a billiards club, the violent streets of Bogota. The narrator Antonio is haunted by a murder and by his relationship with ex-pilot Ricardo, and Antonio’s evolving understanding of Colombia’s violent past is absolutely riveting. Vásquez moves deftly between the decades, capturing the fear of the 1980s and a present nostalgia to create a mesmerizing portrait of a nation longing for innocence and freedom.



Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Liftin

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Liftin

This novel will be out this July and thank god—it’s beyond perfect for a day at the beach! If you’ve ever looked at a gossip magazine and wondered what’s really going on behind the outrageous headlines, this imaginative romp through an A-list marriage will have you hooked. Written by real-life celebrity ghost writer Hilary Liftin, it’s a juicy story of a celebrity love affair gone wrong that captures the perfect mix of tabloid gossip and heartfelt narrative. I loved how real and warm Lizzie Pepper’s voice is, and how tender some moments of her star-studded journey feel. You can’t help but root for Lizzie from beginning to end, and you also can’t help but wonder if this could have happened to someone real…

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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.

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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.

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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.



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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.


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