image001.jpgLouisa Farrar is a publicist at Avery Books. From the selection below you would think she only reads about badass women written by badass women. She doesn’t. But it’s a nice coincidence.

Louisa speaks with an accent and lives in Harlem with her black Labrador and her American husband and lots and lots of books (and a Netflix account because only dogs are perfect).



The Likeness by Tana French

So while you can read Tana French’s books in any order – you tend to start with In The Woods. That’s the one that gets you sucked in. But The Likeness? This one’s my favorite. Cassie Maddox is a wonderful character. She is strong and fearless and bold and holds your interest, even if the whodunit plot wavers a little. Tana French writes characters and dialogue and sub-plots and settings in such a way that you stay up all night – like you should with any decent mystery/thriller – but you also realize that you’re in the hands of a masterful, literary storyteller. This isn’t just pulp.

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The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison 

Oh man, this is a good book to read lying next to your husband at night. (That sounded creepier than intended I should write thrillers.) Jodi and Todd’s marriage is on shaky ground and everything is at stake – their partnership, their luxe life, and their lives. It’s an unsettling read, and is more exposition than dialogue which I don’t tend to love, but these characters are so rich and so full of mistrust that reading what’s happening inside their heads – Harrison employs dual viewpoints, with each chapter labeled Him or Her – is a serious treat. This is “psychological thriller” at its best and it breaks my heart that the publishing world lost Harrison so soon. She is worth every accolade she earned as a writer.

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Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

Whether she goes by Grace in Tennessee or Julie in Paris, Rebecca Scherm has created the perfect femme fatale. This book is unputdownable, as you’re transported effortlessly from small-town, corn-fed America to the glamorous penthouse, art-world New York City, to the seedy but intricate antique dealerships of Paris. I just exhausted myself. But, seriously. This book is beautiful and mesmerizing and I could not guess what was coming next.

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Blue Monday by Nicci French

Okay, so why isn’t Frieda Klein, the psychologist-by-day/crime-fighter-by-night created by husband and wife team Nicci French, as big here in the States as she is in the UK? Is it because she is a Londoner? Because, come on! This series is incredible! Blue Monday starts the ride, and introduces us to Frieda – a smart, careful, professional character who stands out from the usual suspects (mystery/thriller protagonists) of ex-drunk Dublin cops and white boys on the spectrum.




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Kate MeltzerKate Meltzer is an Editorial Assistant at G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. According to IMDb, she is an actress known for The Last Five Years (though she thinks her two-second role as “Handelman Twin #1” barely counts). When she’s not reading, you can find her at the theater with her twin sister, scouring the streets of Manhattan for the perfect baguette, or talking about Hamilton. You can follow her on Twitter @katemeltzer.



Max and Marla by Alexandra Boiger

Ever since Harry Potter, I’ve been obsessed with owls. Those expressive, big eyes, cunning smarts, incredible loyalty. It came as an unfortunate surprise when I found out that owls are not recommended as pets (they are predators, after all). Nevertheless, Max and his adorable best owl friend Marla might be my new favorite picture book characters. Alexandra Boiger’s beautiful watercolor illustrations and the story of friendship, dedication and fun make this my go-to picture book this fall.




The Trilogy of Two by Juman Malouf

I fell for Juman Malouf’s stunning debut The Trilogy of Two from the very first page. As a twin, I always have my eyes and ears open for intriguing tales of twindom, and Sonja and Charlotte’s story is one that really resonated with me. Juman’s captured the growing pains of being born with a built-in best friend so honestly, weaving a meaningful story of love and friendship against an enchanting landscape of imaginative creatures and thrilling adventure. Her intricate pencil illustrations are exquisite, giving readers the perfect glimpse into the fascinating world-building in this dazzling novel.



Original Fake by Kirstin Cronn-Mills and E. Eero Johnson

Epic’s a word that has duel meanings when applied to this envelope-pushing tale of sibling rivalry. With his mother, father, and sister always angling for the spotlight, Frankie Neumann’s been content as the one in the background. He keeps his artistic talents to himself, until he’s approached by disciples of local street art legend Uncle Epic. They want him to join their crew, pulling him into a world of renegade art that finally gives him the chance to get back at his sinister sister for a lifetime of torture. But when he reaches the point of no return, he’s forced to question just how far he’ll go for his revenge. E. Eero Johnson’s vibrant illustrations pulsate through Kirstin Cronn-Mill’s electrifying story of family, mayhem and art.


Ooh-la-la (Max in Love) by Maira Kalman

An oldie but a goodie. I credit Ooh-la-la (Max in Love) as the spark that first made me fall in love with Paris and children’s books. In this delightful story, poet, dreamer, dog Max Stravinsky fulfills a lifelong dream of traveling to Paris to write and find love. The incomparable Maira Kalman puts forth a text that’s equal parts sublimely absurd and supremely brilliant. The text swirls though Kalman’s colorful, quirky illustrations of Max’s adventures along the Seine, featuring the Eiffel Tower, Fritz from the Ritz and his impressively long mustache, and the lovely Crêpes Suzette. It’s a fantastic frenzy full of whimsy, wit, and, above all else, love. Don’t forget to check out the copyright page; it’s absolument magnifique.


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Katherine PerkinsKatherine Perkins is an Assistant Editor at Putnam Books for Young Readers. With parents in engineering and medicine and four siblings, Katherine is (so far) the only one in her family to choose a career in the arts over the sciences.  She’s also the only one of them in multiple book clubs (these two facts are probably related).



Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley 

Robin McKinley is one of my favorite fantasy writers, and Rose Daughter was the first novel of hers I read. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it contains plenty of elements you won’t find in the Disney version: this Beauty has two sisters, a green thumb, and a terrifying dream that has plagued her since childhood—and that just might hold the key to her (and her Beast’s) fate. What I love about Robin’s writing is that her settings and characters are richly layered and gorgeously spun, and her stories have a just-rightness to them that’s utterly satisfying. Fun fact: Robin has actually written two Beauty and the Beast retellings (the other, Beauty, was published 20 years before this one) and they’re each unique.




Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

Set in New Orleans in the not-so-distant future, this story imagines a world where a series of weather catastrophes and a devastating blood virus have turned the Gulf Coast into a quarantine zone. The region’s survivors live in tribes according to blood type. The story alternates between fifteen-year-old Fen, who’s alone with an orphaned baby after her tribe is ambushed, and Daniel, a scientist from outside the quarantine who’s illegally crossed the Wall to find a cure to the fever. Their stories converge in a way that evokes The Walking Dead (in other words: riveting). Sherri Smith is an incredible worldbuilder, and her brutal version of the Big Easy is both fantastically strange and terrifyingly realistic.

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Chime by Franny Billingsley

This is the story of Briony, a girl who happens to be a witch. A well-intentioned witch, but a witch nonetheless. Her witchy inclinations toward evil have caused the death of her stepmother and robbed her twin sister, Rose, of her wits. Chime is by turns creepy and whimsical, and even a little romantic; you’ll see what I mean when you read it. It also features one of my favorite literary elements: an unreliable narrator.





My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer

You may have noticed that I kind of have a thing for fairy tales. Besides, doesn’t this title just make you want to huddle under the blankets on a stormy October night and read by flashlight? This is a collection of short stories by some of today’s top fiction writers (including Neil Gaiman, Kevin Brockmeier, Karen Joy Fowler) that reimagine classic fairy stories for a modern adult audience. If fairy tales are at their core about the things that enchant and revolt us, that mystify us and reveal truths about our human nature—then this collection does all of the above.





The Last Star by Rick Yancey

The finale to the 5th Wave series won’t be released until next summer, but I’m giving you notice now that you will need to schedule yourself an uninterrupted block of time to devour this. If you haven’t read The 5th Wave or The Infinite Sea yet, you have time to catch up.  It’s a sci fi series about the alien apocalypse, which might sound familiar, but I can promise this is like nothing you’ve read—it’s gut-wrenchingly intense and utterly gripping. Rick Yancey is a master at orchestrating plot twists that will make you fling your book at the wall right before you snatch it up again to find out what happens next. Also: The 5th Wave movie hits theaters in January!



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Melanie Tortoroli is an editor with Viking specializing in nonfiction. She loves plantain chips, the color grey, and giving her opinions about what you should be reading.



The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

Before Big Magic, before Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote this slim but impactful account of the life of Eustace Conway who, at age seventeen, left his comfy suburban home for the Appalachian Mountains. Conway and his extreme back-to-nature lifestyle (he forages and hunts for his own food) become brilliant foils for Gilbert’s astute observations about masculinity in America today and the perennial lure of the frontier. Hand a copy to the next guy you see wearing flannel.

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Nagasaki by Susan Southard

Who among us hasn’t read John Hersey’s heartbreaking Hiroshima? More than 70 years later it’s time we consider the second bombed city in Japan: Nagasaki. Following the lives of five survivors in Nagasaki at the moment of the bomb’s impact, August 9, 1945, to the present day, readers gain an intimate portrayal of nuclear war and the staggering meaning of survival in a city long forgotten by history. The intimacy of Susan Southard’s prose set against broad historical trends—including widespread censorship of survivors’ radiation-related illnesses—are astounding, and have changed my understanding of the debates over nuclear arms that rage in today’s headlines.

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Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan, illustrated by Maira Kalman

Michael Pollan is rightly considered a pioneer in food, and his simple take on what we should be eating (hint: avoid the middle aisles of a supermarket with packaged goods) marries perfectly with Maira Kalman’s whimsical illustrations. That many of the rules new to this edition have come from Pollan’s devoted readers only adds to the value of a book that speaks to those of us who want our food system to steer itself back to fresh, locally grown produce of exceptional flavor.

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Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar

When Dwight Gardner compared this new book to Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree, it immediately went to the top of my must-read pile. In a series of profiles of “extreme do-gooders,” i.e., a woman who donates a kidney to a complete stranger, you begin to question your own capacity to sacrifice, and what giving back really means. Is it better to take a high-paying job and give away your fortune, or go to Africa and build the orphanage by hand? Where do we draw the line between being compassionate with family and altruistic to strangers? The questions Larissa MacFarquhar, a New Yorker writer, poses are startling, and her writing alone makes this a must-watch come award season next year.



The Mathews Men by William Geroux

Enough World War II stories have come across my desk that I was skeptical when we saw the proposal for a book promising a new take on the conflict. But William Geroux, a lifelong reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, capture a side of the war—the American side—that has impressed even this jaded WWII reader. The title refers to Mathews County, Virginia, a seafaring town that stretches into the Chesapeake Bay and is home to generations of merchant marines, men whose ships carried fuel, food, and munitions to the Allies in Europe. One family sent seven (seven!) sons into battle with Hitler’s U-boats. This book has everything—heroic sacrifice, shark attacks, flaming oil slicks, harrowing lifeboat odysseys…. It’s an adventure story you’ll immediately begin casting in your head in anticipation of the inevitable Hollywood movie.


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FullSizeRenderAmy Brinker is the senior coordinator for the consumer engagement group at Penguin Random House. She lives in Brooklyn where she makes pie and puns. She loves classic novels and terrible movies.


Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Pretty sure all my friends and coworkers are tired of hearing me talk about this book. I picked it up, not really knowing what to expect, and just got sucked into this weird momentum of excitement and dread. In the middle of summer, I leapt into a cold, desolate New England town and got lost in Eileen’s story. This may be a debut novel, but Moshfegh is masterful and frank and completely herself in every sentence. Not for the faint of heart, because it is quite dark, but it’s brave and fascinating and evocative, and I can’t recommend it enough. Listen to me interview Ottessa on Beaks & Geeks!

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A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

This book! This book. What a gorgeous and inventive novel. I love how deftly Ozeki holds the together the different threads of her plot and her tenderness towards the characters. Following a writer in the pacific-northwest and a teenager from Japan, this novel spans time and continents. The story slips between the realistic and the fantastic without ever leaving the reader lost. It’s also a gorgeous meditation on finding peace while coping with the stress of being a person.

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My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Now that the fourth in this series is out, it seems like everyone’s got Ferrante fever, but I was late to the party and have only read the first so far. My Brilliant Friend reads like a classic written years ago – it’s substantial, graceful, and complete. The setting is a chaotic neighborhood in 1950’s Naples, and the story follows two girls whose friendship and life prospects change over the years. The titular friend is a force of nature – blindingly brilliant, occasionally cruel, and entirely fascinating.





NW by Zadie Smith

NW is a wonderful novel/snapshot of a vibrant neighborhood – it follows four characters, all with complicated, tangled lives. The reader sees them interact, break away, struggle, and reconcile. Zadie Smith’s writing is clear, generous, and cutting, and always feels very true.

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

This was my first Shirley Jackson, and it knocked me back on my heels. I gobbled it up whole. This short book is immediately creepy and atmospheric in a very specific way. Actually, Eileen grabbed me partially because its tone reminded me of this book. We Have Always Lived in the Castle also hits all my favorite notes: creepy precocious teenager? Check. Beautiful and decadent family home falling into decrepitude? Check. MURDER MOST FOUL? Check check check check

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11707530_10153497905508829_2395704105725950779_nSarah is a web designer at Penguin. Her life revolves around design, reading, writing, music, travel, running, and TV shows. A lot of that life ends up on the Internet.


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The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

Bored and unhappy at a weekend wedding, Nora wanders away and accidentally ends up stepping into another world. This new world is filled with magic and beauty and love and everything a fairytale is supposed to be. She’s quickly taken in until one disastrous night shatters the looking glass and sends her fleeing for her life. She’s taken in by a grumpy and powerful magician and finds herself in the middle of a war and learning real magic to survive. Nora takes a practical approach to her situation even when her heart gets mixed in. She’s smart and relatable even when she’s being bewitched. It’s the kind of book that makes you wonder how you would react if you took a walk in the woods and found your way to another realm. It’s a fun question to think about and a fun read.

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The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

After the death of her best friend, Shahrzad volunteers to marry the murderer. Shiva isn’t his first victim either. Khalid, the king of kings, marries a new girl every night and has her killed every dawn. Shahrzad desires revenge, but something stops both of them from carrying out their plans. What unfolds is a complicated, heart wrenching relationship given Shahrzad and Khalid both had murderous intent on their wedding night. More secrets are revealed as they both learn things aren’t as simple as they imagined. The story is rich and beautifully told with a touch of magic. Just as Scheherazade from Arabian Nights, on which this book is based, would want.

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The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Here at Penguin, we get a lot of books. We can request books, we are given books, and we often find books. I requested this book, but by the time it reached my desk I didn’t remember doing so. I read the description and knew why I had asked for it, but I didn’t quite realize how much I would thank my forgetful past self. The Midnight Queen tells the story of a slightly alternative England where magick is commonplace and Oxford University’s Merlin College is the premiere place to learn it. After a dangerous evening ends in the death of a fellow student and strips Grey of his power, he’s sent to spend the summer out of the way at his professor’s estate. There, he meets the professor’s daughter Sophie, who has been teaching herself magick in secret and against her father’s wishes. Their meeting and discovery of an assassination plot sets them off on an adventure filled with secrets, a little romance, and some of the most powerful magick of the age. It’s a fast read that I finished in a few days and had tremendous fun reading. It’s part of a series and fortunately the next book, Lady of Magick, was released just a few days ago.

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Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, adapted by: Philip Pullman

Who doesn’t love a good fairytale? Who doesn’t love the strange and creepy original Grimm’s stories retold by one of your favorite authors? That’s exactly how I feel about this collection. Pullman is the author of the His Dark Materials series, which are the books that I give as my favorite even though it’s impossible to choose just one. He has created some of the most incredible and complex worlds in his previous works, and now he brings that same feeling into this collection. He puts his own spin and fantastic storytelling onto the classic tales everyone knows and some of the ones no one has ever heard before. Make sure you read Pullman’s notes at the end of each tale!



The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Like some of the other characters on this list, Quentin also discovers a world of magic. He is accepted at Brakebills College, which is college—with all the extracurricular activities that entails—plus magic. Students still pull all-nighters, spend a semester abroad, make friends, drink too much, and make questionable relationship choices. But it’s not quite as magical as he imagined after growing up reading a series of Narnia-like books. Once they’ve graduated, Quentin and his friends set off to find their Narnia. If the world of Harry Potter hides its magic, in The Magicians’ world magic is just there out of the corner of your eye where you don’t notice it. I know everyone recommends this one, but I just can’t see my list of magical titles without it. Especially now the entire trilogy is available, which makes the series perfect for a binge read. And you’ll want to read them all in one sitting just to see Quentin go from sullen teenager into capable magician.

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525671_584447470707_901838343_nMelissa Faulner is an Assistant Editor in Dutton Children’s Books. A “spiritual New Yorker” who grew up five miles from the beach in Florida, as a child she preferred to spend her free time indoors and her allowance on hilariously ambitious books like Middlemarch (when she was twelve). When she’s not reading on trains, she can be found baking, listening to podcasts, or finally watching tv shows that everyone has been raving about for years. (I finally get it! Mad Men is amazing!)


Persuasion, by Jane Austen

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Though Pride and Prejudice is, of course, the gateway drug of (almost) all Austenites, it’s Austen’s oldest heroine, the quiet, thoughtful Anne Elliot, who remains my truest love. Persuaded at a young age to reject the marriage proposal of a poor sailor named Wentworth whom she loved, Persuasion opens when twenty-seven-year-old Anne Elliot is suddenly thrust back into an acquaintance with the now Captain Wentworth. Representing a huge shift in Austen’s representation of wealth and aristocracy as a savior for her heroines (spoiler: it’s not), Persuasion is a novel about regret, longstanding affection, and coming to terms with the mistakes we make when we’re young. It’s also about dark, brooding sea captains and unrequited love, so, I mean, it really doesn’t get much better than that.

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White Noise by Don DeLillo

Though it falls under my pet peeve category of “Novels about navel-gazing white men having a mid-life crisis,” White Noise grabbed me and shook me apart the first time I read it. Set in a Midwestern college town, the book chronicles a period of time in the life of college professor Jack Gladney, a Hitler studies professor who’s only now taking German lessons, and is in constant fear of the death of his fifth wife Babette. Our “modern” obsession with distraction and consumption, our struggles with our own mortality, the looming possibility of death-by-a-manmade-airborne-toxic-event—it’s all there, and it’s a wild, glorious revelation.

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Savvy by Ingrid Law

One of my absolute favorite books of all time is the Newbery Honor–winning Savvy by Ingrid Law. Readers are introduced to almost-thirteen-year-old Mississippi “Mibbs” Beaumont and her family, all of whom are born with a special ability—a savvy—that reveals itself on their thirteenth birthday. As Mibbs wonders and worries over what her own savvy will be, she must also journey to save her father. Brilliantly told and filled with the sort of beautifully imagined magical realism that serves to highlight the humanity of its characters, Savvy is soul-warming, and has within its pages one of my favorite scenes in a book of all time.

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I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Even though it was still in ARCs, everyone here was already buzzing about  I’ll Give You the Sun by the time I finally read it. Jandy Nelson’s stellar young adult novel, which won the Printz Award this year, follows the rift in the relationship between fraternal twins Noah and Jude, who had once been inseparable. Breathtaking, almost poetic prose, along with vivid explorations of art and love and death, this is one of those books that gives you that anxious, fluttery “I can’t believe it’s really this good” feeling when you read it. I cried through the last twenty pages, and then, when I’d finally finished, gave it a big hug.

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Middlemarch by George Elliot

The story of a fictitious provincial town and its residents, Middlemarch primarily centers on the life and marriage of Dorothea Brooke. I’ll admit that I only know a bit more about the plot than that, and am reluctant to learn too much more since I’m FINALLY reading it! It may have taken me almost two decades, but it’s finally happening. Unfortunately, at about eight hundred pages, it might be another year before I actually finish it.

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Joanna photoJoanna Ng is an associate editor at Tarcher. Originally from North Carolina, she has lived in Astoria, Queens for the last six years. She likes to satiate her curiosity by reading lots of books and exploring new places. One of the things she most appreciates about New York City is that there are an endless number of things (food, culture, theater, museums, neighborhoods) to explore.


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Fail Fast, Fail Often by Ryan Babineaux, Ph.D., and John Krumboltz, Ph.D.

The title alone got my attention immediately. As someone who is terrified of failure, I found the idea that failure can actually be a good thing to be liberating. I’m someone who likes to have all my ducks in a row before I even attempt any new endeavor. But the authors of this book have found over the course of their careers as educators and career counselors at Stanford that people are happier and more successful when they spend less time planning and more time acting. After all, we learn the most effectively through trial and error. According to the authors, “feeling afraid or underprepared is a sign of being in the space for optimal growth.” They also encourage us to pursue the things that bring us joy, especially when we feel stuck, because this puts us in a better position to appreciate what we have, think more creatively, and see new opportunities.


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Having the Last Say by Alan Gelb

Full disclosure: This is a book I edited, but I couldn’t help taking the opportunity to spread the word about it! Alan Gelb is a writing coach who has helped thousands of high school students write their college admissions essays. In this book, he takes baby boomers through a similar process. You might wonder why anyone would want revisit the idea of writing a college essay (I, for one, have tried to block the college application process out of my memory). What Alan is really doing is guiding his readers through the process of reflecting on and writing about an experience that has shaped them. Whether they seek to amuse, confess, or share a value they hold dear, he helps them get their story down on paper. As Alan has discovered with his high school students, anyone can tell a compelling story as long as they have the right tools.  In Having the Last Say, he guides readers through the process of writing and refining a short narrative that expresses and shares something of themselves with others.

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Wired to Connect by Amy Banks, M.D., with Leigh Ann Hirschman

This paperback won’t be coming out until February 2016, BUT the hardcover is currently available under the title Four Ways to Click. Although our culture prizes independence, it probably doesn’t come as any surprise that people are wired to be in relationship with one another. In this book, Dr. Banks explains the neuroscience of relationships—showing us how to strengthen certain neural pathways, so that we can build stronger relationships that are essential for our psychological and physical health. For example, the feeling of calm is regulated by a pathway of the autonomic nervous system called the smart vagus. When we’re stressed, our “primitive” brain wants to take over with a fight-or-flight response that can be disastrous for relationships. By developing a well-toned vagus nerve, we can temper this response, allowing us to think more clearly to solve problems rather than explode in anger or run away. Fortunately, our brains are malleable so that we can forge new neural pathways and foster stronger connection with others.

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Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW

No one likes to have a weakness exposed, but in this book, Brené Brown explores the power of vulnerability. She sends the encouraging message that it is well worth the risk to put ourselves out there—whether in giving an important presentation, attempting a new sport, or broaching a difficult conversation. In doing these things, we live more fully engaged lives, build meaningful connection with others, and develop greater resilience and courage.

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Maggie Rosenthal_photoMaggie Rosenthal is an Editorial Assistant at Viking Children’s Books. A lifelong New Yorker, she loves discovering new worlds in books, trying her hand at new recipes, and – most importantly – eating.


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The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

If, like myself, you are a longtime lover of fairytales, there is no one better to rip apart your idyllic childhood memories of story time than Angela Carter – in the most gruesomely satisfying way possible. Carter transmutes classic stories into the stuff of nightmares, but she does it with evocative and nuanced artistry. When I first read this collection, it alternately gave me chills and a sense of hope. In Carter’s able hands, the passive heroine of old is transformed into a decisive and self-assured one.  The Bloody Chamber brings new life to tales that, love them as I do, often get retold over and over again without much reimagining. Carter brings imagination to the table by the truckload.



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The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

This is the ultimate revenge story. As shameful as it might be to admit, there are few things on this good green earth as gratifying as a hard-won revenge. Add to that some romance, drama of the highest order, and gritty determination and you have a deeply rewarding classic. I imagine Edmond Dantes as a mixture of Bear Grylls and Tim Gunn; he does whatever he needs to in order to survive, but he does it with panache. His escape from the Château d’If after his wrongful imprisonment and methodical decimation of the people who put him there had me on the edge of my seat. I think I first read this when I was in middle school, when it fed my need for adventure, and then again in college, when I could better appreciate the beautiful writing (even though I read it in translation) – which just goes to show that it can be appreciated on so many levels.

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The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

In a dark mood? Don’t read Dorothy Parker. Or do – maybe her sadistic sense of humor can knock you out of it. In one example, she writes with an almost frivolous honesty in a catchy poem about suicide. You can probably tell right there if she’s the writer for you. I think what I like most about Dorothy Parker is her expansive wit and perceptive eye, which never feel cloying or burdensome to me. She was a fascinating woman and I’m still finding out interesting things about her. Did you know she bequeathed her estate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Well! She also attempted suicide many times, which tint her writings with a sadness for the woman behind the words, but they also draw out an earnestness in them that might be missed if one knew nothing about her. There’s always so much to discover about her, and I urge you to dip into her world if you can.


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Ivanhoe by Walter Scott

Maybe I’m a glutton for antiquated writing styles, but I was amazed at how much fun I had reading Ivanhoe. I know: “fun” and “the Norman Conquest” don’t often go together, but trust me on this one. Our protagonist, Ivanhoe, has just returned from the Crusades and gets himself embroiled in the struggle between Richard Coeur de Lion and his brother, John, so clearly this is a story of epic proportions. This read does require a bit of stamina (a modern-day Penguin editor would grab the garden shears and have a field day cutting this one down), but it still has a place in my heart. It’s a great historical piece, but it also has some of my favorite kickass heroines: Rebecca and Rowena. While Scott unfortunately does not avoid all 19th century stereotypes, he won me over with Rebecca, the young, fiercely independent, and wise-beyond-her-years Jewish woman battling the wants of the heart and the prejudice of her time. Now who could resist that?


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The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Here is a real romance. And I mean that in the sense that everything about this book is romantic, from a passionate love of books to the sparks that fly between these vivid characters. I’ve never been to Spain – let alone traveled back in time – but the story of young Daniel uncovering the history of a mysterious book in 1945 Barcelona comes alive off the page. There are some truly heart-pounding and heart-wrenching moments in this book. The writing is lush and the ending is rewarding. The Shadow of the Wind is what I call a good “any time” book. Looking for something fun and distracting? Read this. Looking for something thought-provoking? Read this. Now, I’m not trying to tell you what to do…but read this.

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image1Sarah Blumenstock is a Subsidiary Rights Assistant for Penguin Young Readers.  A native New Yorker, she loves singing annoying commercial jingles, running circles around Prospect Park, and quoting Mel Brooks at inappropriate times.

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Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

People who know I read Romance but don’t themselves are always asking me where to start. So, I’m reaching into our backlist for one of my favorite Paranormal Romances to get you going!

Half human, half wyr, Pia Giovanni gets a lot more than she bargained for when she steals from Dragos, one of the world’s oldest wyr and a powerful lord of the Elder races. Now that Dragos has tracked down the beautiful thief who stole from his lair he refuses to give her up. But Pia is a funny, intelligent heroine, and not about to be pushed around by an older than the world dragon—no matter how persuasive his touch might be. The attraction between them is immediate and red hot, with scenes sexy enough to make the pages sizzle.

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Hero by Samantha Young

Who isn’t a sucker for a dark, brooding hero? Alexa Holland is determined to right her father’s wrong by helping the damaged man her family’s scandal almost destroyed. Caine Carraway just wants to make Alexa pay. A classic setup with a fresh, contemporary voice and some seriously steamy loves scenes. This is my first Samantha Young book and I will definitely be back for more!

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The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

After centuries stuck inside a lamp, Zahra is prepared to do anything for her freedom, including taking the Jinn King up on his offer: she must infiltrate the palace to rescue his son and in exchange he will release her. But the lamp’s newest owner (cue Prince Ali song) is not at all what Zahra expected and she finds herself falling in love with Aladdin, even knowing it could ruin her chance at escape.

LOVE Zahra’s kick-butt attitude—she’s the most powerful Jinni out there and woe to the man (or mystical being) stupid enough to get in her way! I’m always up for an Aladdin retelling and Khoury doesn’t disappoint!


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Rebel of Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Speaking of strong female leads—meet Amani Al’Hiza, a gunslinger turned outlaw desperate to escape the lecherous men of Dustwalk and make it on her own.  Amani teams up with a mysterious foreigner named Jin to outwit soldiers, fight off djinn, and aid an outcast prince. You’ll eat up this gritty adventure where the magic and romance of Arabian Nights meets the savagery of wild west. Perfect for fans of The Wrath and the Dawn.





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