Marissa

Marissa Grossman is an Editorial Assistant at Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. Like any self-respecting pop culture addict, she watches far too much television and loves all things social media. You can find her on Twitter @marissagrossman.

 

 

 

 

The Law of Loving OthersThe Law of Loving Others, by Kate Axelrod

I might be cheating a little, since this book won’t be available until 2015, but I can’t imagine leaving it off my list. The Law of Loving Others tells the story of Emma, who returns home from boarding school to find that her mother is in the middle of a schizophrenic break. Debut author Kate Axelrod’s stunning, emotional novel takes us inside Emma’s mind as she struggles with the shocking news of her mother’s condition and the questions it raises about her own mental health. Are Emma’s moments of anxiety and distant feelings toward her boyfriend a normal reaction to something so stressful, or could they be a precursor to her own battle with schizophrenia? Can she handle such upheaval in her family, or is she just too fragile? Even if you’ve never had to deal with mental illness in your own life, you’ll definitely relate to Emma’s heart-wrenching journey as she learns what it means to love others–and herself–unconditionally.

spudSpud, by John van de Ruit

Somehow, this South African import has remained a mostly undiscovered gem. Sharing Catcher in the Rye’s wit and prep-school setting, Spud is a rollicking update on Salinger’s classic. The novel takes place in 1990 South Africa, just as Nelson Mandela is being released from prison and the country is beginning its march toward the end of apartheid. It’s a seminal moment in South Africa’s–and the world’s–history, but it’s seen through the eyes of 13-year-old John “Spud” Milton, who’s just trying to get through his first  year at boarding school. Though the novel’s setting may be specific, the coming-of-age themes are universal. Spud deals with mischievous roommates, a hilariously eccentric family, his first crush, feelings of alienation, and even death. This novel is filled with moments of intense heartbreak and unbridled joy; it’s cathartic, relatable, and uplifting. If you’re a fan of grounded YA, this one’s for you.

ladybughalloween

Ladybug Girl series, by Jacky Davis and David Soman

So here’s the thing: if you had seen my three-year-old cousin dressed up as Ladybug Girl for Halloween, you’d adore this series too. Lulu/Ladybug Girl is spunky, fearless, and imaginative. She’s basically everything you could ask for in a children’s book character. And the fact that she has a basset hound named Bingo? Well that’s just icing on the cake.

 

 

 

zodiac

Zodiac, by Romina Russell

Ok, this is another one that isn’t available quite yet, but I promise it’s worth the wait. Do you love astrology? Great! Do you know little-to-nothing about astrology? Same here! While Zodiac’s premise may revolve around the astrological signs, it’s really the perfect novel for anyone who loves thrilling adventures, epic worlds, and compelling characters. Romina Russell’s world-building is magnificent, reimagining the Zodiac as 12 different solar systems, each populated with characters who personify the traits of their respective signs. The protagonist, Rho, is a sci-fi Katniss Everdeen: a badass leader with just the right mix of snark and empathy. You’ll fall in love with Rho, a protective and loving Cancer, and you’ll definitely have trouble deciding which of the men in her life you like best: the brooding, sensitive Mathias (a Cancer like Rho), or Hysan, the charming, confident Libra. No matter which sign you are, you’ll adore this jaw-dropping blockbuster of a book.

 

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lydia

I LOVE Summer and I like to think I’m really good at it (if one can be “good” at a season).  There’s nothing more enjoyable than the sun, a beach, waves (of the pool or ocean variety), and a novel that matches your outfit. So here are my literary fiction selections to take you from the sand to al fresco dining.

 

 

 

Vacationers

The Vacationers, by Emma Straub

This book is the clear beach choice, and what I will be reading in my American flag swimsuit over the 4th of July. The Post family travels from NYC to the beautiful island of Mallorca, but can’t escape their problems. Emma paints a beautiful portrait of a family experiencing change, and this will likely make you laugh as well as cry.

 

 

 

 

Interestings

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

This rainbow book selection will brighten any day! Meg’s novel follows a group of friends from summer camp all the way through middle age, and touches on the questions we all have at one time or another. It’s introspective as well as enlightening, and will make you think fondly of your childhood friends, and maybe try to reconnect over a beach bonfire.

 

 

 

 

Girl in Translation

Girl in Translation, by Jean Kwok

One of the first books I read as an early manuscript when I started at Penguin five years ago, the story of Kimberly Chang has stayed with me. We can all relate to feeling like an outsider, and Jean Kwok’s lyrical tale of ambition, family expectations, and forbidden love should not be missed.

 

 

 

 

 

City of Women

City of Women, by David R. Gillham

I admit I love World War II novels, and this one is my favorite. This incredibly written novel follows Sigrid Schröder of Berlin, who appears to be the perfect soldier’s wife, until she meets a Jewish man that changes her entire world.

 

 

 

 

 

Weird Sisters

The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown

The perfect green-grass picnic read, this novel introduces three sisters who have returned to the home in which they grew up. I think we can all relate to the feeling of coming home, and Eleanor captures it beautifully, and intersperses words from Shakespeare that add to the delight.

 

 

 

 

 

Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

Wear a headscarf and get a convertible – this book is the perfect summertime romp back to New York City in 1937, and all that entails. You’ll meet Katey and Eve and Tinker, and you won’t soon forget them.

 

 

 

 

 

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page!

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Anne

Anne Kosmoski is the Assistant Publicity Director for Gotham and Avery. She has books her in blood … and all over her apt, which makes choosing the right one at bedtime easier for her two daughters. Books, daughters, mom and dad all live in Brooklyn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crossword Century

The Crossword Century, by Alan Connor

To be honest, I am more of a Tuesday – crossword gal than a Sunday. But Alan Connor’s book about the history and secret lives of crosswords, made me feel like a Crossword Queen. Spies, secret codes, upside down words – it’s all in there and more. Everything you need to know about a subject you didn’t know you were fascinated by. This is my kind of beach reading!

 

 

 

 

Geek Dad.indd

Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects for Dads and Kids to Share, by Ken Denmead

It’s summer which means school is out and the playgrounds and backyard projects are in. Our family loves Ken Denmead’s Geek Dad. It is a treasure trove of crazy experiments (exploding soda) and fun projects (the Best Slip-n-Slide ever). And he has clear cut, easy to follow instructions for those who aspire to be geeks but wouldn’t know binary if this was written in it.

 

 

 

An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails

An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails by Orr Shtuhl, Illustrator: Elizabeth Graeber

Aah, summer. It is not often that we entertain, but when we do I love a themed cocktail. This book looks like a classy party with beautiful people and witty repartee. One or two vespers and your party will look that way too.

 

 

 

 

 

This Book Will Save Your Life

This Book Will Save Your Life, by A.M. Homes

I am an evangelist for this book. First, I love the title and I love watching people react when I give it to them. Second, it’s just a great read. A M Homes take on modern living is sarcastic, deadpan, and brilliant.

 

 

 

 

 

Dude and Zen Master

The Dude and the Zen Master, by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman

Even a mom needs some downtime and I am lucky enough to get in a yoga class here and there. One teacher began a class with a quote from this book and I haven’t looked back since. As the book says, a beautiful mix of enlightenment and entertainment. It keeps me grounded, makes me laugh, and reminds me to step back and just take it all in. The dude abides.

 

 

 

Lama Lama Time to Share

Llama Llama Time to Share, by Anna Dewdney          

I couldn’t help it. This is a current family favorite (and even the one year old reads along). If you have young children and have not ventured into the world of Llama Llama, you should.

 

 

 

 

To find Health & Self-Improvement books, click here.

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1. Bath Time is Awesome. 

1

From the early days of washing them in the sink (or bucket or whatever other vessel is at hand) to experiencing their joyous splashing in the tub, nothing is more fun than bath time, and nothing in the world smells more heavenly than a freshly clean baby.  Even the parts after bath are awesome—wrapping them up in a cuddly towel like a big burrito, smelling their hair as you comb through it, and getting those adorably cute pajamas on for bedtime are all sensory gold.  In fact, the only time bath time is not awesome is when it’s been 2 hours and the kid still doesn’t want to get out of the tub.

 

2.  The only thing routine about bedtime routine is that it’s never routine. 2

Bedtime is an emotional roller coaster.  The first 15-20 minutes, when you’re tucking in, cuddling, reading stories, singing silly songs, are everything that is good about being a parent.  But beware—these calm moments will lull you into a false sense of security, multiplying your pain a thousand fold for the next one to three hours while your demon spawn is suddenly “NOT TIRED!” and demanding treats, water, 75 more stories—basically anything to keep them from getting the sleep you know they so desperately need.

 

3. Privacy is a thing of the past. 3

Curiosity and a complete lack of any sort of sense of boundaries means that you are going to be seeing a LOT more of your toddler (and vice versa) than you probably ever anticipated.

 

4.  The house will get trashed and your favorite things will be destroyed. 4

And this is ok.  Material possessions become less important when compared to the sheer joy of watching your child develop, and a great anecdote is always more valuable than a new coat of paint.

 

5. Tea parties can actually be fun. 5

As can Legos, fire trucks, dollhouses, digging for worms, and eating imaginary food for the millionth time. Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that your opponent is ALWAYS going to cheat at Chutes n Ladders or that the tea party you’re currently attending is going to keep you from checking your email for the next 3 hours, it’s fun to just let go and enjoy these moments that will all too soon be nothing more than fond memories.

confessions

 

Dave Engledow is the author of Confessions of the World’s Best Father, a hilarious pictorial parody of a clueless father and his adorable daughter.

Happy Fathers Day!


Laura

Laura Perciasepe is an Editor at Riverhead Books. She acquires and edits a wide range of literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, and works in translation. Originally from Baltimore, she now lives in Brooklyn.

 

 

 

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid

I cried at the end of this book so you know it’s good. This is Gatsby-ish in its scope; the tale of a young impoverished boy in an unnamed Asian city, on the rise, of course. There’s a love story, a story of success and failure, a family story, all bound up in this remarkable journey, both intimate and universal. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s short yet packs an unbelievable punch.

 

 

 

 

The Sound of Things Falling, by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

The Sound of Things Falling, by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

I know this word is over-used in describing good books, but this book is truly stunning. A work in translation that has won accolades across the globe, this novel begins with a hippo escaped from a Colombian drug lord’s derelict zoo and doesn’t let up from there. It’s a page turner, a monumental story of politics and family, love and violence.

 

 

 

 

Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby

Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby

I love all of Nick Hornby’s books but this recent one has a special place in my heart. It’s classic Hornby, full of complicated relationships, humor, sweetness and sadness, and music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vacationers, by Emma Straub

The Vacationers, by Emma Straub

This is the book I’ll be recommending all summer and I only regret that I read it myself before beach season! Emma Straub takes us on a trip to Mallorjca with a New York family that feels very familiar in its dysfunctions and in its bonds. It’s a keenly observed story with heart (that also looks great on your Instagram with its vibrant cover).

 

 

 

 

Margot, by Jillian Cantor

Margot, by Jillian Cantor

This is a what-if story about Anne Frank’s sister Margot, if she had escaped the war and come to America, living here in the 1950s as her sister became a cultural icon of hope. A psychologically sophisticated novel about sisters, memory, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive – this book became a house favorite at Penguin and it’s un-put-downable (that’s a real book publishing term, promise!).

 

 

 

 

The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano

The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano

This is another book in translation that I couldn’t recommend more – a completely unique voice and love story that transfixed me when I read it and has stayed with me long after. It’s about two Italian teenage misfits, the mathematics of humanity, recovery from trauma, and love.

 

 

 

 

 

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page!

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This holiday season, our Penguin authors can help you find the best book for everyone on your list.

View more holiday recommendations on the Random House Tumblr.

The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert Elizabeth Gilbert began her writing journey with two acclaimed works of fiction—the short story collection Pilgrims and the novel Stern Men. Both were New York Times Notable Books. Her nonfiction work, The Last American Man, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her two memoirs (Eat, Pray, Love and Committed) were both number one New York Times bestsellers. In 2008, Time magazine named her one of the one hundred most influential people in the world. Her journalism has been published in Harper’s Bazaar, Spin, and The New York Times Magazine, and her stories have appeared in Esquire, Story, and the Paris Review.

Want Not, by Jonathan Miles

Every generation or so an American novel appears that holds up a mirror to our lives and shows us exactly who we are right at this moment. Want Not is that book right now — a searing but compassionate look at modern Americans and their STUFF. A book about garbage and consumption and accumulation and disposal…but most of all about humanity. Simply put, the best book of the year.

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

They didn’t give her the Booker Prize for nothing, guys. The best contemporary novel about the 16th century you’ll ever read, with the most powerful and muscular antihero (Thomas Cromwell) of recent memory.

Night Film, by Marisha Pessl

I’ve been an admirer of Pessl’s since her splendid debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics and her latest novel rocked my world — a bold, dark, complex, universe of fear and art and obsession.

The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach

This is a novel I’ve purchased for several members of my family, and those copies have been lovingly passed around. A novel about baseball (but not really about baseball), it has been enjoyed by everyone from my serious seventeen year old nephew to my nostalgic seventy-two year old dad.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

To my shame, I realized this year that I’d never read this classic. I THOUGHT I had read it, but I think I’d just semi-absorbed it thorough osmosis over the decades. But now I have read it, and it dazzles. It is also, with all apologies to contemporary erotica, the frankly sexiest (even kinkiest) bit of writing around.

 

 


This holiday season, our Penguin authors can help you find the best book for everyone on your list.

View more holiday recommendations on the Random House Tumblr.
Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair, Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Help, Thanks, Wow; Some Assembly Required; Grace (Eventually); Plan B; and Traveling Mercies, as well as several novels, including Imperfect Birds and Rosie. A past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an inductee to the California Hall of Fame, she lives in Northern California.

Tattoos on the Heart, by Father Greg Boyle

Gorgeous memoir of a priest who works with ex-gang members in LA.

Stations of the Heart, by Richard Lischer

Brilliant, sad, illuminating story of a deeply spiritual father losing his grown son while the son and wife are expecting.

Read an excerpt »

Half Baked, by Alexa Stevenson

The funniest, most wonderful memoir of a woman and her preemie in the Pediatric ICU.

What I Thought I Knew, by Alice Eve Cohen

View the Reading Group Guide »

Another lovely, laugh-out-loud story of a woman with an incredibly challenging birth.

After Mandela, by Douglas Foster

The best book on South Africa after the revolution in years. The subtitle is “The Search for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa.”

Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

A very funny and harrowing novel about a young woman who becomes a caregiver for a handsome quadriplegic man.

Read an Excerpt »
View the Reading Group Guide »
Listen to a playlist »

Is This Tomorrow, by Caroline Leavitt

I enjoy everything she writes. This is right up there with her Pictures of You.

The Wrong Dog Dream, by Jane Vandenburgh

A love story by the great novelist and memorist about her cherished husband and dog.

What’s the Matter with White People, by Joan Walsh

Brilliant commentary on how and why the US has ended up in such political misery.

Gypsy Boy, by Mikey Walsh

An exciting voice from England, Walsh writes a boy about growing up in a violent gypsy family and discovering he is gay.


The Sister Season, Jennifer ScottI started writing in 2000. The very first novel I completed was a women’s fiction mystery—a huge manuscript—set on a farm in rural Missouri. I had no luck with that novel. I was a horribly inexperienced writer, and it showed. But just the act of finishing a novel planted a deep desire, and I was determined to one day become a published women’s fiction author.

Over the next six or so years, I wrote another three women’s fiction novels. I was writing a weekly humor column for The Kansas City Star at the time, so I decided to try humorous fiction. Each novel showed improvement over the one before, but none had quite the right magic to really work. All fell flat. It seemed at times that I would never get published, but I was still determined to keep learning, and keep trying.

Eventually, I strayed away from women’s fiction. My fifth novel was a young adult novel, about the aftermath of a school shooting. To my surprise, it sold. And so did the next three after that. In 2009, after nine long years of rejection, I became a published young adult novelist, writing under the name Jennifer Brown.

But even though I was published, and I loved being a young adult author, I wasn’t published in women’s fiction, and that dream still burned in my heart. I wrote another women’s fiction novel. While it was better, it still wasn’t quite good enough.

Five women’s fiction novels written; five failed. I began to suspect maybe it was time to finally give up. To admit that I would never achieve women’s fiction publication, and that maybe I should just be happy writing it…for me.

So I regrouped. I went back to the farm that featured in the very first novel I’d written back in 2000.

It was the farm of my childhood—a bit of acreage in Pleasant Hill, Missouri that my family owned, across the road from another piece of farmland owned by a close family friend. As a child, my every Sunday was spent on that farm, working, relaxing, eating. It was a place of comfort for me. A place of adventure. A place where my imagination could run wild. A place that meant family and friendship and the beauty of the Midwest, in all of its glorious seasons.

The land is still there, and still ours, but my family stopped regularly visiting the farm in the 1980s. But it’s still as fresh to me in my mind as it was when I was ten years old. When I revisited it in my fiction, I brought some characters—sisters—who had been as long removed from it as I had been. I wondered if they could experience the magic that I had felt there so many years ago. To me, the farm itself became a character in the story. A wise, comforting, healing force in the sisters’ lives, just as it was a shaping force in mine.

That second farm story was The Sister Season. Finally, after 13 years of trying, my first women’s fiction was finally born. I believe it was the power of passion, persistence, and personal past that all came together in just the right way for me to finally achieve my dream.

I hope readers feel the same enchantment as they follow Claire, Maya, and Julia through the Missouri fields as I felt in those same beloved fields so many years ago.


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.