JessicaselfieWhen I was a little girl, I used to watch West Side Story over and over. I had a strong sense of justice, and loved getting swept up in Maria and Tony’s rebellious romance, not to mention worked up over their communities’ totally lame and unfair objections to it. Later, as a teen, I was consistently attracted to boys for whom my parents harbored built-in disapproval: usually boys in bands, and boys who had been expelled from one or more high schools. Most nights were filled with hushed, flirtatious phone calls followed by blood-vessel bursting screaming matches with my mom, who just didn’t understand. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I realized parents’ disapproval of their teenage daughters’ romantic choices isn’t always about blind prejudice. More often then we’d like to think, it’s about the fact that teenage love is intense, and it tends not to end well.

Like No Other by Una LaMarche is a forbidden love story not unlike Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, or West Side Story, for that matter: It begins when Devorah, a Hasidic Jewish girl, meets Jaxon, a second generation Caribbean-American boy, when the two are stuck in an elevator during a hurricane power outage. Now if you don’t know about the Hasidic faith, it’s an incredibly closed community and it is beyond taboo for an unmarried Hasidic girl to be alone with any boys, much less a boy outside her faith and race. Despite the fact that they wouldn’t speak to each other under normal circumstances, Devorah and Jaxon make an undeniable connection during their time in that elevator that changes their lives forever–embarking on a forbidden friendship that will soon blossom into first love, risking everything–family, faith, and friends–to be together.

Yes, this book has all the swoon-worthy, drama-filled, heart-pounding romance I couldn’t get enough of growing up, but it also has perspective. It shows the powers and the pitfalls of family, tradition and faith. It shows the highs and lows of first love. But most remarkably, it cracks open a door of possibility beyond first love (I mean, it’s called first love for a reason), reminding readers that the future is out there, it’s longer than you think, and it’s all yours.

Sometimes I look back on my teen love interests and wonder if my parents were right. They were right to worry about my heart. All good parents should. They were wrong to think they could stop it from loving boys in bands. (I’m marrying one next month.) First love is not the be-all-end-all that it feels like in the moment, but it is the start of something exquisite that never really does go away.

Thank you, Una LaMarche, for capturing this and reminding me.

Read More Posts From the Editor’s Desk.


The Vacationers, by Emma Straub

 

Emma Straub, is the author of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures. Her latest, newly released book The Vacationers, is novel about the secrets, joys, and jealousies that rise to the surface over the course of an American family’s two-week stay in Mallorca. Emma shares some of her favorite vacation book recommendations to kick off your summer. What is on your summer reading list?

9781594632341H

 

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

Because summer camp is the greatest, and Wolitzer is one of our national treasures.

9781590172254

 

Enchanted April, by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Because it’s fun to hang out with grumpy British ladies on vacation in Italy!

 

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Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead

Because rich people have problems too! Will make you want a lobster roll.

9780307455161

 

Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead

Because it’s hard to be a nerdy teenage boy. Will make you want a ice cream cone.

 

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The Great Man, by Kate Christensen

Because not all vacation books need to be about vacations. Sometimes they can be hilarious and wise books about old people.

 

 


Women have done amazing things for literature and have been instrumental in shaping the literature of today. In honor of National Women’s History Month, we wanted to recognize these impressive women for all that they have done and will continue to do.

There are too many amazing women, inspiring female characters, and wonderful authors to name. So instead, I am going to discuss the ten books that have most inspired and/or deeply affected me in the last ten months. As a happy coincidence, ALL of these books were written by women. Today however you only get the first five. Check back on Thursday, March 20th for the second half of this list.

 

All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry

All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry

No matter how old I get, I will never give up reading Young Adult books. The main reason being that these books tackle issues that are often left to fall to the background in adult novels. All The Truth That’s in Me is an intriguing take on a number of these timeless and important issues.

This book captivated me with its characters, its plot, and most strongly by means of its literary themes and implications. Judith Finch, disappears as a young girl. She is not seen for years until one day, now in her teens, she returns, mute. The reason for her disappearance and sudden return are shrouded in dark secrecy. Judith is ostracized by her community. She becomes the lowest of creatures in her town due to the question of her “purity.” I will not give anything else away, but I would strongly encourage this book to readers of all ages, Young Readers, Mature Readers, and all those in between.

 

Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro

Dear Life, by Alice MunroLiving in NYC, the subway is a major component of my daily routine. Working in publishing, reading also makes up a significant portion of my day. It’s only natural that I would combine the two. Having finished my previous book that morning, I chose a book at random off my work shelf. This book happened to be Dear Life. Knowing nothing about Alice Munro or the book itself I got on the subway that evening, opened to page one, and began. I was so engrossed in this book, its dozens of characters, and its plethora of stories that I got on the wrong connection home and again the following day. If that doesn’t signify a good book I don’t know what does!

In a collection of short stories, Alice Munro looks at the moment in a person’s life that changes it forever. This is a fascinating read that speaks to the human condition, the ways in which we interact with one another, and the choices that forever alter our futures.

 

Just One Day & Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Just One Day, by Gayle FormanJust One Year, by Gayle Forman

Two for the price of one! What was the last book that stood up and smacked you across the face? For me, both Just One Day and its sequel Just One Year did exactly that. Now, I will admit that these books are not ground breaking in their originality of plot, but they are beautifully unique in their format. Told from opposite view points, Just One Day tells the story of Allyson Healey, and the twenty-four hours that transform her life. Just One Year, the second in the series, tells of Williem and the year that follows that life altering day.

This is one of those love stories that shatters your heart before slowly piecing it back together. This book had me rushing to the next page, dreaming (literally) about what might happen next, crying in public places, and has me still thinking about it eight months later. This is not just the love story of two people, but a love story between the individual and the world. These books follow two teenagers as they fall in love with the world.

This is a perfect book for spring and will stir up extreme feelings of wanderlust. Consider yourself warned! Clear your calendar, pick a beautiful day, gather your supplies (chocolate and tissues are a must), find a comfy patch of grass, spread your blanket, and prepare for an emotional journey that will take you to all the corners of the Earth!

 

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson

Let's Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson

Never underestimate a good laugh! This book is hilarious; there simply is no other word. This book has a Taxidermy Shakespearian mouse on the cover . . . it was predestined to be a book of genius and I loved EVERY. SINGLE. PAGE.

For those people out there who are like me you have spent the last several months reading Memoir after Memoir. No, that’s not how you spent your winter? Regardless, my advice to you at this moment is to a.) Go get this book and b.) Be very content with your life. Prepare to be stared at in public for uncontrollable fits of laughter.

 


Fantasy Life, Matthew BerryThis 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.

When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, by David Maraniss

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” I’ve been knocked down a lot in my life, and Vince’s famous quote always reminded me to keep going. He’s become a legend, but this book shows that he was very much a man, full of doubts and flaws but also determination and greatness.

The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy, by Bill Simmons

Bill’s a good friend of mine, so I’m biased, but I promise you, this is a great book. Bill has an encyclopedic mind when it comes to basketball, and it’s not just hilarious, but the passion oozes out of every page.

Read an Excerpt »

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis

Fantasy sports is all about statistics. And no one’s made statistics as interesting as Michael Lewis. He tells the stories behind the stats. It’s not a numbers book; it’s a book about the people who use those numbers.

Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream, by H.G. Bissinger

Growing up in Texas, I saw firsthand how crazy high school football can be. Here, Buzz Bissinger follows a high school team in small-town Texas for one season, and it’s amazing. You feel like you’re living in Odessa, Texas. And oh yeah, the movie and the TV show are great, too.

The Myron Bolitar series, by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is my favorite writer, and anything he writes is a stop what I am doing and read it for the next two days straight kind of deal.  Impossible to put down.  I discovered him through his Myron Bolitar series.  Myron’s a sports agent and that’s the window Coben uses to let us into a captivating world where lines are crossed, secrets are kept, and there are no lengths people won’t go for their families.  Always featuring Wyn, Myron psychopathic best friend and the best sidekick in the world of mysteries, a new Myron Bolitar book is serious business.

The Games That Changed the Game: The Evolution of the NFL in Seven Sundays, by Ron Jaworski

I’ve learned so much from Jaws in my time at ESPN, and this book shows you how football has evolved into the sport we all love today. No one knows more about football than Jaws.

Read an Excerpt »

Semi-Tough, by Dan Jenkins

Going a little old school here, but growing up in Texas, I loved Dan Jenkins books and frankly, any one of them would do for this list. If you like your sports, your characters, and your women with attitude, Dan Jenkins is for you.  Perfectly captures the atmosphere around, be it pro football or just Texas.

The Dixie Association, by Donald Hays

A send up of the crazy, sometimes hypocritical South set against the backdrop of minor league baseball, I must have read this book a billion times when it came out.  The redemption of a man is at the center of a hilarious and poignant book that has a lot to say while still being ridiculously entertaining.  Love, hope, friendship, and second chances are at the center of one of the all-time great baseball books. If you like baseball, you’ll love this book.

Rotisserie League Baseball, by Glen Waggoner and Daniel Okrent

The original Rotisserie League Baseball Book isn’t a typical book, so fine, I’m cheating a little, but the importance of this book cannot be overstated.  Introducing a brand new game that was very stat heavy is no easy task, but these guys made it all seem so fun.  The spirit and joy that comes from playing fantasy baseball leaps off the page and you not only quickly understand the concept, you can’t wait to find 9 other people to start a league with.  If this book had been dry at all, it fails.  Instead, it spawned a multi-billion dollar industry.

Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

Quite simply, I wish I had read this book before I started working for ESPN.  I’d have had so much more knowledge about where I was coming to work and the inner working of a truly remarkable company.  If you’re at all fascinated how a small town in middle Connecticut became the World Wide Leader in Sports, this book is for you. This oral history tells the funny, the insane, the uplifting, and the controversial moments that went into building the most recognizable brand in sports media today.


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.

Liane Moriarty is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the reading group hit, What Alice Forgot, as well as The Hypnotist’s Love Story, Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, and the Nicola Berry series for children. Liane lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two small, noisy children.

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

I had such a sense of movement when I was reading this book, it was as though the author was spinning me round and round, leaving me laughing, dizzy, breathless and exhilarated. I didn’t quite get the ending, but that’s just because I was so dizzy (and also I read it too fast and greedily). It would be a wonderful book club choice because everyone could argue over the ending, and perhaps someone could e-mail me and explain it.

Light Between Oceans, by M. L. Stedman

I shouldn’t really suggest this one because it’s already been such a huge book club hit, you’ve probably already read it and loved it. But if you haven’t, you should. Beautifully written and such a moral conundrum to get everyone all worked up.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

This is a wonderful, original story about an unforgettable family. I laughed and cried the whole way through. Lots of interesting ethical issues for your book club to discuss.

Read an Excerpt »
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A Corner of White: Book 1 of The Colors of Madeleine, by Jaclyn Moriarty

Every now and then someone in your book club selects a book that is unlike anything you’ve read before, and you’re so grateful to them for choosing it. If you’d like to be that person, choose A Corner of White. It’s the first in an extraordinary three-book fantasy series that takes you on an incredible journey between Cambridge, England, and the Kingdom of Cello. (It was written by the award-winning YA writer Jaclyn Moriarty, who happens to be my sister.)

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

This is an amazing postapocalyptic adventure novel. It was so good, I even forgave the author for not putting his dialogue in quotation marks. The writing style is very different, and you can all argue over whether this worked for you or not. The correct answer is that it did work and if someone didn’t like it, you should be really mad at them and forget to refill their wineglass.

Read an Excerpt »
View the Reading Group Guide »

Big Brother, by Lionel Shriver

I adored this book, but if you look at the Amazon reviews you’ll see that it’s one of those books that people love or hate, and that’s perfect for book clubs, because you’ll have such a heated, interrupting-each-other debate. I can already anticipate what some of your members will say, and I understand but I disagree, and I would love to tell you why but then I would give away an important element of the book. Serve a big chocolate cake.


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.

Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, and designer. He both cofounded the Guadalajara International Film Festival and formed his own production company—the Tequila Gang. However, he is most recognized for his Academy Award-winning film, Pan’s Labyrinth, and the Hellboy film franchise. He has received Nebula and Hugo awards, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, and is an avid collector and student of arcane memorabilia and weird fiction.

The Case Against Satan, by Ray Russell (to come in 2014/2015)

The Vampire Tapestry, by Suzy McKee Charnas

The Terror, by Dan Simmons

Blue World, by Robert McCammon

The Damnation Game, by Clive Barker

Dark Feasts, by Ramsey Campbell

Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories, by Algernon Blackwood

View the table of contents »

The Monk, by Matthew G. Lewis

Read an excerpt »

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, by M. R. James

Uncle Silas, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

The White People by Arthur Machen

Read an excerpt »

View the table of contents »

The House on the Borderland, by William Hope Hodgson

Pet Sematary, by Stephen King

I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

The King in the Golden Mask, by Marcel Schwob


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.

Charlaine Harris is a New York Times bestselling author for both her Sookie Stackhouse fantasy/mystery series and her Harper Connelly Prime Crime mystery series. She has lived in the South her entire life.

I am particularly smitten with a novel when I think the writer has raised the bar on world-building. Luckily, I read several books this year that were really amazing in that respect; books that transported me to another place where the rules are different.

Written in Red by Anne Bishop was fascinating from start to finish. In her world, humans and “others” do interact — but very, very, carefully. Her heroine, caught in the middle and running from trouble, is totally engaging. Benedict Jacka’s Chosen, a continuation of the adventures of mage Alex Verus, exposes the lead character (warts and all) in a milieu where magic is hidden in plain view and survival is never a given.

I’m still thinking about E.E. Knight’s Appalachian Overthrow, the latest entry in the really superior Vampire Earth series. Overthrow has a different protagonist, a Golden One, but his part of the revolution trying to reclaim America is just as compelling as Knight’s usual human protagonist, David Valentine. I’m not an enthusiast over military science fiction, but these books are enthralling.

Ben Aaronovitch’s Broken Homes is part of his modern London series about a policeman who finds he has magic powers. Every book in this series is a winner, and Broken Homes is no exception. The only “magic” in Leigh Perry’s A Skeleton in the Family is that Perry’s protagonist, an adjunct professor named Georgia Thackeray, has a best friend named Sid . . . who is a skeleton who can walk and talk. It’s delightful, and I found Sid as credible a character as the humans around him.

Read an excerpt from Written in Red, by Anne Bishop »

Read an excerpt from Appalachian Overthrow, by E.E. Knight »


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.

My first three recommendations for the holiday gift-giving season are, oddly enough, all sequels to earlier novels.  John Grisham, in Sycamore Row, Stephen King, in Doctor Sleep, and Scott Turow in Innocent have elected to pick up narratives from A Time to Kill, The Shining, and Presumed Innocent, respectively.  Since the span of years between these novels is substantial, it’s been fascinating to watch how each handles the passing of time.  For avid fans, it would be interesting to pair the new novel with the original.

The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty 

This novel would more rightly be classified as psychological suspense, beautifully rendered, with a structure that sustains and builds interest from beginning to end.

Read an excerpt »

Storm Front, by John Sandford 

I’ve become a recent convert to the Virgil Flowers series by this always entertaining author.  Flowers is the kind of low-key hero I look forward to following with each new installment.

Read an excerpt »

The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton 

While this novel was published in 2011, the tone and subject matter are still fresh and original today.

The Innocent, by David Baldacci

Will Robie, though a professional hit man, is someone whose perilous adventures I look forward to following from novel to novel.


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 »
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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.