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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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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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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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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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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