Angela Januzzi is a Senior Publicist at Tarcher and Perigee. Previously she worked in non-profit external affairs and also in publicity for the Penguin imprints Berkley/NAL.
You can follow her on Twitter @amjanuzzi, but she writes/makes music under several names, which she may just tell you if you ask enough.
Angela likes her reading material like her coffee: strong, unsweetened, and with a little existential metaphor.
Dune by Frank Herbert
There are two types of book nerds: those who have read Dune and those who haven’t. Winner of the Hugo Award and the first Nebula Award for Best Novel, either you are 1.) a sci-fi fangirl/boy who’s adored this book for years or 2.) an elitist like me who wants to love great sci-fi and should chalk this up as one of the best places to start. Dune has it all: the rise of a ‘chosen one,’ immersive sense of place, environmental and political commentary woven through the book, and, a highlight for yours truly, a powerful role for mystical forces of the all-female Bene Gesserit. Dune may also be the hero story to end all hero stories, partially because its ultimate lesson is: do not trust hero worship. And if you’re a literary reader like me who needs beauty in words as much as complex character development, every page has some gem of philosophy or language. (“There is in all things a pattern that is part of our universe. It has symmetry, elegance, and grace–these qualities you find always in that the true artist captures.”) Bonus for normal followers of cult classics/alt lit: David Lynch made the book into a movie–so you know the Dune universe is anything but predictable. Start Reading an Excerpt.
Perchance to Dream by Charles Beaumont
Charles Beaumont has been cited as an influence on some of the best known writers of the last 60 years–and yet few people, including myself, have ever read any of his stories. What you DO know of his writing, though, is in black and white and forever preserved as about two dozen Twilight Zone episodes. He may be best-known as the mastermind behind one of the most beloved shows of the series, ‘#12 Looks Just Like You, ‘ in which a space-age dystopia hinges on the population conforming to only one of two approved, physically beautiful body types. Though this Penguin Classics printing of selected stories isn’t out until October 2015, I’m already fantasizing about autumn Twilight Zone marathons to prepare for this surreal, dark, eerie anthology. This collection will be one of the only of its kind in-print, and a much-deserved tribute to a gifted magician of social commentary and emotion we lost too quickly. (Beaumont was only 38 when he passed away.)
Mariel of Redwall by Brian Jacques
When I was in Catholic elementary school in Ohio, one of my favorite weeks of the year was BOOK. FAIR. WEEK. Our musty little library had its tables moved to make room for makeshift shelves of BRAND NEW TITLES where little people like me could buy, not just borrow, shining new books shipped-in from the mysterious world of publishing. When I think of book fair days, they are inextricable for me from the author Brian Jacques and his world of Redwall, populated by its brave and cunning talking forest creatures. Mariel of Redwall, one of the only main Mousemaids–a female protagonist, to my delight–quickly became my favorite. I was a kid who didn’t see much adventure and longed for it, but who knew I would be easily frightened by it anyway. The Redwall novels allowed me to fantasize that if little valiant rodents could fight pirates and venture to unknown territories, maybe a small person like me could too. If there’s a kid in your life between 8 and 11 who would rather listen to The Beatles than Ariana Grande, and for the moment still loves animals more than texting, she may be a perfect candidate to become the next Redwall series addict. While childhood lasts.
The Zombie Combat Manual by Roger Ma
Created in some scrappy but supernatural world between sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, and self-help satire, I was lucky enough to work with author Roger Ma on this book when I was a bright-eyed new publicist. Ma’s tongue-in-(rotting?)-cheek guide is filled with emergency-demo-grade diagrams on how to physically combat zombies of all shapes and sizes, no matter what your surroundings. (Carrying a baby and not sure how to combat a walking corpse? This book’s got your back.) If you’re dreading how to cope after “The Walking Dead” ends on AMC, The Zombie Combat Manual is here to help you through that non-dead grieving process. It’s also a great gift for the dude in your life who fancies himself Rick Grimes. And it’s essential to sharpen your hand-to-hand combat for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You know, in the meantime.
Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
Yes, Cosmicomics is not textbook fantasy genre. There are no epic battlefields–just the constant struggle of life to keep shifting form and energy, to continue barreling onward through time and space, and cracking jokes the whole way. No damsels in distress. No objects containing special powers that turn their possessor good or evil (unless you count the beauty of the moon, that is.) Cosmicomics is a collection of vignettes of magical surrealism, loosely structured around the adventures of several lifeforms as they experience myriad existences throughout eras and galaxies and species. A few main characters of these stories include, for instance, a dinosaur, a mollusk, and a love triangle during a time when the moon was close enough to touch the Earth. It makes me wish I understood Italian so I could read every story in Calvino’s original language. (The English translations are so gorgeous, I can’t imagine how much more rich and alive they sound in their mother tongue.) Calvino’s fantasyworlds are composed of the magic of merged science and poetry and humor and mortality. Each tale is also a bit of a philosophical and intellectual challenge, and as such, a little vessel of escapism to sail you away from a tough day or how you thought you knew the world. And that may be what the best kind of fantasy book does for us after all. Yes? Yes.
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