Photo credit: Dan Winters

Nick Offerman, author of Gumption and Paddle Your Own Canoe, shares his 2015 Holiday Book Picks with the Penguin Hotline:


Our Only World by Wendell Berry

As good a place to start as any, since I recommend his entire canon of fiction, essays and poetry. Our most important American writer, hilarious, loving, and vital.

Why We Make Things and Why it Matters by Peter Korn

A moving and personal account of the imperative to create with our hands tangible change in the world around us. A warming recipe for betterment from a master woodworker/teacher.

Lafayette in The Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

Ms. Vowell fuels her every sentence with pithy observation and caustic insight, allowing her subjects, however historical, to become completely palatable, relatable, and ultimately human. Her rendering of France’s unflagging friendship to America over the centuries made me cry. Twice.

Thanks, Nick Offerman! The Penguin Hotline can’t help but recommend a couple more of our own favorites for the holiday: Gumption and Paddle Your Own Canoe. And check out the Penguin Hotline for custom book recommendations!

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



The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

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

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Nagasaki by Susan Southard

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

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

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

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Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar

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



The Mathews Men by William Geroux

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


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Amalia_FrickAmalia Frick hails from Boulder, Colorado and is a Subsidiary Rights Assistant at Penguin Young Readers. In her free time she can be found drinking coffee, pretending to star in her own comedy show, and searching for the perfect popsicle recipe.


Audacity by Melanie Crowder

I came to this book hesitantly, thinking that a fictional account of a historical hero told in verse might be dry or inaccessible. But within a few pages I was swept away, my reservations forgotten. This is the true story of Clara, a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant to New York City at the turn of the twentieth century who worked in the clothing factories to support her family. Passionate, curious, and tenacious, Clara studied academics after working ten hour shifts, dreaming of becoming a doctor. But she found another purpose as well: advocating for fair working conditions for the factory workers. Facing her family’s disapproval, loss of employment, and brutality at the hands of police, Clara relentlessly fought for women’s rights in the workplace. A true story celebrating kindness and standing up for what is right, Clara’s story will ignite the heart of any reader.

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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

I’ll admit that I’ve been a little slow to actually pick up this book, but when it won The Newbery Honor, The National Book Award, and the Coretta Scott King Award, I knew it was finally time to move it to the top of my list. This is the story of Jacqueline, an African-American girl who grew up moving from Ohio to South Carolina to New York during the 60s and 70s. Somewhere between lemon-chiffon ice cream cones and learning about Peter Stuyvesant, Woodson finds her brilliance in the stories she tells. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down, transfixed by the story of a girl who grew up to be as passionate and emotive in three lines as she is in thirty.

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So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Anyone who’s spoken with me in the last three months has received some kind of regurgitated nugget from this book. It’s just that relevant. Focusing on the power of social media to shape individual behavior, Ronson interviews people who have been destroyed, professionally and personally, by a maelstrom of tweets. He discusses the actual effectiveness of shame in modifying a someone’s behavior (spoiler alert: it’s low). He investigates the various ways that people recover from shaming–from public figures to private citizens to prisoners. And, most interestingly, he wonders what motivates people to shame others in the first place. This is necessary reading for anyone who has ever felt themselves to be the victim of public shaming. Give it a look, and then share it with that friend of yours whose social media tone is one of Righteous Indignation. (If you don’t have friends like that, congratulations, you’re that friend!)

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The Brothers: The Road To An American Tragedy by Masha Gessen

There are many questions associated with the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon carried out brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev. Just as I write this post, Dzhokar, the surviving brother, has been sentenced to death for his involvement. But what happened to these brothers, Chechen immigrants to Boston, turning them from immigrants to terrorists? This is an in-depth investigation that seeks to uncover what went wrong, and how two boys, whom no one could initially believe were involved, came to commit such an act. Masha Gessen’s reporting is detailed and clear, and avoids the sensationalism so readily available. A Russian immigrant herself, Gessen tells of the history of the family, their move to the United States, and the political forces at play with deeply relevant cultural insight. This will completely change the way you think about threats of terrorism facing America today.


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Thirty-two years ago, when baseball was still inarguably the national pastime, the New York Yankees hosted the Boston Red Sox at old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The temperature soared into the 90s. Neither team was headed to the playoffs. Yet 41,077 fans found their way there, by foot or subway or car or bus, into the park just over the Harlem River from Manhattan. It was the Fourth of July.

The Yankees pitcher that day was a 24-year-old left-hander named Dave Righetti, born in California, drafted by Texas, traded to New York. Righetti was coming off a shutout of the Baltimore Orioles in his previous start. His season was off to a fine start. What might happen that day?

The beauty of baseball – one of the beauties, anyway – is in the heat of July, with half the season gone and half the season ahead, no one game is more important than the next. Baseball is not an event as much as a lifestyle. Sure, there are marquee pitching matchups and series between first-place teams. Lose that one game? Get swept in that key series? There’s another one on the way, new hope each morning.

The Fourth of July kind of tips that balance. Baseball fits the Rockwellian version of Independence Day. Toss it in with all the clichés, with the backyard barbecues and the parades and the fireworks. No ballpark with any degree of pride will host a July 4 game and not dust off the red-white-and-blue bunting.

So people go. Want to feel American? Hop in your Chevy on the Fourth of July and drive to a baseball game. Last year, major league games averaged just more than 30,000 fans over the course of a season that runs from the beginning of spring to the edge of autumn. On the Fourth of July 2014, more than 540,000 people – an average of 38,602 – attended the 14 big league games in parks from Washington to Detroit to Minneapolis to Atlanta to St. Louis to Cincinnati to Denver to Anaheim, where crowds were all over 40,000. (The game in Boston was rained out.)

Tee up the memories, then. On Independence Day in 1939, an ailing Lou Gehrig stepped to the microphone at Yankee Stadium less than a month after his diagnosis with a disease that came to be named for him. He told the crowd that he considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

On the July 4, 1980, the great Nolan Ryan recorded the 3,000th strikeout of his career. On July 4, four years later, knuckleballer Phil Niekro – the anti-Ryan in style, if not results – notched his 3,000th “K.” On the night of Independence Day in 1985, the Braves hosted the Mets in Atlanta, with fireworks scheduled for after the game. Problem: the game lasted 19 innings before the Mets won – at 4 a.m. It would have been somehow un-American to cancel the fireworks, so the Braves unleashed them anyway, though it was the morning of July 5.

This year, 15 games are again scheduled for the Fourth of July – starting with an 11:05 a.m. first pitch in Washington, a rare morning game scheduled so fans can take in the Nationals and San Francisco Giants, then make their way over to the National Mall, less than a mile-and-a-half north of Nationals Park, for the fireworks over the Washington Monument.

Yankee Stadium, albeit a newer, fancier version, will again host a baseball game this Independence Day. And no doubt some of those fans who make their way to the Bronx will think about that summer of 1983, when Dave Righetti slung baseballs at the Red Sox. With two outs in the ninth inning, Righetti still hadn’t given up a hit, and he faced Boston third baseman Wade Boggs, one of the best hitters of his generation, a Hall of Famer to be.

With the count at two balls and two strikes, Boggs fouled off a Righetti pitch and stepped back into the batter’s box. This time, Righetti got him to swing through a breaking ball. Strike three. Ballgame. A no-hitter in New York on the Fourth of July. Now what’s more American than that?


The Grind


What’s it like to live through sports’ longest season, the 162-game Major League Baseball schedule? The Grind captures the frustration, impermanence, and glory felt by the players, the staff, and their families from the start of spring training to the final game of the year; classy baseball writing in the Roger Angell or Tom Boswell tradition. 

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HeadshotNatalie Maester is a production assistant at Berkley. Born and raised as a European nomad, Natalie considers travelling as important as breathing. Graduating with a BA in English, she hopes one day to obtain a PhD in military history and revolutionary studies.

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Lucrezia Borgia by Sarah Bradford

The first topic that got me interested in history was the femme fatale: women of unparalleled power, will and persuasion that tore through the epicenter of male dominion. But their stories have always been clouded in mysticism since they deviated so far from norms, they could not be “normal women”.

One of many illegitimate children of Pope Alexander VI (aka Rodrigo Borgia) but by far his favorite, Lucrezia Borgia has been labeled by history as a succubus, a jezebel, and a schemer. But how did she get there? Used by her father as a pun to increase his sphere of power and influence, she was married 3 times by the time she was 22 years old. Divorced from her first husband due to allegations of impotence, her second husband was killed by her own brother, the power-hungry Duc of Valentinois, Cesare Borgia. Bred to obey in a family that did everything but, Lucrezia remained powerless to refuse her father’s wishes yet fiercely loyal and protective of him. In this latest biography of her life, Bradford attempts to uncover lifelong intrigues, shifting family alliances and a fight for survival that characterized most of Lucrezia’s life. As a result, she became a calculating woman, focused on gains and prospects, casting aside emotional, peaceful and love-seeking image so often expected of women. Lucrezia Borgia is, like all femme fatale, a complicated story but a fun one to try and piece together.

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Churchill and the King by Kenneth Weisbrode

At first glance, they can’t be any different: a king and a prime minister. The first, a sickly spare, who never fit in, shy and seemingly insecure, he became a king after his brother’s shocking abdication. The second, a rowdy troublemaker with swaying alliances and beliefs, he could not stay in one political party for long yet eventually made leader of a nation. Born of a different social stock and decades apart, both men developed skills and backbones to stand up and stand strong during England’s greatest crisis. Despite the apparent differences, George VI and Churchill had similar struggles and challenges: childhoods with strict fathers whom they both feared and adored, outcastes each in his own way, they shared a love of the sea and the navy, facing off against their enemy when war broke out in 1914. When they took command of England’s defense in 1940, they were a perfect yin and yang. Weisbrode side by side comparison is a unique look into lives otherwise completely unrelated of two of 20th century leading men.

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Army of Evil by Adrian Weale

Being a military history junky, I have learned that one of the biggest faux pas committed by people is group labeling. People are by far more complicated in their intentions and decision making processes than checking off a male or a female box on a driver’s license app. In this in-depth study of the SS or Schutzstaffeln, Weale separates the horrible deeds of the Holocaust from the men that perpetrated them in order to attempt to understand what drove their actions. First created as an elite group of Aryans with black uniforms, knee-high boots and SS style ruins pinned to the shirt collars, the SS quickly became symbols of terror and certain end. Compromised of Einsatzgruppen (killing squads), camp guards, police patrol and spies, they were the deadly muscle of the Third Reich. Yet the majority of these men were a bit more than civilians, playing soldiers in military-style clothes, without criminal records, with wives and children at home. How could so many go so wrong? Weale introduces many potential reasons for their willingness such as the introduction of dangerous convicted criminals to lead the units and train their men to kill, to alcohol induced killing parties, to severe brainwashing combined with centuries of racism. Whatever reason each of us leans towards, it is an important lesson to study, learn and prevent.

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Inglorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll

Sometimes the most interesting stories come wrapped in scandal, rebellion and shame. And this is a Leslie Carroll specialty: focusing on the stuff not taught in schools. Charming, witty and straight to the point, Carroll introduces us to little known royal characters whose titles implied anonymity and irrelevance yet influenced the course of history. Inglorious Royal Marriages showcases the likes of Margaret Tudor, sister of the famous Henry VIII, whose descendants occupy the thrown of England today. After the death of her husband King James IV of Scots, she secretly married two noble, both of whom stole her money and left Margaret for their mistresses, while she died penniless from a stroke. The double life of Monsieur Philippe of France, younger brother of the Sun King Louis XIV, is also a fascinating read. Married twice to two princesses, he was fond of dressing up as a woman (jewels and all), which his mother fully supported as he was growing up. Great at commanding an army, he never wore hats on expeditions because they would have ruined his hair. Whatever scandalous pleasure makes you smile on the train, Inglorious Royal Marriage is a quick and fun read that teaches interesting tidbits of peculiar characters so far ignore by major history.

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Tessa Meischeid


Tessa Meischeid is a Publicity Assistant at Penguin Press. A graduate of the University of Washington, she loves all things books, chocolate, and Seattle.





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Careless People by Sarah Churchwell

History lovers, literatures lovers, and crime show lovers rejoice! Sarah Churchwell has come to meet all your needs in one book. Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby  is the true story of a murder in New Jersey and a stunning look into the jazz age that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write The Great Gatsby. It reads like a cross between a Law & Order: SVU episode and your favorite college lecture (the one that didn’t put you to sleep, but actually taught you something and kept you interested). Churchwell shows how the Mills-Hall murder of 1922 affected the glamorous world of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and ultimately influenced the plot of arguably the “great American novel”.



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Religion of Democracy by Amy Kittelstrom

In The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition, Amy Kittlestrom points out just how distanced from the provenance and meaning of the ideals of “freedom” and “equality” we’ve become in modern times. The book tracks how religion and democracy have worked together as universal values in American culture through the eyes of seven liberal thinkers throughout history. Extremely relevant in today’s political climate of sound bites and empty promises, this book explores these quintessentially American ideals as they were forged, debated, and remade across our history.

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The Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones

Everyone who has read The Plantagenets knows what a joy it is to read a Dan Jones book. Taking history and telling it in a way that is not only relevant but interesting can sometimes be a task, but Jones makes it feel easy in his books. The War of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors includes some of the names we all know from history classes but also some new (to me at least!) and incredibly interesting characters. The struggle of power, war, intrigue, and death makes this book read like a novel and will stick with you long after you’ve finished. Another big plus, he’s got another book, Magna Carta, coming from Viking this fall that sounds like it’s going to be equally as fantastic as his first two.

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When the United States Spoke French by Francois Furstenberg

In 1789, the French Revolution shook Europe to the core. At the same time, the United States was battling for its survival along ideological, financial, and regional lines. In When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation, Furstenberg tells the story of five political refugees who came to call Philadelphia home after fleeing a revolution of their own making. What I love most about this book is that it tells the story of America at a time that gets glossed over by most history classes. Too late to be the American Revolution and not yet hit the War of 1812, but this period in history was paramount to creating the America we know today.

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Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells edited by Graydon Carter and David Friend

As someone who’s always been fascinated by the jazz age, this compilation of essays really spoke to me. Written in honor of the 100th anniversary of Vanity Fair magazine, Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells features works by Dorothy Parker, P. G. Wodehouse, Gertrude Stein, Edna St. Vincent Millay, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, Langston Hughes, and many others. It’s a great book to pick up and put down as you please, allowing you to dive into the roaring twenties whenever you like.

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The Mercy of the Sky by Holly Bailey

I loved this book because it felt less like a great piece of investigative reporting and more like a thriller, so much so that I had to keep reminding myself that these events actually happened. The Mercy of the Sky: The Story of a Tornado tells the story of May 20, 2013, when the worst tornado on record landed a direct hit on the small town of Moore, destroying two schools while the children cowered inside. Holly Bailey is from Moore and also Newsweek’s youngest White House reporter ever. Her unique perspective into the culture of the town and her investigative reporting skills make this book unique in all the best ways. Unfortunately, the sky wasn’t done with Moore, OK and in March of this year another tornado ripped through the town making the story of what happened here in 2013 more relevant than ever.


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Brooke Parsons is a Senior Publicist at Penguin Press. She enjoys documentary films, Lydia Davis stories, Broad City, and aimless walks around Manhattan.






Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen

The story of the Russian feminist political punk group Pussy Riot was unbelievable to the West. What’s so exceptional is not the group’s existence but rather the fact that three young women were on trial for an act of artistic political outrage: a performance piece staged inside the Russian Orthodox Church that vilified the newly reinstated President Putin. The arrest and trial of Nadya Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich became an international story full of questions demanding answers. Journalist Masha Gessen was on the front lines in Moscow and brings us the entire story in Words Will Break Cement. Published after the documentary release of Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, which focuses on the trial but ends before time served, this book takes readers deep inside the story of Pussy Riot: their origination, the personal lives of the women involved, and their thoughts on Russian feminism and Putin’s dark reach. For bonus points, check out the documentary Ukraine is Not a Brothel, a profile of Femen (the feminist protest group founded in Ukraine).


journey-without-maps-by-graham-greeneJourney without Maps by Graham Greene

Graham Greene is perhaps best known for his novels The Quiet American and The End of the Affair. However, his travel writing is not to be missed—particularly Journey without Maps. This is the story of Greene’s first visit to Africa in 1935 when he walked some 350 miles from Sierra Leone to Liberia. At the time, Liberia was a new country intended to be settled by freed slaves from America. Greene’s sense of discovery and self-discovery is thrilling. And, as the reader, I like learning more about a place I know little about—especially when news concerning Liberia seems to be negative. In recent years, Liberia has suffered civil war, extreme poverty, and a recent Ebola outbreak. (To learn more about this West African country, check out VICE’s Guide to Liberia).


galileos-middle-finger-by-alice-dregerGalileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science by Alice Dreger

No, this is not a biography on Galileo Galilei; the title refers to his encased digit, mounted on display in Italy. It was too ironic: the man condemned by the Catholic Church for teaching that the Earth revolves around the Sun was now flipping everyone the bird. Author Alice Dreger, a medical historian and patient rights activist, discusses modern instances where scientists, like Galileo, revealed inconvenient truths about the world, truths met with outrage and personal attacks from political activists. She travels the country to interview people like anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, who was falsely accused of committing genocide against a South American tribe; the psychologist Michael Bailey, whose research into sex and gender identity led to accusations of abuse by transgender women; and the famous evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson, whose theories about sociobiology resulted in accusations of racism. Dreger herself was at the forefront of advocating for intersex rights in the late 1990s. But through the course of research for this book, she unexpectedly finds herself in the midst of her own controversy. Dreger’s argument? We must be more open-minded and not deny the scientific facts, even when they challenge our identity. (This might sound like heavy stuff, but Dreger has a wicked sense of humor that makes this book quite the page-turner!)


the-journey-of-crazy-horse-by-joseph-m-marshallThe Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III

Crazy Horse is a legend. The world remembers him as the Lakota warrior who, along with Sitting Bull, aided in the defeat of the U.S. Army under Colonel George Armstrong Custer, or what we now refer to as Custer’s Last Stand. Marshall’s book is the definitive biography of Crazy Horse. His portrait of the man behind the myth is unforgettable. What makes this biography even more compelling is Marshall; Lakota himself, he preserves his people’s rich history of oral tradition. This book is a celebration of Crazy Horse, the man who helped save his people—their culture, community, and way of life.


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Christine DonougherLes Misérables is a novel whose themes have a universal and very topical resonance, but they are themes that emerge from a narrative that is very specifically related to a particular time and place –post Revolutionary France. My translation attempts to preserve that specificity of time and place, so I was anxious not to contaminate the text, as it were, with a vocabulary or with expressions freighted with connotations from a later era or a radically different environment that would sound inappropriate or jarring.

I was also anxious not to adopt a style that was unduly mannered or artificial, not to create any sense of the ‘costume drama’. I wanted the text to read as if it was written in a living language, but not in an aggressively twenty-first-century idiom.

My approach was to view Les Misérables not from the perspective of the present, as a nineteenth-century classic, but rather to see it as the modern phenomenon that it once was, reflecting, as it did when it was published in 1862, a modern view of recent history, written by an author who was regarded–in literary terms, in his political views, in his own private life–as something of an iconoclast, a radical, a rule-breaker, a trail-blazer, but who also respected more conservative views and values, and who had contrived by the end of his life to become an establishment figure par excellence.

Hugo had a seemingly effortless mastery of French versification and had published a huge body of poetic work by the time that he was revising and completing Les Misérables in the early 1860s. He was steeped in the classics, and he knew his La Fontaine inside out. He lived in a world of political upheaval, of scientific inquiry and technological innovation, and his writing reflects all these elements.

To bring out these aspects of his writing I relied not only on translation but also on footnotes to illuminate textual features of a linguistic nature–puns, quotations in foreign languages, literary allusions etc–and endnotes to explain factual and historical references, and my hope is that this editorial apparatus is not intrusive but supportive. (While I was working on the translation I became aware of the internet community of fans of Les Misérables whose detailed knowledge of Hugo’s text and their readiness to exchange information about it are remarkable.)

I was intrigued, for instance, by Marius’s tribute to Monsieur Maboeuf, to whom he is indebted for telling him about his father: “He removed my cataracts.” The more clichéd expression would be, “He opened my eyes,” but in 1752 the French surgeon Jacques Deviel published an account of his revolutionary procedure of cataract removal, which laid the foundations for the method used right up until modern times.

I was also struck by how Les Misérables seems to have anticipated so many of the now familiar elements of later novels, thrillers and films, from the literary–there are strong echoes of Jean Valjean’s dream in the South American writer Juan Rulfo’s ghost town in his short novel Pedro Paramo, which Garcia Marquez and Borges revered as a masterpiece–to the mass market bestseller–the long, so-called digressions being not very far removed from the detailed background research incorporated into the modern techno-thriller. The chase through the sewers is memorably reprised in Carol Reed’s film noir The Third Man, based on Graham Greene’s screenplay, and the Champmathieu Affair is a forerunner of many later court room dramas.

les-miserables-by-victor-hugoSo, bearing all these considerations in mind, this translation aims to convey as directly and as unobtrusively as possibly the enduring and timeless appeal of Hugo’s great novel.

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“Mark wants to write his next book about Atlantis.”

JessRenheim_photoEven though it’s been almost four years now, I remember that moment with remarkable clarity. In the summer of 2011, we had just published Mark Adams’ second book, Turn Right at Machu Picchu. It became both a critical success and a New York Times bestseller, and the book to buy if you planned on visiting Machu Picchu, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. So when it came time for Mark to submit his next book idea, I was pretty much ready to be excited about anything. Mark could write about java script updates and somehow turn it into a smart, funny, and engaging story. But even I was slightly taken aback when the proposal landed in my inbox.

Before reading Meet Me in Atlantis, my cultural reference points for the legendary lost city could be summed up as follows: an island that had sunk beneath the ocean, alien conspiracy theories, and a vague awareness of a tropical resort bearing the same name. It turns out that the actual history and source of the Atlantis story is far more fascinating and surprising.

For starters, everything we know about Atlantis comes from two dialogues written by the Greek philosopher Plato, dialogues packed with details about the sunken island. The information is abundant, but just vague enough that the specific location of Atlantis is never quite made clear. Today, most academics dismiss the tale as pure fiction, but Mark quickly learned that there is an entire global sub-culture of enthusiastic amateur explorers actively searching for the lost city based on the clues Plato left behind. For them, Atlantis was a real place, rooted in history, and waiting to be found.

What begins as one man’s skeptical inquiry into why people believe they can find the world’s most famous lost civilization becomes a full-blown quest that spans the globe to solve one of history’s greatest mysteries. In the process of investigating the top five possible sites where Atlantis might have once existed, Mark introduces readers to irresistible characters and locales. He unpacks an incredible wealth of history, philosophy, math, and myth into an absorbing narrative that sings along and captures the curiosity of even the staunchest of skeptics (I considered myself to be one of them), making you hope that Atlantis once existed beyond the imagination of Plato, that some of history is actually coded in the popular ancient myth, and that Mark Adams—driven by an insatiable and infectious curiosity—will lead you to rediscover a lost world.




Meet Me in Atlantis is Adams’s enthralling account of Mark Adams quest to solve one of history’s greatest mysteries; a travelogue that takes readers to fascinating locations to meet irresistible characters; and a deep, often humorous look at the human longing to rediscover a lost world.

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Juliana Kiyan is a Publicity Manager for Penguin Press. On weekends you can find her tucked under a tree with a book in Prospect Park or attempting a new pie recipe.






Year Zero: A History of 1945, by Ian Buruma

Ian Buruma’s writing never fails to engage the mind and soul. His most recent book YEAR ZERO is a remarkable global history of 1945 and how we reckoned with the aftermath of World War II. Buruma crosses the globe to show how regime change was carried out across Asia and Europe, and what the effects of war and liberation had on populations. 1945 witnessed the emergence of a new world, and reading this book, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the scale of transformation on both geopolitical terms and for everyday people on the ground. But then Buruma introduces his own father’s story, which serves as deeply personal thread throughout the book. His journey home after being forced into a labor camp in Berlin and his attempt to return to “normalcy” puts a face to the experiences of so many in his generation. The introduction is an incredibly moving piece of writing—read it and you won’t be able to put the book down until you turn the last page.


afterthemusicAfter the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead, by Alan Blinder 

Alan Blinder is a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and economics professor at Princeton, and this is his wide-angle, very readable account of the financial crisis. There have been many terrific, informative books, articles, and films about the meltdown and its immediate aftermath and how the Bush and Obama administrations grappled with the many ensuing crises. What stands out about Blinder’s book to me is the comprehensiveness of the narrative—step by step, he identifies the origins, the government’s reaction and actions both administrations took, and next steps for recovery. It’s an important reminder of where we’ve come from and how not to repeat the same mistakes.



Redeployment, by Phil Klay 

Phil Klay’s collection of stories is searing and beautifully observed. It’s impossible to highlight one, as each is a different voice or lens through which Klay examines and untangles the American experience in Iraq. As we reckon with our foreign policy of the past decade and look ahead to the next election and the choices we’ll be faced with, Redeployment is a vital reminder of what war does to the hearts and minds of individuals who serve and to our collective soul as a country. Redeployment has rightfully been touted as an instant classic, Klay as one of the most talented new writers. To add my voice to the chorus: read it, read it now.




Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, by Eric Schlosser

Command and Control reads like a thriller but is all-too-terrifyingly true. Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, writes a groundbreaking history about the management of America’s nuclear arsenal over the past half century and explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: How do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? He opens the book with a minute-by-minute account of the “Damascus accident” at a nuclear missile silo in Arkansas, which begins with a simple mishap, then quickly spirals. It had my heart pounding, and Schlosser interweaves this incredible story with a wide-ranging narrative. A riveting, unnerving read.



Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng’s exquisite debut novel is a portrait of the Lee family in a moment of crisis, then grief. The Lees live in Ohio in the 1970s, and their prized middle daughter, Lydia, has been discovered dead in the town’s lake. (This isn’t a spoiler! The first line of the book is, “Lydia is dead.”) The father, James, is a second-generation Chinese American who aches for his children to fit in; the mother, Marilyn, is a white woman from Virginia who hopes her daughter won’t face the same limitations that she did when she was younger. Their children—Nath, Lydia, and Hannah—straddle two worlds of belonging and wanting, as they attempt to understand who they are and who they want to become.  The book is a moving examination of being an outsider and the spectrum of what it’s like to be treated as different. It takes place during a time when Loving v. Virginia had only recently struck down interracial marriage bans, before our anguished conversations about motherhood and “having it all,” before Cheerios featured a multiracial family in a Superbowl ad. Yet many of the issues the characters face are just as relevant today—I find myself thinking about them all the time. Ultimately, though, Ng tells a beautiful, deeply felt, and heartbreaking story of an American family and their universal struggles to communicate and understand one another.


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