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In celebration of Father’s Day we have a special gift for you, read an Excerpt from Dave Barry’s Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster): Life Lessons And Other Ravings From Dave Barry in which he writes a letter to his daughter Sophie on her 16th birthday in preparation of her starting to drive.

Dad’s everywhere are sure to get a kick out this!



Dear Sophie—

So you’re about to start driving! How exciting! I’m going to kill myself.

Sorry, I’m flashing back to when your big brother, Rob, started driving. You and I both love Rob very much, and he has matured into a thoughtful and responsible person. But when he turned sixteen and got his driver’s license, he had a marked tendency to—there is no diplomatic way to put this—drive into things.

This was never his fault. I know this because whenever he drove the car into something, which was every few days, he would call me, and the conversation would go like this:

ME: Hello?

ROB: Dad, it wasn’t my fault.

Usually what he had driven into through no fault of his own was the rear end of another car. Cars were always stopping unexpectedly in front of Rob for no reason whatsoever. Or possibly—we cannot rule it out—these cars were suddenly materializing from hyperspace directly in front of Rob, leaving him with no option but to run into them. Whatever the cause, it stopped happening when he got older and more experienced and started buying his own insurance.

My point, Sophie, is that just because the State of Florida thinks you can drive a car, that doesn’t mean you actually can drive a car. As far as I can tell, after three decades on the roads of Florida, there isn’t anybody that the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t think can drive a car. I cannot imagine what you would have to do to fail the driving test here.

DMV OFFICER: OK, make a left turn here.


DMV OFFICER: (Writes something on clipboard.)

TEST TAKER: Does that mean I fail the test?

DMV OFFICER: Nah, she’s getting back up. You just clipped her.

You may think I’m exaggerating the badness of the drivers down here, Sophie, but that’s because you haven’t been at the wheel of a car on the Palmetto Expressway going
60 miles per hour, traveling forward—which, as you will learn, is considered to be the traditional direction for vehicular traffic on expressways—only to encounter a vehicle, undoubtedly operated by a licensed Florida driver, going backward. And not on the shoulder, either. In your lane. This has happened to me more than once; it’s how some Miami drivers handle the baffling problem of what to do when you miss an exit. When ESPN shows a NASCAR highlight in which drivers collide at 150 miles per hour and a dozen cars spin out in a whirling mass of flaming wreckage, my reaction is: “Big deal. They were all going the same direction. Let’s see them attempt to drive on the Palmetto Expressway.”

The State of Florida also does not seem to have a problem issuing licenses to drivers who are very elderly.

Q. How elderly are they?
A. Their first vehicle was a chariot.

I once had an eye exam during which the ophthalmologist was telling me about some of his older patients, who according to him were basically blind. He said: “I ask them, ‘How did you get here?’ And they tell me they drove. And I tell them, ‘You can’t drive. You can’t see.’ And they say, ‘How else am I supposed to get here?’ And I say, ‘I don’t know, but you can’t drive, because you can’t see.’ And then they drive home.”

I believe him. I once had a short but terrifying ride on the streets of South Florida in the backseat of a car driven by an elderly man. He was a perfectly nice person, but he had basically the same level of visual acuity as a corn dog. So he outsourced the actual seeing part of driving to his wife, who sat in the passenger seat and did her best to keep him posted on what was going on out there in the mysterious region beyond the windshield.

“You have a green arrow,” she’d say. “Go. Go. I said GO! No! Wait! Stop! STOP!!”

I believe this Seeing Eye wife arrangement is not uncommon among elderly couples on the roads of South Florida. And if you’re wondering why, if the wife can see, she doesn’t just drive, the answer is: The man drives.

So to summarize, Sophie: Many people who lack the judgment and/or physical skills needed to safely microwave a burrito are deemed qualified by the State of Florida to operate a motor vehicle. When you get out on the road, you will be surrounded by terrible drivers. And guess what? You will be one of them. Yes, Sophie: You will be a bad driver, and not because you’re careless or irresponsible, but because you’re teenager, and it is a physiological fact that at your stage of brain development, you are—to use the term preferred by researchers in the field of neurological science—“stupid.”

There is no shame in this. All humans start out stupid, then gradually become more intelligent as they get older (with a few setbacks along the way) until they reach a certain age, after which they start becoming stupider again.
Here’s a scientific chart illustrating this phenomenon:

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What does this chart tell us, Sophie? It tells us that according to science, even dead people are smarter than teenagers. Teenagers are barely capable of forming sentences. Allowing them to drive—especially if they are males—is insane.

But Dad, you’re thinking, didn’t you drive when you were a teenage male?

Yes I did. I got my New York State driver’s license in 1963, at age sixteen, and I spent many hours cruising on the highways and byways and occasionally the lawns in and around Armonk, N.Y. But that was different, Sophie, because I drove safely. I don’t mean “safely” in the sense of “carefully.” I was definitely your standard male teenage idiot. But I was a safe idiot, because I was driving the safest vehicle ever built: my mom’s 1961 Plymouth Valiant station wagon. It did not have modern safety features such as seat belts, air bags, antilock brakes or a computerized collision-avoidance system. What the Valiant had, which was better than any modern technology, was: Inertia. I would stomp violently down on the accelerator and basically nothing would happen for several lunar cycles, because the Valiant was no more capable of acceleration than a fire hydrant. This was the only car ever manufactured that traveled faster on the assembly line than under its own power.

You could not hit anything in a Valiant. Fully mature trees moved quickly enough to get out of its way. So it couldn’t do any damage even with me at the wheel. If I were in charge, today’s teenagers would be permitted to drive only if they drove Plymouth Valiant station wagons. Also I would require these teenagers to tune the Valiant’s AM radio to New York station WINS and listen to the late Murray the K play hit 1963 tunes such as “Da Doo Ron Ron” because THAT WAS MUSIC, DAMMIT.

Unfortunately, Sophie, I am not in charge, which means you’re going to be driving on roads teeming with modern high-speed automobiles operated by incompetent idiots such as (no offense) yourself. To prove that you’re qualified to do this, the State of Florida will make you take a test based on the information found in the official Florida Driver’s Handbook. For example, the test may ask you to identify the Florida “standard” speed in business or residential areas. According to the Handbook, the “correct” answer, the one you should mark on your test, is 30 miles per hour.

But listen very carefully, Sophie: If you’re driving in Miami and do not wish to be the target of small-arms fire, IN THE NAME OF GOD DO NOT GO AT A “STANDARD” SPEED OF 30 MILES PER HOUR. Miami drivers go faster than that in a car wash. Likewise the Driver’s Handbook will tell you that if you’re approaching a traffic light as it turns yellow, you should attempt to stop. But in Miami, doing that would cause your car to be instantly converted into a large sheet-metal origami sculpture by the seventeen cars immediately behind you.

My point, Sophie, is that there’s a big difference between how the Florida Driver’s Handbook says you should drive and how actual humans drive in Florida, especially South Florida. So to help you understand the mindset you will encounter on the roads here, I’ve prepared this:


Q. If I arrive at an intersection at the same time as another motorist, who goes first?
A. You do.

Q. But what if . . .
A. There IS no “what if.” YOU GO FIRST.

Q. Florida law strictly prohibits texting while driving. Does this law apply to me?
A. Ha-ha! Of course not.

Q. If I stop at a red light, how will I know when it turns green?
A. You will hear honking behind you. This is your cue to start wrapping up your current text, unless of course it is important.

Q. I have noticed that some roads have more than one lane. What is the purpose of the extra lanes?
A. To provide a place for you to swerve into while texting.

Q. When I come to a stop sign, do I need to stop?
A. You personally?

Q. Yes.
A. No.

Q. How is the turn signal used in Florida?
A. It is used to indicate to other motorists that you do not realize your turn signal is blinking.

Q. Could it also be used to signal your intention to turn or change lanes?
A. Interesting! Nobody has ever tried that.

Q. What is the best kind of food to eat while driving?
A. Any food—such as a sandwich, turkey leg, oyster or Ding Dong—that can be eaten one-handed, so you still have a hand free for texting.

Q. What if an emergency situation arises that might require me to operate the steering wheel?
A. Use your forehead to honk the horn until the emergency has passed.

Q. My car’s engine seems to have stopped and I hear a “burbling” noise. What could be causing this?
A. Are you a senior citizen?

Q. Yes.
A. You have driven into a swimming pool.

Q. I am a young male idiot who prefers to drive at a high rate of speed in densely populated areas while texting. How loud should my sound system be?
A. It should emit individual bass notes capable of killing a dog at 50 yards.

Q. I’m a middle-aged male, and I like to put on skintight, junk-displaying Lycra® cycling shorts and a skintight Lycra® cycling jersey covered with logos for corporations that don’t actually pay me anything, then ride around with a large clot of other middle-aged pretend racers screwing up traffic. I don’t have a question about driving, but I HAVE JUST AS MUCH RIGHT TO BE IN THIS Q & A AS ANYONE ELSE.
A. Everyone hates you.

Q. I’ve had a few drinks. How can I tell if I should drive?
A. Take this simple test: Are you wearing your underpants on your head?

Q. Not MY underpants, no.
A. Then you are good to go.

Q. What is all that shouting?
A. Are you a senior citizen?

Q. Yes.
A. You have struck a pedestrian.

Sophie, I know you think your old man is just kidding. I am not. Ask anybody who drives here: This Q & A reflects the actual situation on the roads of Florida far more accurately than the so-called Florida Driver’s Handbook. But I didn’t write this letter to make you nervous about driving here. I wrote it to make you terrified about driving here. Because I love you a lot, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. I will do everything I can to make sure you’re really ready to drive. I’m going to keep coaching you until the day you finally get your license and are allowed to drive alone. Even then, as you leave our driveway, I’ll be standing next to the car, giving you last-minute instructions. When you finally drive away, solo at last, you’re going to feel as if I’m still right there next to you, guiding you.

In fact I will be right there next to you, walking at a leisurely pace alongside your car.

Your 1961 Valiant.




The perfect book for Dad’s looking for a good laugh! During the course of living (mumble, mumble) years, Dave Barry has learned much of wisdom,* (*actual wisdom not guaranteed) and he is eager to pass it on—to the next generation, the generation after that, and to those idiots who make driving to the grocery store in Florida a death-defying experience. By the end, if you do not feel wiser, richer in knowledge, more attuned to the universe . . . we wouldn’t be at all surprised. But you’ll have had a lot to laugh about!

Susan Loomis_credit Francis Hammond

All of the sudden, it’s summer. That’s northern France for you.  Wind whistles, grass is covered with frost, flowers have that slightly frozen etch around their petals until very late in the spring then BAM! The sun is out, the air is a warm caress, and rose is in the fridge, chilling for supper.

Tomorrow is the farmers’ market in my town of Louviers, and I’m so eager to see what’s there that I can hardly wait.  You wouldn’t think much would change from one week to the next, but it does. We’ve been through asparagus season, the very early harbinger of spring, but it’s taken an age for anything else to come along.  Now, though, with this burst of warmth which has summer woven all through it, there is likely to be shiny zucchini ready to steam and cover with minced garlic and parsley, and melons will finally send their alluring aroma through the air, begging for a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkling of peppers and diced shallot, for a pre-meal salad. There may be a few early tomatoes, and strawberries will at long last lend their warm, almost syrupy flavor to a tart, a fruit salad, or a glass of red wine.

As for seafood, well, the sardines are jumping into the fishers’ nets, and I will dredge some in flour, cover them with minced sage and garlic, and bathe them in olive oil and vinegar for a summery escabeche.  I’m doing a big dinner and skate wing, straight from the English Channel, is on the menu.  I will serve it with a capery sauce atop crushed new potatoes that I’ve sprinkled with tiny strips of fresh basil and dabbed with fresh farm butter.  For a real nod to summer, I’ll add a mound of freshly boiled peas that are so sweet they belie their vegetable status and almost taste like dessert.

market picnic

Tomorrow I just know I will also find bunches of new onions, tiny beets, blushing young shallots, juicy cloves of new garlic, and carrots as thin as a pinky.  Anticipating this, I’ve made aioli to serve alongside this summer wealth, for a market picnic. I’ll follow with the sardines and a crisp baguette (for sopping up the sauce). Dessert?  A bowl of cherries in ice water.

For dinner, we’ll have the skate wing with potatoes and peas, a big crisp salad in a delicate vinaigrette, and a chocolate tart covered with sliced strawberries and dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

Oh summer, how happy we are that you are here!

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Explore Susan Herrmann Loomis’ new book In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France for everyday tips, secrets, and eighty-five recipes that allow you to turn every meal into a sumptuous occasion.

In a French Kitchen by Susan Herrmann Loomis is a delightful celebration of French life and the cooks who turn even the simplest meals into an occasion.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



Simon MajumdarI was genuinely delighted when Penguin Random House agreed to publish my latest food and travel adventure, Fed, White, and Blue.  Not just because they are, of course, one of the finest publishers in the world, but also because it felt very much like I was coming home.

A little under thirty years ago, after the good Lord and I both decided that a life in the Episcopalian clergy was not for me, my first “proper” place of employment was as a sales associate in a small, short lived chain of bookshops owned by Penguin Books.  It began a happy ten year association with the publisher that saw me move up through the ranks until I had gained the heady title of “Special Sales Manager,” a position which earned me my own little office, with its own coveted little window, in their London headquarters.

The majority of my time during that decade, however, was spent out on the road, as a sales representative for the Penguin Paperback list. It was a period which, even given some of the extraordinary adventures I have experienced in the last few years of travel around the world, still remains one of the most enjoyable of my career, and I still retain the fondest memories of my years servicing a select group of large bookstores in central London.

It was a job which not only tested my ability to consume gallons of tea (or “English Penicillin” as we call it back in Blighty) every day as I met with the managers of the book stores, but also gave me a true insight into the sharp end of the book business, which I think has served me well in my second life as an author.

As a sales person for Penguin, the notion of “author care” was drummed into me from the very beginning. My list of new books to sell each month was sizeable, but I was always well aware that every title I offered up to my customers represented the heart and soul of the author, and often years of hard work to bring the book to fruition. It was a mindset that I never forgot, whether I was selling a new title from a blockbuster author or a niche work from a specialist that would find its home in our midlist. I can promise that I always gave every effort to sell every book, and it is a mindset that I am delighted to say seems to be very much at the heart of the Penguin Random House philosophy today.

I can also say that my time on the road has definitely helped me become a more involved author.  Each new book I write is like my new baby, and I, of course, want everybody to admire it and for it to reach the widest audience possible. However, having spent so much time on the front line of book sales, I am also aware what a tough battleground it can be and that there are thousands of new books each month are fighting for the attention of customers.

fed-white-and-blue-by-simon-majumdar 2I also know, after spending nearly twenty years of my life in the business, just how much the publishing landscape has changed. Now, more than ever, making a book a success depends on a joint effort between the authors, editorial, marketing, publicity and the sales teams. It takes, as they say “a village” to produce a good book, and I am thrilled that, with the publication of Fed, White, and Blue I am allowed to be a resident of one of the best villages in the business.

Like I said, it feels like coming home.

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1. Bath Time is Awesome. 


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


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

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


3. Privacy is a thing of the past. 3

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


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

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


5. Tea parties can actually be fun. 5

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



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

Happy Fathers Day!

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Welcome to Penguin This is my desk.

Welcome to 375 Hudson Street!

With the warm weather approaching, things are getting busier and busier here as we gear up for our summer season. Next week Penguin heads to Book Expo America (BEA), the industry book and author conference in New York City, which we are all very excited for. (Stop by the Penguin Booth and say hi if you are attending this year!) We have a lot of great authors going and it should be a lot of fun—look for our BEA wrap-up post coming soon where Amy, Lindsay, and I will all share our BEA 2014 photos and stories!

There is always something going on in our offices and this week (for me at least) it has been a busy one, but let’s focus on the fun bits from the last few days!

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This Wednesday, the Penguin Twitter Book Club held its second May #ReadPenguin chat with Jolie Kerr, author of My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag…And Other Things You Can’t Tell Martha—my favorite question from the chat was “How do you clean a lasagna spill off the street?” If you are not already joining our Book Club chats you should, because we get to talk about fun things like lasagna (and books too, of course!) Next month we are chatting with Yours for Eternity authors Damien Echols and Lorri Davis.


Beartiz Williams signing her new book THE SECRET LIFE OF VIOLET GRANT


On Thursday, New York Times bestselling A Hundred Summers author Beatriz Williams stopped by to say hello and sign copies of her new book The Secret Life of Violet Grant, which comes out next week on Tuesday, May 27th and which I am very excited to read. Amy and I went up to say hello and grab a picture. See you next week at BEA, Beatriz!

Today, Friday, we have a half-day to kick off Memorial Day weekend.

Just your typical week at the office…and now I am off to sunny (fingers crossed) Long Island to sit outside and enjoy the weekend. What are your Memorial Day plans?

Until next time,


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 »
View the Reading Group Guide »

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 »

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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.

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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.