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Molly Pieper is the Marketing Assistant for Plume. She lives in Connecticut but doesn’t mind the commute – it gives her plenty of time to delve into a good book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

other-people-we-married-by-emma-straub

Other People We Married by Emma Straub

I really enjoyed Straub’s collection of short stories because of her familiar and fallible characters.

Themes of love, or rather romance in some form, is a commonality throughout these twelve stories but Straub strikes a great balance.

These stories are neither cheesy nor predictable but are relatable nonetheless.  My personal favorite is “Some People Must Really Fall in Love.”

 

 

 

 

about-a-boy-by-nick-hornby

About a Boy by Nick Hornby

An oldie but a goodie. This is one of those books I’ve read over and over again and never tire of. It’s a great feel-good read.

Will Freeman, the classic bachelor type, has his world turned upside down when he meets twelve year old Markus as the result of his latest dating scheme.

As their friendship evolves, Hornby’s simultaneously funny and poignant novel reveals to the reader that when it comes to people, there is always more than meets the eye.

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

 

this-is-where-i-leave-you-by-jonathan-tropper

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

I think by now most people are aware of Tropper’s novel because of the 2014 movie adaptation—but this really is a book worth reading on its own merits.

It’s more than your typical family drama. Tropper hits that sweet spot between laugh out loud funny and emotionally gripping in this portrait of a dysfunctional American family.

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

 

 

 

everything-i-never-told-you-by-celeste-ng

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This was an emotional read. Ng’s portrait of a fractured family is painful, yet so beautifully written. Her third person narration and seamless movement throughout time make for an intelligently written and dynamic read. This novel is more than the tale of a young girls death and the aftermath and ensues, it’s about sacrifices and what can become of all of us after making one.

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

 

 

 

girl

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

First off, I must say this book really does deserve all of the hullabaloo. It’s a smart, enthralling thriller that was hard to step away from. Hawkins protagonist Rachel is unreliable in the best kind of way; you both doubt her credibility and want to believe her. The way in which the narrative moves back and forth between different characters perspective is another element of this great book that keeps the reader devouring pages. I found myself trying to predict the ending of Girl on the Train, and was pleasantly surprised when I was completely wrong.

Start Reading an Excerpt!

 

 

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page.

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IMG_0918A couple years ago, I asked Patricia Briggs to write a novella for our anthology On the Prowl. We wanted something either about Mercy Thompson, the car mechanic coyote shifter heroine of her urban fantasy series, or set in Mercy’s world. But when she said, “I think I’m going to write about Charles,” it took me a moment to place Samuel Cornick’s half-brother, a werewolf of few words who makes a brief appearance in Moon Called.

Well, after reading “Alpha and Omega”, I never forgot who Charles was again. In fact, I fell so in love with him and his mate, the werewolf Anna Latham, that I asked Patty if she would want to write more stories about Charles and Anna. And thus, the Alpha and Omega series was born–an action-packed urban fantasy series that is also the heartfelt story of Charles and Anna’s relationship.

With Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer, they tend to be trouble shooters, called in to deal with problems, and rarely catch a break. In Dead Heat, Charles and Anna travel to Arizona for personal reasons…or at least it starts out that way. Soon, they find themselves in the middle of a whole lot of trouble. The cold war between the fae and humanity is about to heat up, and the werewolves may have to choose which side they’re on.

I freely admit that I have a thing for werewolves. The pack structure, the human / animal dichotomy…it’s a concept that that is ripe for storytelling. And Patricia Briggs writes some of my absolutely favorite werewolves, who may be able to change their shape, but are always human.

Dead-Heat-Patricia-BriggsIt’s a pleasure to share Dead Heat with you, and I hope you fall in love with Charles and Anna the way I have.

Explore the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs!


Malice 2014 me and teapot 2“Where do you get your ideas?” a reader asks, at nearly every book event. “From my characters,” I say, aware that this makes me sound like a crazy woman. But before you call the men in the white coats, let me explain.

The heart of every story is the characters. Even in a mystery or a thriller, where plot is critical to a story’s success, the characters are the key. When someone raves to you about a book, they don’t say “it’s about a bomb ….” They say “it’s about a woman who ….” When readers fall for a series, they remember the characters as much as the individual plots—sometimes even more.

Character is both a person and a person’s essential nature, revealed by decisions and choices, especially those made under stress. It is those choices and decisions that create the plot.

And so, for me, it’s crucial to get to know my characters before I start writing their story. Because I write series, I know my recurring characters, but they are always surprising me. I knew that Pepper Reece, the main character in my new Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, got her nickname not from the shop but from her baseball-crazy grandfather, who dubbed the fiery three-year-old “Pepper” after the legendary Pepper Martin of the St. Louis Cardinals. But not until her mother Lena returns from Costa Rica for a visit in the third book, which I’ve just begun, did I know for sure what her real name is. (And no, I’m not going to tell you until then!) I knew she was raised in a communal household along with Kristen, her BFF and part-time employee. But I had no idea that in their early forties, these closer-than-sisters friends would discover that each had kept a secret or two.

Turns out that secrets are a theme to this series, as are questions about identity and the fine line between protecting someone and interfering. In Assault and Pepper, the first installment, Pepper finds a homeless man named Doc dead on the Spice Shop’s doorstep. The discovery rocks Pepper right down to her bay leaves. Nothing in her first year selling spice or her fifteen years managing staff HR at a giant law firm prepared her for the shock—or the consequences.

(Although being a cop’s wife for thirteen years did expose her to the seamier side of life. Especially when she discovered her husband and a meter maid—she still can’t say “parking enforcement officer”—in a back booth in a posh new restaurant practically plugging each other’s meters when he was supposed to be working a shift for a friend. Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s the bike cop on the Market beat.)

What’s even worse is when the homicide detectives—Spencer and Tracy, and yes, they’ve heard the jokes, and no, they’re not amused—focus on one of her trusted employees. She considers herself a good judge of people; after all, in both HR and retail, her livelihood depends on it. How could she have been so wrong? The only other suspects seem just as unlikely. Pepper investigates in part because she can’t believe her employee is guilty—or that the young woman would withhold the truth from her. The investigation forces her to confront the limits of her own judgment and her ability to work with other people. In the process, she learns new skills and draws on internal resources she didn’t know she had.

Plot unfolds when one character acts and another responds. And so as a writer, I ask my story people to tell me what they most want out of life. To show me their struggles, internal and external. To reveal how they respond when someone stands in their way. In the planning phase, I sometimes struggle until I identify the core conflicts between the victim and the killer—but also between the victim and other characters who fall under suspicion, and between the sleuth and those who would stop her. Ultimately, the characters’ actions and responses come together like the channels of a braided river.

Assault-and-Pepper-Leslie-Ann-BudewitzGetting there can be messy. It’s a kinetic process, always changing until I reach “the end” for the last time. It’s a lot of fun. I hope that it flows on the printed page, that it keeps you reading and asking questions. I hope my stories introduce you to a cast of folks you want to know, who show you a little something about life—and character.

Discover more about Assault & Pepper by Leslie Ann Budewitz!


seema

Seema Mahanian is an editorial assistant at Pamela Dorman Books/Viking. She isn’t ashamed to say that she will read any Kennedy family bio and can recite all Oscar best picture winners since 1927.

 

 

 

 

 

bonepeopleThe Bone People, by Keri Hulme

I ugly cried on a bus while reading The Bone People. Hard. But I was determined to finish, and I had zero regard for the fact that strangers were witnessing my heart being ripped out. So do I need to add that Keri Hulme’s debut, Booker-winning novel is devastating? Set in New Zealand’s South Island, three outcasts—Kerewin, a hermetic artist; Joe, a spiritual man and abusive alcoholic; and Simon, a mute, precocious orphan—form a family of sorts. Hulme, weaving in myth and legend, uses her characters to explore the intersection of Maori and European culture in contemporary New Zealand. The Bone People examine states of isolation, the desire for connection, and violence as communication. Raising the subjects of Maori displacement, and cultural survival, The Bone People is warm but brutal; it’s beautiful.

 

kitchens

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal

As an Australian, I have limited knowledge of Midwestern cuisine—I think cream of mushroom soup and casseroles involving marshmallows. I was wrong (sort of). This smart, hilarious, touching novel that reminds me of Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists, revolves around Eva Thorvald—a lonely young girl with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the legendary, mysterious chef of the most difficult dinner reservation in the country. She finds solace and salvation in the recipes and ingredients of the Midwest. Each chapter is the story of a single dish and character in Eva’s orbit, set against the backdrop of church bake-offs, hot pepper eating contests, and the opening weekend of hunting season. J. Ryan Stradal captures the zeitgeist of the Midwest, and with joyful, wistful prose, examines how food can create both community and identity, while highlighting the bittersweet nature of life. I’m so excited for this to come out in July 2015. Everyone who’s read it has fallen in love with it. So get ready, because you will, too.

interestings

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

As a twenty-something living in New York, where my friends are like family, tell me a book is about a group of twenty-something friends in New York, and the narcissist in me will devour it immediately. But I didn’t expect to fall for this novel so completely. The Interestings traces the friendships of a group of six—from fifteen-years old into adulthood—and how they, and their friendship, changes over the years. For me, few books about the passage of time  have captured both youthful idealism about art and potential, alongside the harsh realities of adult success, jealousy, and failure, with such insight. Some characters are so well-realized that it felt more like investing time with new friends just made between the pages, than reading a book.

 

onbeauty

On Beauty, by Zadie Smith

Oh, Zadie. She gives an examination of race and gender in contemporary Britain and the US, with rich lush characters that spring off the page. She ties in elements of Rembrandt and the way we construct meaning and significance from art, while looking at the seemingly simple difficulties of contemporary relationships, both romantic and familial. This novel accomplishes so many things at once, and with such ease, I half-expected it to cook my dinner and clean my apartment as well.

 

 

 

trilogy

The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster

We’ve all read detective novels. We start as children, then we grow up, go through a post-modernist phase, and read Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy. These three interlocked novels are incredible. Auster uses elements of classic and hardboiled detective fiction mixed with experimental and meta-fiction, littered with references to 19th century American authors, to explore the many layers of identity and reality. I was so enamored that I once chased Paul Auster around a city trying to get his photograph. Sorry not sorry, Mr. Auster.

 

 

 

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page.

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


carly

As a copywriter for Berkley and NAL, Carly Hoogendyk writes all the words you see on the outside of genre fiction books. In her spare time, she likes to read the insides of literary fiction books. She’s been an employee at Penguin since 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

interestings

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

Following a group of friends from their childhood arts summer camp to adulthood in New York City, The Interestings is an insightful story of talent, opportunity, and envy told with equal parts humor and heartbreak. I book-and-wine-clubbed this with a group of old college friends—a perfect choice, since the themes and characters hit close to home with our creatively-inclined friend group. (And not for nothing, that cover is like high book-fashion—a must-have accessory for your next subway ride.)

 

 

 

magicians

The Magicians Trilogy, by Lev Grossman

I’ve heard more than a few recommendations of The Magicians Trilogy that conjure the “grown up Harry Potter” comparison. Here’s why I think that is fair: The last time I tore through a fantasy series with such absorbed, maniacal velocity was when I inhaled six books about everyone’s favorite boy wizard (…and obviously, no regrets). But what Lev Grossman achieves with this series is uniquely marvelous (and for many reasons it merits the “literary fiction” classification). Quentin’s passage from childhood to adulthood is as filled with magical heroics as it is by mordant realism. Because as soon as Quentin graduates from his enchanted boarding school, he faces a life exactly like ours: where the search for adventure and meaning has a FAR lower success rate than in our beloved escapist fiction.

 

iamradar

I Am Radar, by Reif Larsen

After hearing that the plot drew on “the furthest reaches of quantum physics, forgotten history, and mind-bending art,” I knew I needed to snag an advance reader’s copy (this releases in February 2015). And it turned out to be the most gloriously surreal and imaginative book I read this year—also, I’ll say without trying to brag or scare you off, the one with the most pages. It’s an ambitious novel that only gets better and better as you go—especially if you like novels with storylines that converge satisfyingly despite what at first seems like a too-epic scope.

 

 

 

highfidelity

High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby is an impeccable storyteller. He writes books that are intellectual yet completely unpretentious—and best of all, he drops effortless one-liners that dependably make me laugh out loud. High Fidelity is the story of a heart-sick slacker with an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music re-tracing his romantic steps to determine whether there’s something wrong with him (spoiler: there is). You might remember it as a John Cusack movie, but I lovingly credit Hornby’s canonical masterpiece of “dick lit” with any understanding I will ever have of my boyfriend’s relationship to his vinyl collection. And in case you’ve already read everything by Nick Hornby (good on you!), he’s got another wit-fest of a novel that you can look forward to this summer called Funny Girl.

 

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page!

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Caitlin O’Shaughnessy is an Associate Editor at Viking and works with Clare Ferraro. She acquires and edits commercial fiction, nonfiction and illustrated books, including Sarah Lazarovic’s A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy, which was recently featured on the Today Show.

 

 

 

 

unbecomingUnbecoming, by Rebecca Scherm

This mesmerizing psychological suspense novel follows an irresistible femme fatale from small-town Tennessee to the glamorous art worlds and seedy underbellies of New York and Paris. The perfect follow-up for anyone who’s ready to move on from Gone Girl.

 

 

 

 

 

poser

The Poser, by Jacob Rubin

When Allison Lorentzen first brought The Poser to our editorial meeting I read a good chunk of this submission and  loved it. Now that it’s finished and is coming out in March 2015, I can’t wait to reread it and see how its evolved through the writing and editing process. The main character, Giovanni Bernini, is able to imitate anyone he encounters and becomes famous for his talents.  Rubin is a great writer with a long career ahead of him and his debut novel  is one to look out for.

 

 

 

secretplace

The Secret Place, by Tana French

This isn’t technically literary fiction but The Secret Place is the kind of book that’s so well-written you stay up all night to finish it. This is Tana’s fifth book (Viking also published In The Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, and Broken Harbor) and I think it’s her best one yet. She captures the dialogue of teenage girls and their text-filled romances in an uncanny way and it’s like a smart, literary version of spending a Saturday afternoon watching Mean Girls.

 

 

 

inventionThe Invention of Exile, by Vanessa Manko

This is a Brooklyn writer who lives up to the hype – Vanessa Manko’s heartrending novel about immigrant struggles in the early 1900s is hard to put down. Incredibly well written and  based on Vanessa’s own family history, it’s a great read and equally good to pass along to a mom or aunt.

 

 

 

 

 

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page!

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sdn1As soon as I finished reading the manuscript of Cristina Moracho’s Althea and Oliver, I knew I had to buy it for Viking. Even in its raw form, it was stunning—a coming-of-age story that combined lyricism and grit, humor and hard truths, and absolutely nailed life at the end of high school, when your tether to family and friends is beginning to fray. I couldn’t believe it was her first novel.

Neither could my colleagues. The word spread from Editorial to Design to Sub Rights to Marketing to Sales, and to my delight I watched every reader become an evangelist. Althea and Oliver is that rare book whose appeal crosses generational lines, and here’s why: It’s not a YA novel so much as a work of literature with teenagers in it.

It’s set in North Carolina, in the mid-1990s. Althea Carter and Oliver McKinley have been best friends since age six. Now, as they come up on their senior year of high school, Althea realizes that she wants more than just best-friendship. Oliver, for his part, wants things to go back to normal—because his body has begun to betray him. When he falls asleep in class and wakes up at home three weeks later with no memory of what has happened, he is finally forced to admit that something is seriously wrong.

And then Althea, who even at her best is an instigator, makes a very bad decision, and their relationship is shattered. Before they can talk it through, Oliver leaves town for a clinical sleep study in Manhattan, resolving to repair whatever is broken in his brain; Althea gets into her battered Camry and drives up the coast after him, determined to make up for what she’s done.

A plot summary can tell you just so much. Molly Templeton, from WORD Bookstores, can tell you more: “I loved it, to the point where I’m a little bit speechless.  I love that it’s a love story that isn’t a romance, and a coming-of-age tale that doesn’t have any too-tidy epiphanies; it felt intimate, accurate, and vivid, like I was living the book along with the characters. I can’t wait to tell people about this one. It’s mind-blowingly good.”Althea&Oliver

And others agree. Althea and Oliver has already gotten three starred reviews, been selected by the Junior Library Guild, has publication deals in six countries—and counting!—and I’ve just received the finished audiobook.

But, of course, the proof is in the prose. If you want to start reading Althea and Oliver right now, EW.com has made it very easy for you. Just click here!


Staff Picks Pic

Meaghan Wagner is an Assistant Editor and has been with Penguin since 2010. She is definitely the MVP of the Penguin Random House Downtown softball team, despite rumors you might have heard to the contrary.

 

 

 

 

 

wherelight

Where All Light Tends to Go, by David Joy

Admittedly this is more of a story that has crime and thrills in it, rather than your more traditional thriller, but since it is hands down the upcoming title I am most excited to see coming up, I must include it. David Joy so beautifully etches out the internal struggle between family loyalty and the personal hope for something better against the evocatively etched backdrop of the North Carolina meth trade.

 

 

 

 

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Naked in Death, by J.D. Robb

So this whole series really could go in here, but I figure it’s best to start at the beginning. This is the first series I obsessively collected – starting with the first 10 at a library book sale in 8th grade. I immediately fell in love with tough-as-nails Eve Dallas (and even contemplated getting a copycat tattoo of her famous rose) and her bad-boy Roarke. Robb (the alias for Nora Roberts) has a way of keeping every case fresh and fun and I look forward to the new book’s release *every* year.

 

 

 

doubleplay

Double Play, by Robert B. Parker

Double Play has everything about a classic Parker- snappy, clever dialogue, great characters, villains you love to hate, intricate mystery – but set around baseball and, of all people, Jackie Robinson.  The plot crackles and seeing Jackie fictionalized is endless fun for a baseball fan like me. With great flashback interludes, it one of the best-written Parker novels I’ve ever read (and that, my friends, is saying something).

 

 

 

 

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Loyalty, by Ingrid Thoft

This book has a special place in my heart – it was the first one I recommended Putnam acquire that we actually bought. After years mired in submission after submission, getting acquainted with Thoft’s tough-but-tender P.I. Fina Ludlow and her unbelievably dysfunctional family was a breath of fresh air. The second book in the series – Identity- came out this summer and the third will follow in 2015. Keep a lookout for Fina!

 

 

 

 

Find more books on the Mystery & Suspense page!

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Linda Cowen staff pick photoI’ve been a publishing lawyer for over 20 years, and at Penguin since 2008. I love to taunt other lawyers by saying things like, “Why yes, I do get paid to read novels all day.” Actually most of my novel reading gets done after hours, on the LIRR. Here are some recent faves:

 

 

 

9780143125242MLena Finkle’s Magic Barrel, by Anya Ulinich

Who says graphic novels have to be about super heroes (although some of us may regard Lena Finkle as one)? This wonderfully immersive story lets you experience what Lena’s life just as she does—saying one thing out loud and thinking something else at the same time. In this age of multi-media, it’s a pleasant surprise to see how “interactive” two dimensions can be. Best enjoyed in paper.

 

 

 

 

theoryA Working Theory of Love, by Scott Hutchins

Did you like the movie “Her?” Do you worry about whether/how much we can be replaced by robots? Do you believe in reincarnation? If you ponder any of these questions, this book is for you. It juxtaposes our most human hopes and fears alongside the possibility of the most advanced technology. Technology marches inexorably toward us, but the human heart beats on.

 

 

 

 

9780142180822MWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

If you can, get someone to rip the cover off this book before you read it (or advance your ereader past the cover page) and don’t read a single thing about it. I read this after it was announced as the winner of the 2014 Pen/Faulkner Award with no other knowledge about it. At first I thought I’d “gotten” it right away. Then it took a turn I didn’t see coming and I had to take a break and send copies to my two best friends so that they would read it along with me.

 

 

 

shirleyShirley: A Novel, by Susan Scarf Merrell

Who among us lovers of literary fiction has not imagined what it would have been like to hang around with our favorite authors of the mid-20th Century? You know, when authors were revered, and their lives were private. Susan Scarf Merrell took it one step further. After mining archives including letters and journals, she re-creates the world of author Shirley Jackson and her husband Stanley Edgar Hyman, inserting a fictional couple into their life.  Step inside this novel and see what happens when a writer asks herself “what if…”

 

 

 

9781594205712MEverything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

Where can a book that begins with tragedy go?  A teenage girl is dead; it’s not a place I really want to visit. And yet Celeste Ng captivates page by page. She’s never maudlin or melodramatic. Instead she unfolds this sad story in such a way that makes us appreciate her characters and want to see how they will make sense of what’s happened. Even though you know the ending won’t change the beginning—this isn’t a book about miracles—you will not want to abandon this family.

 

 

 

 

goodlordThe Good Lord Bird, by James McBride

I want to make a special plug for the audio version of this one. This book is full of outrageous characters speaking in dialect circa the 1850s, and hearing it brings it to life in a way that most of us can’t possibly create in our 21st Century minds. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that there can be a new way to tell an oft-told tale, but this narrator tells us story of John Brown’s fight against slavery in a way that makes the whole story completely fresh and new. This is neither middle school social studies nor “costume drama” historical fiction—it is vital, moving, thought provoking and raucous. Listen to it and you will see the story unfold in your mind’s eye as if you were watching the year’s Best Picture.

 

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page!

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