SONY DSCAs an editor and a reader there’s nothing I love more than a book that gives me a true emotional experience. Often, that experience is laughter. I work on a lot of humor books, and people tell me all the time that the books I work on make them laugh. But Brooke Shields’s book, There Was a Little Girl, was the first book I’ve edited that made me cry – and not just once!

From the moment I learned Brooke wanted to write this book I knew it was going to be powerful. Her mother was a fascinating, controversial figure, and I’d already read about and was intrigued by her life story. But when Brooke came in to meet with us and told us about her experience of growing up with Teri Shields and all of their ups and downs – as well as the painful experience of letting her mother go in October 2012 – I just couldn’t believe how touching, and relatable the story was. No one in the world has had a life like Brooke’s, but the experiences and emotions she’s had are truly 100% relatable to anyone who has ever loved (and lost) a parent.

ThereWasALittleGirlBrooke and I worked together on the manuscript for the next nine months – an amount of time we both noted! – and it was an incredible experience. Brooke wrote the whole book herself, just as she did when she wrote Down Came the Rain, and her voice and emotions come through on every page. There are moments of incredible humor, but so many lines still choke me up and have literally moved me to tears. As both a daughter and a soon-to-be mother, this book has truly touched me in so many ways, and taught me so much about the power of love, even when it isn’t easy. I couldn’t be more excited to share Brooke and Teri’s story with the world!


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I haven’t had many proposals cross my desk in my twenty years as an editor which I felt I was born to edit, but my heart skipped a beat when Andrew Roberts’ agent called to tell me he wanted to write a big, meaty new biography of Napoleon. Now truth be told I have been hunting for a good book on Napoleon for a long time. I’ve bought several (from bookstores), and they’ve generally left me filled with rage – the options seemed to be Freudian psychobabble or ranting indictment: if you take your cue from recent releases you’d think he was a frothing tyrant with blood on his britches. But the truth, as Andrew Roberts reveals in this magnificent biography that draws on a stupendously rich new cash of Napoleon’s letters (33,000 – and those are the ones that have survived, just think what he might have done in the age of email) is altogether more riveting. Napoleon was one of the giants of history. He was an inveterate bookworm who steeped himself in the writings of Caesar and modeled himself on him too, though he also gobbled up Rousseau and Voltaire and the great thinkers of the enlightenment, much like our own founding fathers. I came away from this book thinking that Napoleon was like Washington, Jefferson and Madison rolled into one: he was the visionary general who led France to victory in the series of wars that followed the French revolution (we were lucky not to have angry monarchs on all sides determined to overturn our revolution); he was an erudite intellectual and reformer like Jefferson who drew artists and scientists around him, introduced the metric system and set up the Louvre and France’s still stellar system of grandes ecoles and universities; and he was a state-builder like Madison who drafted a whole new set of laws and established the French national bank.

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Now for full disclosure my great great great grandfather on my father’s side was a colonel who fought for Napoleon and a true believer. Napoleon was a meritocratic, which may seem counter-intuitive for a man who crowned himself emperor. But he believed that if you gave people a sense that they were participating in something larger than themselves, they would live up to the moment and surpass your expectations. He was a great leader of men, and I was struck as I worked on the manuscript that modern business leaders would find much in his practice and philosophy to learn from. He was also an unbelievable romantic and his love letters to Josephine are worthy of a harlequin romance. It is true that in the end, in his campaigns in Spain and Russia, he made mistakes that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of men. But war is a messy business with many unintended consequences, as we have learned ourselves recently (not for the first time). Andrew Roberts is the biographer Napoleon has been waiting for – he writes like a dream and appreciates his (many) jokes.  And no one is better at telling the story of a battle so that you feel you are right there in the saddle, dodging canon fire and charging into the fray. But you don’t have to be a military history buff to love this book – I’m not particularly, and I can’t wait to go back to the beginning and read it all over again.

 

Read more about Napoleon by Andrew Roberts


photo 3A woman came to my door the other day and said, “You’re the editor of Superstorm, right?”  My assistant has been out on maternity leave and so I’m getting used to people I don’t recognize waltzing into my office.  “Great book” the woman said and so of course she had my attention.  She said she was from Gerristen Beach, a part of Brooklyn that was about 10 feet underwater after Sandy rolled through.  Her family lost the house her father built.  They are still putting their lives back together.  She is a temp working in Operations for PRH at 375 Hudson Street.  She loves this book.  Me too.

We had just had our Halloween party back in 2012 in this building when New Yorkers started to realize the big bad hurricane was coming to get us.  As she was working on Superstorm Kathryn Miles said the storm was like the shark in Jaws—yes, her story is that scary.  Forecasters and their science were unable to make sense of this unprecedented system as it played out; seamen with all their traditional knowledge couldn’t predict what it would do; and the survivors whose lives it all but destroyed are still trying to pick up the pieces.  This story is all about the unforgiving, fearsome power of nature—just when we thought we had it beat.

We meet Chris Landsea, the Science and Operations Officer at the National Hurricane Center who had been thinking the 2012 hurricane season was a quiet one—and pretty much over—until he and a colleague noticed what looked like the beginnings of an unusual tropical depression.  But the picture the data delivered was not clear.  Kathryn Miles’ gripping narrative soon demonstrates that we have a national infrastructure emergency that we haven’t yet noticed.  It isn’t just that our bridges and schools are in danger of collapsing, our scientific data gathering, especially meteorological data gathering systems, are an appalling, neglected mess.  Forecasters used to rely on a tool called the quick scatterometer which used microwave sensors to gauge winds speeds near the ocean surface.  Then it broke.  In 2009.  Ever since we’ve been using a vastly inferior European data stream and have no plans to replace it.  This of course is merely one example…

SuperstormThe New York Office of Emergency Management advised Mayor Bloomberg that all was fine on Saturday night, but then by Sunday morning had him calling for the mandatory evacuation of 350,000 people including the families of Gerristen Beach.  Given the state of our forecasting infrastructure, this flip flop is perhaps not so surprising.

Kathryn Miles’ Superstorm is a gripping read, and it is also a necessary one in a time of increasingly unpredictable, deadly weather.

Happy Halloween.

Read more about Superstorm by Kathryn Miles.


When I was young my parents used to traipse my two brothers, my sister and me around Europe to see the sights – my mother was a historian, and we spent a lot of time reliving the Albigensian crusades, climbing ramparts and re-enacting the fates of kings and heretics. I remember a trip through Normandy when every time we passed a broom bush we would cry out “Plant a Genet” – Geoffrey Plantagenet, the founder of the dynasty that ruled England before the Tudors, used to stick a Theplantagenetssprig of broom in his hat. The Plantagenets controled England and Normandy, and large swaths of France. Their most famous kings – Henry Ist, Richard the Lionheart, Edward I, were heroic rulers, brave on the battlefield and skillful in their stewardship of government. The less appealing among them – “Bad” King John, Edward II, Richard III – were conniving and duplicitous egotists, the famous villains of Shakespeare’s history plays.

All of this was a bit of a blur of fact and myth until I read Dan Jones’ The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England. Dan’s history is alive – he puts you right there on the battlefield, and inside the thoughts of knights and knaves as they contemplate cunning acts of treachery or meet their gory deaths. He is a natural storyteller – which means that he tells history as it should be told, as a story, with larger than life characters and surprising plot twists. This is history for fans of Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings – with all of the sexual escapades and gory ends –only in this case every word is true.

TheWarsoftheRosesMy son is three and thinks of himself as a knight, and I think there is something deeply appealing about that world, with its code of honor, bravery  and chivalry. Dan Jones’ Plantagenets was a surprise NY Times bestseller for us – everyone in house loved it, and it became a huge sales department favorite. We are about to publish his follow up, The Wars of the Roses, which tells the story of how the Plantagenets essentially clawed themselves apart and were finally replaced by the Tudors. The Tudors are familiar – Henry with his bloody serial monogamy, Elizabeth and Mary, Queens who knew that their power was at once sharpened and compromised by their sex. But how did they come to rule England? It turns out that their grandfather would never in his wildest dreams have imagined that his descendents would one day wear the crown. When Katherine of Valois chose him as her second husband, she did so because she thought he was safe. Little did she know what trouble their children would have in store for them. Dan Jones is so much fun to read that once you finish you want to go right back to the beginning and start all over again.

Start Reading an Excerpt from The Plantagenets and learn more about The Wars of the Roses.


9780399163241_large_Pennyroyal_AcademyPlaying make-believe as a kid, I usually dreamt up that I was one of two people:  “the grocery store checkout lady” or “the guy that cleans your windows at the gas station.” Not on the list: the princess. Maybe because I’d never seen one up close? Maybe I was just exceedingly practical? No, it definitely had more to do with princesses being, to my mind, fine but boring. What do they really do all day? Nothing as cool as wielding a squeegee.

Then I read A Little Princess. And not long after that, The Princess Bride. Suddenly, I’d found two “princess stories” that I would read again and again. They were funny, moving, and a little scary, with princesses I cheered for and loved to spend time with. So it felt a little magical when three years ago, Pennyroyal Academy crossed my desk, a submission that instantly reminded of these cherished books. Only then, it was called Pennyroyal’s Princess Bootcamp. It was hilarious and charming, and we knew immediately that we wanted to publish it.

Then in a twist befitting the best fairytales, something even more magical happened: debut novelist M.A. Larson shaped Pennyroyal’s Princess Bootcamp into the extraordinary Pennyroyal Academy, a novel that’s not only sharp and funny, but is a clever Grimm-like fairytale (starring a heroine Sara Crewe and Buttercup would definitely be proud of). The tongue-in-cheek is still there, but so now, too, is an incredible warmth and heart, and a memorable cast of characters, from princesses and knights, to witches and dragons.

We first meet our heroine, Evie, stumbling through an enchanted forest, wearing a dress made of cobwebs, desperate to make her way to the famed Pennyroyal Academy. For the first time in its long history, the academy has lifted its blood restrictions and all are welcome to enroll at this premier training ground for princesses and knights. The school has no choice. With the threat of witches growing stronger every day, they need all the help they can get. But for Evie, life at the academy means enduring a harsh training regimen under the ever-watchful eye of her fairy drillsergeant, while also navigating a new world of friends and enemies. I hope you’ll have as much fun falling into the world of Pennyroyal as I have–this is a story that is surprising, tender, and inspiring, with the affirming message: “You get to decide what you want to be. No one else.” No matter what your make-believe preference, there’s something here for everyone.

ps. If you have 5 minutes (of course you do, you’re reading this!), check out the Pennyroyal website for our Princess Maker and to discover your true princess name:!


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When I was given the job of heading up Fredrick Warne publishing in the U.S., I ran home and found my old, worn copies of the Peter Rabbit stories. Memories of reading these books, about a strong-willed rabbit (both as a child and to my own children) flooded back to me. The books were worn, but well loved!

Beatrix Potter, the creator of these beloved books, was a talented and generous woman. But she was also a determined lady and not shy about speaking her mind. When The Tale of Peter Rabbit was turned down by several publishers, she was not defeated—she published it herself! And when the book was eventually picked up by Frederick Warne, Beatrix was not shy about telling her editor what she liked and didn’t like about the editorial process! Speaking your mind might not seem an out-of-the-ordinary character trait for young women today, but Beatrix lived during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and you know all too well how women back then were expected to behave!

Fast-forward 100-plus years to another strong, outspoken woman—the formidable actress and activist Emma Thompson—who has written her third original Peter Rabbit tale, The Spectacular Tale of Peter Rabbit. What I admire about Emma Thompson is that she is outspoken, elegant, and immensely talented. Both Beatrix Potter and Emma Thompson channeled their individuality through little Peter Rabbit, who is wise yet rash, funny yet dignified, and always a tad mischievous—sound familiar?

SpectacularPeterRabbitIn The Spectacular Tale of Peter Rabbit, Peter’s thrill-seeking nature remains undimmed. He is still the little rabbit who doesn’t know the meaning of the word no. So, when a spectacular fair comes to town and Peter is told he can’t attend—well, you know exactly what he will do. And in case you don’t, or want to find out, pick up a copy of the book. You can also listen to the tale, which is beautifully narrated by Emma Thompson, on the CD that comes with the book.

Strong women, a strong rabbit—timeless lessons to be learned!

View all of Penguin’s Peter Rabbit Tales!


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!


Max Reid works in Penguin Books Editorial, where he can be found talking at length about how much he loves New York.

 

 

 

 

ceremony

Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko

I first read Ceremony for a Native American Religion course my freshman year of college.  I expected bows and arrows and trips to the museum- I didn’t think for a second we might actually be talking about Native Americans today. Ceremony focuses on the loss of identity so many Native Americans have experienced in the 21st century, and shows better than anything else I’ve read that Native American culture is not just history.

 

 

 

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We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin

As a citizen of the world I’m happy to report I had a healthy phase of dystopian fiction that sufficiently scared the hell out of me.  This one hits particularly hard – a nation built entirely of glass, allowing secret police to watch your every move. Yeah. 1984 and it’s many protégés find their way to most school reading lists, but if you haven’t read We, you’re missing out – Zamyatin was a dissident in the early Soviet Union, so he knows what he’s talking about.

 

 

 

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Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl 

You’re not going to find a bigger fan of the Gene Wilder / Mel Stuart film adaptation, but really, if you haven’t read Roald Dahl’s masterpiece (one of many, in my opinion) you’re missing out on a trip through a world even more vibrant than Technicolor could offer. Try as you might, Tim Burton, but there’s just no replicating Roald Dahl’s imagination.

 

 

 

 

whitenoise

White Noise, by Don DeLillo

After 100 pages of living with the Gladney family, you’re part of it too, whether you like it or not.  DeLillo is sneaky about it – you may not even realize you love these characters until things start to unravel, as they always do.  DeLillo looks behind the façade of the modern American family, and finds the fears we all share.

 

 

 

 

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On Being Different, by Merle Miller

Clocking in at 96 pages (that’s with the introduction and afterword), this is one of the most eye opening and powerful books I’ve read.  Merle recounts his experience growing up homosexual in a world that wasn’t welcoming, to say the least.  It’s heartbreaking, and unsettling that some of what he recounts was happening on a large scale only a few short decades ago.  I’d love to see this on more high school reading lists.

 

 

 

Find more books on the Penguin Classics page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


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!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


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Stephen Morrow, Executive Editor at Dutton

 

 

 

 

 

denaliDenali’s Howl, by Andy Hall

It was 1967, the summer of love, and while Haight-Ashbury was dancing to White Rabbit and the Beatles were dropping acid, twelve sober young men climbed into the worst storm ever to hit the summit of Alaska’s Mt. McKinley or Denali as the locals call it. Only five made it back.  Andy Hall, the son of the Mt. McKinley National Park superintendent at the time, was five years old. Denali’s Howl is his telling of what befell those on the mountain and those at its foot trying to help.  It is also a study in how we think of our past, how such tragedies can become embedded in the meaning of our lives, our unwritten autobiographies, and yet remain mysterious.

 

 

mindThe Organized Mind, by Daniel J. Levitin

Could good old conscientious organization really be the secret to navigating the modern world’s flood of details?  As Daniel Levitin shows, the latest neuroscience says yes.  From how to deal with your kitchen junk drawer (what are those keys in there for anyway?) to how to organize your thoughts for the most important decisions of all, The Organized Mind is a book that brings together the ordinary everyday experience of making your life work better with Levitin’s expert insight into how attention and memory function. This isn’t just a book about being neater, it is about clearing a space in which you (and your kids) can be resoundingly creative.

 

 

superstormSuperstorm, by Kathryn Miles

We had just had our Halloween party back in 2012 at 375 Hudson Street when New Yorkers started to realize the big bad hurricane was coming to get us.  As she was working on Superstorm Kathryn Miles said the storm was like the shark in Jaws–only this monster ate its way up from Jamaica to the Great Lakes, with New York City as its main course.  Her story of forecasters and their science unable to make sense of this unprecedented system as it played out day by day, of the seamen whose traditional knowledge didn’t help, and of the people whose lives it destroyed is all about the unforgiving, fearsome power of nature—just when we thought we had it beat.

 

 

doessantaexistDoes Santa Exist?, by Eric Kaplan

Ok, so Does Santa Exist? is the most profound and funny book I’ve ever worked on and probably ever will.  I am pretty much unhinged about it.  Eric Kaplan has a job as a brilliant comic writer on America’s  most popular sit com and is finishing his Ph.D. at Berkeley, but I’m just hoping he starts a cult so I can join it.  How could such a simple, childish question lead to such a dazzling, exuberant flight across the deepest questions of human existence?  You will learn a bunch of philosophy, and the point of it all too.  As Matt Groening said, “It is the funniest book of philosophy since… well, ever.”  Just the thing for the gift giving season!

 

 

 

Find more books on the Current Events & History page!

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