marisa_novelloMarisa Novello is the editorial coordinator for Puffin, at Penguin Young Readers. Originally from Seacoast New Hampshire, she loves paperback books, getting hyperlinked gifs in emails, and quoting Hyperbole and a Half with coworkers.


My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

I’m pretty sure Huntley’s first book has been recommended here before, but she’s well worth mentioning again. I suggest starting with My Life Next Door because her third book, The Boy Most Likely To (out August 2015!), centers around two of the supporting characters from this first one. Besides, it’s a really good one. Huntley has a way of building tension between her characters that makes her a romance writing queen, and these characters will give you some serious butterflies and you will fall in love. She also writes a pretty sexy story for YA, so it’s the perfect pick for a cross-over adult audience as well.

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Sweep- Book of Shadows, the Coven, and Blood Witch by Cate Tiernan

Sweep by Cate Tiernan

Sweep! This is kind of cheating, because it’s not really one book but a series. Sweep is just plain FUN! I love any kind of witchy read, but this one is like a saga that would be the perfect CW series. If you like The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle, then this one’s for you. It’s fun and fast paced with love triangles, spells, and teenagers saving the world while the rest of society has no idea they’re even in danger (especially those silly, naïve parents who are more concerned about grades and curfew. Jeez!) And it’s set in the 90s, which I also love. Don’t let the books’ page counts scare you off, the five volumes are bind ups of the original fifteen short stories but they’re quick reads.



Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

I have never been a huge fan of Westerns.  I think it’s because of all the John Wayne movies my mother made me sit through when I was growing up. Sorry, John Wayne fans! But this book is Thelma and Louise meets the Oregon Trail, and has changed my mind about the Wild West as a backdrop. I also prefer my romance tucked, wrapped, and layered inside a really great story, and that’s exactly what this is! Though it’s not the main plot, it’s definitely in the forefront and I found myself falling in love along with the characters. It’s adventure, history, and a great tale about friendship, saving yourself, and looking forward after a troubled past.  You also learn some Chinese culture that really adds to the narrative. This is Stacey Lee’s debut, but you’ll see more of her. She has another historic novel on the way in Summer 2016!

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The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

The Bourbon Kings by J. R. Ward

This one’s for those readers that like a sexier, contemporary romance. I had never read J. R. Ward before, but she deserves some serious credit for her world-building skills in this book. She compares this southern estate setting to that of Downton Abby, since the story revolves around a wealthy family and the staff that make their world possible. And I think it’s a fair comparison! Though the main thread follows a second-chance love story between two characters, it’s a third-person narrative that gives you a peek into the lives of the others entwined in their story as well. And the drama! There’s a lot of scandal, romance, money, and a heck of a lotta bourbon! That was probably the most fun for me; learning about the Kentucky bourbon business which I’m sure J. R. Ward put a lot of research into.


Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

This counts because there’s “romance” in the title, right? Plus I just had to sneak a non-fiction title into the mix. But really, this is a great book and it is about romance. So for any of you not interested in romantic fiction, this one’s for you!

 Whenever I visit my great uncle in New Jersey he shares stories about his late wife, and by the way he talks about her I always assumed it was love at first sight. Until recently, when I asked how they met and he told me his friend knew a “nice girl” that lived close by. What?! But that’s exactly what Aziz speaks to when he begins his research about the generations before us, and how proximity and limited options were a key factor in partnership. Aziz even uses his own parents as a model of reference, mentioning his dad took less time deciding on his wife than Aziz does on his Seamless order. Then you add Eric Klinenberg’s sociology research into the mix, and we learn terms like companionate marriage and soul mate marriage while they delve into the modern technologies this generation uses to meet people. It’s interesting and funny, and they raise some insightful observations while making fun of our social behaviors in the digital age. Even with all the statistics, facts, and examples, the writing is easy and conversational. It’s sociology wrapped up in a standup routine, and while you don’t need the audio version to get Aziz’s humorous tone and inflection, it’s definitely a great format for enjoying this book!

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The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

I think I read this in about one sitting. If you like a more action-packed romance, then this is it. It’s a fast read that takes you from a small town in Maine to the streets of Istanbul and Paris, while a compelling mystery narrative keeps the action moving. And though Avery’s story in this is not your typical teen drama, she still has those typical teen girl thoughts. Like, did Jack ask her to the prom for ulterior motives, or because he really likes her? It’s just pure fun, and though the content is completely PG rated, Maggie Hall builds up to a pretty intimate scene for YA romance that had me kind of fanning myself. While you will definitely fall for one boy more than the other in this one, I have a feeling we can expect to find more conflict between her two romantic prospects in her second book, Map of Fates, coming out Spring 2016.

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Love by the Book by Melissa Pimentel

Love by the Book by Melissa Pimentel

Just look at that cover! This is a really funny read that definitely holds up to its comparison to Bridget Jones. Lauren, the main character, isn’t really looking for love, though. She a modern heroine looking for a male companion to have around, serious or not. Mostly not. She gets herself into all sorts of trouble experimenting with a different book of dating advice for a certain amount of time, and seeing what kind of man and relationship she attracts. This isn’t your swoony romance, and though you won’t fall in love, the romantic debauchery will leave you feeling very entertained.

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picture - Julie KocsisJulie Kocsis is a Production Coordinator at Berkley. She loves reading biographies and memoirs, quoting Seinfeld, complaining about the MTA, and watching documentaries (the good kind, not the dull kind they forced you to watch in high school social studies classes). She lives in a fairly un-trendy area of Brooklyn, but enjoys visiting the trendy parts from time to time to eat ramen, dance to ‘90s pop music, wander aimlessly in comfortable shoes, and people watch.


Paddle Your Own Canoe- One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living, by Nick Offerman

Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living, by Nick Offerman

“This isn’t a self-improvement book,” you say? “This is just a collection of essays some clown wrote!” Well, technically you’re correct. However, this book is actually chock-full of life advice. Author Nick Offerman (the actor who played Ron Swanson on Parks & Rec) takes readers through his childhood in rural Illinois, his experiences as a theater actor in both Chicago and LA, and how he met his wife (Megan Mullally). Interspersed throughout these biographical parts are bits of life advice, my favorite being, “Choose your favorite spade and dig a small, deep hole located deep in the forest or a desolate area of the desert or tundra. Bury your cell phone and then find a hobby.” One of Offerman’s personal favorite hobbies is woodworking, particularly canoe-hulling (hence the name of the book). Overall, this is a very funny and enjoyable book that could help you lead a more fulfilling life.

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A Field Guide to Awkward Silences, by Alexandra Petri

A Field Guide to Awkward Silences, by Alexandra Petri

Perhaps you’re looking for some self-help to answer the question “How can I get more out of life? I’m bored.” In this case, I would recommend reading A Field Guide to Awkward Silences by Alexandra Petri. The biggest take-away I got from this book is that Petri simply goes for it in life. This 20-something has attended and participated in conventions of all types – whistling, pun-making, and Star Wars (“As a general rule, I advise against trying to pick up men at Star Wars conventions”). Additionally, she was on Jeopardy!, was accidentally baptized into a cult, has auditioned for America’s Next Top Model, and has personally been called “bitchy” by Rush Limbaugh on-air (“If I were president [As if we’d ever elect a lady world president!] I’d ditch certain words. I’d retire them to a farm upstate… Take slut. Take bitch. Please.”). This book is hilarious, entertaining, and full of personal stories that will inspire you to say “yes” to doing more in life so that you’ll never feel unfulfilled or bored again!

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Lizz Free or Die, by Lizz Winstead

Lizz Free or Die, by Lizz Winstead

Although I’ve only ever been a casual watcher of The Daily Show, I’ve always been particularly interested in hearing from women who work in comedy, which is what drew me to read this collection of essays by the show’s creator Lizz Winstead. The book provides a good number of hilarious stories, particularly the ones about growing up in a Catholic household where religious items hung on every wall, (“… like the Virgin Mary on the Half Shell, or the regionally acceptable portrait of the Scandinavian-looking Jesus who could have been in an ABBA tribute band”). There are also some very emotional stories about the death of her father as well as stories about getting into stand-up comedy, moving to New York and creating The Daily Show. The best piece of advice I gathered from this book actually came from the Preface where she states, “…humor is the most useful tool to help put even the most painful moments of life into perspective.”

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Elements of Wit- Mastering the Art of Being Interesting, by Benjamin Errett

Elements of Wit: Mastering the Art of Being Interesting, by Benjamin Errett

After reading the abovementioned three books by such hilarious and witty authors, you may now be thinking, “I want to be hilarious and witty just like them! How can I go about doing that?” Though some people out there are probably a bit of a lost cause in this department (hopefully you know who you are), some people might just need a little guidance, which is where Elements of Wit comes in. This fascinating book features advice from some of the wittiest people in history – from Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare to Louis C.K. and Mae West. Though it is difficult to choose just one bit of advice from this book to share with you, I’d have to go with author Benjamin Errett’s theory on why Seinfeld’s George Costanza (an unattractive, jobless loser who lives with his parents) is able to date such beautiful women – “he’s always got something clever to say… and therein lies the real-life truth of the sitcom reality: Men with something witty to say to women are naturally going to have more of a chance at striking up a relationship.” As a female, that sounds about right to me. So to the men out there desperately trying to get the attention of women, maybe put down the iron you’ve been pumping at the gym and try your hand at saying something witty. Who knows, it worked for George!

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Helen Richard_headshotHelen Richard is an Editorial Assistant at G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Originally from Colorado, Helen worked for years at the Boulder Book Store and the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver before intuiting that she should move to New York City to work in publishing. When not reading new fiction, she can be found hiking in upstate New York, loitering in independent bookstores, hunting down Brooklyn’s best craft breweries, and enjoying all things pickled.


Battleborn by Claire Vaye WatkinsBattleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins

One of the first books I read after moving to New York City and taking a job in publishing, this breathtaking collection of stories reminded me of exactly why I had made such a difficult move. Claire Vaye Watkins speaks to her readers with unforgettable passion and strength, capturing a yearning for home, the weight of familial legacy, and a ruthless understanding of human connection like no other author I’ve recently encountered. Stories like “Ghosts, Cowboys” and “Heart of Graceland” left me stunned by the power of her voice and the raw beauty of her prose.  I love that she has transcended many tired tropes about the American West and created a portrait that is brutally honest and unforgettably evocative. I can’t wait for her new novel, Gold Fame Citrus, to be out this fall!

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The Underwriting by Michelle Miller

The Underwriting by Michelle Miller

Rarely is social satire this much fun! Michelle Miller’s take on Millenials is well-observed and so hilarious. While many characters begin the novel as recognizable stereotypes, Miller’s empathy for each shines through, and I found myself understanding even the bro-iest of bankers and the brainiest of computer programmers in a new light. It’s heartening to see someone speaking so honestly to and for the tech generation, especially when it’s set against a sexy backdrop of New York wealth and San Francisco tech, and involves a twisted murder! This is the book I’ve been telling all of my friends to read—it’s endless fun, and it’ll make you think twice before the next time you “swipe right” on a dating app.

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The Sound of Things Falling, by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

I’ve long been a fan of South American fiction, and there is just something so special about Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s novel. He’s able to transform one man’s troubled memories into an unforgettable portrait of Colombia. I was mesmerized by the settings: an abandoned zoo once owned by a Colombian drug lord, a billiards club, the violent streets of Bogota. The narrator Antonio is haunted by a murder and by his relationship with ex-pilot Ricardo, and Antonio’s evolving understanding of Colombia’s violent past is absolutely riveting. Vásquez moves deftly between the decades, capturing the fear of the 1980s and a present nostalgia to create a mesmerizing portrait of a nation longing for innocence and freedom.



Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Liftin

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Liftin

This novel will be out this July and thank god—it’s beyond perfect for a day at the beach! If you’ve ever looked at a gossip magazine and wondered what’s really going on behind the outrageous headlines, this imaginative romp through an A-list marriage will have you hooked. Written by real-life celebrity ghost writer Hilary Liftin, it’s a juicy story of a celebrity love affair gone wrong that captures the perfect mix of tabloid gossip and heartfelt narrative. I loved how real and warm Lizzie Pepper’s voice is, and how tender some moments of her star-studded journey feel. You can’t help but root for Lizzie from beginning to end, and you also can’t help but wonder if this could have happened to someone real…

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summer 2014 050Krista Ahlberg is an Assistant Production Editor for Viking, Puffin, and Razorbill. Besides books, she also enjoys Broadways musicals, wandering the city, and watching TV. But mostly books.




The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Jerry Pinkney is one of my favorite illustrators, and here his colorful and fantastical-yet-grounded pictures enhance the folk story of two girls who meet an old woman in the forest. One girl’s kindness is rewarded with riches while the other… well, has a rather different outcome.





The Golden Specific by S. E. Grove

I loved The Glass Sentence, but I think I love The Golden Specific even more. It’s great to be able to explore more of a fantasy world in a sequel, especially a world as fantastic and layered as this one, where different parts of the world have been thrown into different time periods. Now, Theo is in Boston going undercover with a secret identity (or two) in order to discover what a sinister member of parliament is up to, while Sophia is off to the Papal States to follow a lead about her parents’ disappearance. There are more maps, as well as ghosts (I always like a good ghost), mysteries, and lovely new characters, combining to make a truly magical book.

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Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

I remember reading this book in an airport when I was thirteen, and I’ve reread it many times since then. I love fairy-tale retellings, and this is one of my absolute favorites. Switching perspective between Rapunzel, the prince, and the witch, the story becomes much more complicated than the one you thought you knew. Zel is whimsical and sometimes dark, exploring what it would actually be like to spend years locked in a tower without ever losing its lyrical, fairy-tale tone.





Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

This latest offering is bursting with everything there is to love about a Sarah Dessen book: a likeable protagonist who seems to express exactly what you always wanted to say but couldn’t find the words, a bevy of different familial relationships, a kickass best friend, and just a really good boy. I especially love the character of Layla and how she and Sydney complement and help each other. And the delicious descriptions of pizza and French fries in the novel are not to be missed.

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The Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson

As mentioned above, I love me some ghosts, and this series has all kinds. Friendly ghosts, evil ghosts, sad ghosts, annoying ghosts, and even angsty ’80s post-punk teen ghosts (easily my favorite kind). Rory is one of those teenage protagonists who is super smart (and super funny, of course; I don’t think it’s possible for Maureen Johnson to write a character who isn’t), but who also makes a lot of mistakes and doesn’t always get it right. Though the Jack the Ripper premise of the first book is hard to top, the stakes just keep getting higher, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.



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IMG_20150401_140930Zarren Mykhail Kuzma is a Sales Analyst for Penguin Young Readers Group. By day, he reads vertically in many excel grids. By night, he reads horizontally in many books. His B minus sense of humor is well known throughout the land. You can follow him on Twitter @zmkuzma… if you dare.



The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith

So, we read a lot of books here. (It’s the nature of the work, and, of course, many Penguins are also book nerds.) But, for me, there are some moments when lethargy strikes and it’s difficult to really get into a groove with a book. I might recklessly start and stop any number of titles, looking for something to scratch that reading itch, but nothing seems to work. Toymaker’s Apprentice is a book that brought me out of one of these funks, and in a way, reminded me why I like to read. On its surface, it’s a clever retelling of the Nutcracker, but at its core it’s an adventure, an exploration of secrets and magic, and a truly imaginative storytelling wonder.



The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove

The Glass Sentence flew under my radar at first. It sat on my shelf for ages before I decided to give it a try even though the premise always stuck out to me: Earth placed in utter chaos because of a mysterious disaster that has thrown every continent into a different historical period of time. It wasn’t until I started this book that I began to realize that it was legitimately marvelous. I mean look at this example list of things that you’ll encounter if you read it: magical maps, ghosts, pirates, plant people, train escapes, and steampunk. Can you really ask for anything else?

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Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

When I read Circus Mirandus, two images come to my mind. The first is the story itself. This book transports you to place that is warm, magical, and filled with wonder. It honestly has the feel of an instant classic in the mold of Roald Dahl or J. M. Barrie. The second image—which is related—is of a parent and a child reading together, sharing this book. This is one of those books that you keep on the nightstand and read a little every night to your children before they fall asleep. (I say that, and I don’t even have kids.) I think it’s the kind of book that can inspire a lifelong love of reading and will be remembered by many for years and years to come.

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An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

There are books that cause me to miss my subway/train stop. There are also books that—after finishing them—make me miss the main characters because of everything that I’ve endured with them. An Ember in the Ashes does both. This YA novel is particularly special because of one key trait: honesty. That might seem strange to say, but this fantasy boldly confronts some of the terrible things that we encounter in real life. Sexism, abuse, slavery, violence—Ember in the Ashes rips away the veil and forces you to openly confront the potential for people to be both good and evil.

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Philip K. Dick: Four Novels of The 1960s by Philip K. Dick

I remember the first story I read by Philip K. Dick. At the time, I didn’t know that he was one of the most famous science fiction authors of all time, whose works have spawned a hefty number of films. Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990 and 2002), and Minority Report (2002), are just a few. The story is called “Shell Game”, and I remember my exact emotional arc: utterly confused at the beginning, mesmerized by the clarity and reveals in the middle, and shocked (and a little depressed) at the end. “Shell Game” and, in fact, much of Philip K. Dick’s work plays with expectations, challenges reality, and in an odd way says quite a bit about human nature. After reading “Shell Game”, I picked up this exact collection of his novels and became a Philip K. Dick fan 4 lyfe.



The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq by Hassan Blasim

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. It’s jarring, it’s comic, it’s fantasy and reality smashed together in a bleakly dark wartime scenario. I was recently asked by a friend of mine, “What book that’s come out recently do you think that everyone should read?” I tend to recommend books based on who’s asking for the suggestion, but this question warranted only one answer: The Corpse Exhibition. There are so many reasons to read this book both social (it’s about the Iraq war from an Iraqi perspective) and literary (Hassan Blasim is, in my mind, an Iraqi Gabriel García Márquez or Julio Cortázar). But ultimately, this collection simply opens you up to something completely new. Just one story in and you know that you’re about to read something that you’ve never seen before.


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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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kristen 2

Kristen O’Connell is the Sr. Director of Consumer Marketing and Social Media for Penguin Random House. In her free time you can catch her watching or playing tennis, working on her really old house, and spending time with her husband, son and dog.

When I think about my dad and books, I think about my childhood summers and the reading lists he’d assign to me in addition to what my school required. I clearly remember having to reach page 100 in my Little House on the Prairie book before I could join my friends at the pool. It’s not always easy hanging with a teacher on summer vacation when you’re 10, but I thank him for it now! When it comes to books for dad, sports bios and thrillers are always a hit—with the occasional twist thrown in for good measure.

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Tom Clancy Under Fire by Grant Blackwood

Jack Ryan Jr? Check. Political intrigue? Check. A wildly thrilling read from a beloved voice? Check. A no-brainer for dad!






The Miracle of St. Anthony by Adrian Wojnarowski 

There’s a review of this riveting story of triumph in sports from the Raleigh News and Observer praising the book as “The Friday Night Lights of Hoops.” There’s no truer statement about this riveting examination of a season following Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley’s St. Anthony’s High School basketball team. “Clear eyes, full hearts!”




The Italians by John Hooper

John Hooper’s insightful and often funny look at what makes the people of Italy tick is a wonderful read for Italian-Americans and travel enthusiasts alike. If you grew up watching soccer on the RAI channel like I did, you know Dad will love it.

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You Cannot Be Serious by John McEnroe and James Kaplan

The two most important things my father taught me about tennis was to never be afraid to go to the net (like his beloved Johnny Mac) and don’t loose your temper (like his beloved Johnny Mac). On the court, I’ve often failed on both fronts, but this fantastic memoir from one of the most beloved and reviled characters in American sport is a must-read for fans of the game.


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photoBria Sandford is an associate editor for Portfolio, Sentinel, and Current. In her spare time she reads about the Puritans and talks about New Hampshire.


excellent-women-by-barbara-pym 2Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

At a glance, you might think the story of Mildred Lathbury, a young single woman in post-war London, would be a cozy little read and nothing more, but you’d be wrong. Under the surface of this rather conventional story of romantic near-misses, there’s an undercurrent of wry self-deprecation and bitter resignation that’s quite bracing. Pym’s heroine is an “excellent woman,” who lives a quiet life, does what needs to be done, is aware that she’s constantly overlooked, and copes with humor, grace, and just the tiniest touch of despair. I picked this up a couple of years ago when I was looking for a relaxing but smart weekend read, and it nearly threw me into a quarter-life crisis. I’ve not been able to get enough of Barbara Pym since. (I also can’t stop recommending her; while writing this I got a text from a friend saying, “Mildred is driving me crazy!”)

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The Sagas of the Icelanders by Various

Come for the largely historically accurate prose histories of Icelandic society, stay for the battles with magicians protected by armies of cats. Most interesting to me were the stories of Icelandic women, who seemed to retain more influence than their European sisters did. Be sure to read about Unn the Deep-Minded, who in old age captained her own ship and moved her family to Iceland, where she freed all of her slaves and spread her Christian faith.


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Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

This Scandinavian epic traces the entire life of a woman in medieval Norway, from her childhood through her years as a wife and mother to her eventual entry into a convent shortly before her death. A group of my friends badgered me for months before I actually gave in and started the enormous tome, and I wish I’d caved sooner. Undset’s theologically and psychologically rich treatment of the themes of love, sin, and grace were life-changing, and her characters will be with me for a long time to come.

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Selected Stories by E.M. Forster

I’ve picked this Forster collection solely because it includes “The Machine Stops.” The story describes a dystopian world where everyone has abandoned the surface of the earth to live underground in “the Machine.” In the Machine, people live in climate-controlled pods, where the Machine makes life easy. They communicate with friends and family virtually. No one ventures outside, because “ideas” are more important and interesting than the boring and dangerous outside world–and because the Machine will kill you if you do. For a story written in 1903, it’s a terrifyingly accurate depiction of life in the age of the Internet. If you read it, beware: you may have to delete your Facebook account when you’re done.

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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

I hate reading or watching horror, but I love Shirley Jackson. The terror in her stories builds slowly and in an understated way. There are supernatural figures in her stories, but the really unsettling characters are ordinary people with ordinary motives. And she turns a phrase like no one else–who wouldn’t want to read a book that begins, “No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.”                 

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Mary Allen is a foreign rights assistant for Avery, Portfolio, and Putnam. She is originally from Nashville, TN, but she calls Greenpoint home these days. Strawberries, old books, people-watching on the subway, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and her birthday are some of her favorite parts of life.

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I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam

With only 168 hours in a week, I’ve often bought in to the idea that you have to choose between a fulfilling personal life and pursuing ambitious professional goals. And even if you managed to find time for both of those, well then, it’s because you’ve surely sacrificed your social life, your hobbies, your sleep…Time management expert and breakout author Laura Vanderkam is here to counter this notion in her new book, I Know How She Does It. Drawing on research gathered from the time-logs of 1,001 days in the lives of highly-successful women, Vanderkam shows that women are indeed achieving the impossible–making time for both family and career. Vanderkam provides us with strategies for balancing the many demands of the office, the home, and the soul. If you haven’t given up on “having it all,” then this book is right up your alley.


The Plantpower Way by Rich Roll & Julie Piatt

This is a cookbook in a league of its own. Equal parts recipe book, roadmap to a health,  manifesto of the plant-based lifestyle, The Plantpower Way testifies to the fact that you can raise a family, run an ultramarathon, eat like a king, and help save both the planet and your health using nothing but plants. As a Tennessee-born loyal barbecue-eater of 24 years, I had my doubts about the merits of a vegan plate, but within 20 pages, authors Rich Roll and Julie Piatt had me convinced. And after I tasted their Potato-Quinoa Wraps with Brazil Nut Cream, they had me converted. The recipes are simple, delicious and probably the surest way to live to the glorious age of 100. This is a vegan cookbook with a joyful cause, and it deserves space in every kitchen.

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The Anxiety Toolkit by Alice Boyes, Ph.D

In our ever-accelerating 21st century, anxiety has become as ubiquitous as smartphones and iced chai. If your morning commute, your news headlines, and your email inbox look anything like mine, then this book is your new saving grace. Dr. Alice Boyes masterfully distills her years of clinical practice and research into this tidy handbook to manage and master anxiety. As each chapter opens with a self-assessment quiz, Boyes helps us identify the nature of our anxiety and the mechanism by which it undercuts our lives. She then provides insightful, actionable strategies to conquer it. True to its name, The Anxiety Toolkit is a practical and powerful tool for anyone trying to break free of his or her modern angst.

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The 22-Day Revolution by Marco Borges

Beyoncé, in her infinite wisdom, has really put this book on the map, but The 22-Day Revolution by trainer and health expert Marco Borges was destined to start a movement with or without buzz from the Queen Bey. In this book, Borges shares the vegan, plant-based lifestyle program that has been keeping his clients (celebrity and plebeian alike) in the best health of their lives. For anyone looking to lose weight, reverse disease, or even to reduce their carbon footprint—in short, for anyone seeking permanent change—this is the ultimate handbook. It takes 21 days to break a bad habit, so Borges provides strategies, motivation, and delicious recipes to usher readers through to the 22nd day and into a happier state of body and mind—the inevitable benefits plant-based living.

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Tyler Fields is the publicity assistant for Tarcher & Perigee. He is from Texas, has lived in Indiana, and is glad finally to call NYC home.  @TD_Fields


Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

To begin, allow me to recall Porochista Khakpour’s (author of the stunning novel, The Last Illusion) New York Times review of Oyeyemi’s inimitable Boy, Snow, Bird in which she references both Kanye West’s infamous “Bound 2” music video and Freud’s notion of the uncanny in the first paragraph. If this doesn’t absolutely sell you – as it did me – then here’s more: Oyeyemi’s fifth novel contorts itself through myriad genres as it investigates, comments upon, and criticizes the complexities of race, identity, gender, and so much more in the modern age.

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Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya

What point to highlight first? Akhtiorskaya’s beautiful and swift prose? That this is my favorite emigrate-to-America novel since Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex (2002)? Or that such a brilliant novel could possibly be a debut? Regardless of why you choose to begin this searing novel, you’ll finish wondering why you hadn’t yet devoured the cross-cultural portrait of hope, ambition, and discovery in the first place.

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Frog by Mo Yan

Nobel-laureate Mo Yan’s eleventh novel, Frog is about a woman called Gugu whose staunch attempts to prove her alliance to China’s Communist Party and its one-child policy lead her to performing compulsory IUDs, vasectomies, and late-term abortions. It is about loyalty, allegiance, and the fine line between the two. And above all, Yan’s epic is a pointed commentary about political, economic, and social behavior under which women continue to suffer at the hands of reckless male politicians and son-fixated husbands.

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Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

For those of you reading this before September 15, 2015, delight in this preview to what is sure to be one of the most widely talked about and highly acclaimed novels of the year.

For those of you reading this post-publication, delight in the knowledge that Groff’s unforgettable novel is available to read at this very moment.

Personally, I will glean joy in remembering how a galley described to me only as “an exhilarating novel about marriage, creativity, art, and perception,” stunned me with penetrating, surprising prose and a unique, wholly original narrative. This book is not about the aforementioned aspects, it is an immersive experience with them.

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Hiding in Plain Sight by Nuruddin Farah

To my mind, by and far the most striking element of Farah’s novel is his uncanny ability to utilize the narrative of a woman’s journey to Nairobi as a mirroring device from which he reflects upon the instability of the region wherein the novel is set. Absolutely, Farah is a gifted writer, but more importantly, he is able to highlight beautifully the consequences of displacement – both as it affects a single woman, but also as it applies to an entire population.

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BONUS because this is, as far as I can tell, not the second, but the third time the following title has been recommended.

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

The potential energy wrapped into the opening of Ng’s novel, “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet,” is tantamount to the zenith of a rising object – all that’s left is to fall. Everything I Never Told You is the story of a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio, forced to confront and live with the death of a child. Poignant, profound, and deeply moving, this novel is the portrait of a family and its individual members whose lives come crashing from a highest height.

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