JanStaffPicksWelcome to a shiny new year, readers! It’s a time for resolutions, reflection, and goals for 2015.

If you’re resolved to read more or branch out into new genres, look no further. Nine Penguin employees picked their favorite books from all different genres. This month is especially good – I’m always getting intrigued by new titles I hear about through this feature.

 

 

 

 

girl

In fact, over the holidays, I read THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, just because the last two lists of Mystery/Suspense Staff Picks included it. I don’t even read mysteries! I ended up really enjoying it, and gobbled it up in just a couple days. The writer is quick and sharp and smart, the storyline keeps you guessing, and the characters each get a rounded-out voice and point of view. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN comes out this month if you’re looking for an exciting read.

 

 

 

 

I try not to be too strict with myself with reading goals, but last January I decided to keep track of every book I read in 2014. It’s just a simple grid, no ratings, no long responses or notes, but it’s almost like a diary: I remember parts of the year based on what book I was reading at the time. I think I’ll keep it up this year too – what about you? Do you note down what you read?

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What are you looking forward to reading this year? I’m excited for THE HALL OF SMALL MAMMALS, MEET ME IN ATLANTIS, and THE TUTOR.

atlantistutorhall

Happy reading!


patricknolan

I’m Patrick Nolan, Vice President, Editor in Chief and Associate Publisher of Penguin Books and I never go on vacation without a few Penguin Classics in my suitcase.

 

 

 

 

 

poetics

The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard

Be warned: this is the kind of book you can’t help but to sit around all day underlining every phrase (when you’re not staring off into… well, space). A book that speaks to those who love interior design and architecture like me, Gaston Bachelard’s musings on the spaces where we spend our lives and the worlds we create within them is rare among even the greatest thinkers: a work at once full of moments of dense philosophy as well as stunning insight into daily life.  This beautiful edition includes a foreword by Mark Z. Danielewski, who drew inspiration from Bachelard for his mind-and-page bending House of Leaves, and let’s just say he’s included some of his signature surprises – Penguin Classics forewords will never be the same.

 

tales

Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange, Translated by Malcolm C. Lyons

The stories in this medieval Arab fantasy collection have had quite a trip before they made it to your bookshelf! Some date back over a millennium ago, and they have all spent centuries closed within a ragged old manuscript in a library in Istanbul. Now these tales of sword wielding, princes and princesses, monsters and prized jewels are finally available in English, in a beautiful translation by Malcolm C. Lyons, and gorgeous foil-stamped package.

 

 

 

decameron

Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio

Fans of Edgar Allan Poe should drop everything and read this 14th century classic, the major influence for The Masque of the Red Death. Seven women and three men huddle in an abandoned villa outside Florence, hiding in fear of the Black Death. As the few survivors spin tales to pass the time, readers are introduced to the world of 14th century Italy and the endless imagination of master craftsman Boccaccio. Is it a precursor to post-apocalyptic fiction? Who cares – it’s great!

 

 

 

essays

The Essays, by Michel de Montaigne

One way of defining a classic is when someone writing centuries ago can so perfectly express exactly what I need to hear right now, today. For me, there’s no better example than the work of Michel de Montaigne, the French statesmen and writer who popularized the essay as a literary genre and influenced generations of thinkers to come, from Nietzsche to Hitchens. For almost five centuries readers have been turning to Montaigne for his thoughts on love, friendship, work, and just about anything else life has to throw at you.

 

 

 

autobiography

Autobiography, by Morrissey

What can I say about Morrissey he hasn’t said about himself? After decades of pouring his literature-loving genius into songwriting, we now have the story of Manchester’s Muse on the page, written in his own flowery prose. Take a trip back to a young Steven Morrissey’s childhood on the streets of 1960s working class England, and follow him in his own footsteps on his rise to becoming music’s pop darling. No pompadour required.

 

 

 

 

Find more books on the Penguin Classics page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


wendymccurdy

Wendy McCurdy is an Executive Editor at Berkley Books.  As you can see from her picture, in which she is holding several childhood favorites that she rescued from her parents’ house before they down-sized, she has been a romance reader pretty much since she learned how to read.  So the fact that she is able to indulge her taste for romantic fiction in her profession is a dream come true.

 

 

 

forbiddenrose

The Forbidden Rose, by Joanna Bourne

Joanna Bourne’s books have been staff picks at least twice before.  Pretty soon we are going to run out of titles.  Joanna, if you are reading this, please write faster!  But in the meantime, I’m highlighting THE FORBIDDEN ROSE, a beautifully written, completely captivating historical romance that accomplishes what I might have thought impossible: turning Doyle, the unforgettable and gruffly lovable British spy who is Grey’s partner in THE SPYMASTER’S LADY, into a romantic lead.  And what a hero he turns out to be. THE FORBIDDEN ROSE is a tour de force of sheer romance.

 

 

lastrenegade

The Last Renegade, by Jo Goodman

Jo Goodman has been writing excellent western historical romances  filled with intelligence and humor for many years now, and she just keeps getting better.  Even her love scenes are filled with intelligence and humor.  THE LAST RENEGADE is one of her finest, along with IN WANT OF A WIFE, which I also can’t resist mentioning.

 

 

 

 

redbikini

The Red Bikini, by Lauren Christopher 

A lovely debut novel  about a divorced mother who flees to her sister’s California beach house for a two-week getaway and encounters romance in the form of a very hot celebrity athlete who is lying low after some mistakes in the past. This is charming and funny–a delicious read.

 

 

 

 

 

surrender

The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne, by Madeline Hunter

All of Madeline Hunter’s romances are wonderful, but this one is a particular favorite of mine. Watching the headstrong Emma Fairbourne take on the arrogant Earl of Southwaite is a pleasure.  What I really appreciate here are the undercurrents, the way Madeline conveys what’s really going on—usually something pretty hilarious—without ever overtly stating it.  The hot love scenes don’t hurt either.

 

 

 

 

practice

Practice Makes Perfect, by Julie James

Julie James has also been a staff pick in the past for JUST THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE.  I’m choosing to highlight PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT,  her second novel, and a real gem of romantic comedy.  Our two main characters are lawyers who are battling it out to make partner at a Chicago law firm.  How they try to get the better of each other results in some of the funniest scenes I’ve ever read—and also makes it that much more romantic when their dislike for each other begins to turn into something else.

 

 

 

piecesofsky

Pieces of Sky, by Kaki Warner

What a wonderful piece of romantic western fiction this is.  Kaki deservedly won kudos for this splendid novel that kick-started her career as one of the today’s finest western romance writers.  It is one of my favorite books that I ever acquired, not only because it’s such a great read, but because I still remember how it felt to take the rubber band off that first manuscript—which actually came in through the mail—and start reading, and to know instantly that this was going to be a great read.  (This may actually be my last acquisition that came in via mail rather than email!)

 

 

 

ravishing

Ravishing the Heiress, by Sherry Thomas

After the hundreds—probably thousands—of romances that I have edited, it is rare for me to be as moved by a romance as I was by this one.  I’m not even going to try to articulate what it was about this novel that so got to me.  All I will say is that those with a taste for an exquisitely rendered historical romance should not miss RAVISHING THE HEIRESS or any of Sherry Thomas’s novels.

 

 

 

 

A FINAL NOTE: It was very difficult to limit myself to seven romance picks.  I have at least seven more that I want to add. But I will save those for next time.

 

Find more books on the Romance page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


carmelaiaria

Carmela Iaria is the Executive Director of School and Library Marketing for Penguin Young Readers. She’s worked in children’s publishing for over 15 years and really loves kids’ books, so choosing 5 favorites was really hard.

 

 

 

janeExtraordinary Jane, by Hannah E. Harris

This was my very FIRST favorite picture book from Penguin Young Readers. I read it in my first month at Penguin, about one year ago, and was utterly delighted. The story is simple but charming, and the illustrations are darling. I immediately took it home to read to my two-year-old daughter.  And she LOVED it for many reasons…

Jane is an ordinary dog in an extraordinary circus. She isn’t strong, graceful, or brave like her family. But what she learns is that being herself – kind and loyal – makes her just as special.

 

 

laststop

Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson

This review is courtesy of my colleague Venessa Carson, who chose it as a staff pick for our librarian newsletter last month – and sums up the beauty of the book so perfectly…

We should all ride the bus time and again with CJ and his Nana, simply to be reminded that there’s beauty all around us, most especially in the unexpected. “Crumbling sidewalks and broken-down doors, graffiti-tagged windows and boarded up stores.” CJ asks his grandma how come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”

This award-winning pair of picture book collaborators, Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson, take readers on a trip through a vibrant urban town in LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET, reminding us to look on the bright side and to take in the charm and magic around us, no matter where we live in the world.

dory

 Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon

Every so often, I see a chapter book that demands to be recommended to scores of young readers. This is one of them! Dory is a lovably energetic little sister with a BIG personality—and an imagination to match. The writing is fresh, funny, and true (the author is a teacher and obviously pulls from the hilarity of every day life). The illustrations are irresistible and compliment the text perfectly. Stay tuned for more books in the series coming later this year!

 

 

 

browngirldreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

Winner of the National Book Award for Young People’ Literature, Brown Girl Dreaming is one of the most stunning novels I have ever read. Beloved author Jacqueline Woodson shares the poignant, the gritty, and the sweet memories of her childhood—as well as revealing the first sparks that ignited her writing career—in these lyrical poems about growing up in the North and South. This book is for everyone: teachers, librarians, young readers, adult readers, audio book listeners, everyone. It will make you feel as you simultaneously admire the luminous language and radiant soul.

 

 

alexcrowThe Alex Crow, by Andrew Smith

My professor in college, Justin Cronin, taught me to love modular storytelling. To masterfully blend multiple storylines to tell one cohesive story with a powerful message is pure writing magic. Andrew Smith is a magician. The Alex Crow is the story of a fifteen year-old refugee from the Middle East who is the sole survivor of an attack on his village. Now living in Sunday, West Virginia his story is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic “melting” bomber and the diaries of a failed Arctic expedition from the late nineteen century. How will their lives converge?

As with Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Winner Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith delivers a genre-bending literary piece of awesome that explores both the realities of our modern world and the absolutely absurd. It is surprising and smart and, perhaps most impressive of all, utterly original.

 

Find more books on the Young Readers page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


roshe

Roshe Anderson works in Gotham and Avery Books. When she is not preparing recipe to-do lists from the cookbooks, she can be found reading other health and self-improvement books as well as fiction. She also enjoys exploring health-related topics on her blog.

 

 

 

 

52

The 52 New Foods Challenge, by Jennifer Tyler Lee

I love the simplicity of the recipes. Because the challenge encompasses taking on one new food a week, the recipes also cover a wide variety of whole foods. Whether or not you attempt to prepare all fifty-two foods, you will find the book to be a gentle guide, helping you take small steps toward what is often intimidating: trying something new. I have a list of recipes from the book which I am eager to make for the first time, including a simple butternut squash soup, pumpkin puree, and Jennifer’s version of an avocado-based chocolate pudding.

 

simplerecipes

Simple Recipes for Joy, by Sharon Gannon

Imagine a summer salad with real flowers…The gorgeousness of the cover and the dishes within Simple Recipes is undeniable. Thus, food intertwined with Sharon’s philosophy of compassion make a strong impression. The passionate foreword written by Kris Carr, a well-known natural food advocate, adds an extra wow factor to what already feels like a work of art. For people who have been to Sharon’s restaurant, the Jivamuktea Cafe, this cookbook will feel like being let into a secret. The spirulina millet and “Spaghetti All’aglio e Olio” are among my favorite recipes. I love forward to making the “Brown Rice Salad” soon.

 

365

365 Vegan Smoothies, by Kathy Patalsky

365 is a non-prescriptive road map, helping you to enjoy the fun and creativity involved in making smoothies. All of the ingredients the author suggests are available at your local market. Kathy also offers advice on how to substitute one ingredient for another, further encouraging you to use what you have on-hand or experiment. The book is perfect for people like me, who would prefer that their nutrient-dense smoothies taste like cinnamon buns or decadent desserts.

 

 

 

ohsheglows

The Oh She Glows Cookbook, by Angela Liddon

Two words: overnight oats. I am addicted to the opening recipe which features uncooked oats soaked in plant-based milk. All of the dishes displayed in the book are stunning! Angela’s reputation as well as her commitment to reworking recipes and seeking approval from non-vegans reassures you that you are in good hands. Creative, smart snacks like “Salt & Vinegar Roasted Chickpeas” and vegan remakes of popular dishes like cookie dough make eating healthfully look really cool.

 

 

 

success

Success Through Stillness, by Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons explains the effects of stress in clear language, elucidating the connection between stress and brain chemistry. Russell’s goal to dispel the myth that one is simply not good at meditation struck a chord with me. The book offers real tools for persisting in the practice of meditation. Also, I loved Russell’s description of being focused on the process and the work rather than the success or the failure.

 

 

 

 

To find Health & Self-Improvement books, click here

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


Meredith Dros

Executive Managing Editor/Publishing Manager: I am responsible for coordinating the editorial, production, copyediting, art, and design processes for seven imprints here at Penguin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

godsofgotham

The Gods of Gotham, by Lyndsay Faye

Set in 1845 as new York City is forming its first police force, this is a detective story that has been compared (with good reason) to The Alienist. The story and the writing are that good.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

yardThe Yard, by Alex Grecian

It is the late 1880s in the newly formed Scotland Yard in London. A group of homicide detectives dubbed “The Murder Squad” must solve a bizarre string of crimes, where the latest target is one of their own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

girlonthetrain

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

Stop what you are doing and read this book. Do it now. This is such an exciting, twisty, must-get-to-the next-page-to-see-what-happens novel. It starts with Rachel, who sees something terrible one day on her daily train commute. I’m not going to tell you anything else; you’ll see why.

 

 

 

 

 

brokenharbor

Broken Harbor, by Tana French

Everyone has their own favorite Tana French novel, and this is mine. The setting is a half-finished development in the suburbs of Dublin left abandoned in the global economic crisis where a family is found murdered, and what looks like it should be an open-and-shut case turns out to be way more complicated.

 

 

 

 

 

littlestranger

The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters is on fire right now with her wonderful novel, The Paying Guests. I would invite you to take a stab at The Little Stranger. It is one of the creepiest, most mysterious books I have ever read.

 

 

 

 

 

rulesofprey

Rules of Prey by John Sandford

I love John Sandford. In 2015, we will publish his 25th “Prey” novel, so I decided to go back and read the first one in the series where we first meet Minneapolis detective who plays by his own rules, Lucas Davenport. Rules of Prey is so scary because we get our hero’s point of view as well as the killer’s. Sleep with the lights on after reading this one.

 

 

 

 

 

Find more books on the Mystery & Suspense page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


emilyhartley

Emily Hartley still can’t believe she works at Penguin and moonlights at the best little bookshop in New York City. Thanks to these two gigs, her life mostly consists of books, food, and books, supplemented by other “activities” like volleyball, running, baking, and city exploration. She likes to think she is large and contains multitudes. Though recently deemed “an honorary New Yorker” by someone whose opinion matters a lot to her, she is still a Midwesterner at heart.

 

 

christmas

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

You’ve probably seen the movie, maybe even the play, but have you read the story? I hadn’t since middle school, and then a few Christmases ago, I decided to re-read it, aloud, with a few friends. And thus a new tradition was born. Beyond the story’s heartwarming ending and perfect holiday-season message, Dickens’ wit and ability to turn a sentence is absolutely unmatched. I’d suggest grabbing some hot cocoa,  a warm blanket, and a copy of Penguin’s festive new Christmas Classics edition and starting your own tradition this year.

 

 

 

emerson

The Portable Emerson, by Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are lots of quotes to live your life by, but for some reason, this one from Emerson’s “The American Scholar” has stuck with me: “Time shall teach him, that the scholar loses no hour which the man lives.” This is what I love about Emerson—the idea that knowledge and experience go hand in hand, that interacting with the world is one of the best ways to learn. For me, it means never turning down a chance to try something new and looking for positive points to take away from every situation. I’ve applied Emerson to deal with everything from my high school basketball team to teaching English abroad. Basically, THE PORTABLE EMERSON is the only self-help book I’ll admit to reading, with writing that’s just as inspirational as its message.

 

oncetherewasawar

Once There Was a War, by John Steinbeck

Few people think of John Steinbeck as a war correspondent, due mostly to the fact that Once There Was a War—his collected WWII dispatches—wasn’t published until 15 years after he wrote the stories. Had this not been the case, I’m convinced you couldn’t mention Ernie Pyle’s work without bringing up Steinbeck’s, as well. The accounts in Once There Was a War are wonderfully diverse, from eerie, layered descriptions of  landing on the English shore to tongue-and-cheek stories about drunken war correspondents and soldiers’ superstitions. Together, they capture the unreality of war, the inability to describe anything but one’s own experience, and the uncertainty of calling anything the “truth.” I can say it no better than Steinbeck does in his beautifully reflective Introduction to the collection, written in 1958:

“For what they are worth, or for what they may recapture, here they are, period pieces, fairy tales, half-meaningless memories of a time and of attitudes which have gone forever from the world, a sad and jocular recording of a little part of a war I saw and do not believe, unreal with trumped-up pageantry.”

letters

Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke

I read this book twice in one evening, and still I don’t know how Rainer Maria Rilke manages to say so much about life, love, and creativity in such a brief set of writings. Rilke’s prose is every bit as lovely as his poetry, sweeping you up in its perfect pacing and making you wonder if, in the age of emails and text messages, there will ever be another set of letters written so beautifully. I was astonished by Rilke’s progressive stance on sexuality, and by the time I was done reading, I felt like one big mass of humanity, neither man nor woman, just human, full of a Whitman-esque appreciation for the interconnectedness of the world. That’s not bad for a couple of hours’ reading.

 

 

middlemarch

Middlemarch, by George Eliot

Honestly, MIDDLEMARCH has it all: politics, love, deception, redemption. I love the way the novel weaves between its comedy-of-manners romance and England’s political and social climate. It somehow feels expansive and intelligent, cozy and indulgent, all at the same time. The characters that fill this world are so complex. They are flawed, morally unsteady, and quite unreliable; or, to look at it another way, they are us, and that’s what makes them so relatable. No other book has drawn me in to Victorian England quite like this one. Here’s a proposition: you tell me you don’t like Victorian literature, and I’ll give you MIDDLEMARCH. Case closed.

 

 

Find more books on the Penguin Classics page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


wesley

Wesley Salazar is a Marketing & Publicity Assistant at Blue Rider Press. She lives in Brooklyn with the worst cat and many shelves of books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

citizens

Citizens of the Green Room, by Mark Leibovich

When Mark Leibovich’s book THIS TOWN was first published in 2013, it ruffled feathers across the nation for calling out major players in Washington, D.C. and beyond. It became the book on politics for both the politically savvy and the politically naive, because it was insightful, fresh and incredibly entertaining. Leibovich’s newest book is CITIZENS OF THE GREEN ROOM, a fantastic collection of profiles of today’s most compelling figures in politics, media and popular culture. The collection highlights the timelessness of Leibovich’s reporting and how even when things change, they also stay the same.

Sidenote: Did you know that before Glenn Beck became a polarizing, Mormon TV and radio host, he was a “married, divorced, ponytailed and seemingly at a dead end” alcoholic? Or that Jeb Bush really likes e-mail? These are just two things I learned from CITIZENS OF THE GREEN ROOM. I’ve read it multiple times and I still find myself returning to the profiles…and, of course, laughing out loud.

perfect kill

The Perfect Kill, by Robert B. Baer

First thing’s first: Robert B. Baer is one of the most accomplished agents to ever work for the CIA. Remember that movie Syriana starring George Clooney? Yup, that movie was inspired by his career. So if you’re at all curious about the role of political assassination in history, you might as well learn about it from a man who spent two dangerous decades pursuing one of the world’s deadliest assassins. THE PERFECT KILL is a captivating blend of memoir, analysis of the contemporary Middle East, and exploration of the concept of political murder, which ultimately asks, “What is the definition of assassination?

 

 

womenWomen in Clothes, edited by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton

Why do we wear the clothes that we wear? Editors Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton sought to explore the daily ritual of getting dressed, and it turned out to be no small task. They surveyed and collected contributions from over six hundred women of diverse backgrounds (including movers and shakers like Cindy Sherman, Kim Gordon and Lena Dunham) for this beautifully made book. On the inside, the book is super visual – it’s filled with photos, interviews, personal testimonies and illustrations – and would make the perfect gift for the holidays. WOMEN IN CLOTHES presents a sort of cultural history of women’s relationships to their clothes. And it reminds us that the process of selecting clothes reflects things about our lives, whether we realize it or not.

theknife

The Knife, by Ross Ritchell

This final pick isn’t quite a history or current events book, but it is deeply steeped in today’s international landscape. THE KNIFE is a debut novel from a former soldier in the United States Special Operations Command direct-action team, Ross Ritchell. It’s a riveting read that pulls you deep, through the adrenaline rushes of battle, the horseplay of the soldiers’ downtime, and the loneliness in between. THE KNIFE is touching, bittersweet, and beautifully written; it’s one of the most intense and authentic novels I’ve read about the day-to-day life of a soldier in the Middle East. If you liked Klay’s Redeployment, you should give THE KNIFE a try.  I am a huge fan and can’t wait for other people to pick it up.

 

 

Find more books on the Current Events & History page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


Sarah guan

Sarah Guan is an editorial assistant at Ace/Roc. She’s a huge nerd and loves all things holiday-related, except for shopping mall Christmas music. She tweets at @sarah_guan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

lefthand

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin is one of my all-time favorite authors in any genre, and THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS is, in my opinion, one of her best books. It’s the story of an intrepid ambassador from Earth who must navigate the complex politics and culture of the ice planet Gethen with the help of the inscrutable Gethenian Estraven, whom he finds almost too alien to trust.  Le Guin manages to pack an intellectual challenge and a heart-wrenching tale of love and loss into one short volume—a true sign of a master at work. This book is a science fiction classic for good reason—if you haven’t read it, you’re missing out!

 

 

fleshandspirit

Flesh and Spirit, by Carol Berg

For fans of traditional high fantasy, one of my favorite series is New Carol Berg’s Lighthouse Duet (of which FLESH AND SPIRIT is the first book). It’s got everything we love about the genre—princes, conspiracies, murky religions and secret societies—and protagonist who’s a troubled, delightfully morally ambiguous cartographer. Who steals a book. (Since he seems to be the only person who can read it, it’s not really stealing, is it?)

In case you’re worried about series attrition, there are only two books in this duology. But if you race through them (you will!) and are hankering for more… DUST AND LIGHT, book one of the next series in this universe, was just released this summer.

 

salamandastron

Salamandastron, by Brian Jacques

It’s December, so you’re probably wracking your brains for gift ideas for the children in your life. In my experience, a Brian Jacques book never goes amiss for any kid who loves animals, adventure, and rooting for the good guys. SALAMANDASTRON was my go-to Redwall novel when I was in grade school; reading about Mara, the daughter of the noble Badger Lord, and the brave young squirrel Samkin, always reassured me that the world was fair and that good would triumph over evil.

 

 

 

whofears

Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor

If you want hard-hitting, cerebral magical realism set somewhere that isn’t your usual North American or British metropolis, Nnedi Okorafor is the author for you. She’s part Octavia Butler, part Chinua Achebe, and entirely original in her take on post-apocalyptic African fiction that manages to be simultaneously gritty and lyrical. In WHO FEARS DEATH, Okorafor weaves a tale of Onyesonwu, a child of rape shunned by both her parents’ tribes, who develops powerful and unique magic that attracts the attention of someone mysterious and powerful—someone who wants her dead. It’s a moving book about identity, tradition, spirituality, and true love in the bleakest of circumstances.

 

bloodsong

Blood Song, by Anthony Ryan

If you just can’t wait another minute for George R. R. Martin’s next book, Anthony Ryan’s new Raven’s Shadow series might just hit the spot. The first book, BLOOD SONG, introduces Vaelin Al Sorna, the estranged son of the Battle Lord of the newly-Unified Realm. His father abandons him to be raised by the warrior monks of the Faith, and Vaelin never forgets that he was stripped of his birthright, even as he becomes the deadliest swordsman the Realm has ever seen. Vaelin’s destiny draws him into secrets and conspiracies that threaten the very foundations of the kingdom, and mark him for a future greater than any he had hoped to inherit from the Battle Lord. It’s a gripping medieval tale of dark magic and Byzantine intrigue—and best of all, book two, TOWER LORD, is already available.

 

Find more books on the Science Fiction / Fantasy page

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photo of J Wade

Jessica Wade is a senior editor, acquiring science fiction and fantasy for Ace & Roc books, and some mystery too. But she’s become an avid romance reader since working at Penguin Random House and she’s delighted to share her can’t-miss-books on Berkley/NAL’s romance list!

 

 

 

 

onlyenchanting

Only Enchanting, by Mary Balogh

When I first started reading historicals, and kept asking people who their favorite regency author was, a name that came up over and over was Mary Balogh. Her writing is emotional, lovely, and clever, and I’ve adored every book of hers I’ve read. The newest is Only Enchanting. I’m reading it right now and it’s SO GOOD. It’s got tension and angst and wonderfully nuanced characters. People told me she was the best, and they were so right!

 

 

 

 

rogue

Rogue Spy, by Joanna Bourne

Joanna Bourne’s historicals are unusual, thrilling masterworks, set among English and French spies in roughly the time of the French revolution. Bourne’s deft dialogue, unforgettable characters, swift pacing, and rich historical detail are irresistible. Her books are mostly interlinked, and focus on secondary characters you’ve met in previous novels, so it’s a ton of fun to get to know ‘old’ characters in new ways. Her most recent book is Rogue Spy, and it’s totally wonderful. I also particularly enjoyed The Forbidden Rose and The Black Hawk.

 

 

 

justthesexiest

Just the Sexiest Man Alive, by Julie James

If you haven’t read Julie James, get thee to a bookery, and I mean NOW.  These books are The. Most. Fun. Romances. EVAR. Our whole office is essentially a big Julie James fan club. Julie writes contemporaries, and most focus on lawyers and FBI agents. Her dialogue is SOLID GOLD.  The heroines are all feisty, fun, interesting modern women, and the heroes aren’t bad either. I have introduced so many friends who have never read romance to Julie James, and to a one, the response I have gotten is basically a version of “OH MY GOD WHERE HAVE THESE BOOKS BEEN ALL MY LIFE.” Right here, kids, and by right here I mean wherever books are sold. I’ll say start with Just the Sexiest Man Alive, about a lawyer who has a famous actor, with a famous ego, assigned to shadow her. High jinks ensue. But really, every one of her books is wonderful.

 

ondublin

On Dublin Street, by Samantha Young

Samantha Young writes seriously intense contemporaries. I loved ON DUBLIN STREET, which tells the story of American, early-twenty something Joss, hiding from her past in Scotland. The hero is pretty alpha, and their romance sizzles off the page… it’s ultra emotional, angsty, and engaging, and I stayed up til 2 am to finish it in one sitting.

 

 

 

 

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After Hours, by Cara McKenna

Cara McKenna writes superhot, gritty contemporaries. When I heard in a meeting that the hero of After Hours was an orderly at a psychiatric hospital, I knew this book was something really different… and I wondered how it would work. But oh my goodness, it does. She writes fluid, searing prose, and has perfected the unusual hero (and heroine). At the very top of my TBR pile are her Hard Time (which centers around a prison library) and Lay it Down (about a motorcycle gang).

 

 

 

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