FullSizeRenderKellie Schirmer is Director of Trade Production for The Berkley Publishing Group. Originally from Western NY, she now resides in Bergen County, NJ. When not making books…or reading books… she enjoys genealogy, baking, and travel.


9780141392462The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Originally published in 1844-1845, The Count of Monte Cristo revolves around a young man named Edmund Dantes, whose future is bright. He’s just been promoted and is soon to be married to a beautiful woman, but on the very day of his wedding, he’s accused of a crime he did not commit and is taken away….for a loooong time. Unbeknownst to him, three of his acquaintances, each jealous of him for different reasons, had banded together and plotted against him.

This book is often described as “the ultimate revenge story” and that may be true…the core of the story revolves around Dantes, his transformation into the “Count of Monte Cristo” and how he goes about punishing those who wronged him…but in my opinion, it’s also a story of adventure, friendship, envy, jealousy, love (and love lost), death, loyalty and deceit. Whew!

There are many versions of this book floating around, but if you are interested in a great read I’m recommending you pick up the Penguin Classics Unabridged edition, translated (and with notes and intro) by Robin Buss. The translation is excellent — the 200+ year old story reads as though it was written in present day – and the notes section is exhaustive, which saved me a lot of Googling!)

 Start Reading an excerpt!

9781101075821 2Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

“What do you mean, ‘Angle of Repose?’ she asked me when I dreamed we were talking about Grandmother’s life, and I said it was the angle at which a man or woman finally lies down. I suppose it is; and yet … I thought when I began, and still think, that there was another angle in all those years when she was growing old and older and very old, and Grandfather was matching her year for year, a separate line that did not intersect with hers. They were vertical people, they lived by pride, and it is only by the ocular illusion of perspective that they can be said to have met. But he had not been dead two months when she lay down and died too, and that may indicate that at that absolute vanishing point they did intersect. They had intersected for years, for more than he especially would ever admit.”

Published in 1971 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction in 1972, Angle Of Repose may be one the most beautifully written stories I’ve ever read. The story’s narrator is Lyman Ward, a former history professor who was forced to retire due to health issues. He moves into his deceased grandparents’ home and begins organizing their personal effects. As he reads through his grandmother’s correspondence, he reflects on his own life and marriage while imagining his grandparents life living in various mining towns in the west at a time when the land was still wild and untamed.

Start Reading an excerpt!

9780142437254 2On the Road by Jack Kerouac

It took me a long time to pick up On the Road but once I did, I was diggin’ it! There has been so much written about this book, there’s probably nothing more I can add that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll let Kerouac speak for himself. The plot is a simple one….the adventures of two guys criss-crossing the country….but it’s the way the story is told….the frenetic pace….that keeps you turning the page:

“Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’

‘Where we going, man?’

‘I don’t know but we gotta go.”

“I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.”

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

Start Reading an excerpt!

The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution and The Federalist Papers

9780143121961 2I’ve always been interested in the historical, but the last few years I find myself interested in the Founding Fathers and the early years of our country. I’ve been reading Ron Chernow’s bio of George Washington, and waiting patiently for the new season of AMC’s Turn.

9780143121978 2I had  been wanting to read The Federalist Papers (which are a series of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, making the case for the Constitution) but  I found them a bit daunting. So when I came across these two volumes the other day, I was very excited. Both are annotated by Professor Richard Beeman, who provides context and notes making the text easy to digest. If you have even a passing interest, I would recommend  you check these out. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Start Reading an excerpt!


Find more books on the Penguin Classics page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories!

Reinhart_bioColleen Reinhart is a Designer at Berkley NAL and reads more books than her tiny Brooklyn apartment can hold.



The Book of Other People edited by Zadie Smith 

The premise of The Book of Other People is delightfully simple: make somebody up, write a story about them and then name that story after them. The collection is full of gems but among my favorites is gorgeous comic Jordan Wellington Lint by Chris Ware that follows a boy from birth to age thirteen, the heartbreaking Puppy by George Saunders which depicts two mothers struggling to care for their families, and the hilarious Roy Spivey by Miranda July about a woman’s encounter with a famous actor on an airplane.





My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki 

I love when fiction tackles topics that most would shy away from if packaged in a non-fiction context. Take for example Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats. The heroine, Jane Takagi-Little, is a documentary filmmaker stuck working on a show that peddles beef to Japanese housewives by showing “wholesome and attractive” Americans cooking and eating it. Throughout the production of the show Jane struggles with the limited America she is promoting while discovering unsavory truths about the beef industry. Things really start to get interesting when Jane has the opportunity to direct and defies her bosses’ directions.




My Education by Susan Choi 

The premise of Susan Choi’s novel may sound familiar, young grad student Regina falls for charismatic older professor, But the book takes a sharp turn when the beautiful and angry professor’s wife Martha is introduced and the reader sees that the real attraction is between Martha and Regina. Choi uses their tumultuous relationship to explore the way opinions of love and desire change as you age and gain more experience. She stresses this even more in the final part of the book, which jumps 15 years into the future, when Martha and Regina are meeting again as equals.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



Everything Matters! by Ron Currie Jr.

Everything Matters! reads like a “what if” question. “What if you had voices in your head that told you the world was going to end when you turned 36?” That’s exacrtly what happens to Junior Thibodeau who has had these voices telling him about the future since he was still in his mother’s womb. This special “ability” makes Junior question the point of concepts like loyalty, love and devotion when the world faces certain demise. Even though the set-up sounds incredibly dark, Currie keeps it from being so by embedding Junior with an incredible wit. Currie is in on the cosmic joke and he invites you to laugh with him.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 

I had to include Little Women because it’s the first book I ever fell in love with. The family at the center is instantly relatable even though the four sisters fit into archetypal molds so easily. The oldest, Meg March, is the “good” daughter who follows all the rules, Jo is the rebel, tomboy author, Beth is the desperately shy one and Amy is the spoiled, beautiful artist. The book follows them as they fight, fall in love, put on plays, deal with loss, get married, have children of their own, and discover what it means for them to be women.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



Find more books on the Literary Fiction page.

See Staff Picks for all our categories!

HealthandSelfImprovementPhotoRoshe Anderson works in 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.


cook-for-your-life-by-ann-ogden-gaffney 2

Cook for Your Life by Ann Ogden Gaffney

“Comforting” and “unique” are two words that quickly come to mind whenever I think about this phenomenal cookbook. Author Ann Ogden Gaffney, who is a two-time cancer survivor, designed the recipes specifically for men and women dealing with the fatigue and altered taste buds associated with cancer treatment. Simplicity is a key ingredient to the book, and Ann encourages her readers to take advantage of the convenience of modern supermarkets to find prepped food items. In addition to the extremely well-thought-out design, I love the diversity of the recipes and the representation of various world cuisines. More specifically, I was excited to find recipes for “Jamaican Sorrel Tea,” “Kimchi Grilled Cheese,” and “Moroccan Pumpkin Stew with Chermoula Sauce” among the pages. I’ve already enjoyed the simple potato salad made with a vinaigrette instead of mayonnaise, and I look forward to trying the soothing, banana-rice smoothie recipe soon.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



Simply Scratch by Laurie McNamara

This cookbook had me at the DIY seasoning blends. Me: “You mean, I can make my own Italian seasoning!” I was also enamored with the author’s variations on the traditional pesto, substituting other herbs for basil. Author Laurie McNamara enlivens the book with her humor and inviting tone; she’s “the girl next door” who makes everything from scratch. In addition, Laurie brings a lot of originality to her creations and the names of the dishes. Since the book shows you how to create all of the ingredients in your pantry as well as the dishes it’s so comprehensive and a great resource. Laurie’s approach highlights how cooking from scratch offers greater control over health factors like sodium levels.



Woman On Fire by Amy Jo Goddard

Woman On Fire is one of the most powerful emotional toolkits I have ever encountered. Amy Jo is that brilliant and compassionate best friend, eloquently delivering insights to accelerate your personal growth. She shows readers how to approach the work of maintaining a relationship with great thought and intentionality. The book also contains compelling advice for understanding and then communicating your needs to a romantic partner. The incredible chapter on body image offers innovative ideas for rituals to help celebrate your body. As many others have already said, every woman deserves to read Amy Jo’s book and engage in this amazing work!

Start Reading an Excerpt!



Triumph of the Heart by Megan Feldman Bettencourt 

The mind-blowing story of a man who forgives his son’s killer sets the stage for all of the remarkable accounts shared in Triumph of the Heart. Author Megan Feldman’s personal story of her career and relationship struggles is also incredibly relatable and impactful.  The thoroughness of Megan’s investigation into forgiveness is impressive: she travels to Rwanda and throughout the United States, interviewing adult children who have chosen to forgive abusive or absent parents, heads of a school in Baltimore who are implementing principles of restorative justice with amazing results, as well as survivors of the genocide in Rwanda. I really enjoyed such a complex view of forgiveness, which includes the notion that the act of forgiveness can release repressed positive memories.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



To find Health & Self-Improvement books, click here

See Staff Picks for all our categories!


Bri1Bri Lockhart is a Marketing Coordinator at Penguin Young Readers focusing on young adult and middle grade titles. Born and raised in New Jersey, Bri spends most of her time reading, writing about pop culture, and watching horror movies. If you stop hearing from her, it’s because the book piles have fallen over and smothered her to death in the night.




The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

I’m a huge fan of Andrew Smith’s b-movie style coming-of-age story Grasshopper Jungle, so I wasn’t surprised that I adored The Alex Crow. The Alex Crow follows Ariel, a refugee that finds himself in a tech detox camp thanks to his adoptive family. Ariel’s story has the same genre-bending style as Grasshopper Jungle, but packs a powerful emotional punch—something that might not be wholly expected from a book that boasts about featuring a depressed, bionic, reincarnated crow.

Start Reading an Excerpt!




Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ally, ashamed of her trouble with reading, acts out in class to distract her teachers from the problem at hand. When the substitute teacher Mr. Daniels walks in, he sees Ally’s troubles for what they are and helps her learn to work around her dyslexia and develop confidence again. Reading Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s sophomore novel will make you want to hug both the book and your favorite teachers.

Start Reading an Excerpt!




Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys is a master when it comes to historical fiction—anyone who has read Between Shades of Gray or her upcoming Salt to the Sea can attest to that. Her sophomore effot Out of the Easy tells the story of Josie, the daughter of a prostitute in 1950’s New Orleans, who wants nothing more than to get out of the Big Easy—a dream that might be dashed when a mysterious dead body makes an appearance in the Quarter. A savvy heroine, the New Orleans backdrop, and a dash of noir add up to one compelling read.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



Pom Pom Panda Gets the Grumps by Sophy Henn

There are some days (like yesterday, for instance) where everything is going wrong and there’s nothing you can do to stop that black cloud from following you around. Pom Pom gets it. Like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day, Pom Pom Panda Gets the Grumps shows us that bad days are universal (even among adorable pandas) but usually temporary.





The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

I’m fascinated by the psychology behind cults, so The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly was an auto-read for me. Jumping between the present day at a juvenile detention center after the murder of the cult leader and the past under the Kevinian Cult, Stephanie Oakes’s debut explores the dangers of blind faith and what happens when someone challenges those beliefs. I couldn’t put it down.

Start Reading an Excerpt!





Find more books on the Young Readers page.

See Staff Picks for all our categories!

Brianna Kelly Staff Picks Headshot

Brianna Kelly is a Production Assistant for Berkley Publishing Group. Her words to live by are those of Ms. Amy Poehler: “Kiss every baby, and pet every dog. Walk slowly, and lie down when you’re tired.”



The Aeneid by Virgil

Many people have read Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, but far fewer have read Virgil’s The Aeneid, which chronicles the journey of the defeated Trojan army after their city has been sacked (thanks, Odysseus.) If you enjoyed the epic poems of Homer, you are doing yourself a disservice by not reading Virgil’s tale. After the destruction of their homeland, Aeneas and his army sail from place to place, looking to find somewhere to start a new city. Along the way they encounter kings and queens who try to help and hinder his quest. Of course the gods and goddesses are heavily involved as well—Venus, the goddess of love, is the mother of Aeneas and tries to protect him from Juno, the queen of the gods, who hates all Trojans. Despite the interference of gods and humans alike, Aeneas follows his destiny of settling in Italy where the Roman empire will one day be founded.



A Doll’s House and Other Plays by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House was first performed in 1879, but it is so progressive and sympathetic to the rights of women that it could have been written today. Nora and Torvald Helmer are a married, middle-class couple with three children living in 19th century Norway. Although she is living a relatively comfortable life that society has told her to aspire to, Nora is not happy. This play encapsulates the frustration and oppression of women like Nora, who are smart and capable but who society does its best to restrict. The ending of this play genuinely surprised me, especially given the fact that it was written at this time, and by a man.  It is still so relevant today, and with two of Ibsen’s other plays included in the text as well, this book is a great introduction to his works.




A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay positing that the poor people of Ireland should sell their babies for the rich to eat is so over-the-top macabre that you cannot help but laugh the whole way through. Swift wanted to skewer the way the wealthier people of Ireland would discuss its impoverished population as if they were livestock, without thought to their humanity. Why not just buy and eat their babies? That way the poor would get some extra money while also getting rid of an extra mouth to feed. It makes perfect sense! Swift lays out his argument so well that you could almost imagine someone making the argument seriously.  It’s like an Onion article for the 18th century.




Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This book is one of my favorites. No matter how many times I read it, it always makes me happy, sad, and mad—mad mostly because I will never get over who Laurie ends up marrying. The story follows the lives of the four young March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Living in Civil War-era New England, the girls each struggle with something different as they grow up. The thing I like best about this book is that there is really no antagonist other than the perils of real life. It’s refreshing to read a sweet story about very realistically flawed but essentially good people who are doing the best they can to be happy and good. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of drama though; life for the March sisters is not easy and tragedy befalls them just like any other family. If you haven’t already read it, do yourself a favor and just read it. If you’ve already enjoyed it, read it again!

Start Reading an Excerpt!


image001.jpgLouisa Farrar is a publicist at Avery Books. From the selection below you would think she only reads about badass women written by badass women. She doesn’t. But it’s a nice coincidence.

Louisa speaks with an accent and lives in Harlem with her black Labrador and her American husband and lots and lots of books (and a Netflix account because only dogs are perfect).



The Likeness by Tana French

So while you can read Tana French’s books in any order – you tend to start with In The Woods. That’s the one that gets you sucked in. But The Likeness? This one’s my favorite. Cassie Maddox is a wonderful character. She is strong and fearless and bold and holds your interest, even if the whodunit plot wavers a little. Tana French writes characters and dialogue and sub-plots and settings in such a way that you stay up all night – like you should with any decent mystery/thriller – but you also realize that you’re in the hands of a masterful, literary storyteller. This isn’t just pulp.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison 

Oh man, this is a good book to read lying next to your husband at night. (That sounded creepier than intended I should write thrillers.) Jodi and Todd’s marriage is on shaky ground and everything is at stake – their partnership, their luxe life, and their lives. It’s an unsettling read, and is more exposition than dialogue which I don’t tend to love, but these characters are so rich and so full of mistrust that reading what’s happening inside their heads – Harrison employs dual viewpoints, with each chapter labeled Him or Her – is a serious treat. This is “psychological thriller” at its best and it breaks my heart that the publishing world lost Harrison so soon. She is worth every accolade she earned as a writer.

Start Reading an Excerpt!


Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

Whether she goes by Grace in Tennessee or Julie in Paris, Rebecca Scherm has created the perfect femme fatale. This book is unputdownable, as you’re transported effortlessly from small-town, corn-fed America to the glamorous penthouse, art-world New York City, to the seedy but intricate antique dealerships of Paris. I just exhausted myself. But, seriously. This book is beautiful and mesmerizing and I could not guess what was coming next.

Start Reading an Excerpt!




Blue Monday by Nicci French

Okay, so why isn’t Frieda Klein, the psychologist-by-day/crime-fighter-by-night created by husband and wife team Nicci French, as big here in the States as she is in the UK? Is it because she is a Londoner? Because, come on! This series is incredible! Blue Monday starts the ride, and introduces us to Frieda – a smart, careful, professional character who stands out from the usual suspects (mystery/thriller protagonists) of ex-drunk Dublin cops and white boys on the spectrum.




Find more books on the Mystery & Suspense page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 

Kate MeltzerKate Meltzer is an Editorial Assistant at G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. According to IMDb, she is an actress known for The Last Five Years (though she thinks her two-second role as “Handelman Twin #1” barely counts). When she’s not reading, you can find her at the theater with her twin sister, scouring the streets of Manhattan for the perfect baguette, or talking about Hamilton. You can follow her on Twitter @katemeltzer.



Max and Marla by Alexandra Boiger

Ever since Harry Potter, I’ve been obsessed with owls. Those expressive, big eyes, cunning smarts, incredible loyalty. It came as an unfortunate surprise when I found out that owls are not recommended as pets (they are predators, after all). Nevertheless, Max and his adorable best owl friend Marla might be my new favorite picture book characters. Alexandra Boiger’s beautiful watercolor illustrations and the story of friendship, dedication and fun make this my go-to picture book this fall.




The Trilogy of Two by Juman Malouf

I fell for Juman Malouf’s stunning debut The Trilogy of Two from the very first page. As a twin, I always have my eyes and ears open for intriguing tales of twindom, and Sonja and Charlotte’s story is one that really resonated with me. Juman’s captured the growing pains of being born with a built-in best friend so honestly, weaving a meaningful story of love and friendship against an enchanting landscape of imaginative creatures and thrilling adventure. Her intricate pencil illustrations are exquisite, giving readers the perfect glimpse into the fascinating world-building in this dazzling novel.



Original Fake by Kirstin Cronn-Mills and E. Eero Johnson

Epic’s a word that has duel meanings when applied to this envelope-pushing tale of sibling rivalry. With his mother, father, and sister always angling for the spotlight, Frankie Neumann’s been content as the one in the background. He keeps his artistic talents to himself, until he’s approached by disciples of local street art legend Uncle Epic. They want him to join their crew, pulling him into a world of renegade art that finally gives him the chance to get back at his sinister sister for a lifetime of torture. But when he reaches the point of no return, he’s forced to question just how far he’ll go for his revenge. E. Eero Johnson’s vibrant illustrations pulsate through Kirstin Cronn-Mill’s electrifying story of family, mayhem and art.


Ooh-la-la (Max in Love) by Maira Kalman

An oldie but a goodie. I credit Ooh-la-la (Max in Love) as the spark that first made me fall in love with Paris and children’s books. In this delightful story, poet, dreamer, dog Max Stravinsky fulfills a lifelong dream of traveling to Paris to write and find love. The incomparable Maira Kalman puts forth a text that’s equal parts sublimely absurd and supremely brilliant. The text swirls though Kalman’s colorful, quirky illustrations of Max’s adventures along the Seine, featuring the Eiffel Tower, Fritz from the Ritz and his impressively long mustache, and the lovely Crêpes Suzette. It’s a fantastic frenzy full of whimsy, wit, and, above all else, love. Don’t forget to check out the copyright page; it’s absolument magnifique.


Find more books on the Young Readers page.

See Staff Picks for all our categories!

Katherine PerkinsKatherine Perkins is an Assistant Editor at Putnam Books for Young Readers. With parents in engineering and medicine and four siblings, Katherine is (so far) the only one in her family to choose a career in the arts over the sciences.  She’s also the only one of them in multiple book clubs (these two facts are probably related).



Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley 

Robin McKinley is one of my favorite fantasy writers, and Rose Daughter was the first novel of hers I read. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it contains plenty of elements you won’t find in the Disney version: this Beauty has two sisters, a green thumb, and a terrifying dream that has plagued her since childhood—and that just might hold the key to her (and her Beast’s) fate. What I love about Robin’s writing is that her settings and characters are richly layered and gorgeously spun, and her stories have a just-rightness to them that’s utterly satisfying. Fun fact: Robin has actually written two Beauty and the Beast retellings (the other, Beauty, was published 20 years before this one) and they’re each unique.




Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

Set in New Orleans in the not-so-distant future, this story imagines a world where a series of weather catastrophes and a devastating blood virus have turned the Gulf Coast into a quarantine zone. The region’s survivors live in tribes according to blood type. The story alternates between fifteen-year-old Fen, who’s alone with an orphaned baby after her tribe is ambushed, and Daniel, a scientist from outside the quarantine who’s illegally crossed the Wall to find a cure to the fever. Their stories converge in a way that evokes The Walking Dead (in other words: riveting). Sherri Smith is an incredible worldbuilder, and her brutal version of the Big Easy is both fantastically strange and terrifyingly realistic.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



Chime by Franny Billingsley

This is the story of Briony, a girl who happens to be a witch. A well-intentioned witch, but a witch nonetheless. Her witchy inclinations toward evil have caused the death of her stepmother and robbed her twin sister, Rose, of her wits. Chime is by turns creepy and whimsical, and even a little romantic; you’ll see what I mean when you read it. It also features one of my favorite literary elements: an unreliable narrator.





My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer

You may have noticed that I kind of have a thing for fairy tales. Besides, doesn’t this title just make you want to huddle under the blankets on a stormy October night and read by flashlight? This is a collection of short stories by some of today’s top fiction writers (including Neil Gaiman, Kevin Brockmeier, Karen Joy Fowler) that reimagine classic fairy stories for a modern adult audience. If fairy tales are at their core about the things that enchant and revolt us, that mystify us and reveal truths about our human nature—then this collection does all of the above.





The Last Star by Rick Yancey

The finale to the 5th Wave series won’t be released until next summer, but I’m giving you notice now that you will need to schedule yourself an uninterrupted block of time to devour this. If you haven’t read The 5th Wave or The Infinite Sea yet, you have time to catch up.  It’s a sci fi series about the alien apocalypse, which might sound familiar, but I can promise this is like nothing you’ve read—it’s gut-wrenchingly intense and utterly gripping. Rick Yancey is a master at orchestrating plot twists that will make you fling your book at the wall right before you snatch it up again to find out what happens next. Also: The 5th Wave movie hits theaters in January!



Find more books on the Sci-Fi & Fantasy page

See Staff Picks for all our categories!

FullSizeRenderAmy Brinker is the senior coordinator for the consumer engagement group at Penguin Random House. She lives in Brooklyn where she makes pie and puns. She loves classic novels and terrible movies.


Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Pretty sure all my friends and coworkers are tired of hearing me talk about this book. I picked it up, not really knowing what to expect, and just got sucked into this weird momentum of excitement and dread. In the middle of summer, I leapt into a cold, desolate New England town and got lost in Eileen’s story. This may be a debut novel, but Moshfegh is masterful and frank and completely herself in every sentence. Not for the faint of heart, because it is quite dark, but it’s brave and fascinating and evocative, and I can’t recommend it enough. Listen to me interview Ottessa on Beaks & Geeks!

Start Reading an Excerpt!




A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

This book! This book. What a gorgeous and inventive novel. I love how deftly Ozeki holds the together the different threads of her plot and her tenderness towards the characters. Following a writer in the pacific-northwest and a teenager from Japan, this novel spans time and continents. The story slips between the realistic and the fantastic without ever leaving the reader lost. It’s also a gorgeous meditation on finding peace while coping with the stress of being a person.

Start Reading an Excerpt!




My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Now that the fourth in this series is out, it seems like everyone’s got Ferrante fever, but I was late to the party and have only read the first so far. My Brilliant Friend reads like a classic written years ago – it’s substantial, graceful, and complete. The setting is a chaotic neighborhood in 1950’s Naples, and the story follows two girls whose friendship and life prospects change over the years. The titular friend is a force of nature – blindingly brilliant, occasionally cruel, and entirely fascinating.





NW by Zadie Smith

NW is a wonderful novel/snapshot of a vibrant neighborhood – it follows four characters, all with complicated, tangled lives. The reader sees them interact, break away, struggle, and reconcile. Zadie Smith’s writing is clear, generous, and cutting, and always feels very true.

Start Reading an Excerpt!






We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

This was my first Shirley Jackson, and it knocked me back on my heels. I gobbled it up whole. This short book is immediately creepy and atmospheric in a very specific way. Actually, Eileen grabbed me partially because its tone reminded me of this book. We Have Always Lived in the Castle also hits all my favorite notes: creepy precocious teenager? Check. Beautiful and decadent family home falling into decrepitude? Check. MURDER MOST FOUL? Check check check check

Start Reading an Excerpt!

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page.

See Staff Picks for all our categories!

11707530_10153497905508829_2395704105725950779_nSarah is a web designer at Penguin. Her life revolves around design, reading, writing, music, travel, running, and TV shows. A lot of that life ends up on the Internet.


the-thinking-womans-guide-to-real-magic-by-emily-croy-barker 2

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

Bored and unhappy at a weekend wedding, Nora wanders away and accidentally ends up stepping into another world. This new world is filled with magic and beauty and love and everything a fairytale is supposed to be. She’s quickly taken in until one disastrous night shatters the looking glass and sends her fleeing for her life. She’s taken in by a grumpy and powerful magician and finds herself in the middle of a war and learning real magic to survive. Nora takes a practical approach to her situation even when her heart gets mixed in. She’s smart and relatable even when she’s being bewitched. It’s the kind of book that makes you wonder how you would react if you took a walk in the woods and found your way to another realm. It’s a fun question to think about and a fun read.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

After the death of her best friend, Shahrzad volunteers to marry the murderer. Shiva isn’t his first victim either. Khalid, the king of kings, marries a new girl every night and has her killed every dawn. Shahrzad desires revenge, but something stops both of them from carrying out their plans. What unfolds is a complicated, heart wrenching relationship given Shahrzad and Khalid both had murderous intent on their wedding night. More secrets are revealed as they both learn things aren’t as simple as they imagined. The story is rich and beautifully told with a touch of magic. Just as Scheherazade from Arabian Nights, on which this book is based, would want.

Start Reading an Excerpt!


the-midnight-queen-by-sylvia-izzo-hunter 2

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Here at Penguin, we get a lot of books. We can request books, we are given books, and we often find books. I requested this book, but by the time it reached my desk I didn’t remember doing so. I read the description and knew why I had asked for it, but I didn’t quite realize how much I would thank my forgetful past self. The Midnight Queen tells the story of a slightly alternative England where magick is commonplace and Oxford University’s Merlin College is the premiere place to learn it. After a dangerous evening ends in the death of a fellow student and strips Grey of his power, he’s sent to spend the summer out of the way at his professor’s estate. There, he meets the professor’s daughter Sophie, who has been teaching herself magick in secret and against her father’s wishes. Their meeting and discovery of an assassination plot sets them off on an adventure filled with secrets, a little romance, and some of the most powerful magick of the age. It’s a fast read that I finished in a few days and had tremendous fun reading. It’s part of a series and fortunately the next book, Lady of Magick, was released just a few days ago.

Start Reading an Excerpt!



Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, adapted by: Philip Pullman

Who doesn’t love a good fairytale? Who doesn’t love the strange and creepy original Grimm’s stories retold by one of your favorite authors? That’s exactly how I feel about this collection. Pullman is the author of the His Dark Materials series, which are the books that I give as my favorite even though it’s impossible to choose just one. He has created some of the most incredible and complex worlds in his previous works, and now he brings that same feeling into this collection. He puts his own spin and fantastic storytelling onto the classic tales everyone knows and some of the ones no one has ever heard before. Make sure you read Pullman’s notes at the end of each tale!



The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Like some of the other characters on this list, Quentin also discovers a world of magic. He is accepted at Brakebills College, which is college—with all the extracurricular activities that entails—plus magic. Students still pull all-nighters, spend a semester abroad, make friends, drink too much, and make questionable relationship choices. But it’s not quite as magical as he imagined after growing up reading a series of Narnia-like books. Once they’ve graduated, Quentin and his friends set off to find their Narnia. If the world of Harry Potter hides its magic, in The Magicians’ world magic is just there out of the corner of your eye where you don’t notice it. I know everyone recommends this one, but I just can’t see my list of magical titles without it. Especially now the entire trilogy is available, which makes the series perfect for a binge read. And you’ll want to read them all in one sitting just to see Quentin go from sullen teenager into capable magician.

Start Reading an Excerpt!


Find more books on the Sci-Fi & Fantasy page

See Staff Picks for all our categories!