Andrea-Lam-Penguin-Classics-Staff-Picks

 

 

Andrea Lam is a Publicity Assistant at Viking / Penguin Books / Penguin Classics, where she is the in-house champion for tall ships, world mythology and folklore, and Anne Brontë.

 

 

 

 

north-and-south-by-elizabeth-gaskellNorth and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favorite Victorian novelists, and North and South is easily my favorite of her novels. Gaskell wrote candidly and compassionately about class differences in British society, particularly as they applied to the heavily industrial North of England. In North and South, Southern Margaret Hale is forced with her family to move up to Milton-Northern (modelled after Manchester), where she comes into repeated conflict with mill owner and native Northerner John Thornton. As Milton-Northern’s mill workers increasingly agitate for rights, Margaret and John must come to an understanding both personally and politically, but their path is far from smooth. A bonus: the 2004 BBC series based on the novel is a wonderful adaptation, and I recommend both to just about anyone who will stand still long enough to listen.

 

spunyarn-by-john-masefield

Spunyarn by John Masefield

I usually credit my deep love for tall ships and the Age of Sail to having read the entire 20-book Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian when I was twelve years old, but I’m sure that I encountered John Masefield’s poetry some time before then. Though I know intellectually that I’d not survive the physical toil of daily life on a merchant mariner or naval warship, Masefield’s ‘Sea-Fever’ makes me long for the far-ranging view from the bow of a ship running free, and moves me like few other poems do each time I read it.

 

 

 

the-turnip-princess-and-other-newly-discovered-fairy-tales-by-franz-xaver-von-schonwerthThe Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth and translated by Maria Tatar

I’ve been passionate about world mythology and folklore since I was very young, and when I read the news in 2012 that a cache of previously unseen German fairy tales had been discovered, I jumped to follow the story. Imagine my surprise two years later when, shortly after I started working for Penguin, I learned that not only was Penguin Classics publishing a selection of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth’s tales, the tales were to be translated by the inimitable Maria Tatar! I’ve long admired Tatar’s scholarship, and I’m so pleased that her translation of Schönwerth’s tales are now available to the reading public and fellow fairy tale enthusiasts like myself.

 

passing-by-nella-larsenPassing by Nella Larsen

Nella Larsen’s short novel Passing is a poignant, painful exploration of race and racism in the Harlem Renaissance that deals with issues of racial identity formation, cultural assimilation, and self-presentation. Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry’s respective struggles with life as mixed-race women in a racist, male-dominated society still ring true today. Larsen’s other novel Quicksand, published a year before Passing, deals with related issues and is also well worth reading.

 

 

 

the-tenant-of-wildfell-hall-by-anne-bronteThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Jane and Emily are both well and good, but Anne is my favorite of the Brontë sisters and—I feel—the most under appreciated. Anne published only two novels, the other being Agnes Grey, and in both her straightforward depiction of casual male chauvinism stands in contrast to that of her sisters’ in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. For readers accustomed to the exploits of Edward Rochester and Heathcliff, Tenant’s Arthur Huntingdon may come as a shock. Given that popular culture through history has a deleterious tendency to gloss over abusive behavior, I appreciate Anne Brontë’s refusal to do the same.

 

 

the-penguin-book-of-witches-by-katherine-howe

The Penguin Book of Witches edited by Katherine Howe

If you thought you know about witches, think again. The Penguin Book of Witches is a well-selected collection of historical accounts (all primary-source documents) of accused witches and witch-hunters in North America and England that ably demonstrates that the history of witches is the history of legalized persecution of marginalized groups. Katherine Howe’s explanatory essays and notes are both intelligent and accessible, and help to contextualize the varying time periods in which the documents were written. Witches are a popular trope in fiction for good reason, and The Penguin Book of Witches is a great look at the history behind the fiction.

 

Find more books on the Penguin Classics page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories!


Catherine-Hayden-Penguin-YR-Staff-Picks

 

Catherine Hayden is a Marketing Coordinator for the School and Library department. She has a passion for bookstores and libraries that borders on obsession. When she’s not working or looking at books, she can often be found playing in a grown-up dodgeball league, doting on her nephews, taking in New York City, and saying hi to every dog she passes on the sidewalk.

 

 

 

Extraordinary-Jane-by -Hannah-E-Harrison

Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison

This is the book that I give to every child (and some adults) in my life and it’s impossible not to fall in love with. Jane is a circus dog who wants to be extraordinary like her strong, elephant lifting father and her fearless tightrope walking sisters. What she finds, after many mishaps is that she doesn’t have to be extraordinary to be special. Hannah E. Harrison’s illustrations are simply gorgeous and bursting with charm and whimsy. The story is funny yet cozy and comforting for little ones and I guarantee they will want to read it over and over again.

 

The-Day-The-Crayons-Quit-by-Drew-Daywaly-Oliver-Jeffers

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

The Day the Crayons Quit is laugh out loud hilarious. It tells the story of a little boys box of crayons who are fed up with their jobs, so they quit! Each page features a different letter from an irate crayon listing it’s reasons for quitting. Red crayon feels over worked while white crayon feels like he’s not being used at all and yellow and orange crayon are downright feuding! Each letter comes with hilarious illustrations of indignant crayons and pictures they are forced to draw. The books satisfying conclusion will have kids seeing their box of crayons in an entirely new light!

Roller-Girl-by-Victoria-Jamieson

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

I am a sucker for a good graphic novel and this one is pure fun! Astrid is 12 years old and devastated when she finds out that her best friend Nicole, with whom she does everything, has chosen to take ballet rather than attend roller derby camp together. Now Astrid has to navigate roller derby camp, and all of the bumps and bruises that come with it, completely alone. This book perfectly encapsulates what it is to be an awkward adolescent and the ups and downs of friendship. Astrid’s imperfections, and the growth that comes from overcoming them, make her an incredibly relatable character for young girls and boys alike who will completely understand her pains and triumphs.

 

The-Wrath-and-The-Dawn-by-Renee-Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

As a lover of the classics, I was intrigued when I found out we were publishing a book inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. Every night a murderous boy-king takes a new bride and every morning at dawn he kills her. This reign of terror continues until a young woman named Shahrzad, vowing to avenge her best friend, offers herself up willingly. All she needs to do is stay alive long enough to kill the king. This book is so lush and every character brings their own depth and fascinating backstory to the plot. I cannot wait for the sequel!

 

 

 

between-shades-of-gray-by-ruta-sepetysBetween Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepeteys

Honestly, Ruta Sepeteys could probably write a grocery list and I would be captivated but I recommend her debut Between Shades of Gray first. It has been a few years since I first read this book but I still can’t get it out of my head. It follows a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl during WWII after Soviet officers invade her home, separate her father and force her, her brother, and her mother onto a crowded train to a Siberian work camp. The entire story is at once hopeful and devastating and a testament to incredible storytelling. It opened my eyes to a part of history that I knew very little about and yet is incredibly important. I think everyone should read this one.

 

 

Find more books on the Young Readers page.

See Staff Picks for all our categories!


Gothamcrop

Amanda Ng is an assistant editor at the Berkley Publishing Group. She has previously been paid to play video games and is currently being paid to read books. She thinks she’s doing pretty well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

sunshine

Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

The vampires from the Underworld movies and The Vampire Diaries are fine, but my absolute favorite version of vampires can be found in Robin McKinley’s SUNSHINE.  They aren’t just humans with fangs, they’re creatures that are dangerous, chilling, and entirely otherworldly.  The relationship between Sunshine and Constantine is equal parts curious and enthralling, and the scene in which they first meet is one of my all time favorites.

 

 

 

magic

Magic Bites, by Ilona Andrews

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews is one of my favorite urban fantasy series. Kate is a fantastic heroine, the action is thrilling, and the world she’s built up over the course of the series is one of the most well-developed worlds I’ve seen. In her version of Atlanta, humans, shapeshifters, necromancers, and more inhabit the same space but don’t always get along. Also, while I love main characters Kate and Curran, the numerous side characters always get their chance to shine and their diversity makes the series even more fun and engaging.

 

 

 

archangel

Archangel, by Sharon Shinn

The first time I picked this book up was at a friend’s house. I started reading and before I knew it I’d been reading for twenty minutes, completely ignoring everyone around me. Rachel (a human) and Gabriel  (an angel) are unforgettable characters that are forced to wed and carry the weight of their world together. That world, Samaria, is rich and detailed, with one of the most intriguing societies I’ve had the pleasure of reading about.

 

 

 

 

slow

The Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss

If you haven’t read the first two books in the Kingkiller Chronicle, THE NAME OF THE WIND and THE WISE MAN’S FEAR, you absolutely must. THE SLOW REGARD OF SILENT THINGS is quite different from those thousand-page epics as it’s a beautifully illustrated book and features Auri, a side character from the main series. It’s an excellent companion piece as you get a glimpse into this fascinating character’s life while experiencing the author’s lyrical prose.

 

 

 

magicians

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman

Quentin, the main character of THE MAGICIANS, is clearly an antihero and it’s a testament to how excellent the story is that I absolutely loved this book despite Quentin’s many unlikeable characteristics. THE MAGICIANS takes us to a magical world but shows us that magic won’t just solve our very real problems for us. It’s up to each person to make certain choices, and sometimes not everyone is capable of making the right choices.

 

 

 

 

Find more books on the Mystery & Suspense page!

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Tara Shanahan Young Readers

Tara Shanahan works as a publicist at Penguin Young Readers and has had a passion for children’s books since her mom handed her a copy of Harry Potter in the 4th grade. It’s been true love ever since.

 

 

 

 

between

Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys 

Many books have rotated in my list of favorites over my years in publishing, but one that has held steadily at the top since the week I started at Penguin is Ruta Sepetys’ stunning debut. This account of the forced relocation of a Lithuanian family during the Russian invasion of 1939 was the first book I ever worked on and few stories have struck me so hard and stayed with me so long. BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY is just so beautifully written and incredibly special that it is destined to become a classic.

 

 

 

althea

Althea and Oliver, by Cristina Moracho

I’m such a sucker for smart, gorgeously written, realistic YA with a healthy dash of romance and few books have hit the spot quite like Cristina Moracho’s literary debut.  Althea and Oliver are teenagers in the 90s who have been best friends since they were six, but as their high school careers draw to a close they’re faced with the challenge of Althea’s growing romantic feelings and Oliver’s mysterious illness. I absolutely devoured this book in an afternoon and then proceeded to tell everyone I knew about it, so now I’m telling you! Go read it. You won’t be sorry.

 

 

 

5th wave

The 5th WAVE by Rick Yancey

This list wouldn’t be complete without a phenomenal blockbuster YA! THE 5TH WAVE busted onto the shelves last year and it completely lives up to the hype. This epic sci-fi adventure follows Cassie Sullivan as she fights for her life and the life of her younger brother as mysterious strangers start to take over the world.  Cassie is a kick-butt heroine who you can’t help but root for. I can NOT wait to see this one come to the big screen next year!

 

 

 

laststop

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

This fresh new picture book has brightened up my mood every time I page through it! Matt’s story of a grandmother taking the bus through the city while teaching her grandson about empathy, gratitude, and giving back is so heartwarming. I love Christian’s illustrations that color every scene with cheer and bring all the bustle and movement of their day to life. A must-have for all city kids’ bookshelves!

 

 

 

maple

Maple, by Lori Nichols

Who doesn’t love a sweet, beautifully illustrated picture book? Lori Nichols’ charming debut features Maple, a free-spirited young girl who loves nature and seasons. This is the perfect story to get your whole family excited for spring!

 

 

 

 

jack

Jack & Louisa: Act 1 by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead

Are you a theater nerd or just love a good middle grade novel? This sweet and funny story of the friendship between two young performers auditioning for Into the Woods, written by two Broadway veterans, is the perfect read for the young entertainer in your life!

 

 

 

 

 

Find more books on the Young Readers page.

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


katie

Katie McKee is a Senior Publicity Manager at Putnam. She started at Putnam in 2004 and has worked in the publicity department for almost 11 years. In her spare time, she loves traveling with her family, watching The Walking Dead, and reading to her daughter, Peyton.

 

 

strangler

The Strangler Vine, by M.J. Carter

The Strangler Vine has shades of Heart of Darkness with a splash of Conan Doyle and it is one of my favorite debuts of the season.  Set in the wilds of 19th-century colonial India at the height of the East India Company’s rule, this historical mystery introduces an unforgettable investigative pair. William Avery is a young soldier with few prospects except rotting away in India. Jeremiah Blake is a genius political agent gone native who can’t resist the challenge of an unresolved mystery. This unlikely duo is thrown together to track down an author who has gone missing in the untamed wilds of India. I won’t reveal much more, but you end the novel wanting to read everything you can on the East India Company and the mysterious Thuggee cult. And what’s even better is that we haven’t seen the end of Avery and Blake!

 
fatal

The Fatal Flame, by Lyndsay Faye

When you pick up a novel by Lyndsay Faye, prepare yourself for time travel. With her last two books (The Gods of Gotham and Seven for a Secret) and her latest, The Fatal Flame, you are literally transported to 1840’s New York City. Through her meticulous research, Faye blends real-life historical figures and details into her fictional canvas. The Fatal Flame once again features “copper star” Timothy Wilde, a one-man force of righteousness in a city rife with corruption. Faye is a masterful storyteller and if you love historical mysteries, this is the book to pick up.

 

 

gathering

Gathering Prey, by John Sandford

Gathering Prey is the 25th novel in John Sandford’s beloved “Prey” series. This thriller takes Lucas Davenport and his adopted daughter Letty into the unknown world of “Travelers:” a group that moves from city to city, panhandling, committing no crimes. But now somebody is killing them. Gathering Prey has everything: Sandford’s trademark humor, action, and fantastic writing. But he has something extra in mind for this latest Prey installment – something no one will expect.

 

 

 

sunshine

My Sunshine Away, by M.O. Walsh

My Sunshine Away is one of the most buzzed about debuts of the season (and for good reason). The novel has garnered amazing pre-publication praise from a few fans you might know: Kathryn Stockett, Anne Rice, Tom Franklin, Matthew Thomas, and the list goes on. My Sunshine Away tells the story of a fourteen-year-old boy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in love with fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson, the girl across the street. But after Lindy is attacked one night while riding her bike home from track practice and no arrests are made, innocence is suddenly lost from her, him, and everyone along Piney Creek Road in their affluent section of Baton Rouge. Walsh’s writing is mesmerizing and the descriptions of his hometown of Baton Rouge create an incredible backdrop for this gripping debut.

 

theranger

The Ranger, by Ace Atkins

It’s hard to sum up Ace Atkins’ Quinn Colson series in a few lines because these books offer up so much. If you’re looking for a series that’s gritty and action-packed, yet reads more like a literary novel than crime fiction, look no further. Atkins has created such an intriguing and appealing hero in Quinn Colson, a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq who returns to rural Mississippi to fight corruption on his home turf. And if you don’t believe me, the reviews speak for themselves: Marilyn Stasio wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “Ace Atkins’ killing honesty sets a new standard for Southern crime novels.” The Ranger is the first installment in this remarkable series.

 

 

Find more books on the Mystery & Suspense page!

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seema

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

 

 

 

 

 

bonepeopleThe Bone People, by Keri Hulme

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

 

kitchens

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal

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

interestings

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

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

 

onbeauty

On Beauty, by Zadie Smith

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

 

 

 

trilogy

The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster

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

 

 

 

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page.

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Andrew Yackira Headshot

Andrew Yackira is an Editor with Tarcher/Penguin, acquiring books on health, wellness, self-help, philosophy, and works containing loads of other fun and potentially world-changing ideas. When he isn’t reading for work, he still manages to read for pleasure, is an avid commuter cyclist, a gamer, an eater-of-foods-he-didn’t-prepare—as well as some that he did—and (presumably to his neighbor’s chagrin) has recently taken up playing the mandolin.

 

 

strongerfaster

Stronger, Faster, Smarter: A Guide to Your Most Powerful Body, by Ryan Ferguson

Ryan Ferguson, the author of this fitness guide, spent ten years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. The titular line comes from something his father told him—after first realizing that the nightmare of his imprisonment might be his new normal:  “Son, do whatever you can to get stronger, faster, and smarter.  This is now your number one priority.” Aside from the inspirational story behind the Ferguson’s physical transformation while behind bars—and, ultimately, his acquittal—this book contains a fitness program emphasizing a need of resolve and inner strength over the need of fancy exercise equipment. Most of the exercises highlighted in this book are simple and can be done in a 6’ x 8’ cage if need be (and we hope our readers never find themselves in a situation where that need arises).

 

getting things done

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen

This perennial bestseller in the “productivity” category is a favorite among many of the staffers here at Tarcher. David Allen is a mastermind of organization and anti-procrastination tips, and his no-nonsense approach is brilliant for simplifying the daunting pile of tasks many of us face during our workdays. Also, there will be a revised 2015 edition of this classic coming out in March! Tarcher is proud to have partnered with the Penguin imprint on theGetting Things Done Productivity Cards in 2013, which distilled the wisdom in this book down to bite-sized portions in a colorful and beautifully-designed deck of cards.

 

 

reiki

Reiki for Life: The Complete Guide to Reiki Practice for Levels 1, 2, & 3, by Penelope Quest

Chances are you’ve heard about Reiki in the last few years, as centers are beginning to pop up all around the country and compliment other ancient techniques such as T’ai Chi and acupuncture. This handbook is all anyone interested in Reiki needs to begin practicing this potent and increasingly popular healing technique. Readers will learn how Reiki works, how to perform Reiki on themselves and others, instructions on how to become a Reiki Master, and much more.

 

 

 

fork

What the Fork Are You Eating? An Action Plan for Your Pantry and Plate, by Stefanie Sacks MS, CNS, CDN

American culture seems increasingly obsessed with labels like “natural,” “grass-fed,” “free-roaming,” and “organic”—but author, certified chef, and nutritionist Stefanie Sacks argues that these labels may be misleading and arms consumers with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions for themselves and their families. But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, so this book would be incomplete without the included fifty original recipes that readers can try at home (although I don’t think there are any pudding recipes—sorry for any confusion).

 

 

lessdoing

Less Doing, More Living: Make Everything in Life Easier by Ari Meisel

In this handy and compact tome, TEDx speaker, triathlete, and productivity consultant Ari Meisel transforms his “Less Doing” lifestyle into actionable steps that readers can easily apply to their lives. Ari’s 21st century philosophy puts the internet and technology to work on behalf of the reader—using apps and tools to automate and outsource daily activities like e-mail, keeping track of new ideas, and remembering meetings—creating an “external brain” and freeing up the reader’s time and mind to focus only on important tasks. But this philosophy isn’t just about business and work life. Meisel tackles the trifecta of wellness—fitness, sleep, and nutrition— and instructs the reader on how to get more out of life, all while doing less. This book is a true gem in productivity improvement, and I personally use strategies I learned from working on this book in my daily life.

 

To find Health & Self-Improvement books, click here

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Ryan Murphy noodles

When Ryan Murphy lived in California a barber told him he seemed like a New Yorker. So he moved there. If he’s not at Penguin or flogging literature at Three Lives & Company, he’s probably tucking away noodles in Flushing, samosas in Jackson Heights or banh mi in Elmhurst.

 

 

 

 

 

 

myantonia

My Antonia, by Willa Cather

Is there a more beautiful writer in the English language than Willa Cather? Years after I first read My Antonia the storyline has become a jumble in my head, but Cather’s peerless vision of the American prairie remains. Pick any random page and you’ll find a gorgeous metaphor or crystalline phrase. Page 201 from the Drop Caps edition: “We sat looking off across the country, watching the sun go down. The curly grass about us was on fire now. The bark of the oaks turned red as copper…The girls sat listless, leaning against each other. The long fingers of the sun touched their foreheads.” There is a subtle mastery to Cather’s words, a clear-eyed sense of rhythm and place that coalesces into a portrait of America that few writers of any era have matched.

 

flatlandFlatland, by Edwin A. Abbott

On the opposite side of the literary spectrum from My Antonia we have Flatland, Edwin Abbott’s spare satire of Victorian society. The story is told by a Square (a member of the privileged, all-male Polygon class), who describes his two-dimensional world and the hierarchies that spring from such inborn characteristics as the number of sides one possesses. Women are Lines, one-dimensional mathematical constructs without depth or importance and mainly notable for the danger they pose as sharp objects. Shapes with irregularities are either shunted into the working classes or, when an aberration is uncorrectable, euthanized. As Abbott said in a later preface, the narrator Square has identified closely with historians “in whose pages (until very recent times) the destinies of Women and of the masses of mankind have seldom been deemed worthy of mention and never of careful consideration.”

 

typee

Typee, by Herman Melville

Long before James Frey and David Sedaris, Herman Melville set a standard for pseudo-memoir with his rollicking South Pacific adventure tale. Expanded, exaggerated and embellished, Typee nonetheless is based on Melville’s real experiences as a captive on Nuku Hiva. Though simpler and far less philosophical than the later Moby-Dick, Typee shows clear strains of Melville’s genius for inquiry and narration, and even a few flashes of humanistic insight beyond the Noble Savage stereotypes. The book (and his next one, Omoo) is an exotic and exciting travelogue that clearly caught the attention of the American public—unlike the epic story of the White Whale, which sank like Ahab in the marketplace, Typee was snapped up by readers eager to read tales of a world entirely inaccessible to them.

logfromthesa

The Log from the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck’s books could almost fill my best-of list all by themselves, but for the purposes of this post I’m limiting my Steinbeck picks to one. The Log from the Sea of Cortez tells the story of the author and his friend, biologist Ed Ricketts (who might be familiar to fans of Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday and several other works), traveling down Baja and into the Gulf of California on a scientific expedition. The book is as funny and thoughtful as Steinbeck’s acclaimed fiction, and his descriptions of life on the Gulf are as sumptuous as those of the Salinas Valley in East of Eden. Just as The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay shaped my perception of New York City prior to living here, Steinbeck’s West Coast stories gave me a minds-eye view of the opposite side of the continent before I moved there myself.

songlinesThe Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

If I had my own country and wanted one person to write a book about it, I’d pick Bruce Chatwin. Sure, like Typee, some of the events and dialogue in The Songlines are invented. Yes, Chatwin was just as interested in self-mythologizing as in chronicling the places he visited. But I defy anyone with either an iota of artistic feeling or a restless soul to read Chatwin’s story of Aborigine Australia and not put it down exhilarated by the effortless prose and stunned by the complexity of the cultures he visits. Any attempt to chart the physical and spiritual landscape of Aborigine religion would be doomed to failure in lesser hands, but Chatwin’s words flow and entwine like the very Songlines trod by their master-creators during the Dreaming.

 

 

The Liars’ Club, by Mary Karr

(Okay, it’s not technically a classic yet, but it’s close enough—Penguin Classics will release a Graphic Deluxe edition of The Liars’ Club in late 2015.) Notable not just for the quality of the work itself but also for its influence on countless memoirs in the following decades, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club is the story of a cracked childhood told with wit (but not snark) and feeling (but not schmaltz). Like most worthwhile memoirs, Karr’s life is both a pleasure and a pain to read, with cringe-worthy moments of youthful indiscretion, parental failures on a Child Protective Services scale, and moments of gritty, hard-won redemption.

 

Find more books on the Penguin Classics page!

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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.

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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!