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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

afterhours

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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amanda

Amanda Rodell is an Associate National Account Manager in Penguin Adult sales.  She sells to Brodart and Baker & Taylor, and has been at Penguin for 6 years, devouring all the free books she can get her hands on.

 

 

 

flight

Flight of the Silvers, by Daniel Price

Flight of the Silvers is a fantastic read, both science fiction, and dystopian, with a Superhero element, and wonderful characters you can’t help but love. There are romantic and sister-relationship subplots as well.  This fast-paced story of a chosen few saved from the apocalypse will hold you rapt until the end.

 

 

 

 

 

midnight

Midnight Crossroad, by Charlaine Harris

Once again, Charlaine introduces a small southern town full of uniquely quirky characters and their supernatural problems.  This is the start of a new series with lots of potential and a murder mystery from the get-go.  The second book in the series, Day Shift, comes out in May 2015, and is even more gripping, with cameos from some characters you may recognize from the Sookie Stackhouse books.

 

 

 

 

blackdagger

The Black Dagger Brotherhood series, by JR Ward

These sexy vampire romances may be too steamy to read on the subway, but are perfect for vacation or stay-cation.  There’s action as these warrior vampires fight for the survival of their race against the Lessors, but it’s the push and pull of the relationships that will keep you flipping the pages, thirsty for more.

 

 

 

deadtome

Dead to Me, by Anton Strout

I have the distinct please of working with the author, and love how well his witty and sardonic voice comes through in his books. This is the first in the Simon Canderous series, in which a paranormal investigator uses his powers to solve otherworldly crimes.  Perfect for fans of Jim Butcher, you’re sure to love this romp through the extraordinary underworld of NYC with wise-cracking detectives as your guides.

 

 

 

 

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Bart

Jocelyn Kamouh-Edwards is the Social Media Marketing and Convention Planning Assistant for Berkley and NAL. She’s a lover of books, writing, awkward situations, and The Simpsons. See for yourself: @Jocelyn_Kamouh

 

 

 

 

 

althea

Althea & Oliver, by Christina Moracho

The tagline of this book was enough to pull me in:

“Althea can’t stop falling in love. Oliver can’t stop falling asleep.”

After being the best of friends for years, Althea is starting to realize her true feelings for Oliver just as he is stricken with Kleine-Levin syndrome, aka Sleeping Beauty Syndrome, which causes him to become a sleepy zombie for weeks on end. During one of these episodes, something happens that changes their relationship for good.

This isn’t your average YA romance. The characters and the friendship felt so real, it really took me back!

 

lookingforalaska

Looking for Alaska, by John Green

2014: THE YEAR OF JOHN GREEN. AMIRIGHT?!

I’ve been a fan of John Green’s writing for many MANY years, so the popularity of The Fault in our Stars wasn’t really that big of a surprise to me. However, his book Looking For Alaska has always been one of my all-time favorites (I think I’ve read it 6 times). I recommend it to everyone and, ya know what? I’ll say it: I like it BETTER than TFiOS!! I simply cannot wait for the movie!

OH and it’ll be celebrating 10 years in print (I feel old…) next year with a cool new hardcover edition—including DELETED SCENES.

 

mynameismemory

My Name is Memory, by Ann Brashares

This book has haunted my dreams for so many years now.
Daniel has been in love with the same girl for centuries and spends each lifetime trying to find her again.
Yeah. So. There’s that. This was the first book I read when I started working here 5 years ago and I haven’t stopped talking about it since! The characters were wonderful; the story was incredible and so romantic! It’s a love story that spans time and reason. I can’t say enough good things about this book. I recommend it to anyone who loves epic romances with a little bit of magic and wonder thrown in.

 

 

yearbook

Rookie Yearbook Three, by Tavi Gevinson

TAVI! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

Is there anything this woman CAN’T DO?? I am 31yrs old and I worship the Rookie blog. What can I say?

The third edition of the Rookie Yearbook is just as wonderful as the first two! I always look forward to see what fun stuff they’ve done with the layouts, what kind of cool stickers they’ve added this year, and which of my favorite Rookie pieces were included. This is an AWESOME gift for any girl in your life, there truly is something for everyone in here: even my husband likes it!

christmas

A Christmas-tastic Carol, by Max Brallier

OH. MY. GLOB.

I was lucky enough to get this book early from a friend in Young Readers and I’ve cherished it ever since (it will be what I read to my children in front of the tree—when I have them)! Fans of Adventure Time will LOVE this re-telling of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol starring Ice King as Scrooge and the rest of the beloved characters from the Land of Ooo.

Totally algebraic!

 

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tomcolgan

Tom Colgan is an Executive Editor at Berkley Books. When he’s not reading for pay, he’s reading for play, and when he’s not doing that he’s sleeping. If your threshold for nonsense is high you can follow him on twitter @tomcolgan14.

 

 

 

 

 

 

lesserdeadThe Lesser Dead, by Christopher Buehlman

I’m probably stretching the definition of suspense to include this one, but I’ve been in love with Chris Buehlman’s writing since reading his first novel, Those Across the River. Like that book, The Lesser Dead, is a story of horror set against a historical backdrop. Since the setting here is 1970’s New York City, it’s the first historical novel set in an era of which I have first hand knowledge. Although, at the time the worst thing I had to deal with was the subway not vampires.

 

 

 

 

nightofwhite

Night of the White Buffalo, by Margaret Coel

Margaret Coel has written 18 mysteries about Jesuit priest John O’Malley and Arapaho attorney, Vicky Holden set against the backdrop of Wyoming’s Wind River reservation. The writing is so enthralling, the descriptions of the area so evocative and the characters so intriguing that several years ago when my family was planning a trip to the west I confessed to Margaret, “I started thinking about visiting my friends on the Wind River reservation only to realize, I don’t know anyone there.” I guess there is a (small) downside to writing this good.

 

 

 

suspect

Suspect, by Robert Crais

The rules force me to pick one book per author so I’ll go with the latest from Robert Crais, but, really, you should read all of them (even the non-Penguin ones). He’s a master of suspense who never fails to deliver memorable characters and intense action.

What makes SUSPECT stand out from his other titles is that this time around his protagonist isn’t human. Maggie is a German Shepherd who lost her handler to an IED in Iraq and has been sent home with PTSD. Now with the LAPD, she’s labeled as unmanageable until she meets Scott James, an officer who was wounded in an attack that killed his partner. Now both he and Maggie are looking for a second chance, but they may be getting too close some very dangerous men. Dogs don’t have nine lives.

 

devil'sworkshopThe Devil’s Workshop, by Alex Grecian

As a former history major, I’m a big fan of historical thrillers, and, boy, they don’t come any better than Alex Grecian’s Murder Squad books. Set in Victorian-era Britain, these are tales of the early days of Scotland Yard and the fledgling science of criminal investigation. The first book, THE YARD, was great, but you could just feel the author building steam as he moved through the series. In THE DEVIL’S WORKSHOP a group of gentlemen vigilantes stage a prison break in order to get their hands on some particularly heinous criminals. However, things go badly wrong and instead of justice they get terror when they unexpectedly free the greatest evil Britain has ever seen, Jack the Ripper himself.

 

 

bookclubbedBook Clubbed, by Lorna Barrett

I can’t let you go without recommending a couple of good cozy mysteries. First up is BOOK CLUBBED by Lorna Barrett. Stoneham, New Hampshire is heaven for any bibliophile. It’s a booktown, a quaint village that has revitalized its tourism industry by turning empty storefronts over to used bookstores. People come from all over to browse, buy and eat at the various restaurants. Oh how I wish it was real!

It certainly feels like a visit to a familiar place when you are reading one of the charming Booktown mysteries from Lorna Barrett. Over the course of eight books, she’s introduced us to the quirky inhabitants of Stoneham which for all its appeal is murder on its residents. BOOK CLUBBED centers on something I’ve never come across before, murder by bookcase.

 

scorchedScorched Eggs, by Laura Childs

When it comes to cozies, you have to think of Laura Childs. She’s the author of not one, not two, but three bestselling cozy mystery series. Scorched Eggs is the sixth in her Cackleberry Club series. The small Midwestern town of Kindred is the home of the club, a combination café, bookstore, knitting shop and quilting supply store. That’s a lot to pack into one series, but Laura is adept at creating charming characters and placing them in jeopardy while keeping the story rollicking along.

 

 

 

 

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akif

Akif Saifi is an editorial assistant at the Penguin Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

stalin 2

Stalin Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928, by Stephen Kotkin

The first of Stephen Kotkin’s projected three-volume biography of Joseph Stalin is itself a mammoth undertaking. Kotkin here seeks to do away with once and for all our conception of Stalin as an opportunistic monster, and he shows us instead that from a very young age, Stalin proved himself to be exceptionally smart and capable, and was thoroughly driven by Communist ideology. Perhaps one of the most impressive things about this first volume is that very little is really known about Stalin’s early years, and Kotkin takes care to only includes verifiable information—he is not prone to the wild psychoanalysis of Stalin’s earlier biographers who speculated that the purported beatings he received as a child were in some way responsible for his later atrocities. And so Stalin himself is barely a presence in the first part of the book, and instead we are given a tour of the plethora of factors shaping the empire (not to mention the world) that he was born into: Bismarck, Marx et al. As a result, this is more than just a biography of Stalin; in Kotkin’s own words, it’s “a history of the world from Stalin’s office.”  Whatever it is, it’s a thrilling read, and it goes a long way in putting the present situation in Russia, as well as the crisis in Ukraine, into their proper historical context.

when the factsWhen the Facts Change: Essays, 1995-2010, by Tony Judt (on sale 1/22/2015)

In recent years, there have been few public intellectuals as consequential as Tony Judt. He was that rare figure who could seamlessly bridge the gap between history and current events, drawing from overlooked historic episodes to help explain the world we live in now. When the Facts Change is a collection of some of the essays he wrote in the last fifteen years of his life, the majority of which were first published by The New York Review of Books, where he was a longtime contributor. It’s all here, all the subjects that were so central to his work and thought: Europe and its efforts to come to terms with its history; the folly of the war in Iraq and America’s increasing isolation on the world’s stage; and, of course, the Holocaust and Israel’s current moral dilemma. His writings on Israel are collected here for the first time in book form, and even though some time has passed (and numerous lives have been lost) since he wrote them, they still carry with them an air of prescience and insight invaluable for understanding the conflict objectively. When the Facts Change is a fitting capstone to his stellar body of work, as well as a sad reminder of the voice that we’ve lost.

muderMurder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam, and the Limits of Tolerance, by Ian Buruma

Ten years ago this month, Mohammed Bouyeri, a 26-year-old Dutchman of Moroccan descent, shot and killed the filmmaker Theo van Gogh as he rode his bike through the streets of Amsterdam. But he did not stop there. He went on to slash van Gogh’s throat as people looked on in horror. The act was meant to be a retaliation for the release of van Gogh’s film, Submission: Part I, where verses of the Quran were painted on the bodies of naked women; indeed, Bouyeri claimed he was acting to defend the name of Allah. It was not the first time we had heard those words; it was surely not the last. In recent months, we’ve witnessed a resurgence of similar barbarism in the name of Islam, from the beheadings and widespread atrocities of the so-called Islamic State and the kidnappings and bombings of Boko Haram and Al Shabab in Africa. In Murder in Amsterdam, Ian Buruma, a noted historian and a Dutchman himself, travels to the Netherlands soon after van Gogh’s murder to investigate the climate that gave rise to such an appalling act, examining the influx of immigrants from North Africa and ex-colonies into the country and the way they are treated, as well as the resurgence of reactionary Dutch nationalists in a society often prized for its tolerance and liberalism. It reads like long form journalism that perfectly blends history with current events to explore a most pressing question, one that remains unanswered ten years on. I can think of no book more fitting for our times.

delugeThe Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931, by Adam Tooze 

Among the spate of recent books examining World War I on the centenary of its outbreak, Adam Tooze’s new book. The Deluge, stands out. Tooze, a professor of history at Yale and the author of The Wages of Destruction, a much-praised study of the Nazi war economy, is one of the finest economic historians writing today. Here, he shifts his focus from the Third Reich and the Second World War to the United States and the First, examining the pivotal role that conflict played in redefining the nation and catapulting it to the top of the global hierarchy. This is not new territory per se, but Tooze writes persuasively and authoritatively. If you only intend to read one World War I book this year, The Deluge will not disappoint.

 

capitalCapital The Eruption of Delhi, by Rana Dasgupta

There has been much talk in recent years of the growing division between the top 1% and the remaining 99%, and part of the reason Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century became such a sensation earlier this year was because it provided some quantitative grounding to these arguments. Rana Dasgupta’s similarly titled Capital does not bother itself with the numbers; it is far more concerned with the social and human cost of income inequality. Dasgupta takes as his subject New Delhi, the capital of India, itself an incredibly polarized society where the very rich have recently done very well for themselves and have taken advantage of the influx of capital from globalization, while the rest of the city has carried on, largely unaffected, their lives about the same now as they were some forty years ago. If you’re a fan of Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City, you’ll find much to like in Capital.

 

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walker

Alan Walker is the Director of Academic and Library Marketing and Sales for Penguin. He can also be found on occasion reading Penguin Classics in alphabetical order for his Penguin Classics Marathon.

 

 

 

ofhuman

Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham 

W. Somerset Maugham’s masterpiece is my favorite novel, and I recommend it to everyone. It follows the life of Philip Carey at the beginning of the twentieth century. Born with a club foot and orphaned at a young age, Philip grows up with his dreary aunt and uncle, is packed off to boarding school in Germany, attempts to become an artist in Paris, and then returns to England to try his luck at medicine and various other careers. During that time he falls for Mildred, a waitress beneath his station, in what turns into a mutually destructive relationship (to say the least!). Maugham’s novel stands the test of time and is unique in how it makes us realize how much alike we are to those who came before us, in our hopes, ambitions, passions and most especially our deepest flaws. Three film adaptations have never come close to doing the novel justice, never capturing the heart and humor of the book. It would make a great HBO or BBC mini-series if done properly! (Michael Fassbender as Philip maybe?)

ageofinnocence

The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton

Wharton’s novel of the 1870s New York aristocracy is right up there as my all-time favorite read. Newland Archer’s tortured affair with the scandalized divorcee Countess Olenska set against the rigid morals of upper class society is the stuff of literary magic. How Wharton gets so deep into the very soul of Newland’s mind and heart is uncanny. If you’ve ever lived a lie for even a moment Newland is your man! The famous scene when our hero (or anti-hero?) sees Ellen (the Countess) from afar, and decides to go to her if she turns to him is one of the most heartbreaking scenes you’ll ever find in a book.

 

 

ethan

Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton

Wharton’s novels were mostly about high society New Yorkers, like The Age of Innocence, but she also wrote two books about the rural poor. The better known of these is Ethan Frome which takes place in a corner of Western Massachusetts and is one of literature’s great love stories. I read this when I was a teenager and plan to go back to it at some point to see how it reads a few years (OK, decades) later.  I admit a personal connection to this book as I too spent early years with friends and siblings sledding down the same steep Berkshire hills as Mattie and Ethan did in their fictional town of Starkfield. Luckily for me though, we did a better job of avoiding the trees.

 

 

a hero

A Hero of Our Time, by Mikhail Lermontov

Ah, the Russians. I think I could list any number of great Russian novels below in my top five black spine recommendations, but for the sake of brevity I have chosen one, which may not be as familiar as some from the long list of great 19th and 20th Century works, from Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Zamyatin, Chekhov, Bulgakov, Gogol, Pushkin, etc. That book is Mikhail Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time starring the dark and moody Pechorin who delights in the misery and downfall of those around him. Pechorin is one of my favorite characters in all of literature, and towards the end of the short novel there is a hilarious dual scene that is worth the price of admission! For anyone interested there is a 1992 French film entitled Un Coeur in Hiver (A Heart in Winter) which is a loosely based modern adaptation of the novel starring Daniel Auteuil.

 

a room

A Room with a View, by E. M. Forster

Speaking of great film adaptations, my last recommendation is E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View.  It’s hard to read this book without picturing all the actors from the great 1985 Merchant/Ivory production reading their lines as you stroll through this very amusing novel, and that is mostly due to E.M. Forster’s brilliant dialogue which was taken practically verbatim from the book for the movie. To quote from my own Classics Marathon Read (link above) I guess I am a sucker for a novel about repressed upper class Brits at the turn of the 20th Century, especially when juxtaposed against the raw passion and beauty of Italy. If you are like me, whether you’ve seen the movie a hundred times or not, Forster’s novel will make you want to ask the great questions and maybe on a future trip to Florence plan a day trip to a nearby Fiesole hillside!

 

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Saracarder

Sara Carder is Editorial Director at Tarcher / Penguin Random House where she has the great pleasure of working on books that help people lead happier, healthier lives.

 

 

 

meditation

The Power of Meditation, by Edward Viljoen

I heard Edward Viljoen speak recently and was so moved by his talk that I was eager to hear more from him. Once I found a moment to dig into his book The Power of Meditation, I was not disappointed. Edward has the ability to talk about things that are really quite serious (such as, well, sort of a biggie, how to be more at peace in your life!) with such a light touch that the wisdom of what he’s saying creeps up on you like the punch line of a great joke. In The Power of Meditation he takes what can be a very intimidating topic for some –meditation– and makes it so wonderfully accessible. If you are one of those people, like me, who is convinced that you could never “learn” how to meditate, read Edward’s book. The how and why of meditation are beautifully explained in The Power of Meditation. I have decided to give it another go.

foodrules

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, by Michael Pollan

As a self-help editor I experience no shortage of advice in my life. How can I be a better parent? How can I find a better live/work balance? Or – a biggie – what should I eat? I love this slim little book that tells you all you need to know really about eating healthily. After I read it, I decided I never needed to read anything else on the topic. I was also very happy because I wouldn’t have to deprive myself of delicious food. The rules for eating in this book are truly rules to live by.

 

 

 

failfast

Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win, by Ryan Babineaux, Ph.D., and John Krumboltz, Ph.D.

Full disclosure #1: this is a book I acquired and edited for Tarcher. Full disclosure #2: when it came to me on submission from a literary agent, I thought “What a great title and I know SOOOO many people who need this book. But I’m not one of them. I know how to fail. I fail all the time and I’m good at it.” Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. What I learned is that my fear of failure was actually one of the biggest things holding me back in life. Now, after reading this book, when there’s something I feel inspired to do, instead of not doing it because I think I can’t do it well, I tell myself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen if this doesn’t work?” And I give it a try.

 

attached

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love, by Amir Levine, M.D., and Rachel S.F. Heller, M.A.

When my son was born I discovered that there were a lot of books out there on “Attachment Parenting.” It’s a pretty good approach to raising kids: form a deep, secure bond with your child and you will set him/her up for a happy life. I devoured these books! Attachment theory as it pertains to the parent/child bond is truly fascinating so when the proposal for this book on how an understanding of Adult Attachment research can help you better relate to your romantic partner, I was eager to read. This fascinating research reveals that, when it comes to romantic love, we are all one of the following types: Anxious, Avoidant, or Secure. And guess what the best type to be is? Secure (of course). This book will show you how to become more calm, contented, and connected in your relationship – whether you’ve found a partner or you’re still looking. This is one of the smartest self-help/psychology books I’ve ever read.

 

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