Bookspotting: Amy is reading My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Ever wonder what Penguin Random House employees are reading? We’re a bunch of professionally bookish people, so you can always count on us to have a book on hand… or thirty piled on our desks. Our Bookspotting feature shows off the range of readers behind the scenes at Penguin Random House.   Amy Amy in online consumer marketing is reading My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. Show us what you’re reading by using the #bookspotting hashtag!  

Backlist Bracket: The Stand is the Scariest of The Scary Sixteen

The verdict is in! The scariest books have been narrowed down to just one.

We’ve enjoyed these weekly show-downs between our creepy favorites, but now that Halloween is upon us, it’s time to announce a winner!

In an extremely close final round, a modern horror masterpiece won out over a classic of the genre. Stephen King’s The Stand has beaten Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and is officially the ULTIMATE SPOOKY HALLOWEEN READ!

Will you be picking up The Stand this Halloween? Was Shirley Jackson robbed? Were there classic horror books that you think should have made it onto this bracket? Let us know what you thought of our Scary Sixteen tournament using #scarysixteen.

Congratulations to our sweepstakes winner: Jessica, from Costa Mesa, CA.  She’ll receive a Penguin Horror Classics set, edited by lifelong horror literature lover, Guillermo Del Toro.

Penguin Horror Scary Sixteen - WINNER If you’d prefer to buy from an independent bookseller, check out IndieBound to find a bookstore near you.

Learn all about Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes

Sabaa Tahir wrote the popular new Young Adult novel, An Ember in the Ashes last year. On Word and Film, she shared some of her inspiration and background as a writer.
“I grew up feeling voiceless and powerless as a kid. I turned to books – fantasy books, in particular – to give me comfort. As I grew up I realized I could find that sense of power and voice if I simply started writing.”
Read more about Sabaa here and listen to her fantastic interview on Beaks and Geeks!  

Listen: Andy Weir Talks About His Life Long Struggle with Anxiety

The Martian author, Andy Weir came on Beaks & Geeks to talk about the book and the much-anticipated film adaptation directed by Ridley Scott. He tells us about conquering his anxiety and fear of flying to attend the movie premiere, the real science behind The Martian, and his visit to a NASA Space Center. You’ll also learn about his hacked Twitter account, which is back up and running, and more.

Executive Editor, Lucia Watson, on Cooking for Life by Ann Ogden Gaffney

Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best.   At the heart of every good cookbook is a compelling story. When I got the proposal for this cookbook, I was utterly moved by Ann Ogden Gaffney’s story of turning her own experience with cancer into a mission that has helped so many others. Ann had a glamorous career in fashion when she was diagnosed with cancer the first time in 2001. She says she was lucky that time—she had surgery to remove her kidney, and then she was quickly back traveling the world. But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer several years later her, it was a much different story. She couldn’t travel and she was bald. She took a hiatus from work to give herself the time to get through treatment. It turned out to be a decision that would change her life. As a passionate home cook, Ann found that she could cope with her symptoms by listening to what her body needed and craved. As she became immersed in the world of hospitals, she realized that she could use her skills to help other patients cope in the same way, teaching them and their loved ones how to make good food that would bring comfort and nourishment as they dealt with illness. Ann started offering advice, then recipes, and then began organizing free classes. When her own treatment was over, she discovered she had no interest in going back to client meetings to discuss the new trends in colors or skirt lengths that season. Her heart was still back in the cancer suite. In 2007, she founded Cook for Your Life which has gone from a one-woman show to a leading nonprofit that serves patients all over the tri-state area and all over the country through their popular interactive website. When I talked to Ann for the first time about this cookbook, I was struck by her spirit and fabulous sense of humor. And I heard her determination to create a cookbook that really addressed the unique challenges that cancer patients face head on. She told me that there was no other cancer cookbook out there that approached cooking the way that she wanted to. Some doctors give advice on nutrition (many don’t). But no one tells you how to implement that advice and how to cook as your cravings, taste buds, and energy levels change dramatically during treatment. What people need are simple recipes with short ingredient lists that deliver and that really satisfy. Ann’s strong vision for the book also included its design. She felt strongly that it should look rich and beautiful, not clinical. And I agreed wholeheartedly. After all, just because someone is sick, it doesn’t mean that they lose their sense of pleasure. And as Ann understands, a sense of pleasure is vital to feeling human, something so important when dealing with disease. We were lucky to have Ann’s husband Joe Gaffney, a renowned photographer, on board to shoot the food photos and the results are stunning. And the recipes are terrific. I cook out of the book quite a bit for my own family—Ann developed the recipes with cancer patients in mind, but it’s the kind of simple, good, soulful food that everyone loves. I’m proud to be working with Ann to bring her story and message to so many who need it. It’s a cookbook that is as much about the healing power of food as it is about keeping a sense of self while going through the frightening and overwhelming process of treating disease. I think it will be a classic for many, many years to come. Read more about the book here.

Writing Tips from Thomas Mallon, author of Finale

We know readers tend to be writers too, so we feature writing tips from our authors. Who better to offer advice, insight, and inspiration than the authors you admire? They’ll answer several questions about their work, share their go-to techniques and more. Now, get writing!  After developing an idea, what is the first action you take when beginning to write? Given the nature of historical fiction, the first thing I do is a lot of research. And that usually begins with reading old newspapers. Thanks to digitization, that’s much easier to do than it once was. Alas, also thanks to digitization, we’re creating far fewer new newspapers than before. Did you always want to write? How did you start your career as an author? I started to write a political novel (about the impeachment of a president) when I was thirteen or fourteen. By the time I got halfway through college, writing had become my serious ambition, but my own timidity drew me toward teaching and, for a while, the publication of constrained little pieces in academic journals. The best thing that happened to me early on, at the beginning of the 1980s, was becoming a semi-regular contributor to William F. Buckley, Jr.’s National Review. The 800-word book reviews I wrote for the magazine usually earned me about $150 or $200; more importantly, they forced my writing toward a greater concision and liveliness, a more personal, honest voice. All of that helped me to write A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries (1984), an unexpected success (my picture in Time magazine!) that gave me the real beginnings of my career. Describe your writing style in five words or less. Fact-filled, parenthetical; judgmental; amused. Do you ever base characters off people you know? Why or why not? A historical novelist really has to use real-life figures in his work. A couple of times I’ve included, under their own names, people I’ve actually known: E.   Howard Hunt in Watergate, and my late friend Christopher Hitchens in Finale. And yes, I’ve also refracted and disguised and renamed real people in some of my other novels. I mention Mary McCarthy below; she appears as    the writer Elizabeth Wheatley in my novel Aurora 7. And Bandbox (2004), my comedy about the magazine business, is really a roman à clef that sprang from my time at Condé Nast. A writer’s whole life and acquaintance are always a part of his material. In fact, I would go so far as to say that no character in a novel has ever been made from whole cloth. What are three or four books that influenced your writing, or had a profound effect on you? At about ten or eleven I was a great devotee of Howard Pyle’s novel about knighthood, Men of Iron, although my real pleasure-reading in elementary school came from one publisher’s American-biography series. Every one of these books was, I seem to remember, 192 pages long, whether the subject was George Washington or Molly Pitcher. During junior high school I got caught up in the great excitement over the publication of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Buying hardback books was beyond my allowance, and I couldn’t wait for a public library copy, so I secured the book (was it for fifteen cents a day?) from the little “rental library” on the main street of my town. When my ninth-grade English teacher saw me with an early copy, she was jealous. Mary McCarthy’s volume of essays, On the Contrary: Articles of Belief, 1946-1961, is the book that really made me want to become a writer. I read it in 1971, at college, and the book’s combination of literary criticism, political essays, memoir and travel writing suggested the whole range of genres I might try myself. I read all of McCarthy’s fiction, too. She became the subject of my undergraduate thesis, then later a friend and mentor. To this day I aspire to the clarity and force of her style, even though my own is nothing like hers.

Bookspotting: Emily is reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Ever wonder what Penguin Random House employees are reading? We’re a bunch of professionally bookish people, so you can always count on us to have a book on hand… or thirty piled on our desks. Our Bookspotting feature shows off the range of readers behind the scenes at Penguin Random House.   emily Emily in Digital Marketing is reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Show us what you’re reading by using the #bookspotting hashtag!  
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Tarcher Perigee Editorial Director Marian Lizzi on All the Words Are Yours by Tyler Knott Gregson

Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best. Like every editor, I learn a great deal from the books I work on. Over the past twenty-plus years, I’ve enjoyed the best continuing education course I can imagine – gleaning practical takeaways and new insights on everything from why we have eight senses, not five, and how our brains are literally wired for creativity, to how to escape a locked car trunk, the secret to translating The Simpsons into Finnish, and colorful details about the bon vivant who invented the cocktail. I can happily prattle on about research that’s found cheese to be more addictive than cigarettes, why cirrus clouds look wispy, and how algorithms actually work (ideally there won’t be any follow-up questions). But every once in a while, a book teaches me something different—something deeper. When I first learned that I would be inheriting a volume of heartfelt haiku paired with the author’s textured and intimate photographs, and editing it from the ground up, I knew that it too would be a learning experience. After all, I’d never edited a collection of poems, and with the exception of those posters in the subway, my regular exposure to poetry is more than a bit lacking. What I didn’t expect is that the author’s words and images, and the process of immersing myself in them, would touch me so deeply, and open a window onto a new way of seeing the world. It’s fair to say that Tyler Knott Gregson is a new breed of poet. Based in Montana, he’s a wedding photographer by day, a practicing Buddhist–oh, and an internet sensation. His first book, Chasers of the Light, was a national bestseller right out of the gate. His many loyal fans, hundreds of thousands in number and growing fast, follow him on Tumblr and Instagram for a daily fix of his poems composed on a vintage typewriter or hand-written on found scraps of paper. They’ve come to adore his beautifully honest, intimate words and his lush photographs that capture the fleeting moods and moments of everyday life. Reading Tyler’s poems is a disarming experience. Very quickly, you begin to feel your defenses soften. That filter of skepticism we all have begins to fade. Suddenly you’re in the hands of a writer who’s willing to lay himself bare, tuning in to his feelings of longing, passion, loss, and hope, and sharing them on the page. Before you’ve had a chance to resist, he’s pulled you into his world. From day one as Tyler’s editor, I was struck by his sincerity and purity of vision. This isn’t a flash-in-the-pan–a cynical internet celebrity making memes in his basement, or trading on his celebrity or good looks to rack up followers (did I mention he’s also incredibly handsome?). This is a generous and thoughtful writer who’s brave enough to reveal himself, in words and images, every single day. Working with Tyler on the selection and order of the poems, I had the pleasure of immersing myself in his work, experiencing up close his rare gift for observing the miraculous in the mundane, and his unique ability to put his emotions into words and images, without filtering or censoring—and without rushing past the moment in a mad dash to get more things done. While the experience moved me greatly, the editing process was also a bit unusual. Typically I connect with my authors’ words while sitting at a computer, communicating in tracked changes and comments in the margins. But not this time. Working with color print-outs of each photograph and poem, I spread them out on the biggest conference-room table I could find, and I began to physically move them around. All the Words Seeing the book laid out this way brought me even deeper into the material–and was a lot of fun. By the end of the process, I knew we had a book that effectively draws readers into Tyler’s world, one moment at a time. As the book hits stores, I’ll go back to my hurried ways, and my mad dash to collect facts and insights and cocktail party topics will continue apace. But I’ll try to hold on to that sense of wonder, and to find the courage to open my eyes just a little bit to the mystery and beauty all around us. And I’ll look forward to working with Tyler on his third collection, coming out a year from now—another chance to learn, grow, and be inspired by an author who has the courage to share his true voice on every page. Read more about All the Words Are Yours here

Backlist Bracket: The Scary Sixteen, Week 5

Welcome to Week 5 of The Scary Sixteen!  

The Penguin Random House team has come up with sixteen spine-tingling, spook-tastic contenders in four classic book categories that’ll make you sleep with the light on. Vote every week in a new round to determine the ultimate terrifying read!

Each week, there will be a drawing to see who wins a set of the Penguin Horror Classics set, edited by lifelong horror literature lover, Guillermo Del Toro.

Penguin Horror Meet this week’s kickoff contenders: vote for one of each of these match-ups, and enter HERE for a chance to win the prize. Follow on social media and share your thoughts with the hashtag #scarysixteen. WEEK 5: The Stand vs. The Haunting of Hill House

The classic post-apocalyptic tale from the modern-day master of the macabre takes on the mother of all haunted house stories in this WINNER-TAKE-ALL battle for your nightmares.  Which creepy read deserves to be crowned the scariest of them all?

Scary Sixteen - FINAL TWO If you haven’t read the books mentioned above, check them out here! If you’d prefer to buy from an independent bookseller, check out IndieBound to find a bookstore near you. Check back next week to see who’s made the cut!