Tag Archives: book recommendations

Staff Picks and Volunteer Spotlight: Ron

Who better to give book recommendations than the bookish experts? Penguin Random House employees are sharing their favorite reads every month. Browse below! Today, we spotlight Ron, who works as Retail Chain Manager for Adult Mass Merchandising. He also volunteers for Camp Kowakan and has kindly shared some of his experience. Learn more about Ron’s service time by reading his story below: Just over 1 million acres – – 1,090,000 to be specific.  So many lakes it’s almost as if they had help from Dr. Seuss in naming them – – there really is a Lake One, Lake Two, Lake Three and Lake Four.  That’s the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. (BWCA) There’s no other place like it on earth and its located in Northern Minnesota.  Since about 2004 I’ve been on the leadership team for a wilderness canoe base called Camp Kowakan. To keep it a wilderness experience, the U.S. Forest Service limits groups to nine including a guide and chaperone. We ask them to leave behind smart phones and take off watches – – they won’t be needed.  We teach them to live with the natural rhythm of life: eat when you’re hungry; sleep when you are tired; get up when it feels right, or when the canoe guide rousts you.  Group members learn teamwork and leadership skills, along with the rigors of life on the trail while, hopefully, seeing the beauty surrounding them. The resulting experience isn’t for everyone, but you’d be surprised at how many kids take to it. My next trip is in August.  All of the kids have gone on trips with me before and for two of them this will be their fourth time.  I always tell the kids that my job is to keep them safe and theirs is to make sure we have fun.  They are good at that.  I try.

Staff Picks: Natasha

Who better to give book recommendations than the bookish experts? Penguin Random House employees are sharing their favorite reads every month. Browse below! Natasha, Associate Manager, Consumer Engagement Natasha is a social media person by day and reader by night. She enjoys books that will either inspire her or make her cry — there’s really no in-between. You can probably find her at a bagel store or taking photos of brownstones in Brooklyn.  

Staff Picks: Annysa

Who better to give book recommendations than the bookish experts? Penguin Random House employees are sharing their favorite reads every month. Browse below! Annysa, Manager, Diversity & Inclusion, Career Outreach, Human Resources Annysa works closely with colleagues across the company to develop and advance strategic corporate and divisional diversity and inclusion initiatives. In addition to her husband and baby girl, her true loves include Spoken Word, traveling, home-made Dominican meals, and reading (at all possible times).  

Staff Picks: Kathryn, Marketing

Who better to give book recommendations than the bookish experts? Penguin Random House employees are sharing their favorite reads every month. Browse below!   Kathryn, Marketing Coordinator  Kathryn can always be found with a book (or four) in her bag. She’s on a perpetual quest to find the best dumplings NYC has to offer, enjoys wearing every shade of black, and commutes to read on the subway.    

Read it Forward’s New Chatbot for Book Recommendations

Read it Forward is pleased to introduce Read it Forward Book Recs, a chatbot that quickly and intelligently recommends your next great read via a conversational interface.

The bot can be accessed via RIF’s Facebook page on desktop or mobile. Once launched (via the Send Message button on RIF’s Facebook page Book-Recon desktop or by searching Read it Forward in your Messenger app on mobile), you can select several different pathways to finding your next book: Author I Like; Book I Like; Genre I Like; Surprise Me; Bestsellers; and Award Winners. After a series of additional questions designed to further narrow the selections, you are then presented with up to 18 book recommendations matching your interests. In certain instances, you are able to drill down even further into the themes of specific books or, in the case of the “Surprise Me” button, you can take a quicker path that serendipitously serves up books at random. Once you have received a set of recommendations, you are invited to look at a summary of the book, learn more about it on PRH.com, add the book to a Goodreads shelf, and share the recommendation with a friend. After the first interaction, the bot will ping you to remind you to continue discovering great books and also to encourage you to share the bot with friends. And if you choose to opt into formal notifications, you can also receive alerts when authors you like are releasing a new book, learn about author appearances in your area, and other relevant book-centric information.

Now it’s your turn! Click here to launch the chatbot and please let us know what you think. Questions, comments and any troubleshooting requests can be sent to Chatbot@Readitforward.com.

Writing Tips from Jillian Cantor, author of The Hours Count

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! 

How would you recommend creating and getting to know your characters? The absolute first thing I do is decide my main characters’ names. I feel like I need to know someone’s name before I can start to know him or her. My favorite place to figure out first names is the Social Security popular baby names website, where you can view name popularity by birth year (back to 1879) to see what common and (uncommon) names were in the year your character was born. After I decide names, I’ll start to make notes of other things, like birthdays/age or relationships to other characters, quirks, where a character lives, or things he/she likes or dislikes. But I start drafting pretty soon into this process. I mostly learn and get to really know my characters as I’m writing the first draft, thinking about what they do and how they react and speak when I put them in different situations. So I think the best way I get to know my characters is to write them. By the time I get to the end of the first draft, they’re often different than what I started with (and I know them much better). But then I go back and revise. After developing an idea, what is the first action you take when beginning to write? The first line of novel is really important. It sets the tone for the entire book. I want it to show what the book is ultimately about, but also to be interesting and hook the reader. When I first start thinking about and developing an idea I always start thinking about first lines. I jot down ideas, often for weeks or months. But, I don’t wait for the perfect first line before I start drafting a book. I begin with the first one that comes to me and then I keep writing from there to get my first draft going. So just the act of getting words and ideas down on the page is the most important action I take in order to actually start writing. I set a goal for myself – usually 3-5 pages a day – and I make myself sit down and write something, make some progress in the draft, even if it’s ultimately terrible and will all be changed in revision. Most of the time the first line that appears in the final draft of the book is not at all what I started with. I keep thinking on that first line, even as I keep writing the first draft. Usually I don’t understand enough about the story myself until I finish or get most of the way through a first draft. So I start writing at the beginning, but 9 times out of 10 that beginning changes by the time I make it to the end! Is there something you do to get into a writing mood? Somewhere you go or something you do to get thinking? I always write at home, and I need quiet to write. I negotiate my writing schedule around my kids’ schedules so I usually write while my kids are at school during weekdays, or very early in the mornings on the weekends or during the summer when my kids are home – really, whenever I can find uninterrupted quiet each day. I have an office in my house where I can shut the door, and I do write there, but when no one else is home I also write at my kitchen table. I like to drink coffee while I write, and that always helps to get me thinking. Or when I get stuck, I’ll exercise. Taking a long walk, run, or hike, often helps me work through a plot a point I was stuck on or figure out a problem in my story. What’s the best piece of advice you have received? The best advice, and I got this from a writing professor in grad school, is simply, “butt in chair.” As in, just sit down and force yourself to write something, no matter what it is or how terrible you think it is. The hardest part is making yourself sit down to do it. So I don’t let myself make excuses – I put my butt in the chair every morning and write something. What are three or four books that influenced your writing, or had a profound effect on you? I read Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott in the first fiction writing class I took, and I still have a copy on the shelf in my office. I love what she writes about first drafts and I feel like it’s still important to give myself permission to write something terrible the first time around as long as I write something. I’m a big believer in the importance of revision! Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen is one of my favorite novels, and the first I read by her. I come back to it, and her novels, again and again, because I feel like I learn so much about sympathetic character development from her. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which I first read in college, always makes me think about writing characters in a world different from our own today (which is applicable for writing historical fiction as well) and the fact that characters still need to first be inherently human and relatable, no matter how different their world is from the one we know.

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