As part of our Best Books of 2015 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Jennine Capó Crucet’s sharp, authentic debut is the coming-of-age tale of Cuban-American Lizet, who leaves her family in Miami for a prestigious Northeastern university, only to return home to an immigration battle inspired by the true story of Elián González. Crucet’s novel explores the “double vision” of growing up in two cultures while still allowing for flashes of humor. Click here to read her behind-the-book essay about Make Your Home Among Strangers.
Watch for our full list, to be revealed tomorrow. Click here for all "Best of 2015" coverage on the blog.
Have you heard the big news in the publishing world? Coloring books aren't just for kids anymore. They've grown up, and coloring has been proven to be better for more than just killing time. Here's a quick rundown of some of the biggest benefits:
Calming and de-stressing
Famed psychologist Carl Jüng began asking his patients to color in mandalas as part of his treatment plans in the early 20th century. The simple act of coloring can deliver some of the same benefits as meditation, relaxing the amygdala—the fear center of the brain.
Illustration from Lost Ocean by Johanna Basford. Excerpted with permission from Penguin Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright 2015, Johanna Basford.
Get in touch with your creative side
Art skills feeling a little rusty and underused? Was your last foray with a colored pencil in a grade school art class? It's time to pick up some new markers and crayons and let those creative juices flow. As a bonus, you'll exercise your fine motor skills.
A fresh way to socialize
Wine and painting parties are immensely popular, so why not throw a wine and coloring party with a few friends? It's easy to color and chat at the same time, making it a perfect excuse to invite some people over.
Penguin Publishing Group President, Madeline McIntosh, and Associate Publisher-Editorial Director of Penguin Classics, Elda Rotor, getting in on the coloring fun.
Instant art for your home
Who says you can't hang your own masterpieces on the fridge? With intricate color-ready pieces from some of the world's most talented rising artists in coloring books like Outside the Lines, Too and top-notch designers like Joanna Basford publishing books filled with intricate pen-and-ink illustrations, your colored pages can be used for all kinds of crafts and decorating projects.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our feature on five of the biggest and best adult coloring books, from underwater scenes to the wizarding world of Hogwarts, right in time for the gift-giving season! Or read our interview with one of Penguin's leading coloring book editors to get the inside scoop on this growing trend.
In her novel The Hours Count, Jillian Cantor melds fact and fiction as she reimagines the lives of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Americans executed for espionage during the Cold War. Our reviewer writes, "It’s a tricky business blending fact with fiction, but Cantor—who imagined the life of Anne Frank’s sister in her previous novel, Margot—manages to do so beautifully in The Hours Count." (Read the review.)
We asked Cantor to tell us about three books she's been reading lately.
Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood
Greenwood’s Bodies of Water was one of my favorite books of the past few years, and I was lucky enough to get an early copy of her upcoming novel. Where I Lost Her is part family drama, part literary mystery and filled with beautiful, hypnotic prose. A woman sees a little a girl on the side of the road in the middle of the night, but no children have been reported missing and no one quite believes her. Was the girl real or imagined? I devoured it all in one sitting.
The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
I picked this up before a long flight, intrigued solely by the flap description, and I loved everything about it. It’s a historical novel with a Sliding Doors feel. I loved the atmosphere of the 1960s that Swanson evokes, as well as her depiction of the truths and choices women had to face about their lives, roles and motherhood at the time. The book follows Kitty, who is single and a bookseller in 1962, and the woman Kitty becomes in her dreams, Kathryn, who is a married mother in 1963. Swanson’s beautiful historical details put me right in the 1960s, and wondering which woman was real kept me quickly turning the pages.
After You by Jojo Moyes
A bookseller gave me a copy of this novel when I was on tour last week, and since I could not fit one more thing in my over-stuffed bag, I carried it onto the plane and started reading it on my flight. I’m halfway through right now but loving being back in Lou and her family’s world and seeing what happens next. I was a huge fan of Me Before You, and this book has been at the top of my list to read this fall. Just in case, I will be prepared with tissues when I get to the end.
(Author photo by Alan Cantor)
As part of our Best Books of 2015 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Patrick deWitt’s second novel, The Sisters Brothers, put an original twist on the classic gunslinger sagas of the West. His anticipated follow-up is a delightfully fractured fairy tale starring a hapless hero who gets in over his head at the castle of a mysterious baron. Whimsical, smart and stylish, this is a charmer of a coming-of-age story.
Watch for our complete list on December 1. Read all our "Best of 2015" coverage on the blog.
Happy Thanksgiving, readers! Need a seasonal sweet to take to a gathering, but not quite up for the challenge of a pie? Try these spiced Molasses Cookies from Maggie Battista's Food Gift Love. They're also easy to handsomely package, so you can make a batch for your upcoming holiday gift exchanges as well!
MAKES: 90 TO 100 COOKIES // PREPARATION TIME: 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES
Molasses Cookies are fall and winter favorites, providing just the sort of comfort and flavors to help us get through tough New England weather. The original recipe was shared by a local chef, but I’ve altered it over the years to suit my need for more molasses and more spice. I like more of everything, and after you taste these cookies, you will too. The cookies are dairy-free, so they are a flavorful option for folks avoiding the stuff.
Keep a kitchen towel handy as this dough is a little slick. If you have any Cinnamon Sugar hiding in your Food Gift Love pantry, then roll the dough in that before baking.
1. Cut two large (18x12-inch) sheets of wax or parchment paper. You’ll wrap the cookie dough in the paper.
2. In a stand mixer, add the eggs, canola oil, molasses and both sugars. Beat at medium-high speed until well blended.
3. Add the remaining ingredients to a large bowl, and whisk to combine. Pour the dry ingredients into the mixer, and blend at low-medium speed until combined.
4. Drop the dough onto one sheet of the wax or parchment paper, using your well-floured hands to press any extra dough bits into the big lump of dough, forming a round disk. Using a well-floured knife or pastry cutter, slice the dough in half. Slide one half of the dough onto the second sheet of wax or parchment paper. Shape both doughs into low round disks, and wrap them up in the paper. Place on a plate or in a plastic bag and let chill in the fridge 2 hours or up to overnight. If you’d like to make these in the future, this is the moment to place the dough in the freezer as is or pre-rolled into dough balls (see step 6). (Defrost the dough disks overnight in the fridge before baking, but feel free to bake pre-rolled dough balls from frozen.)
5. Reheat the oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper (not wax paper). Pour extra sugar onto a large flat plate.
6. Using a spoon, scoop out 1 tablespoon of dough and form into a ball. Repeat until all the dough is used. Roll the dough balls in the sugar until well coated. Place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until the cookies have flattened slightly and cracked a bit but are still soft to the touch. Transfer to a cooling rack or new sheet of parchment paper to cool.
7. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.
Cut a slip of parchment paper to fit the box. Place the cookies in the box vertically. Slide the box cover closed. Cut a long length of string and wrap it around the box several times. Tie a knot and trim any excess string. Slip a hand-written (or stamped) tag under the string.
Zloty Kornblatt is the ringmaster of a horrible circus in the horrible society of Burford, an autocracy that subsists on a steady diet of pickles. Needless to say, Burford is a dismal place. So when Zloty makes his audience laugh by unintentionally impersonating the all-powerful Prime Mother, he draws the ire of the Burford bureaucracy and is hauled off to prison. Now, his talentless but tender-hearted troupe of circus performers is determined to spring him.
Filled with laugh-out-loud lines and reminiscent of the heartbreakingly hilarious dystopias of George Saunders, The Pickle Index is exactly what one would expect from Eli Horowitz, former publisher and managing editor at the home planet of weird and wonderful literature, McSweeney’s. And it's truly a three-ring circus: The book is also available in an illustrated slipcase edition and as an interactive iPhone app.
What are you reading today?
Is there anything more personal than selecting a favorite book? OK, the answer is obviously yes, but for a true book lover, maybe not by much. Releases from seasoned pros as well as exciting new voices made for a competitive, thrilling 2015—and a “best” list that we’re proud of. Look for the full list in our December issue; for now, here's a sneak peek at the back 25 . . .
31. Ghettoside by Jill Leovy
32. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
33. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
34. Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet
35. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
46. Emma and Otto and Russell and James by Etta Hooper
47. The Blondes by Emily Schultz
48. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie
49. Russian Tattoo by Elena Gorokhova
50. Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
RELATED CONTENT: Read all our "Best of 2015" coverage on the blog.
This weekend, a couple of members from the BookPage team made the short trip from Nashville to the Booksellers at Laurelwood in Memphis to attend Avon’s 6th KissCon event. The event featured romance rock stars Toni Blake, Cynthia Eden, Lorraine Heath, Sophie Jordan, Cathy Maxwell, Kay Thomas, Lori Wilde and Julia Quinn.
After a bit of wine, cupcakes and mingling with fellow fans and authors at the VIP reception, we gathered together for some good old-fashioned romance trivia. (Did you know that the original cover for Christina Dodd's Castles in the Sky featured a three-armed woman? Neither did we. But we did know that Cynthia Eden likes to go spelunking in her free time, which won us a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon!) Then came round two: a quick-fire Q&A session hosted by publicist Jessie Edwards that covered everything from writing practices to personal interests to pop culture. Then the floor was ours for an open Q&A. Here are some of our favorite takeaways from the event:
Favorite part of the male physique?
Lori Wilde: Their smile.
Man buns—creepy or cool?
Sophie Jordan: So hot! I can’t look at my daughter’s soccer coach.
What’s your favorite euphemism?
Cathy Maxwell: Oh, I love euphemisms! I think of them all the time. Hot rod? Tunnel of love?
Hurricane’s coming. What hero would you hunker down with?
Julia Quinn: My husband, because he’s an infectious disease doctor. I know that’s cheesy, but at one point he had control of all of the Tamiflu in the city, so you know. The hero of The Martian? That’s my husband.
Favorite cure for writer’s block?
Lorraine Heath: Massage.
Benedict Cumberbatch—creepy or cool?
Cynthia Eden: Cool and a little bit creepy. There’s nothing wrong with that!
Current favorite soap opera?
Sophie Jordan: Mad Men.
Marry Bang Kill: Nick Lachey, Justin Timberlake, Nick Jonas.
Julia Quinn: Everything good would be with J.T. And I’d just kill the other two.
Fun facts about the authors:
Avon's next KissCon is scheduled for March 13, 2016 in Phoenix, AZ. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates on attending authors and ticketing information.
Most Americans will be pulling up a chair to a heavily laden table this Thursday in celebration of Thanksgiving. If your own family drama isn't enough for you, check out one of these tension-laden reads set during the holiday season—they'll make the relationship between the pilgrims and the Native Americans seem downright functional.
May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes
George Silver, a widely loathed television executive, flies off the handle after a deadly car accident. Harry Silver, a Nixon scholar with less money and success than his brother, finds himself not only embroiled in the drama, but also entwined emotionally and sexually with George’s gorgeous wife, Jane—that is, until George comes home and bludgeons her to death with a table lamp.
And that’s when things really get crazy.
Strangers at the Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes
The richly drawn characters and vivid storytelling make Strangers at the Feast a must-read study of the lengths to which families will go in the face of unimaginable threats.
The Ghost at the Table by Suzanne Berne
A thoroughly engrossing story of a woman's search for family and self, vaguely reminiscent of an Anne Tyler tale, The Ghost at the Table plays out over the course of a holiday weekend.
The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford
Apart from the humor and pathos revealed in these sometimes bizarre and inexplicable incidents, what makes this such a compelling read is Ford's skillful channeling of the voice of the narrator he's shaped over the course of three books and 20 years.
Anyone have a favorite novel with a Thanksgiving setting?