Marci's Staff Picks History
Trust Marci's taste? Here's what she's picked in the past!

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin

How often do you think about your Mother? My Mom passed in 2001 but almost every day she appears in my thoughts, offering me advice (and criticism!). This truly universal story of a family living in Korea and what happens to them when their Mother is lost is so touching, so real, so personal—so heartbreaking. Mom and Dad are on their way to a family event and in the crowded station—the train pulls out without her—and she is lost, possibly forever. We see the desperate search. Daughters, son, husband—each reflects internally upon their version of their past life with Mom and surprising revelations emerge. Did they really know her? Was she happy? When Mom finally speaks in her own voice, yet another layer of complications and emotions are evoked. Destined to become a book discussion classic, this book will cause you to realize that you can really never fully know your Mom. A feature title at ALA-Midwinter, San Diego.

978-0-307-59391-7 | $24.95 | Knopf | HC | April
978-0-307-33919-3 | $29.95 | Penguin Random House Canada | HC

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey

The chances of me ever being on a surfboard are about as good as me sprouting wings and being the first human to fly to the moon�in other words, nil. And yet it's a joke around the office that other than my love for books/reading�I work to pay for the cruises I take. There is something endlessly fascinating about the ocean�constantly changing, beautiful, soothing�yet terrifying in a storm. Susan Casey, Editor-in-Chief of O, the Oprah Magazine, has written a vastly entertaining book about the ocean�in particular about those master surfers who live to ride 50+ foot waves and will fly anywhere to find them, and about the giant waves that appear regularly and can swallow up ships as large as tankers and cruise ships. Her descriptions of the surfer's rides will please any adventure-lover. Her analysis of why rogue waves occur will interest the ecology and scientific-minded. And her descriptions of being caught on a ship in the middle of these huge waves is very alarming! (Even my beloved QE2 was hit by one but survived thanks to luck and a great Captain!) Enjoyable for the descriptions of water alone, you appreciate Casey's powers of observation and her gutsy attitude. Wide appeal and certainly a hit in any Dude collection.

978-0-7679-2884-7 | $27.95 | Doubleday | HC | September 2010
978-0-385-66667-1 | $34.95C | Doubleday Canada | HC | September 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender

I love this book. For her ninth birthday Rose Edelstein bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift/curse: she can taste her mother's emotions in the cake. She is horrified because her loving, cheerful, mother's cake tastes of despair and desperation. For the rest of her life food will be a peril to Rose and she will come to exist largely by eating food that is entirely made by machines such as Twinkies and Doritos. The Reader is taken into a fairy tale for grown-ups in which you discover that no one is exactly what they seem and that even with her �gift" Rose is unable to really see some of the people closest to her. (Her brother most particularly.) And she discovers that she is not the first in her family to have a peculiar talent. This book, like the cake that brings awareness, has many layers. It is funny and yet heartbreaking, transparent and yet confounding. Aimee Bender is a wonderful writer�this is an entrancing read.

978-0-385-50112-5 | $25.95/$30.00C | Doubleday | HC | June 2010

Claiming Ground: A Memoir by Laura Bell

In l977 Laura Bell of Kentucky finished college and made an unexpected career choice. She signed on to herd sheep in Wyoming's Bighorn Basin. She had no particular affection for sheep and no prior experience in this area. Her family was astounded. She found herself drawn to a life of solitude and hard physical toil and immediately stuck out like a sore thumb, being the only woman in a community of all men, and mostly men who were eccentrics or alcoholics or both. Over the years she became a cattle hand, a forest ranger, a masseuse, a wife and a mother to her husband's two daughters. She experienced love and complete heartbreak.
I can't say what exactly drew me to this memoir. I admire people who live outside of themselves and certainly understand her love for and admiration of nature. She has written in praise of that part of the country that most of living in the East never see—except to fly over on our way to Seattle. Wyoming never sounded more majestic. Her writing carries you along. Her honesty is compelling. She does not attempt to put herself in a good light when the facts point to the darker patches of her life. It's a memoir that makes for reflection on your own personal life—it's all about the choices—and Laura Bell's life has certainly been filled with interesting choices. I wish her well.

978-0-307-27288-1 | $24.95/$29.95C | Knopf | HC | March 2010

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

Richard Russo is one of the authors that could write cough medicine adverts and I'd read them. We all have certain authors that we're drawn to—each of you could probably name three or four immediately. I was fortunate to hear Russo speak at BEA and he was his usual charming self, relating to the delight of the audience how That Old Cape Magic was supposed to be a short story—and then grew to be a novella—and then totally took on a life of its own and became a wonderfully amusing novel (my commentary, not his). This is the story of a marriage, told mostly from the point of view of the husband, Jack Griffin, whose life has been shaped by his parent's marriage and their choice of the best spot to vacation in the world—Cape Cod. There are scenes that make you laugh aloud, followed by scenes of acute heartbreak. In short, another triumph for Russo, but I have my fingers crossed should a movie follow. The casting would be very tricky! Enjoy.

978-0-375-41496-1 | $25.95/$32.00C | Knopf | HC | August 2009

Border Songs by Jim Lynch

Even though the Advance Reading Copy (ARC) is designed to make you get a jump on the publication of the book itself - to get you to talk about the book - to spread the good word -- in general, help to SELL the book -- there are very few ARCs that I can remember that literally start off with four solid pages of praise. This praise is not all in-house either. Most of it comes from bookstore staff across the country and contains phrases like, "a truly wonderful and thoughtful novel," "in a class by itself," "beautifully rendered scenes," "curious, brilliant, often visionary characters," and lest I built it up TOO much, I'll close the quotes with this one: "I savored every chapter, every character, every lovely sentence, every plot twist and turn. It is a superbly crafted novel…" Brandon Vanderkool is the heart and soul of this story. At 6'8" and extremely dyslexic, he doesn't seem a likely choice to take center stage, and he does have a lot of competition from the assortment of characters populating this novel. I won't even attempt to describe the plot. Suffice it to say that there's a lot going on around the U.S./Canadian border in the Pacific Northwest and Brandon is pushed by his father into the very thick of it when he joins the Border Patrol. Also there is a perfect marriage between book and cover. Kudos to the selection of Walton Ford's Falling Bough (2008) as the painting which draws you into the book.

978-0-307-27117-4 | $25.95/NCR | Knopf | HC | June 2009

The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway

The time is the near future. There has been an absolutely horrific war - short but BRUTAL - which has changed the world forever. (A significant part of the earth and it's people have literally "gone away.") A large pipe and its contents keep at least a portion of the remaining world "safe" in the traditionally accepted sense of the word. The book opens with the unthinkable happening -- the "indestructible" Jorgmund Pipe is on fire in a BIG way. Enter our heroes, the Hualage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company of Exmoor County and their fearless leader, one Gonzo William Lubitsch. These are the bare-bone facts. From there the book LAUNCHES off into action, romance (well, kind of), psychological twists and turns and glorious, improbable use of logic and language which will leave you just reeling! No straight road here! Believe me, the narrator has his own take on reality, or what passes for it in the "gone-away world." Behind confused sheep, chilling ninjas, surprising mimes (The Matahuxee Mime Combine), and a close examination of the meaning of family and friendship is a brilliant mind working a top speed. I look forward to the next offering from Nick Harkaway. This first novel is a true corker. An absolute out-of-the-ordinary reading experience!

978-0-307-26886-0 l $25.95/$27.95C l Knopf l HC l September 2008

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: A Novel by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a buzz book. ("Buzz is not hype and hype is not buzz. Hype is paid for. Buzz is free. Hype is often unreliable. Buzz, on the other hand, is almost always reliable." —Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly) A recent in-house meeting found five of us reading it. This first novel is a dark exploration of the human psyche set in Sweden. It is also a classic locked-room (or in this case, closed-off island) mystery. It is populated by fascinating characters. It is populated by utterly loathsome characters. It is extremely slippery and twisty. It is a book you race through because you must find the ending, only there really is no ending as such and you want to keep going with these characters in spite of everything that happens. I won't give anything away—suffice it to say one becomes grateful for the genealogical chart provided. Clear at least one whole day in preparation for straight-through reading. Thankfully, there are two more books remaining to be published from Stieg Larsson, who, regretfully, died shortly after submitting his manuscripts. I'd like to know your thoughts. Send your comments to

978-0-307-26975-1 l $24.95/NCR l Knopf l HC l September 2008

The Story of Forgetting: A Novel by Stefan Merrill Block

There is something unutterably sad about Alzheimer's. It's not only that it steals the essence of the person affected, leaving them a husk of their former selves—it's the devastating effect on the family members and assorted loved ones who have to deal with the disintegration, and in the process, often make wrong choices influenced by emotion. The Story of Forgetting tells the familiar yet unique story of such an extended family seen mostly through the eyes of the brilliant, misfit teenage son, Seth, working hard to make scientific sense of the chaos, and just a few miles away, a lonely old hermit, Abel, who has lost his one true love and now his way of life to the encroaching Houston suburbs. Unknown to each other, both are linked by fantastical stories told to each of them in their childhoods of a magical world called Isidora. This plot device may be found to be endearing or occasionally annoying, but there is no denying that this story, ultimately uplifting, will stay in your heart and in your mind long after you finish the last page. A remarkable and accomplished first novel.

978-1-4000-6679-7 l $24.95/$29.95C l Penguin Random House l HC l April 2008

Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock

I related to this book immediately. I assumed before I saw the advance reader's edition, that it had something to do with Hadacol. Invented in New Orleans, this was the product of choice when I was growing up. It was a cure-all, good for everything from colds to depression—and no wonder, as it contained 12% alcohol! The proponent of this 'miracle' cure (Senator Dudley J. LeBlanc) had much in common with John R. Brinkley of Charlatan in that neither were medical doctors and both were attracted to public office. Brinkley went on to gain such fame that he almost became governor of Kansas and was the most popular American radio broadcaster. And all because he pioneered an outlandish and highly dangerous method for restoring male virility. (The goat on the cover is a major clue!) He actually became one of America's largest mass murderers, leaving dozens and dozens of butchered patients behind him. The book also provides a highly informative look at Brinkley's nemesis, Morris Fishbein, editor of a little-read publication, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and his decades-long battle which culminated in a riveting trial. Narrative non-fiction at its best and for everyone who has been tempted to 'doctor' themselves. “Of course quacks have flourished in all ages and cultures, for nothing shows reason the door like cures for things. Unlike most scams, which target greed, quackery fires deeper into Jungian universals: our fear of death, our craving for miracles. When we see night approaching, nearly all of us are rubes." —Pope Brock

978-0-307-33988-1 (0-307-33988-2) | $24.95/$32.00C | Crown | HC | February


The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston

I love trees. Having grown up in the country in Louisiana it comes naturally, but I find that New Yorkers, for the most part, have this same affinity. (Horror rocks the city when longhorn beetles are discovered.) Therefore no surprise that I was drawn to The Wild Trees which takes as its subject the last remaining stands of giant redwood trees, scattered along the California coast, and those few passionate climbers and naturalists that have discovered the very tallest and live to protect them. It came as a shock that the redwoods in Muir Woods (just north of San Francisco and heavily visited by tourists) are just babies! The trees discussed here are true giants, some equaling the height of a 38 storey building and living between two and three thousand years! No wonder the explorers in these pages literally live to climb trees called The Lost Monarch, Terex Titan, Stratosphere Giant, Hyperion. They even inspire a canopy wedding! Preston, himself a tree climber, is in rare form! You won't want to come out of the forest.

978-1-4000-6489-2 (1-4000-6489-9) l $25.95 l Penguin Random House l HC (Available Now)

Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy

A number of years ago I had the good fortune to be in Texas and attend a Barbara Bush Literacy evening. There were great speakers that evening: Richard North Patterson, Michael Crichton, President Bush, Sr...but the author who stole the evening was Maeve Binchy. She won you over immediately with a talk that came from her heart. You felt that she was your best friend and you were lucky to have her in your life. And now she has come to Penguin Random House LLC and Knopf has this splendid book set in a small town in Ireland poised on the edge of change. A motorway will cut through Whitethorn Woods and possibly destroy a revered local shrine, St. Ann's Well. We hear the various voices of the town and an interesting bunch they are. Binchy certainly cuts a swath through the range of human personalities—some twisted, some lovely. She is a genius at capturing human emotions. There are some extremely satisfying plot twists here, which I will not give away. You will be delighted with this very engaging read that makes you determined to be a better person. Bravo, Maeve!

978-0-307-26578-4 (0-307-26578-1) l $25.95/NCR l Knopf l HC (Available Now)


Finn: A Novel by Jon Clinch

Finn owes a giant debt to Huckleberry Finn as the main character is Huckleberry's reprobate father�and a very nasty piece of work he is indeed. From the first image in this first novel�a body, skinned from head to toe, floats slowly down the Mississippi River�the reader is grabbed by the throat, and wide-eyed, forced to observe the progression of life (and death) on the very edge of civilization by the edge of a mighty river. The novel is a polished jewel of language�sharp, cutting. Most remarkably, when the dialog is left unfinished (a frequent device of the author) you still know exactly how the conversation goes. There are scenes so painful and horrifying that you have to put the book down to catch your breath, and then you realize how loudly your heart is beating. And yet, looking back, I wouldn't have missed reading this book. It's just amazing. Remember this name, Jon Clinch. I'm already looking forward to his next book.

978-1-4000-6591-2 (1-4000-6591-7) l $23.95 HC l Penguin Random House l February 2007


Twentysomething Essays By Twentysomething Writers, Edited by Matt Kellogg and Jillian Quint

Just over a year ago this Department became involved in the project that has produced Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers. When I first read about this proposal I thought—what a great idea! “Be specific. Be unique. We want you to tell us—and by extension, the entire world—something we haven’t heard before, something that defines you as a member of this burgeoning generation. Make us laugh, make us think, make us mad—just don’t make us yawn.” I think this goal has been achieved!

At every show at which we exhibit, hopeful faces appear and announce: “I’ve written a book/play/collection of poems and I want to get published.” In this collection are such young people filled with passion, optimism, and hope, with dedication to writing and the drive towards “writerly pursuits.”

I can’t say I LOVED every essay—obviously some were better (or more appealing to me) than others, but that’s human nature—and none made me yawn!

A big hug to this next generation of authors. It’s comforting in a world of emails, text messages and blogs to know that thousands submitted entries. Congratulations to this diverse bunch and to the editors, Matt Kellogg and Jillian Quint, who, with great good nature, describe themselves as “proud twentysomethings and indentured servants, er, assistants in the Penguin Random House editorial department.” Well done!

0-8129-7566-9 | $12.95 | Penguin Random House | TR | August


End In Tears: A Wexford Novel by Ruth Rendell

The Minotur: A Novel by Barbara Vine

Thirteen Steps Down: A Novel by Ruth Rendell

Fans of mystery and suspense have an opportunity to indulge in an absolute orgy of rewarding reading. Ruth Rendell, writing as herself, has produced two outstanding suspense novels: End In Tears: A Wexford Novel and Thirteen Steps Down. And her alter ego Barbara Vine has produced the atmospheric The Minotaur. End in Tears finds Wexford baffled by the seemingly unrelated deaths of two young women, until he learns their dark shared secret. And in Thirteen Steps Down an angry young man and his elderly spinster landlady engage in a chilling and compelling game of wits. The Minotaur offers remote, ivy-covered Lydstep Old Hall, a young nurse, her drugged "charge," his domineering mother and four bitter sisters. This potent mix leads to sexual obsession, betrayal, and murder! I've been an admirer of Dame Rendell for years, but I'll let another mystery master have the last word: "Those who haven't read her books have missed something unique and wonderful." —Tony Hillerman

Crown | $25.00 | 0-307-33976-9 | HC | July (End in Tears)

Crown | $25.00 | 0-307-23760-5 | HC (The Minotaur)

Crown | $25.00 | 1-4000-9842-4 | HC (13 Steps Down)

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