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Penguin Press Author Stephen Kotkin Wins the Mark Lynton History Prize for STALIN

Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard announced the winners of the 2018 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards, including the Mark Lynton History Prize for Stephen Kotkin’s STALIN: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941, published by Penguin Press.  Established in 1998, the Lukas Prize Project, marking its 20th anniversary year, honors the best in American nonfiction writing. The late Mark Lynton was an historian and senior executive at the firm Hunter Douglas in the Netherlands.  Mr. Kotkin will receive his $10,000 prize at a the Lukas Prize Project Awards ceremony on May 10 at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. 

The judges’ citation reads as follows:  “A stunning achievement, Stephen Kotkin’s STALIN reveals with precision and clarity the period in which the impatient dictator developed into a monster who used his authoritarian rule and coercive power to manipulate social divisions, invent enemies, and forge despotism in mass bloodshed.  Through his prodigious research and command of an immense body of new documents, Kotkin comprehensively documents Josef Stalin’s rule and his remaking of the USSR into an empire, and he gets inside the mind of a tyrant whose murderous obsessions led him to execute nearly a million people. This second volume of Kotkin’s (planned) trilogy deepens understanding of the turbulent, tragic period by juxtaposing Stalin’s extension of influence in the Soviet Union with Adolf Hitler’s rise in Germany, culminating in the most disastrous conflagration in modern history. In a landmark work of historical scholarship, Kotkin has written a captivating biography of a despot that chronicles the evolution of Stalin as a human being, political operator, and growing archfiend in this horrific era of modern history.” View the complete list of 2018 Lukas Prize Project Awards winners and finalists here.

Ryan Walsh Uncovers the Mysteries Behind the Birth of Van Morrison’s Masterpiece in 1968

Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is an iconic rock album shrouded in legend that has touched generations of listeners (the record topping many personal “Desert Island” music lists) and influenced everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Martin Scorsese.  ASTRAL WEEKS: A Secret History of 1968 (Penguin Press), the first book by musician/ journalist Ryan H. Walsh, unearths the album’s fascinating backstory and takes a mind-expanding deep dive into a lost chapter of Boston, circa 1968, featuring both the famous and the forgotten, including Van Morrison himself, folkie-turned-cult-leader Mel Lyman, Timothy Leary, the Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol, Peter Wolf, and James Brown.  

  [caption id="attachment_9917" align="alignright" width="258"] Astral Weeks album cover[/caption] In this Behind the Pages interview, Walsh reveals what sparked the creation and writing of ASTRAL WEEKS as well as how this book may resonate with readers in 2018.   What was the genesis of ASTRAL WEEKS and the vision that it could become a book? This book started out with me searching out for some comfort via music. I was 22, heartbroken, lonely, and I stumbled upon the record in a store. Something about the cover and title told me to buy it. That led to a curiosity about its origins, which surprisingly led to my own backyard here in Boston.  Boston magazine gave me the go-ahead to write a piece about it, which led to Ed Park at Penguin Press reaching out to me and asking, “Could this be a book?” [caption id="attachment_9918" align="alignright" width="259"] Van Morrison, Spring Sing on Boston Common, April 20, 1968. Courtesy of MONTUSE/Dick Iacovello/[/caption] During the writing process, how did you go about assembling the myriad characters and researching the stories as well as sub-plots that you wove together so masterfully in telling the tale of the making of this iconic Van Morrison album and the many intersecting worlds in Boston, circa 1968? I set rules for myself: all stories had to have an anchor point in Boston during the year 1968. They could go to other cities and years, but some vital part of each person and story had to exist inside of those parameters. Secondly, I was looking for stories about people striving for something spiritual or mystical in music and other pursuits. I was also looking for stories that bled the reality between creativity and real life.  So many people in the book were questioning themselves and the world around them: Is this real? Am I real? Is this a genuine moment?  [caption id="attachment_9916" align="alignright" width="300"] Orpheus in 1968. (l to r) Eric Gulliksen,Jack McKenes, Harry Sandler, Bruce Arnold. Courtesy of Bruce Arnold Music/Orpheus.[/caption] What elements of your book do you think will resonate most strongly with readers here in 2018? People often say that 1968 in the USA was a year in which the country seemed hell bent on tearing itself apart. It seems to me that could end up being a sentence that applies to 2018 too, sadly. But mostly, I think that the stories in the book are universal, human stories. You don't have to love Van Morrison or be familiar with Boston to enjoy this. You just have to love a good tale told in front of a campfire.   Photo of author Ryan H. Walsh courtesy of Marissa Nadler.

Featured Author Event: Ian Buruma (NYC)

Author Ian Buruma will be presenting his latest book, A TOKYO ROMANCE: A Memoir (Penguin Press) on Thursday, March 8 at 7:00 pm at McNally Jackson Books in NYC. Buruma will be in conversation with Darryl Pinckney, followed by a book signing.

When Buruma arrived in Tokyo in 1975, Japan was little more than an idea in his mind, a fantasy of a distant land. A sensitive misfit in the world of his upper middleclass youth, what he longed for wasn’t so much the exotic as the raw, unfiltered humanity he had experienced in Japanese theater performances and films, witnessed in Amsterdam and Paris. One particular theater troupe, directed by a poet of runaways, outsiders, and eccentrics, was especially alluring, more than a little frightening, and completely unforgettable. If Tokyo was anything like his plays, Buruma knew that he had to join the circus as soon as possible. A TOKYO ROMANCE is a portrait of a young artist and the fantastical city that shaped him. With his signature acuity, Ian Buruma brilliantly captures the historical tensions between east and west, the cultural excitement of 1970s Tokyo, and the dilemma of the gaijin in Japanese society, free, yet always on the outside. The result is a timeless story about the desire to transgress boundaries: cultural, artistic, and sexual. “Delicious… a wild ride through the late-20th-century Japanese avant-garde scene through the eyes of an innocent from across the sea.” — Kirkus, starred review Ian Buruma was educated in Holland and Japan. He has spent many years in Asia, which he has written about in God’s DustA Japanese Mirror, and Behind the Mask. He has also written Playing the GameThe Wages of Guilt, and Anglomania. Buruma is currently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Institute for the Humanities in Washington, DC.

Elizabeth Strout Wins The Story Prize for ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

Elizabeth Strout has won The Story Prize for ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE (Random House), receiving a $20,000 award and an engraved silver bowl at the 14th annual Story Prize event, which took place on Wednesday, February 28, at The New School in Manhattan.  The Story Prize judges offered high praise for Strout and her latest collection of short stories: “The intelligent prose is seemingly humble but elegant in its subtlety and enchanting in its overall effect. The blade of her wit is so sharp, you barely feel it until after the slice. Strout is a specialist in the reticence of people, and her characters are compelling because of the complexity of their internal lives, and the clarity with which that complexity is depicted. It is a sublime pleasure to read her work.”  

The Story Prize runners-up – Daniel Alarcón for THE KING IS ALWAYS ABOVE THE PEOPLE  (Riverhead Books) and Ottessa Moshfegh for HOMESICK FOR ANOTHER WORLD  (Penguin Press) – were also honored and each received $5,000. Three independent Story Prize judges – Knopf/Vintage author and poet Susan Minot, critic and author Walton Muyumba, and Library Journal Associate Editor Stephanie Sendaula – selected the three finalists from among 120 submissions representing 93 different publishers or imprints, and then determined the winner. Warm congratulations to Ms. Strout, her editor and publisher.

Our Three Lukas Prize Shortlist Authors

Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard have announced The J. Anthony Lukas Prizes shortlist, honoring “the best in American nonfiction writing” in 2017 on history and topics of American political or social concern. The judges selected three of our 2017 titles as finalists in two of the three categories, from more than 350 submissions:

Anthony Lukas Book Prize ($10,000) AMERICAN WOLF by Nate Blakeslee (Crown Publishing Group) THE FAR AWAY BROTHERS by Lauren Markham (Crown Publishing Group) Mark Lynton History Prize ($10,000) STALIN by Stephen Kotkin (Penguin Press)      
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Our 15 L.A. Times Book Prize Finalists

The Los Angeles Times  has announced the finalists for its 2017 Book Prize Awards, which annually honors outstanding books in 10 categories. Below are our 15 Penguin Random House imprint nominations, and our winners of two of their non-competitive prizes. The winners in the literary categories will revealed on April 20.

Art Seidenbaum Award For First Fiction THE IDIOT by Elif Batuman (Penguin Books) MY ABSOLUTE DARLING by Gabriel Tallent (Riverhead Books) SOUR HEART by Jenny Zhang (Lenny) Biography GRANT by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press) RICHARD NIXON: THE LIFE by John A. Farrell (Vintage) 2017 Innovator’s Award - Winner WELL-READ BLACK GIRL by Glory Edim (Ballantine Books) 2017 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose - Winner THE HUE AND CRY AT OUR HOUSE: A YEAR REMEMBERED by Benjamin Taylor (Penguin Books) Current Interest WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER: AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY  by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World) DEMOCRACY IN CHAINS: THE DEEP HISTORY OF THE RADICAL RIGHT'S STEALTH PLAN FOR AMERICA By Nancy MacLean (Viking) THE FAR AWAY BROTHERS: TWO YOUNG MIGRANTS AND THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN LIFE by Lauren Markham (Crown) Fiction EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books) THE CHANGELING by Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau) GHACHAR GHOCHAR Vivek Shanbhag (Penguin Books)

Mystery / Thriller

THE NIGHT OCEAN by Paul La Farge (Penguin Press) Science & Technology BEHAVE: THE BIOLOGY OF HUMANS AT OUR BEST AND WORST by Robert M. Sapolsky (Penguin Press) LIFE 3.0: BEING HUMAN IN THE AGE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE by Max Tegmark (Knopf) Young Adult Literature GENUINE FRAUD by E. Lockhart (Delacorte Press)    

Featured Author Event: Zadie Smith (NYC)

From Zadie Smith, one of the most beloved authors of her generation, comes a new collection of essays.  Enjoy an evening with Zadie at Barnes & Noble Upper West Side on February 8 at 7:00 pm  as she discusses and reads from FEEL FREE (Penguin Press),  followed by an audience Q&A and book signing. Arranged into five sections–In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free–this new collection poses questions we immediately recognize.  

Gathering in one place for the first time previously unpublished work, as well as already classic essays, such as, “Joy,” and, “Find Your Beach,” FEEL FREE offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith’s own life. Equally at home in the world of good books and bad politics, Brooklyn-born rappers and the work of Swiss novelists, she is by turns wry, heartfelt, indignant, and incisive–and never any less than perfect company. “Lest you forget that Zadie Smith’s output encompasses several masterful careers, please allow FEEL FREE, her new collection of essays, to remind you…Incisive and often wry…these pieces are as relevant as can be. They are reminders of how much else there is to ponder in this world, how much else is worth our time, and how lucky we are to have Smith as our guide.” —Vanity Fair  Since Zadie burst spectacularly into view with her debut novel WHITE TEETH almost two decades ago, she has established herself not just as one of the world’s preeminent fiction writers, but also a brilliant and singular essayist. She contributes regularly to The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books on a range of subjects, and each piece of hers is a literary event in its own right.

Chernow, Farrell, Klagsbrun and Sebestyen Nominated for 2018 Plutarch Award

Biographers International Organization (BIO) has nominated ten books as semi-finalists for its 2018 Plutarch Award, the only international literary prize for biography that is chosen by fellow biographers.   Four of the nominees are published by Penguin Random House imprints: 

  GRANT by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press) RICHARD NIXON: The Life by John Farrell (Doubleday) LIONESS: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel by Francine Klagsbrun (Schocken) LENIN: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror by Victor Sebestyen (Pantheon) View the complete list of nominees here. The Plutarch Award Committee will announce four finalists the week of February 5.   All BIO members will then vote for the winning book, which will be revealed on May 19 at the Ninth Annual BIO Conference in New York.  

Alarcón, Moshfegh, Strout: Finalists for The Story Prize

The three finalists for the 2017 Story Prize, which annually honors authors of outstanding short story collections published in the prior year, are all published by Penguin Random House imprints:  

  THE KING IS ALWAYS ABOVE THE PEOPLE by Daniel Alarcón (Riverhead Books) HOMESICK FOR ANOTHER WORLD by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press) ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE by Elizabeth Strout (Random House) The Story Prize, now in its 14th year, announced that these finalists were chosen from 120 submissions representing 93 different publishers or imprints.  Three independent judges – Knopf/Vintage author and poet Susan Minot, critic and author Walton Muyumba, and Library Journal Associate Editor Stephanie Sendaula – will determine the winner, to be revealed at the Story Prize’s annual award event, co-sponsored by the Graduate Creative Writing Program, at The New School in Manhattan on February 28.   The finalists will read from and discuss their work with Larry Dark, director of The Story Prize.  Then Story Prize founder Julie Lindsey will present the 2017 winner with a check for $20,000.  The two runners-up will each receive $5,000.

Big Night at the Golden Globe Awards for BIG LITTLE LIES and THE HANDMAID’S TALE

Hit television series based on Liane Moriarty’s BIG LITTLE LIES (Berkley) and Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE (Anchor) took home a combined 6 awards at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards, Sunday night, January 7, in Los Angeles.  

Big Little Lies, airing on HBO, won in four categories: Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television; Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, (Nicole Kidman); Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television (Laura Dern); and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television (Alexander Skarsgard). The Handmaid’s Tale, airing on Hulu, won Best Television Series, Drama; and Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Drama (Elisabeth Moss). In addition, Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy went to Aziz Ansari for the Netflix series, Master of None. Ansari is the author of MODERN ROMANCE (Penguin Press).