Riverhead Books

Our 5 L.A. Times Book Prize Winners

The 39th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were announced at the L.A. Times Festival of Books this past weekend at the University of Southern California, and among the award winners for books published in 2017 were five titles from Penguin Random House imprints in the following categories:

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Fiction Mohsin Hamid, EXIT WEST (Riverhead Books) Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction Jenny Zhang, SOUR HEART (Lenny / Random House) The Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose Winner Benjamin Taylor, THE HUE AND CRY AT OUR HOUSE: A Year Remembered (Penguin Books) Current Interest Nancy MacLean, DEMOCRACY IN CHAINS: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America (Viking/Penguin) Science & Technology Robert M. Sapolsky, BEHAVE: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (Penguin Press) Congratulations to our award-winning authors, their editors and publishers. To view the complete list of this year’s L.A. Times Book Prize winners, click here. The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were first awarded in 1980, with the idea of honoring literary excellence and celebrating the community of readers in Los Angeles. The inspiration of former L.A. Times book editor Art Seidenbaum, those first prizes included awards in four book categories – fiction, history, general nonfiction and poetry.

Featured Author Event: Lesley Nneka Arimah (NYC)

Riverhead author Lesley Nneka Arimah shares her award-winning, dazzlingly accomplished debut story collection, WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY, at The Strand in Manhattan on Monday, April 23. Lesley will discuss her stories with fellow author Alice Sola Kim, from 7:30 to 8:30 pm, in the bookstore’s second floor Art Department.

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Arimah’s stories explore the ties that bind parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends, to one another and to the places they call home. The New York Times Book Review offered high praise: “Strange and wonderful… a witty, oblique and mischievous storyteller, Arimah can compress a family history into a few pages and invent utopian parables, magical tales and nightmare scenarios while moving deftly between comic distancing and insightful psychological realism…her science fiction parables, with their ecological and feminist concerns, recall those of Margaret Atwood. But it would be wrong not to hail Arimah’s exhilarating originality: She is conducting adventures in narrative on her own terms, keeping her streak of light, that bright ember, burning fiercely, undimmed.” Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and the United States. Her work has received grants and awards from the Commonwealth Writers, the Elizabeth George Foundation, The MacDowell Colony, Breadloaf and others. She was selected for the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honor and is the recipient of an O’Henry Award, the 2017 Kirkus Prize, and is a Society of Midland Authors 2017 honoree.

Poets & Writers Gala Honors Knopf Authors Adichie, Russo, Riverhead Editorial Director Rebecca Saletan

The annual spring gala benefit dinner for Poets & Writers—America’s largest nonprofit service organization dedicated to fostering the professional development of poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers—is always an enjoyably memorable occasion to celebrate one of its core missions:   “to help create an environment in which literature can be appreciated by the widest possible public.” This objective was thrillingly achieved at this year’s event, held in Manhattan on March 28, at which Riverhead Books Vice President and Editorial Director Rebecca Saletan and Knopf authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Richard Russo were honored for their exceptional contributions to the writing and publishing community. 

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[caption id="attachment_10503" align="alignright" width="447"] The 2018 Editor’s Award winner Rebecca Saletan (front left) with several of the authors she has edited.[/caption] Rebecca Saletan is the recipient of “The Editor’s Award” for 2018 from the group, which recognizes “a book editor who has made an outstanding contribution to the publication of poetry or literary prose over a sustained period of time.” It was presented to her by Masha Gessen, whose THE FUTURE IS HISTORY won the 2017 National Book Award for Nonfiction. Before offering eloquent tributes from authors also edited by the nominee, many of whom were in attendance, Ms. Gessen said: “Becky has been my editor for the last 14 years and six books. She has given my books names and shape. She has made me feel that it was safe to take writing risks. That’s what an editor does: she enables the writer to dare by showing that she will not let them make a fool of themselves. She is both the safety net and the tightrope walk that is writing (or that writing can be).” Ms. Saletan then spoke reflectively and movingly about being an editor. One highlight of many: “When I think about the writers and books I have worked with, it’s the dialogue about shape that I most remember. A draft of a story in which a kind of sonic boom goes off. The beginning demands an answering boom on the end. Rather than trying to launch six complicated characters at the outset, how about introducing them one by one, like a juggler putting balls in the air? Perhaps not surprisingly, all my career I have been drawn to writing and writers who are structurally innovative and do not fit into easy categories—fiction/nonfiction, narrative essay, poets AND  writers. I love that the very name of this organization allows for the reading that they are one and the same.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Richard Russo each received “The Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award,” which celebrates “authors who have given generously to other writers or to the broader literary community.” Ms. Adichie, a fiction and nonfiction author whose acclaimed books include AMERICANAH, effusively paid tribute to the Poets & Writers bi-monthly magazine—considered to be a bible in the writing community for its extensive presentation of available writer prizes and grants, and for its authoritative interviews—as the first magazine she ever subscribed to. Mr. Russo, whose more than a dozen published works of fiction and nonfiction include EMPIRE FALLS and NOBODY’S FOOL, aptly expressed the spirit of the evening and singularity of its hosts, remarking: “Even the most solitary writers accrue debts—to agents, editors, publicists…Literary debts, like so many others, can only be paid forward. Helping emerging writers find an audience is one important way of doing that, and it’s particularly important now, when there aren’t nearly as many opportunities for young writers as there were when I myself was emerging … I offer what help I can to emerging authors because doing so, frankly, is fun …”

How Meg Wolitzer Illuminates Female Ambition, Power and Mentorship

Our new Igloo Book Buzz selection is Meg Wolitzer’s THE FEMALE PERSUASION, an eagerly awaited, much buzzed about book published by Riverhead today, April 3.  Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, THE FEMALE PERSUASION is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It’s a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time), and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.  

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[caption id="attachment_10497" align="alignright" width="215"] Meg Wolitzer Photo: © Nina Subin[/caption] Wolitzer comments: “People always say ‘write what you know,’ but I've always felt that it's really more ‘write what obsesses you.’ And I realized that there are some things that I kept returning to. Female power — who has it, what does it mean? What about mentors and protégés?  Making meaning in the world but also the person you meet who can change your life forever.  All of these things were ideas that were kind of percolating in my mind for a long time.  And, of course, feminism.  As a feminist, that's somewhat of a given in me, but at the same time, a story that could address some of these things just sort of began to reveal itself to me.” [caption id="attachment_10496" align="alignleft" width="139"] Sarah McGrath[/caption] Riverhead Vice President, Editor in Chief Sarah McGrath said, “It's exciting to see the way that THE FEMALE PERSUASION is connecting to the moment that we are in right now, but the truth is that the ideas and relationships and emotions in this novel are much deeper than any particular snapshot in time.  As her editor (this year marks our 15th anniversary) I know that female ambition and power and mentorship are things that Meg has been thinking about and working with for years. What I love about this book is that its characters are even more unforgettable than its themes, and their story is going to be relevant for decades to come. “ There has been an outpouring of media praise for THE FEMALE PERSUASION.  Here is a sampling:
  • “[Wolitzer] writes in warm, specific prose that neither calls attention to itself nor ignores the mandate of the best books: to tell us things we know in ways we never thought to know them… [She] is an infinitely capable creator of human identities that are as real as the type on this page.” –The New York Times Book Review
  • “Wolitzer understands—seemingly on a cellular level—the puzzled, needy heart that beats within any teenager…the book is full of Wolitzer’s trademark wit and insight.” —The Washington Post
  • “Finally, a novel about a complicated relationship that doesn’t get nearly enough attention: that between mentor and mentee. Full of Meg Wolitzer’s signature acumen and insight.” —Esquire
  • “Equal parts cotton candy and red meat, in the best way.” –People

Riverhead’s DRAMA HIGH is the Book Behind NBC-TV’s “Rise” Series

Hailed as “this season’s hottest new TV show” is NBC’s Rise, based on Riverhead’s beloved book, DRAMA HIGH: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater  by Michael Sokolove. Critics and fans alike are raving over the silver screen adaptation of this true story of “a brilliant, demanding and subversive teacher who practices the best kind of magic – the kind that’s real and that changes lives” (USA Today).  

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[caption id="attachment_10119" align="alignright" width="203"] Michael Sokolove © Michael Williamson[/caption] Created by Jason Katims (the man behind the TV series Friday Night Lights and Parenthood) and Jeffrey Seller (a producer of a little Broadway show called Hamilton), Sokolove’s incredible true story is imbedded in the heart of the show.  The story behind Rise began when Seller, making his first foray into series TV, read an excerpt from “DRAMA HIGH” in The New York Times Magazine in 2013. He bought the book.  It made him cry.  But the broadcast rights to the book had already been sold. A few years later, when Seller joined up with the veteran producer Flody Suarez (8 Simple Rules, The Tick), he learned that those rights were once again available. “I handed Flody the book and I said, ‘This is what I want to make into a TV show,’ Seller recalled.” (New York Times). Sokolove spoke to Entertainment Weekly about seeing his life adapted for television and why his story feels relevant: “[Nobody] who went to school was inspired by trying to get a standardized test score ... What [this story] shows so clearly is that education is still about passion and inspiration.” Rise airs Tuesday nights on NBC at 10:00 p.m. and is available on Hulu if you missed the March 13 premiere.  
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Arimah, Clemmons, Hamid are 2018 Aspen Words Literary Prize Finalists

The inaugural Aspen Words Literary Prize has unveiled its five finalists and three of the authors and their books are published by Penguin Random House imprints. The Aspen Institute established this new annual prize to recognize “an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.” 

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Our Aspen Words Literary Prize nominees: WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY by Lesley Nneka Arimah (Riverhead) WHAT WE LOSE by Zinzi Clemmons (Viking) EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead) Penguin Press author Phil Klay, head judge on the five-member awards jury, commented to NPR, "I think we wanted writers who are really able to capture the messiness of reality and human experience in their works — in whichever direction they took.  These are the books which we think are most vital for understanding who we are as a people, as a country, as a world right now. And that sounds like a big, broad statement, but I think that's what you're going to find in the best fiction written about social issues right now." View the complete list of 2018 Aspen Words Literary Prize finalists here. The winner will receive $35,000 and be announced at an awards ceremony at the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan on April 10.

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.

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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)    

Riverhead to Publish Illustrated Book About the Refugee Crisis by Khaled Hosseini this Fall

Riverhead Books is proud to announce a new work from the award-winning and internationally-bestselling writer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador,Khaled Hosseini as was revealed in Entertainment Weekly.  The new work, titled SEA PRAYER, is a short, illustrated book that Hosseini wrote in response to the current refugee crisis and the haunting image of young Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the beach in Turkey in September 2015.

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Written in the form of a letter, SEA PRAYER  is a father’s reflection as he watches over his sleeping son, on the dangerous journey across the sea that lies before them. It is also an account of their life in Homs, Syria, before the war, and of that city’s swift transformation from a home into a deadly war zone. Originally produced in collaboration with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Sea Prayer was first released as a Guardian virtual film on September 1, 2017. [caption id="attachment_9675" align="alignright" width="306"] Image from SEA PRAYER, illustrated by Dan Williams[/caption] Khaled Hosseini said: “We are living in the midst of a displacement crisis of enormous proportions. Sea Prayer is an attempt to pay tribute to the millions of families, like Alan Kurdi’s, who have been splintered and forced from home by war and persecution.”SEA PRAYER will be illustrated by London-based artist Dan Williams, and will be published September 18, 2018, to mark the third anniversary of Kurdi’s death.  Riverhead will support publication with a major marketing and publicity campaign. The book will be published simultaneously by Penguin Canada and Bloomsbury in the UK. Riverhead Editor in Chief and Hosseini’s long-time editor, Sarah McGrath, said: “Any new project from Khaled Hosseini is momentous. He is one of the most important writers of our time. But this work is particularly poignant in its heartbreaking engagement with the refugee crisis. I believe this beautifully written, intensely moving story will be cherished by people of all ages, and all over the world.”

“What Happens After We Die?”

Some of the biggest questions and mysteries that many humans ponder are at the heart of Thomas Pierce’s new Riverhead novel, THE AFTERLIVES, our latest Igloo Book Buzz selection.  The author reveals, “I set out to write a story about a guy trying to find bedrock in a world that often feels so ridiculous and so full of spectacle and along the way wound up writing about love and death and ghosts and holograms.  Go figure..” 

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[caption id="attachment_9229" align="alignright" width="200"] Thomas Pierce
(c) Andrew Owen[/caption] Riverhead Editor Laura Perciasepe says, “This was the second book I worked on with Thomas but his first novel, after the story collection HALL OF SMALL MAMMALS.  It was a joy to dive back into Thomas’ writing in THE AFTERLIVES. He has a style and a perspective all his own, funny and profound, intimate and infinite. He takes this cosmic question – what happens after we die? – and makes it real and familiar. He gives you answers, and entertains along the way.” Fellow Penguin Random House author Emily St. John Mandel (STATION ELEVEN) is among the many fans of THE AFTERLIVES: “A bracingly intelligent, beautifully rendered meditation on ghosts, technology, marriage, and the afterlife. This is a remarkable novel.”

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:  

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  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.