Riverhead Author Mohsin Hamid Wins Aspen Words Literary Prize for EXIT WEST

Mohsin Hamid’s EXIT WEST (Riverhead Books) has won the inaugural Aspen Words Literary Prize, a new $35,000 award given to “an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.” The four finalists included fellow Riverhead author Lesley Nneka Arimah for WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY and Viking author Zinzi Clemmons for WHAT WE LOSE.

Riverhead Vice President, Editorial Director Rebecca Saletan accepted the award on Hamid’s behalf at the awards ceremony on Tuesday night at the Morgan Library in Manhattan. Afterwards, Saletan talked with NPR’s Linda Holmes about EXIT WEST. You can find out more about the ceremony and watch Mohsin Hamid’s recorded speech here. Among Hamid’s remarks: "I'm really grateful to be honored by this prize in particular, which is a prize that looks to books to have an impact on the world." In a conversation with NPR host Michel Martin during the evening, Arimah gave advice to new writers: “Be radically honest with yourself and with everyone else.”

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.” 

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.

Viking’s Wendy Wolf on the Wisdom of Steven Pinker and ENLIGHTENMENT NOW

Steven Pinker’s ENLIGHTENMENT NOW: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress,  acclaimed New York Times bestseller (debuting at #2) from Viking, is “the book of the moment” everyone is talking about, including avid reader Bill Gates: “The world is getting better, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. I’m glad we have brilliant thinkers like Steven Pinker to help us see the big picture.   ENLIGHTENMENT NOW is not only the best book Pinker’s ever written. It’s my new favorite book of all time.”  

Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, cognitive scientist and public intellectual, Pinker urges everyone to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. He shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing. In this Three Questions for an Editor interview, Wendy Wolf, Vice President, Associate Publisher, Editorial Director Nonfiction, Viking, takes us inside the world of Pinker, their editor/author process, and the importance of ENLIGHTENMENT NOW. When, how and why did you become the editor of Steven Pinker’s books? [caption id="attachment_9757" align="alignright" width="350"] Wendy Wolf[/caption] ENLIGHTENMENT NOW is our fifth book together. I became his editor around 2000, when Viking acquired The Blank Slate.  Steve was already well known for his work in language and psychology, but that book marked a turn for him, a broader inquiry into human nature.  I was immediately drawn to his provocative stance in the nature/nurture conversation, and to the breadth of evidence that he wanted to take in to make his argument. It became his first hardcover bestseller and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, which was rewarding for a book of challenging intellectual ideas. Since then, we’ve alternated between books about language (and writing) and books of about human nature and society.  The Sense of Style (in which I accused him of taking his revenge on all the copyeditors who’d fiddled with his grammar over the years) was a fun respite after The Better Angels of our Nature, a huge and ambitious tome about the history of violence.  Steve is obviously fiercely brilliant but he is also fearless when it comes to taking on controversial topics (intelligence, IQ, heredity, just for starts); and he tackles every topic with passion, from complicated neurology and deep philosophy to the finer points of constructing sentence trees. He and I have argued over everything from split personalities to split infinitives, but I always enjoy our editorial battles. He’s open to new ideas, and he has a great sense of humor and a useful fluency in popular culture. He works hard to get it right for every reader, not just his pointy-headed colleagues in the academic community. Steve is also a lot of fun to publish because he’s such a good sport and game for almost anything including, most recently, doing a book interview on ice skates at Rockefeller Center (true fact).  He’s even enthusiastic about author tours. “I know it’s mandatory for authors to say they hate them,” he recently told me, “but if I spend two years writing a book, I sure want to tell people about it!” [caption id="attachment_9758" align="alignleft" width="251"] Steven Pinker[/caption]  What was involved in the editor/author process as ENLIGHTENMENT NOW went from initial concept to its final form? ENLIGHTENMENT NOW took several major leaps and turns from the book we originally planned. It was conceived as an outgrowth of a New Republic piece Steve wrote called “Science is not your Enemy,” and was meant to be a short polemic defending science’s contribution to civilization. As Steve began to follow the data, the book’s themes and parameters grew, and we wound up with many hundreds of pages of manuscript (and many charts and graphs) outlining the progress we had made in so many areas of human experience and the significant role that the Enlightenment virtues—reason, rationality, and humanism—had played in that progress. Then Trump happened.  The day after the election, Steve and I had a long talk about the challenges of publishing a book trumpeting the triumph of reason at such a frightening moment, and realized that now more than ever we needed to shine a light on the good news in the world (and there is plenty of it), and come up with a framework to help understand why it all seemed so dark, and specifically to track the origins of the tribalism that infects politics and society today.  Looking at the range of themes, values and questions addressed, why is this such an important book for our times and today’s readers? This book is counterprograming to the gloom and doom in our current discourse (all across the political spectrum), but it’s no Polllyanna-ish dream of easy Utopia. Conquering disease, fighting illiteracy, defending human rights, saving children’s lives, eliminating war—these are all tough battles but we are winning them, but it’s not because of natural evolution or continental drift. The real drivers for progress are found in the law, in social programs that protect the vulnerable, in science that fights against climate change, and in books! World literacy turns out to be one of the biggest drivers of peace and justice.  

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)    

Activist DeRay Mckesson to Publish Book with Viking

Viking is pleased to announce ON THE OTHER SIDE OF FREEDOM: The Case for Hope, a new book by DeRay Mckesson, civil rights activist and host of the podcast Pod Save the People, coming September 4, 2018. Georgia Bodnar and Wendy Wolf at Viking acquired North American rights, as well as audio and first serial, from CAA. 

In August of 2014, the twenty-nine-year-old activist stood with hundreds of others on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to push a message of justice and accountability. These protests, and others like them, resulted in the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, in his first book, Mckesson lays out the intellectual, pragmatic political framework for a new liberation movement. [caption id="attachment_9584" align="alignright" width="262"] DeRay Mckesson, photographed in New York City.[/caption] Honest, courageous, and imaginative, ON THE OTHER SIDE OF FREEDOM is a work brimming with hope. Drawing from his own experiences as an activist, organizer, educator, and public official, Mckesson exhorts all Americans to work to dismantle the legacy of racism and to imagine the best of what is possible. Honoring the voices of a new generation of activists, ON THE OTHER SIDE OF FREEDOM is a visionary’s call to take responsibility for imagining, and then building, the world we want to live in.Continuing a conversation about activism, resistance, and justice that embraces our nation’s complex history, he dissects how deliberate oppression persists, how racial injustice strips our lives of promise, and how technology has added a new dimension to mass action and social change. He argues that our best efforts to combat injustice have been stunted by the belief that racism’s wounds are history, and offers a new framework and language for understanding the nature of oppression. With it, we can begin charting a course to dismantle the obvious and subtle structures that limit freedom. DeRay Mckesson says, “In the past three years I’ve seen unrest sweep America, first in the streets in Ferguson and then all over the country. I have seen people claim their power, knowing that this country has not yet delivered on its promise of equity and justice. In this book, I explore the causes of the current inequity and offer a vision for how we get beyond it, to a place of freedom. I’m excited to work with Viking and am excited to write my first book. I believe that we will win.” Brian Tart, President and Publisher of Viking, says, “DeRay Mckesson is the voice of a new generation, leading the charge in the fight against racism and injustice today. In this book, he holds America accountable, but also brings a message of hope and shows us the way forward. We are thrilled to publish him at Viking.” Mckesson is a civil rights activist, community organizer, and the host of Crooked Media’s podcast, Pod Save the People. He started his career as an educator and came to prominence for his role in documenting the Ferguson protests and the movement they birthed and for publicly advocating for justice and accountability for the victims of police violence and the end of mass incarceration. He’s spoken at venues from the White House to the Oxford Union and universities and appeared on TV shows across the political spectrum. He was named #11 on Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders list and Harvard’s Black Man of the Year in 2016, among his many other accolades. A leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement and the co-founder of Campaign Zero, a policy platform to end police violence, he lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
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Viking to Publish New Novel by Deborah Harkness This Fall

Deborah Harkness, #1 bestselling author of the All Souls Trilogy (A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of NightThe Book of Life), will publish her next novel for Viking on September 25, 2018.  The book is called TIME’S CONVERT and set in the same universe at the All Souls Trilogy, as it jumps between contemporary London and Paris as well as the American colonies during the Revolutionary War. Readers can expect to see some of their favorite characters from the Trilogy, as Harkness uses her expertise as a professor of history at USC to deftly weave historical events into her page-turning story. 

Here is a preview: On the battlefields of the American Revolution, Matthew de Clermont meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during a moment of political awakening when it seems that the world is on the brink of a brighter future. When Matthew offers him a chance at immortality and a new life, free from the restraints of his puritanical upbringing, Marcus seizes the opportunity to become a vampire. But his transformation is not an easy one and the ancient traditions and responsibilities of the de Clermont family clash with Marcus’s deeply-held beliefs in liberty, equality, and brotherhood. Fast forward to contemporary London, where Marcus has fallen for Phoebe Taylor, a young employee at Sotheby’s. She decides to become a vampire, too, and though the process at first seems uncomplicated, the couple discovers that the challenges facing a human who wishes to be a vampire are no less formidable in the modern world than they were in the 18th century. The shadows that Marcus believed he’d escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both –forever. A passionate love story and a fascinating exploration of the power of tradition and the possibilities for change, TIME’S CONVERT will delight fans of the All Souls trilogy and all readers of magic, the supernatural, and romance.

Our Authors Honeyman and Stott Win Costa Book Awards

Winners of the 2017 Costa Book Awards, one of the UK’s most prestigious and popular literary prizes, have been announced and two Penguin Random House authors and their books topped the following categories:

First Novel Gail Honeyman for ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE  (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking) Biography Rebecca Stott for IN THE DAYS OF RAIN  (Spiegel & Grau) Congratulations to our authors as well as their editors and publishers. View the complete list of Costa Book Awards winners here. All category winners receive £5,000 (about $6,800) and are eligible for the £30,000 (about $40,795) Costa Book of the Year prize, which will be announced on January 30 in London.

Arimah, Clemmons, Tallent Our Three 2017 NBCC John Leonard Prize Finalists

The National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for the 2017 John Leonard Prize, which honors the first book in any genre, with Penguin Random House imprints publishing three of the six nominated titles: 

  WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY by Lesley Nneka Arimah (Riverhead) WHAT WE LOSE by Zinzi Clemmons (Viking) MY ABSOLUTE DARLING by Gabriel Tallent (Riverhead) This year’s Leonard Prize winner will be selected by an NBCC judging panel and announced in January with the finalists in the other 2017 NBCC Award categories, and presented at the NBCC Awards Ceremony at The New School in Manhattan on March 15, 2018. View the complete list of 2017 John Leonard Prize nominees here.

Uber Whistleblower Susan Fowler to Publish Book with Viking

Viking is pleased to announce a forthcoming book by Susan Fowler, whose account of the harassment and discrimination she faced at Uber led to the ouster of its CEO and twenty other employees.  Senior Editor Lindsey Schwoeri acquired North American rights from Liz Parker and Eliza Rothstein at InkWell. 

In this book, Fowler will expose the systemic flaws rampant in the startup culture through her shocking and galvanizing personal story of working as a junior engineer at the most valuable startup in the history of Silicon Valley, and the previously unreported details of what happened after she went public with the harassment and discrimination she faced there. Her bottom-up view of what it’s really like to be a female, entry-level employee inside this major driver of the American economy will offer crucial insight into how all women – not just those at the top – can navigate challenging work environments, as well as an eye-popping depiction and broad indictment of a work culture where a woman can do absolutely everything right and still encounter tremendous obstacles. [caption id="attachment_8665" align="alignright" width="342"] Susan Fowler
Credit: Shalon Van Tine[/caption] Fowler says, “I’m excited to have the opportunity to share my story, and I hope that it will inspire others to tell their own. I’m so thankful to Viking for giving me this opportunity and a platform that will help me reach readers all over the world.” Brian Tart, President and Publisher of Viking, says, “Susan Fowler has been and will continue to be an incredibly important voice in our national conversation about gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace. We are honored to partner with her to bring her full story—much of which is still untold—to readers.” The book is currently untitled and a release date has not yet been set. Fowler is an engineer in the Bay Area. The editor-in-chief of Increment, a digital magazine dubbed “The New Yorker of Silicon Valley” by Recode, she has authored two books on computer programming, which have been implemented by numerous tech companies. Since publishing her blog post in February, she has been profiled by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, and has appeared or will appear on the following lists of influential people and change-makers: Vanity Fair’s  New Establishment ListFortune’s 40 Under 40 , Politico’s Top 50Upstart Top 50Marie Claire's New Guard ListBloomberg Top 50, Porter’s Incredible Women 2017. She is a finalist for Forbes’ 30 Under 30.

There’s a Book for That: PEN Literary Awards

PEN Center USA, The West Coast center of PEN International, which is the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization, held their 27th annual Literary Awards last Friday, October 27 in Beverly Hills, California. Hosted by Nick Offerman, the ceremony honored Margaret Atwood with a Lifetime Achievement Award and winners in 8 categories were announced. Congratulations to all winners and finalists!

WINNERS PEN Award for Creative Nonfiction: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul KalanithiWHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese (Random House) Also a finalist for the Pulitzer, this deeply humane memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal diagnosis attempts to answer the questions: given that all organisms die, what makes a meaningful life? And, as a doctor, what does it mean to hold mortal—and moral—responsibility for another person’s identity? For readers of Atul Gawande and Siddhartha Mukherjee.   PEN Award for Research Nonfiction: The Perfect Horse by Elizabeth LettsTHE PERFECT HORSE: THE DARING U.S. MISSION TO RESCUE THE PRICELESS STALLIONS KIDNAPPED BY THE NAZIS by Elizabeth Letts (Ballantine) The daring behind-Nazi-lines rescue of priceless pedigree horses by American soldiers in the closing days of World War Two—a riveting equine adventure story from the author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion.   PEN Award for Young Adult Fiction: Outrun the Moon by Stacey LeeOUTRUN THE MOON by Stacey Lee (Speak) Critically acclaimed author Stacey Lee continues to weave adventure and romance in a novel set during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake: A spot at St. Clare’s School is off limits for all but the wealthiest white girls. However, fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong knows that education is the best way out of Chinatown’s squalor.   FINALISTS The Association of Small Bombs by Karan MahajanTHE ASSOCIATION OF SMALL BOMBS: A NOVEL by Karan Mahajan (Viking) Also a finalist for the National Book Award, The Association of Small Bombs is an expansive and deeply humane novel that is at once groundbreaking in its empathy, dazzling in its acuity, and ambitious in scope.   Cockroaches by Scholastique MukasongaCOCKROACHES by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated by Jordan Stump (Archipelago) Scholastique Mukasonga’s Cockroaches is the story of growing up a Tutsi in Hutu-dominated Rwanda—the story of a happy child, a loving family, all wiped out in the genocide of 1994. A vivid, bittersweet depiction of family life and bond in a time of immense hardship, it is also a story of incredible endurance, and the duty to remember that loss and those lost while somehow carrying on.   For more on these titles visit the collection: PEN Awards 2017 Stay tuned for this week’s Friday Reads wherein we will honor the work of Margaret Atwood.  

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