Random House Readers Circle
Right Curve
Sidebar topper
Divider
Divider
Divider
Divider

Posts Tagged ‘jane von mehren’

Jane’s Bookshelf: Favorite Love Stories

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

JVMWhat does a publisher at the world’s biggest publishing house read for pleasure? (And how does she find the time?) Jane von Mehren is the Senior Vice President and Publisher of Trade Paperbacks at the Random House Publishing Group. Every now and then, she’ll be featuring her favorite reads in her Reader’s Circle column, Jane’s Bookshelf—books that she thinks you’ll love, whether you read them solo or with your club! And if you’re on Twitter, you can follower her tweets at @janeatrandom.

In an editor and a publisher’s life, there are certain authors and publications that stand out. For me there was my first acquisition (House of Heroes by Mary La Chapelle), first bestseller (Backlash by Susan Faludi), the first bestseller I didn’t originally acquire (Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman). It’s sort of embarrassing to realize how well I remember these events from almost two decades ago!

Snow Flower smallHere at Random House, Lisa See is an author who looms large for me in large part because Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was one of the first big paperbacks I published when I came here nearly seven years ago. We moved the paperback up from the traditional 12 months after hardcover publication to 9 months, completely redesigned the jacket, sent Lisa on a huge tour, and did major marketing outreach targeting book clubs and avid fiction readers. The success we shared with that campaign became a calling card for Random House Readers Circle and our trade paperback program. So February 7 was a special day for me: Dreams of Joy went on sale in paperback. I won’t try to describe it since the Los Angeles Times does it better than I ever could: “The scope of the novel is astonishing. . . .See aims her pen at the most vivid aspects of daily life but never loses the sweep of history. In the end, it’s a story with characters who enter a reader’s life, take up residence, and illuminate the myriad decisions and stories that make up human history.” And you may be able to catch Lisa while she is out on tour.

major_pettigrewBeing that it’s near Valentine’s Day, I can’t help but think of some other firsts: first kiss, first love … though I’m not sharing them! Instead here are some of my favorite love stories: Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand combines British wit and charm, a small British village, and two wonderful characters – the Major and Mrs. Ali – who fall in love despite everyone’s disapproval; it’s an endearing, thoroughly grown up romance.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetSome love stories take place in the midst of momentous events, so that the relationships at their heart take on almost epic proportions: I think of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities and Sydney Carton’s sacrifice that allows Charles Darney and his lovely Lucie to remain together despite the ravages of the French Revolution. Or how World War II interrupts the young love between Henry and Keiko in Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

EndlessLoveVaclav&LenaPerhaps it is stories of young love that resonate most with us as readers. I for one can’t forget the angst-ridden romantics that Scott Spencer created with his teenage protagonists in Endless Love. More recently, I adored the young characters at the heart of Haley Tanner’s Vaclav and Lena; theirs is a story not only of love, but also of magic. Need I say more?

As you think of your first Valentine or your favorite love stories, I hope you will share them with me and our Random House Readers Circle community.

Jane’s Bookshelf: Food Books As Delicious As Any Good Meal

Monday, January 30th, 2012

JVMWhat does a publisher at the world’s biggest publishing house read for pleasure? (And how does she find the time?) Jane von Mehren is the Senior Vice President and Publisher of Trade Paperbacks at the Random House Publishing Group. Every now and then, she’ll be featuring her favorite reads in her Reader’s Circle column, Jane’s Bookshelf—books that she thinks you’ll love, whether you read them solo or with your club! And if you’re on Twitter, you can follower her tweets at @janeatrandom.

In my book group, we start by eating dinner, catching up, and then we turn to our discussion. Our suppers are pot lucks, and despite no planning, they’re always delicious: someone made a soufflé for our discussion of Madame Bovary; another member brought panacotta one hot summer night. Eating is not only a wonderful way to bond, but also to be exposed to new tastes and cultures. And over the years I have learned that books about food are just as satisfying.

Blood Bones & Butter TP 150dpiTake Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter. Hamilton is the chef-owner of the acclaimed restaurant Prune here in New York and her memoir reveals that she is as adept with a pen as she is with a skillet. She traces the path she took from a teenager who loved helping her father roast whole lambs over a spit to the kitchens of prize-winning (as well as unknown chefs) in France, Greece, and Turkey, where she learned about both cooking and hospitality; and to working side by side with her Italian mother-in-law in Italy, where love of food is their bond and shared language. What emerges is the portrait of a woman finding her way with her family, in her profession, and on the page. It’s almost as if Mary Karr had the chops of a chef or Anthony Bourdain had penned a powerful family story.

The Soul of a ChefOne of my favorite “foodie” books is Michael Ruhlman’s The Soul of a Chef. He takes you to the Culinary Institute of America where he observes the rigorous certified master chef exam; my heart raced as the clock ticks away as several chefs compete over the course of ten days. Later, Ruhlman works at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, and we see a professional restaurant kitchen working at full throttle, creating and perfecting the dishes that rocketed Keller to the very pinnacle of his field. It’s a gripping—dare I say thrilling—read as he shows the emotional grit and epicurean talent needed to reach the top of America’s culinary world.

Tender at the BoneOver the course of three books, Ruth Reichl has chronicled her life in connection to food. Starting with Tender at the Bone, she explores her childhood when she discovered “food could be a way of making sense of the world. . . . If you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they were.”  This remains a constant during her years as a chef and food critic, which she also writes about in Comfort Me with Apples and in Garlic and Sapphires. Reichl’s memoirs are spiced with humor, warmth, great portraits of chefs and the meals they create.

What these authors share is the ability to make you walk in their shoes, whether at the stove or in a foreign country. As they orchestrate fabulous meals or navigate personal terrain, I’ve found they make me hungry, wanting to cook, and in that spirit I share Gabrielle Hamilton’s recipe for braised chicken legs with shallots and vinegar from her new House Beautiful column. I think I’ll try it for my next book club meeting!

Shoe
Bertelsmann Media Worldwide