Share A Peek Behind Sarah Jane’s Shelf

A Peek Behind Sarah Jane’s Shelf

We are passionate readers who love nothing more than discovering fantastic books and sharing them with friends. We recommend books that move us to laughter and tears—and everything in between. Trust us when we say, "You've got to read this!"

Meet Sarah Jane! She’s an assistant editor for Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books, imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, and a vital part of the Off the Shelf team. When Sarah Jane was growing up, her father read Nancy Drew books to her. These days she is an avid reader of mystery, thriller, and horror, along with everything from literary fiction to poetry to personal essays. She is also an advocate of quasi-destructive book love—her best-loved volumes are highlighted, scribbled in, dog-eared, and wavy from being dropped in the bathtub.

Q: Tell us about your job. What’s it like working in children’s publishing? How’d you end up there?

A: I ended up working in children’s books by a lucky twist of fate. I studied creative writing in college and was hoping to have a career editing adult literary fiction. But since publishing jobs are so competitive, I decided to apply for every entry-level publishing job I could find. I ended up in children’s book publicity, which was fortunate, because I discovered I love picture books! After a year, I switched over to editorial for Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books. Working on picture books and novels for young readers is both a lot of fun—because I get to collaborate with artists as well as writers—and very fulfilling—because I know I am making books that kids will be reading in their formative years and important times in their lives. I still remember so many of my favorite books from when I was a kid, and those books really shaped me into who I am today.

Q: We all know you’re a huge Stephen King fan. What do you like most about his writing?

A: I am! As you can probably guess from my reviews on Off the Shelf, he’s my favorite writer. I’ve always been drawn to stories that are a bit dark and creepy (as a kid, I loved Neil Gaiman’s creeptastic picture book THE WOLVES IN THE WALLS!), so I started reading Stephen King for the chills. But I kept reading for his well-drawn characters and the emotional resonance of his work. He isn’t afraid to delve into the dark corners of human nature and examine our relationships, motivations, and the measures people can be pushed to in desperate times. Some of my favorite Stephen King writings aren’t even very scary—JOYLAND is mostly about coming-of-age, first love, and coming to terms with loss (okay, also, there is a haunted amusement park ride). RITA HAYWORTH AND SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is about the resilience of the human spirit in the worst of situations. And his memoir, ON WRITING, is one of the most inspiring and life-affirming books I’ve ever read.

Q: Who are some of your other favorite authors?

A: This is the hardest possible question for a bookworm! Some of my favorites are Neil Gaiman, Karen Russell, Stieg Larsson, Ray Bradbury, and Shirley Jackson. And on the children’s side, some of my favorite authors and books include ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, GHOST and PATINA by Jason Reynolds, FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo, THE NEST by Kenneth Oppel, LEAVE ME ALONE! by Vera Brosgol, THE NIGHT GARDENER by Terry Fan and Eric Fan, LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson, and so many more!

Q: A little birdy tells us you’re also a writer in your spare time. How on earth do you find the time? What are you writing?

A: Well, I try to be! I’ve always loved writing, and it’s nice to take a break from the editorial side of things and be creative in a different way. But finding the spare time can be tough. Sometimes I write for a bit in the morning before work, and sometimes I use a free evening or weekend morning to plant myself at a café and write. Besides writing about books for Off the Shelf, I am tinkering with a middle school novel and working on some short stories.

Q: What’s one thing we don’t know about you?

A: I did competitive synchronized swimming for a year in middle school. It’s such a little-known, intense, and beautiful sport. We’d wake up at 5 a.m. on weekends for practice and be in the pool for hours, wearing weight belts and swimming laps underwater. Then we’d travel all over the country for competitions—slathering Knox gelatin over our hair (to keep it from falling out in the water) and wearing sequined bathing suits. The team was a tight-knit and wonderful group of girls. But I still flinch every time I hear “Jingle Bell Rock,” because I once had to do a routine to that song that involved holding my breath for a very long time!

Some of Our Favorite Posts by Sarah Jane:

14 Remarkable Immigrant Stories You Can Find in a Favorite Museum’s Gift Shop

13 Timely Books to Read During Banned Books Week

Water Cooler Book Club: 14 Books About Life in a Cubicle

12 Super Sleuthy Books for Grown-Up Fans of Nancy Drew

People Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Commit Murder


The Illustrated Man
by Ray Bradbury
Provocative and powerful, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN is a kaleidoscopic blending of magic, imagination, and truth—as exhilarating as interplanetary travel, as maddening as a walk in a million-year rain, and as comforting as simple, familiar rituals on the last night of the world.
The Illustrated Man
Ray Bradbury

MENTIONED IN:

A Peek Behind Sarah Jane’s Shelf

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 22, 2018

A Definitive Reading List for Fans of the S-Town Podcast

By Off the Shelf Staff | May 4, 2017

The Future is Now: Did Ray Bradbury’s Sci-Fi Short Stories Predict the Present?

By Sarah Jane Abbott | August 11, 2014

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman

An imaginative and poignant adult fairy tale from the modern master of wonder and terror. This bewitching and harrowing story of mystery, survival, memory, and magic makes the impossible all too real.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Neil Gaiman

An imaginative and poignant adult fairy tale from the modern master of wonder and terror. This bewitching and harrowing story of mystery, survival, memory, and magic makes the impossible all too real.

MENTIONED IN:

5 Books to Read if You Love READY PLAYER ONE

By Meagan Harris | April 4, 2018

A Peek Behind Sarah Jane’s Shelf

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 22, 2018

12 Contemporary British Novels We Can’t Live Without

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | April 26, 2016

14 Recommended Reads From Reese Witherspoon

By Tolani Osan | December 1, 2015

A Horror Story Dressed As a Fairy Tale

By Sarah Jane Abbott | November 18, 2014

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Joyland
by Stephen King

College student Devin Jones takes a summer job at the Joyland carnival hoping to forget the girl who broke his heart, but he winds up facing the legacy of a murder, the fate of a dying child, and revelations about life that will change his world forever.

Joyland
Stephen King

College student Devin Jones takes a summer job at the Joyland carnival hoping to forget the girl who broke his heart, but he winds up facing the legacy of a murder, the fate of a dying child, and revelations about life that will change his world forever.

MENTIONED IN:

A Peek Behind Sarah Jane’s Shelf

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 22, 2018

Our 13 Favorite Ghost Stories—Just in Time for Halloween!

By Off the Shelf Staff | October 26, 2017

13 Stephen King Books for Every Kind of Reader

By Sarah Jane Abbott | September 21, 2017

10 Books That Take You Inside the Strange and Wonderful World of Carnivals

By Sarah Jane Abbott | July 26, 2016

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On Writing
by Stephen King

“Nothing I have ever read about the writing life has moved or inspired me more. Whether or not you are a King fan, whether you are a professional writer or have never written a word, this is essential reading on the art of writing and the art of life.”

Read the full review here.

On Writing
Stephen King

“Nothing I have ever read about the writing life has moved or inspired me more. Whether or not you are a King fan, whether you are a professional writer or have never written a word, this is essential reading on the art of writing and the art of life.”

Read the full review here.

MENTIONED IN:

A Peek Behind Sarah Jane’s Shelf

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 22, 2018

13 Stephen King Books for Every Kind of Reader

By Sarah Jane Abbott | September 21, 2017

Books Make Great Gifts: 8 Favorites We’ve Received from Friends and Family

By Off the Shelf Staff | August 24, 2017

Happy Birthday, Stephen King! 8 of Our Favorites From the Master

By Sarah Jane Abbott | September 21, 2016

It’s Our Birthday!

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 22, 2016

The Art of Writing and the Art of Life

By Sarah Jane Abbott | November 30, 2015

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Swamplandia!
by Karen Russell

This blazingly original debut novel takes us to the swamps of the Florida Everglades. Set against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life, it is an utterly singular novel about one family’s struggle to stay afloat and one unforgettable young heroine on a harrowing odyssey.

Swamplandia!
Karen Russell

This blazingly original debut novel takes us to the swamps of the Florida Everglades. Set against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life, it is an utterly singular novel about one family’s struggle to stay afloat and one unforgettable young heroine on a harrowing odyssey.

MENTIONED IN:

A Peek Behind Sarah Jane’s Shelf

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 22, 2018

13 Authors We Love on National Author’s Day

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 1, 2017

10 Books That Take You Inside the Strange and Wonderful World of Carnivals

By Sarah Jane Abbott | July 26, 2016

9 Literary Novels That Sparkle With the Magical and Surreal

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | March 31, 2016

A Brilliant, Quirky, Nightmarish Novel and the Prize that Eluded It

By Sarah Jane Abbott | January 23, 2015

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson

Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist, and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander team up to investigate the 40 year disappearance of Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families. Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson

Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist, and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander team up to investigate the 40 year disappearance of Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families. Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.

MENTIONED IN:

10 Fashion Icons from Novels We Love

By Kerry Fiallo | August 2, 2018

A Peek Behind Sarah Jane’s Shelf

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 22, 2018

Best Beach Reads: 14 (Extra) Long Books for (Extra) Long Days at the Beach

By Kerry Fiallo | July 3, 2017

11 Authors Whose Legacies Live On

By Amy Hendricks | May 19, 2016

Girl Crazy: 15 Literary Ladies You’ll Want to Know

By Aimee Boyer | March 29, 2016

11 Binge-Worthy Literary Series

By Emma Volk | August 27, 2015

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