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Favorites: Part Eleven
Erin Cox

To celebrate the holidays we asked some of our favorite people in publishing what their favorite book was. Let us know in the comments what your favorite book is and be sure to check back throughout the week for more “favorites”.

Erin Cox, Book Publishing Director for The New Yorker, avid reader and lover of books.

Wow, to pick just one is actually quite hard. So, I’m going to actually list a few. Some old, some new.

Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins is a book that I’ve long mentioned I would like to read, but never actually had. One stormy afternoon this fall, I finished a book and thought, okay, now is the time. I started reading and didn’t look up until the room was so dark I couldn’t see anything. I spent the next two evenings ditching plans and reading into the night. I had to see what happened to Fos and Opal and Flash, the main characters of the book, who live in Tennessee post-World War I and are all enchanted by light in all its many forms. Fos and Flash met during the war when they were both enlisted. Post-war, they started a photography studio that Fos’ wife Opal would soon join. Fos’ amazing manipulation of luminiscence and Flash’s incredible ability to woo people built the studio, but these traits would ultimately tear them all apart. Fos’ fascination with light in all forms took him all around the south surveying the land and taking photographs and ultimately gave him a role in the early stages of The Manhattan Project. A story set in a time and place all too familiar to me (my grandparents would live in this same part of Tennessee twenty years later. My grandfather would go on to study physics), this story enchanted me, made me fall in love with the characters, and ultimately would leave me bereft for several days. I sent the book to my mother who called me days later to say that it touched her in the same way.

Books not out until March 2008:

Map of Ireland by Stephanie Grant was originally given to me by an editor friend who doesn’t generally acquire fiction. I was intrigued…what novel was so good that she had to buy it. And, I was not disappointed. Set in Boston in the 1970s during the integration of Boston schools, Map of Ireland focuses on the life of one young woman, Ann Ahern. Ann’s burgeoning sexuality trends more towards the women in her life and soon she falls in love with her beautiful, yet black, French teacher, Mademoisell Eugenie. As Ann watches her Irish-American friends and family fighting the African-American students and neighbors who are moving into South Boston for school and life, Ann struggles between the love she has for her teacher and friend and the pride she has for her community. A powerful story that, while spare, will leave you speechless at the inequity of life.

A memoir, Please Excuse My Daughter by Julie Klam is fantastic. The story of a woman who was raised by a loving, doting, and spoiling mother without the thought that keeping her out of school to have lunch at Saks and take in a Broadway show might prevent her from preparedness for graduation, much less a career. A life so unlike my own, that I often found myself breathless with laughter at her mother’s exclamations of what was “right” or “just.” I found myself guffawing at the ridiculous situations Julie finds herself in. BUT, I also found myself relating to her. I would nod knowingly at some situations, “yes, I would’ve sent that same email,” “oh boy, have I been there,” “I don’t know that I’d actually do that, but I’ve definitely THOUGHT of doing that,” and I ached at those moments that I couldn’t relate to because I could feel how hard they must’ve been for her. For any young woman (or anyone who has a young woman in their lives), I highly recommend reading. If nothing else, it’s a fast read, features a fantastic job at “Pop-Up Video” (which I’m still wishing was on the air), and if you can’t relate at least you can say, “thank heavens that isn’t me!”

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