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Elizabeth Koch founded the independent press Black Balloon with the writer Leigh Newman in 2010 to publish "the weird, the unwieldy, and the classifiable." Their highly curated, marvelously quirky books have been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Atlantic, among other publications. Ira Glass praised one of the titles included in the Whisper Editions bundle, And Every Day Was Overcast, as "unlike any book I've ever read."
"A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle, Age 8
This book introduced Koch to a new concept of reality. "It blew the lid off my understanding of day-to-day existence in a really exciting way," she says. "Instead of feeling trapped in this world, you realize there are other dimensions, other doors to open. It made me feel free."
"Go Down, Moses" by William Faulkner, Age 16
This was a book Koch had to return to a few times. "It was a challenge to me," she says. "At first I read it in my usual sort of fast way, and I had to give up. After the fourth time, I started seeing connections. I wrote out a whole tree for the characters. I basically wrote a companion manuscript. I got my hands the most dirty with this book."
"Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas R. Hofstadter, Age 24
Koch loved the many layers of this title. "It was brain candy," she says of the book, which blends philosophy and physics with a science-fiction sensibility. "I loved the mystery of not knowing if you were reading satire or something that the author actually loved and believed in."
"The Black Swan" by Thomas Mann, Age 32
This book, which has "nothing to do with the ballerina movie," Koch says, is about "a post-menopausal but joyous woman." How the author, an older man, got into the consciousness of the central character remains a mystery to Koch. "It deftly explores sociology and philosophy, but in a way that is so humorous and so grounded in context," she says. "I wanted to eat the pages of this book."
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"Truly Tasteless Jokes" by Blanche Knott, Present
Koch reads passages of this book aloud with her husband. "I don't have time to dive into novels with the same abandon and pleasure," she says. "If you read this book out loud, it connects you with someone else. It's less of a solitary reading experience."