“Asking a Publisher to pick their favourite book is a far from simple request.” – Joanna Prior
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Asking a Publisher to pick their favourite book is a far from simple request. Do you mean my favourite book ever, including childhood comfort reads such as Charlotte’s Web or Little House on the Prairie? Would I pick something from those formative teenage years, my heroines the Brontes, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf or Willa Cather? Would I pick something to tear my heart apart again by Thomas Hardy? Would I pick a classic with a fabulous plot and characters that become part of you such as Great Expectations or The Woman in White? This week, my favourite book would be the one I’ve most recently fallen in love with – the first novel in manuscript that’s kept me up all night; the long-awaited new book from a big US novelist; a collection of perfect short stories by a master of the form. So for this picture, I’ve decided to pick a novel that was very important to me in my publishing career: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields. It was first published in the UK in 1993 by Fourth Estate where I was then the publicity and marketing director. Carol was a Canadian writer who wrote a handful of novels and short stories before her too early death from cancer in 2003. This was the novel that got her noticed here in Britain and it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, it went on to win a Pulitzer Prize too. It is the fictional autobiography of Daisy Goodwill, born in 1905. She is a wife and mother and as such struggles to find meaning in her life. Although not much happens, the novel is imbued with such wisdom and gentle humour as well as being a moving exploration of how we find meaning in the everyday.
Joanna Prior, President of the Publisher Association (UK)
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