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Best books … chosen by Leslie Cockburn
Journalist and author Leslie Cockburn is a contributing editor at <em>Vanity</em> <em>Fair.</em> Her documentary about the economic crisis, <em>American Casino, </em>debuts this week at the Tribeca Film Festiva
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ournalist and author Leslie Cockburn is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Her documentary about the economic crisis, American Casino, debuts this week at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand
by Gioconda Belli (Harper, $24). With her latest novel, Belli rewrites the creation myth to give us Eve’s point of view. Her writing is deliciously sensual, like jumping into a vat of whipped cream.

Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation 1940-44 by Charles Glass (HarperPress, London). Before reading Charles Glass’ new book, it never occurred to me that so many Americans refused to leave Paris under Nazi occupation. Glass has uncovered a fascinating chapter of forgotten history.

The Master by Colm Toibin (Scribner, $15). Toibin writes about Henry James in the way that James tried to write about the American abroad. Toibin’s description of James’ being cruelly humiliated at an English dinner party is pure James, only better. Toibin is the master.

The Way to Xanadu by Caroline Alexander (out of print). Alexander takes Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan and goes on a remarkable quest to track the origins of the poem, ending up in some very surprising places, including Florida.

The Dark Valley by Piers Brendon (Vintage, $20). It’s a really good time to read about the ’30s. Brendon takes the reader on a tour of that distressed decade, moving fluidly between Depression New York, Hitler’s Berlin, Il Duce’s Rome, and Franco’s Spain so that one can see things happening simultaneously.

The Cousins’ Wars by Kevin Phillips (Basic, $25). If you want some startling revelations about Anglo-American history that challenge everything you read in school, this is the book. At times, there was far less religious tolerance in 17th-century Puritan Massachusetts than there was in England. At other times, the English became more puritanical than their American relations, going so far as to ban Christmas and Easter in 1645.

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