Why More Juvenile Delinquents Should Read

  It’s a modern cliché to say that reading books will make you a better person—a more empathetic person, a more intelligent person, even a happier person. Research does indeed suggest many benefits from cozying up with a good book. But does reading only change those seeking betterment or can it help the juvenile offender … Continued

Books, Politics

Schooling Novelist Lucinda Rosenfeld About Public Education

Even the best satirists have blind spots. That’s the lesson from Lucinda Rosenfeld’s new novel, Class. The story of Karen Kipple, a white liberal Brooklyn mother whose principles are constantly being tested by the realities around her, the novel is a great send-up of a certain segment of New York. Kipple sends her daughter to … Continued

Books, Culture

The Perils of the Millennial Addiction Memoir

“One of the most striking characteristics of drug takers,” writes the psychiatrist and writer Theodore Dalrymple, “is their intense and tedious self-absorption; and their journeys into inner space are generally forays into inner vacuums.” Empty self-absorption has been a central feature of the addiction memoir and its many derivations, from Thomas De Quincey’s hallucinatory “apocalypse … Continued

Books, Culture

‘Silence’ and the Challenges of Cultural Relativism

In Martin Scorsese’s Silence, a new movie based on Shusaku Endo’s novel of the same name, Jesuit priests try to smuggle Christianity into 17th-century Japan. It’s futile, say their opponents, because the locals don’t have the Western mentality required to follow Christ. Nature-worship is so ingrained in the Japanese that they “can’t conceive of anything … Continued

Books, Culture, Entertainment

Why Thomas Hardy, Not Jane Austen, Is a Better Guide to Love

Valentine’s Day is here, and with it, the usual slew of literary and pop culture reminders of what love does to us. Pick your poison—Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks, the Brontes, Old Hollywood, 90s rom coms, BBC bodice rippers—we are saturated by reminders that a rewarding life includes a worthy, rewarding and, above all, romantic relationship. … Continued

Books, Culture

Why Critics Ignored This Novel’s Approach to Abortion

The forty-fourth annual March for Life takes place in Washington, D.C., tomorrow, and many of the marchers will be in a celebratory mood. It’s not only that one of President Trump’s top advisers will be speaking at the march; it’s also that abortion rates are the lowest they have been since 1973, when the U.S. … Continued

Books, Culture

A Really Tedious Book about “A Really Good Day”

It’s been more than a decade since lawyer and author Ayelet Waldman confessed, in an essay in the New York Times, that she loved her husband, novelist Michael Chabon, more than her kids, and enjoyed a happy marriage and an enviable sex life with him—”always vital, even torrid” (unlike the poor, sexless moms in her … Continued

Books, Culture

When Bad Words Are Said to Good Children

Should bad words be read to children? This question surfaced last week when children’s author Dan Gutman posted his response to a parent letter on Facebook asking whether it was appropriate to use the N-word in books for young audiences. Gutman rose to fame with his My Weird School series. The wacky volumes, beloved by … Continued

Books, Culture

The Everlasting Appeal of Natalie Babbitt

Whether they recognize her name or not, most elementary school students know Natalie Babbitt very well. They know her through the pages of her book, Tuck Everlasting, which seems like a typical children’s story but in fact masterfully raises a complicated question of immortality, namely: What if we could live forever? This week, news of … Continued

Books, Culture