The Brave New World of Publishing’s “Sensitivity Readers”

Nothing so surely kills artistic expression and the free spirit of the imagination as political dogma. When politics hijacks art the result is propaganda—a blunt instrument of control instead of a vehicle for transcendance. The Chicago Tribune reports that book publishers have begun to increase use of so-called “sensitivity readers” to examine manuscripts and to … Continued


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

Will Diversity Crusades Lead to More Banned Books?

The last week of September was National Banned Book Week in America, a celebratory campaign the American Library Association sponsors every year to highlight the freedom we have to read. The event also includes an unveiling of the list of most challenged books for the year. The good news is that Americans seek to ban … Continued

Books, Culture

The Community Cost of Reading ‘Huck Finn’

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported recently that school administrators at a Quaker school in Pennsylvania removed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the curriculum to placate students who complained that racial elements in the book made them feel uncomfortable. The administrators concluded that the “costs” to the community of assigning the book outweighed its literary value. On the contrary, … Continued


Seven Books that Should Be Banned

Every fall the publishing industry—excuse me, the “national books community”—engages in the self-promotional frenzy known as “Banned Books Week.” It comes complete with #BannedBooksWeek hashtags, events at public libraries, and high-minded declarations from authors. This may help book sales, but it only harms our ability to take books seriously. The first dishonest thing about “Banned … Continued


Celebrating—and Protecting—the Freedom to Read

Americans have a reflexive resistance to the idea of censoring literature and the banning of books. This is the land of free speech, after all. Certainly we’ve wrestled with it in the past, but we’re generally accustomed to titles being verboten in other, more repressive societies—the Bible in Saudi Arabia, Animal Farm in North Korea, … Continued


Should Gender-Specific Books Be Stamped Out?

Last weekend Katy Guest, literary editor of the UK’s Independent on Sunday, touted an online campaign called Let Books Be Books, which petitions publishers to put an end to children’s books marketed specifically to either boys or girls. She then announced proudly that henceforth her publication will refuse even to review such books: So I promise now … Continued

Books, Culture

The Daily Pop Culture Scene

Where pop culture meets the virtues . . . Taylor Swift: The Single Life in Bohemian Chic—Vogue Mark Wahlberg on his Rocky Childhood and the Importance of Faith—via Hot Air The End of Twinkies?—The Daily Beast How Nietzsche Changed American Culture—NYT The Exquisite Beauty of Kathleen Edwards’ Voyageur Album—Rolling Stone Gov. Christie Talks Weight, Doughnuts … Continued