The U.S. president Barack Obama interviewed the novelist Marilynne Robinson for the New York Review of Books. The first part of that interview was published a couple of weeks ago, but it is this second installment that has attracted a great deal of public press attention based on Mr. Obama’s statements regarding the importance of reading. More specifically, the importance of reading for fostering empathy and shaping his sense of what it means to be a proper citizen in society. The relevant quotes can be found in this article in the Guardian newspaper (quoted below) and dedicated readers of OnFiction should recognize these arguments as paralleling the themes of the research discussed on this site.
when I think about how I understand my role as citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels…It has to do with empathy… It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of greys, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that. And the notion that it’s possible to connect with some[one] else even though they’re very different from you.
The audio of both parts can be found here.
Ever see a used book for sale for a penny on Amazon.com and wonder how it could be that the seller makes any money? The New York Times Magazine has a fascinating article about this new industry of penny booksellers and how they operate. In brief, it involves a large volume of books and some rather complicated software.