I have had an ongoing WhatsApp chat with four other friends for
many years. I represent the Democrats. There are two Republicans, one
Independent, and one Libertarian. Our discussions range through the day,
morning to night, on all issues, from politics and race, to corona and sports.
We rarely agree on anything. We are a microcosm of the nation at large. Can
books change our divided country’s extreme-position mindset?
The optimist in me says yes, books can make a difference in educating readers and exposing us to new facts, histories, views, and analysis that perhaps the news media has failed to share or convince us of. But books are only as good as those who write them — and read them. Therein lies the challenge.
If those who write books are biased or unqualified to pen them, their books do more damage than good. They poison a well that is already muddied.
But for legitimate books put out by people in the know, their books are only helpful if they convince non-believers of the truth. So how do we get people to read books they otherwise are predisposed to dismiss or ignore?
The truth is on trial. Are books affording us the court setting needed to determine fact from fiction, news from opinion, unbiased views from lobby-funded advertisements?
There is no legal clearinghouse to review, rate, or score a book’s legitimacy. There is no one source that posts book reviews from third-party trained reviewers on all books. There is rarely court action on matters of libel and slander on most books. Most books are self-published and lack a gatekeeper to question the content’s veracity. Most book publishers fail to investigate all of the claims made by their authors.
So what do we do?
Train citizens to apply a smell test to books, just as we ask them to double-check the media they consume, whether it is social media or traditional media. Question motives, verify claims, examine the opposing viewpoint, and think critically.
We should also create a non-profit to fund the purchase of books for citizens who normally would not read such a book. Have a pro-choicer read a book by a pro-lifer. Get a white guy to read about BLM. Have a liberal read about coal and oil while a conservative reads about global warming. Make Trump voters read Obama’s memoir and have Biden supporters read something penned by a right-winger. Maybe, just maybe, we will begin to understand one another and either switch positions or agree to work together to discover middle ground that we can build on.
It can’t hurt, can it?
Right now we have too many Americans reading too few books. What they do read is not always brain food. Many books are read because they feed what we already believe or have an interest in. Gifts of books are sent to us in a similar fashion. What we need is to get out of our bubble. Our friends and family recommend books that already fit some notion of who we are and who they think we are. It is time to step out of your comfort zone and read some books on subjects -- or by voices -- that we would never consider reading.
Books can lead the way to a better world, but only if we have better books and more readers willing to expose themselves to opposing views. Maybe someone can write a book about that.
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Brian Feinblum, the founder of BookMarketingBuzzBlog, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are the product of his genius. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2020. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent. This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby
http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo.