Bias under the hood
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The winner isn't...

BooksAuthor and budding bookstore owner Ann Patchett was understandably bummed that the Pulitzer Board didn't grant any awards for best fiction this year.

There are lots of reasons to share her disappointment, whether you are an author or a reader. (I doubt I'll ever have a book make even the preliminary list, but I've read a lot of books that deserve consideration.)

But Patchett hit on the best reason -- awards like the Pulitzer give good books more exposure, which leads to their being more widely read, and that's good for society not just publishers and booksellers.

"Reading fiction is important," she wrote in the New York Times. "It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings."

Indeed, surveys show that empathy is declining among college students. Many tie that to a similar decline in their reading habits. All of which is a real problem.  

As primatologist Franz DeWaal noted in The Age of Empathy, "Empathy for ‘other people’is the one commodity the world is lacking more than oil.”



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