Wasserman talks books

Steve Wasserman, editor of the L.A. Times Book Review, joined other editors (including Sam Tanenhaus of the New York Times) in a roundtable discussion at An excerpt from Wasserman's contributions:

Steve Wasserman (LA Times): One of the great scandals of American journalism is the sad fact that too few newspapers regard the publication of book reviews as news that they should feel obligated to bring before readers, and instead consign such reviews --- where they publish them at all --- to virtual ghettos. In most newspapers, readers are lucky to get a column or halfpage, much less an entire separate Sunday section devoted to the coverage of books. And then, adding insult to injury, such reviews are too often written in baby talk. And yet it is doubtless the case that, despite all predictions of the triumph of the world wide web, books remain the single most important instrument for the conveyance of deep knowledge and lasting entertainment yet devised. Books still retain the patina of authority that only time can bestow. They have yet to be bested for ease of access and even for pure sensuality. They will not soon disappear so long as the human species is defined by its opposable thumb and its obsessive need to tell each other stories --- sometimes the same stories, over and over, albeit in new guise.

He also says that, on average, the Times reviews about half the books that show up on its bestseller lists.

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