PAUL CLAYTON WROTE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR that we've included in this issue. He uses a quotation from one of our book-group profiles--a funny and innocuous line--as a jumping-off point to question whether many readers have become too politically narrow-minded--or liberal--in their thinking. As we were producing our fourth-anniversary issue, Paul got us pondering the changes we've seen in books and politics since we started publishing.
The editorial staff at Bookmarks does everything we can to minimize the effect of our personal politics on our writing and on the books we choose to cover. We are not a political magazine and have no aspirations to become one.
Many would agree that the political dialogue in the United States has grown increasingly polarized in the past two decades. That's a problem for the culture at large and I think the primary source of Paul's concern. However, book publishing is also evolving to reflect this bifurcated world, and we've noticed that maintaining our own neutrality in the past four years has become increasingly challenging. Some publishers have become adept at producing books that confirm to each side of the political spectrum that one side is right and the other wrong. Let's call it the Polarization for Profit model; people love to be told that the way they think is correct, and will happily pay for that privilege.
A disturbing trend we've seen is the temptation to group these plainly partisan political books with thoughtful works that explore current events. We avoid coverage of the former (take Ann Coulter or Al Franken--could there be objective reviews of these authors?), include the latter, and struggle with the gray areas in between. Two years ago, when the first books on Iraq and terrorism were being published (Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward, Against All Enemies by Richard A. Clarke, and The Price of Loyalty by Ron Suskind, all reviewed in our July/August 2004 issue), we didn't apply our traditional star...