Can Books Change the World?

So, I’ve been reading Frederick Douglass’s autobiography. I like to keep up with the latest fads and, as President Trump pointed out not too long ago, Douglass “is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job that is being recognized more and more.”

Douglass is probably the most famous abolitionist of all time, and his work was widely recognized in the years before, during, and long after the Civil War, including by President Abraham Lincoln, whose response to Douglass’s criticism was to invite him to the White House to talk about their differences. Over time they developed a strong friendship and at least a partial reconciliation of their views. Lincoln listened, changed, and came to appreciate Douglass, and the feeling was mutual.

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Next time you feel overwhelmed by the number of books on your to-read list, think of Ron Charles, the fiction editor at the Washington Post. Charles and his colleagues at the newspaper get 200 books a day to choose from, with a lot careers depending on their decisions. I chatted with Ron for the premier issue of Late Last Night Books a few years back. Here is a shortened version of that conversation.

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Mark Willen