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The New York Times and Conservative Books

Far be it from me to defend the books section of The New York Times, but this complaint from Tim Graham misses the mark:

This week’s list of New York Times best-selling books proves as usual that the Times doesn’t review conservative best-sellers. The nonfiction list was topped by “Things That Matter,” a collection of columns by Charles Krauthammer and then by “Killing Jesus” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. The children’s middle-grade list is led by Rush Limbaugh’s “Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims.” There has been no Times review of these books.

The Times can review whatever it pleases, and there is nothing odd in it ignoring run-of-the-mill books by conservative personalities like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. After all, even The Wall Street Journal’s somewhat more conservative (and excellent!) review section ignored Palin and Limbaugh, and rightly so.

It is a little odd, however, that The Times mostly ignores interesting books by serious conservative writers—books like Mary Eberstadt’s How the West Really Lost God, Roger Kimball’s The Fortunes of Permanence, or Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Race, to give a few recent examples—simply because reviews of these kinds of books almost always make for good copy, whether praised or criticized. Kay S. Hymowitz’s review of Robert P. George’s Conscience and Its Enemies in The Times this summer is a case in point—engaging, and informed, Hymowitz (who, it should be noted, works for the conservative Manhattan Institute) avoids the predictable tub-thumping that can mar pieces on divisive issues. It’s a great review.

Even if The Times has dropped the pose of being unbiased, such reviews keep readers from dying of boredom, which should probably be a priority for newspaper editors these days.

about the author

Micah Mattix is the literary editor of The American Conservative and an associate professor of English at Regent University. Follow him on Twitter.

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