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I Too Lie for a Living

    Novelists are liars. As one of my contemporaries likes to say, "We make shit up." The bad part of lying is why you do it. For writers, it's about entertaining readers. Fiction in a story is harmless in most cases, though I get frustrated with historical novelists who twist facts to suit their story. They don't care if readers (who aren't generally historical experts) conclude that so-and-so wasn't really the villain the history books portray but was actually kind of a pussycat.  Outside of books, lies take on a more treacherous role. We grew up bombarded daily with commercial advertising, and while some of us learned to think through the hype, others buy products they have no need for because they succumb to the tricks liars play. When I taught high school, I asked students to dissect ads looking for two things: what the specific goal is and how the ad makes its appeal. Often advertisers trigger a person's insecurities so they'll buy a product. (Be

What Is a Good Book?

Which Are the Good Ones? I've read a lot of books, but we probably won't agree on which were the best ones. Why? Because each book speaks to us as individuals: where we come from, what we value, and how we want our leisure activities to go. Reading requires commitment: time for sure, concentration (some books more than others), and a degree of background preparation. The ability to read is the most basic level, but requirements build after that. For example, a person isn't likely to enjoy a book about modern immunology if she doesn't understand the vocabulary used or a book about WWII if she doesn't know or care who Winston Churchill was. Reading serves different purposes. Many people read to escape from hum-drum, daily stuff. They want to escape reality, and they don't mind how wild the plots get as long as they're entertaining. Others demand that their fiction be realistic, with characters who could be real and plot-lines that might actually happen.