There is so much that can be said about the good a book can do to expose readers to new places, new ways of life. (For instance, the glimpse Katherine Boo gave to American readers of Mumbai life in Behind the Beautiful Forevers.) There’s even more to be said about what a book can do for readers who have never found their own lives on the page before. (How many books tell the kind of story Jessamyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones does?) It’s the job of book review editors—as guides to the overwhelming volume of titles published every year—to draw readers’ attention to the kind of books that can broaden their world, that tell the kind of stories that have never been told in print before. These books are out there, we just need to do a better job of finding and recognizing them.
I wrote about the New York Times's list of 100 Notable Books of 2012.