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Book News: Should Ayn Rand Be Required Reading?

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Idaho state Sen. John Goedde (half-jokingly) introduced a bill this week that would require every Idaho high school student to read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and pass an exam in order to graduate. Goedde, a Republican who is chairman of the state Senate's Education committee, said the book made his son a Republican. While it's not clear how serious the proposal is, it's hit a nerve.
  • Today in inexplicable news: The Geico Gecko has written an advice book called You're Only Human: A Guide to Life, which is set to be published in April. The press material says the insurance company's spokeslizard "has spent the last few years traveling across America, like a modern-day de Tocqueville." It adds: "He's a philosopher, an aphorist, a humorist, an artist, a warm companion, a natural storyteller — and, in a grand tradition, a keenly observant and wise outsider who in the course of living and traveling among us has discovered quite a lot about the things that make us human."
  • Amazon has acquired a patent for reselling and lending digital books. Libraries are already lending digital materials, but the concept of selling "used" ebooks is pretty novel (sorry). According to the patent, "When the user no longer desires to retain the right to access the now-used digital content, the user may move the used digital content to another user's personalized data store when permissible and the used digital content is deleted from the originating user's personalized data store." But it seems Amazon will be able to impose limits on the number of times a particular piece of material is resold: "When a digital object exceeds a threshold number of moves or downloads, the ability to move may be deemed impermissible and suspended or terminated."
  • Author Lawrence Wright went on The Colbert Report this week to plug his new book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. That's when host Stephen Colbert's interview really got interesting.
  • Little, Brown announced Thursday that its new publisher will be Reagan Arthur, who has worked with writers such as Kate Atkinson and George Pelecanos and oversaw bestsellers like Tina Fey's Bossypants. The company's current publisher, Michael Pietsch, will become CEO.

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