clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

New York Times summer reading list sparks controversy

'Tis the season for landmark publications like The New York Times to compile their summer reading lists, but this year's choices are sparking some debate.

New York Times book critic Janet Maslin's summer picks included midsummer release heavy-hitters like Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird" follow-up, "Go Set a Watchman," and Stephen King's newest, "Finders Keepers."

Slate's Katy Waldman blasted Maslin's list for its lineup of exclusively white authors.

"The ballot should never have made it through the NYT’s dense editorial canopy," Waldman wrote.

Readers looking for more ethnic variety in their summer-reading authors could instead turn to Buzzfeed or Quartz's lists, which, in the latter's case, was even titled "Some African authors to add to The New York Times' list of summer books."

But Waldman and Huffington Post book critic Lev Raphael also called Maslin's taste into question.

Waldman called Maslin's list predictable and "lackluster."

"The titles seem chosen in order to pander to an out-of-touch, half-hearted approximation of middlebrow taste," Waldman wrote. "It pretends to comprehend the meaning of a beach read ('smart, funny fluff') and then nominates, for our mindless delectation, a 300 plus-page biography of the Wright brothers."

Raphael also accused Maslin of ignoring small presses entirely and instead pandering only to large, mainstream publishing houses.

"The unspoken assumption is that nobody else publishes anything worthwhile," Raphael wrote. "Reviewers like Maslin just don't know what they're missing, and they're cheating their readers."

Whether the blowback from Maslin's list stung The Times, Maslin announced shortly after the list was published that she was stepping down as a regular critic into a contributing role at The Times.

In a statement to Capital New York, Maslin did not specify whether mistakes were made with her book list, but she said her job was difficult, which fueled her decision.

"I've been a full-time critic since 1977," Maslin said. "It's a hard job and I've been doing it a very long time."

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson