Appeared in Spring/Summer 1996 | Vol. XXII, Nos. 1, 2

Dutifully, the New York Times reports every Sunday on which books Americans are buying and reading. The Best Seller’s List towards the back of the book review section of the paper functions as an indicator, a gauge of what Americans are searching for as they take care of their families, fulfill their responsibilities at their jobs, and try to get along with their neighbors. The presence of William Bennett’s The Book of Virtues on that list for more than eighty consecutive weeks suggests that Americans are longing for wise counsel on how to live virtuous lives. In the Introduction to his volume, Bennett observes:

“Today we speak about values and how it is important to ‘have them,’ as if they were beads on a string or marbles in a pouch. But these stories [those contained in his book] speak to morality and virtues not as something to be possessed, but as the central part of human nature, not as something to have but as some thing to be, the most important thing to be.”1

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