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A robot has some thoughts about the “67 best books to give a woman.”

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February 1, 2021, 1:12pm

Why gift a woman a book? Books are always a good gift. Furthermore, all of us have women around us who are passionate about reading, and since some books have been underpublicized due to their feminine nature, they should be brought into the spotlight, as gifts for our voraciously reading female relatives. At least, so reasons the lede of “The 67 Best Books To Give A Woman,” an article posted by the news aggregation site Explica that appears to be written by an AI. This is tentatively confirmed by Explica’s jobs site, which states, “Our proprietary content engine enables writers to craft engaging and interactive digital stories in seconds, not hours.”

How successful is the AI-generated list? Well, it has some hits—Emma Cline’s The Girls, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis—and some misses: the very first book on the list is Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, styled as the slightly more inviting “We gotta talk about Kevin.” (Kevin’s walking here!) And though some of the blurbs may lack the craft and grammar of a human writer, they get the point across, if the point is that Kevin from the beginning is not an easy baby, he is a conflictive child who as he grows up becomes a manipulative and lacking empathy being. One blurb even has a quip: “Margaret Atwood turns everything she touches to gold . . . or rather, her novels turn to gold when they are transformed into television series.” Good satire is said to require target and clarity of purpose, and this has both a target (Margaret Atwood) and a clarity of purpose (giving a woman 67 books).

On its face this list is a little concerning—in a few years, robots might render humans’ book-recommending jobs obsolete. I, a human with a book-recommending job, am indeed a little concerned. [Ed. note: Call me when the robots can write a good coherent sentence.] But if humans aren’t stepping up to do the necessary work of recommending 67 books to give a woman, I’m not going to tell a robot they shouldn’t. And if this article made even one person give 67 books to a woman, it’s done its job. Heck, we should be chipping in: give a woman 67 books today. After all, as the article says, “Feminism is in fashion and we cannot deny it.” How true, Explica. How true.

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