The jury (figuratively) remains out on how much empathy we garner from reading books, but a certain English judge is quite pleased with the progress of Ben John, the 21-year-old white supremacist who, after being charged with possessing a bomb-making manual—along with hundreds of antisemitic, Neo-Nazi material—was given a suspended sentenced and told to… read books. Specifically, English classics like Shakespeare and Jane Austen.
In his six-month follow up with Judge Timothy Spencer, John reported that he preferred Shakespeare (Twelfth Night) to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, though he did enjoy the latter. Spencer’s initial decision outraged many, who felt it was far too lenient for someone convicted under suspicion of planning to carry out a terrorist act.
I will simply leave Judge Spencer with this classic verse of fine English literature from the great WH Auden (emphasis mine):
Already a helpless orbited dog
Has blinked at our wasteful worried shape,
Where many are famished, few look good,
And our time gave birth to torturers
Who read Rilke in their rest-periods.