1 | "I just don't know if I can do this": not words you'd expect to hear from a president, least of all Barack Obama. But in the wake of his disastrous first debate with Mitt Romney during the 2012 election, the most charismatic and self-assured politician of recent times was a wreck. An excerpt in the New York Times Magazine of Double Down, by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, is a fascinating insight into the moment the wheels nearly came off the president's reelection campaign.
3 | New studies have shown that, far from being just a high-minded way to kill time, reading literary novels makes us more empathetic. But is empathy neccesarily a positive thing? And in any case, are there better, less tangible reasons for enjoying a good story? Here writing for The New Yorker, Lee Siegel provides plenty to think about for lovers of fiction.
4 | A prevailing wisdom of the internet age is that the digital world has shortened our attention spans. Not so, argues Stuart Jeffries in the Guardian – on the contrary, the growing size of novels and the complexity of TV shows paints a different picture.
5 | Also in the New York Times Magazine. Two movies about slavery are set to contest this year's Oscars, 12 Years Of Slavery and The Butler. But beyond preaching to the converted, can art about America's original sin do anything to help heal the racial tensions that still exist in the country? Frank Rich writes about the 'liberal echo chamber'.