The Egyptian writer and activist Alaa Al Aswany explains how one word in Dostoyevsky’s novel The House of the Dead showed him how literature can help us understand one another.
The author Jesse Ball discusses Lewis Carroll's ‘Jabberwocky’ and how precise prose doesn’t always make for powerful work.
The author Mary-Beth Hughes discusses how Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel The Blue Flower showed her that words can dance.
The author Viet Thanh Nguyen discusses how his novel The Sympathizer is the product of decades of enjoying other works.
Joshua Cohen, the author of Book of Numbers, discusses Dostoyevsky’s The Double, in which the author becomes a presence in the novella.
The nonfiction writer Lucas Mann offers advice for essayists worried about whether they have anything interesting to say.
The novelist and editor Anna North discusses the Odyssey’s timeless lesson about leaving the comforts of home.
Mark Z. Danielewski discusses how the interplay of words and images can open up new ways of perceiving both literature and the world.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Charles Simic discusses the importance of noticing hidden truths—from the horrors of war to the mundane aspects of daily life.
The Norwegian author, known for the multivolume autobiography My Struggle, finds inspiration in the restraint of the tale of Cain and Abel.
The author and editor Kate Bolick found that "imaginary time-traveling"—projecting herself into the life of someone else—helped her feel closer to women she admired.
The author of The Harder They Come adheres to an organic, spontaneous finale-writing process ruled only by his desire to leave readers with room for interpretation.
The English folk singer-songwriter reveals how an appreciation for humanity's history has informed her art.
The author Tania James shares a lesson she gleaned from a book about a poacher: The best prose comes from experimenting with new perspectives.
The author Yasmina Reza says that Borges taught her fiction, like joy, is borne of mysterious, instinctual processes achieved in an unconscious state.
The author Reif Larsen says Joseph Conrad and Anselm Kiefer taught him how to practice omission without infuriating his readers.
When novelist Harriet Lane received a serious diagnosis, she started telling stories that let her meet anxiety on her own terms.
Author Katherine Heiny describes how the best details in fiction can be ripped from small talk and eavesdropped conversations on the bus.
The writer draws inspiration from Art Spiegelman's Breakdowns, "a toolkit to think about humor using comics."
Writer Thomas Pierce finds inspiration in the concise beauty of Theodore Roethke's notebooks.