Authors share and discuss their all-time favorite passages in literature.
The novelist Jami Attenberg shares a poem that helped her understand her own relationship to isolation.
The novelist Téa Obreht describes how a single surprising image in The Old Man and the Sea sums up the main character's identity.
Chuck Klosterman, the author of Raised in Captivity, believes that art criticism often has very little to do with the work itself.
On a quest to make sense of what was happening to her body, the author Darcey Steinke sought guidance from female killer whales.
When his 2-year-old daughter died, Jayson Greene turned to writing to survive his grief, and to Dante’s Inferno for words to describe it.
An ancient saying he learned from his subjects, the Lamalerans, showed the journalist Doug Bock Clark how to tell the story of a tribe with no recorded history.
What the debut writer Kristen Roupenian learned from a masterful tale that dramatizes the horrors of being a young woman
John Wray describes how a wilderness survival guide taught him to face his fears while completing his most challenging book yet.
Nicole Chung explains how an essay about sailing taught her to embrace her fears as she worked up to writing her memoir, All You Can Ever Know.
Gary Shteyngart dissects one of the “most unexpected” lines in fiction and shares how it influenced his latest novel, Lake Success.
The author Laura van den Berg on what inspired her newest novel, The Third Hotel, and how she accesses the part of the mind that fiction comes from
The author R. O. Kwon reflects on the relationship of rhythm to writing and how she stopped obsessing over the first 20 pages of her new novel, The Incendiaries.
A.M. Homes on the short-story writer’s “For Esmé—With Love and Squalor,” and the lifelong effects of fleeting interactions
The nonfiction author Cutter Wood on how the comedian’s work helped him imbue minor characters with emotional life
The novelist Mary Morris explains how the opening line of One Hundred Years of Solitude shaped her path as a writer.
The author Tayari Jones explains what Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon taught her about the centrality of male protagonists in stories that explore female suffering.
The memoirist Terese Marie Mailhot on how Maggie Nelson’s Bluets taught her to explode the parameters of what a book is supposed to be
The author Martin Puchner on the way advances in paper production helped pave the way for The Tale of Genji
The National Book Award finalist Min Jin Lee on how the story of Joseph, and the idea that goodness can come from suffering, influences her work
The comedian and writer John Hodgman explains what Stephen King’s 1981 horror novel taught him about risking mistakes in storytelling—and fatherhood.
The author Carmen Maria Machado, a finalist for this year’s National Book Award in Fiction, discusses the brilliance of an eerie passage from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.