Parul Sehgal is a book critic for The New York Times.

I“I write about books, I review books, but in a sense, to do my job at a newspaper also puts that pressure on a piece to say: why should you read or care about this? You’re trying to tweeze out what is newsworthy, what is interesting, what is vital about this book….My job is I think to be honest with the reader and to keep surfacing new ways for me and for other people to think about books. New vocabularies of pleasure and disgust.”

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James Verini is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and National Geographic. His new book is They Will Have to Die Now: Mosul and the Fall of the Caliphate.

“War is mostly down time. War is mostly waiting around for something to happen.”

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Lori Gottlieb is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and the author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. Her new book is Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.

“Everything that I had done all coalesced into one thing. As a journalist i was helping people to tell their stories, as a therapist I could help people to edit their stories, to change their stories. I could be immersed in the human condition in both of these things.”

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Leslie Jamison is the author of The Empathy Exams, The Recovering, and the novel The Gin Closet. Her new essay collection is Make It Scream, Make It Burn.

“My writing is always basically asking: what does it feel like to be alive, and how do we ever try to understand what it feels like for anybody else to be alive? In that sense, on the intellectual level, I’m always going to keep chasing the same unanswerable things.”

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Errol Morris is the director of The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War. His latest film is American Dharma.

“I don’t make films because it makes sense to make them. Probably if I thought carefully about whether they made sense, I would stop immediately. I make them because I have a need to do it. I have a need to think about stuff. Writing and filmmaking for me is a form of thinking. It’s an opportunity to think about something. And I enjoy it. I don’t know what I would do without filmmaking.”

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Ashley Feinberg is a senior writer at Slate. She recently uncovered Mitt Romney's secret Twitter account.

“The whole thing about politics is that they are basically creating this character, this mask, and that is who they are supposed to be. That is who they try to project to the world. We know that it’s not really them but we have no access to what they actually are. This is the closest we get to seeing what they’re doing when they think no one is watching. … This is the most unfiltered access to what they’re actually thinking.”

Carvell Wallace is a podcast host and has written for The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. He is the co-author, with Andre Iguodala, of The Sixth Man.

“So much of my life experience coalesces into things that are useful… All those years that I was obsessing over this that or the other thing, all the weird stuff that I would do, all the weird things that happened to me, all the places I found myself in that I didn’t want to be in but were interesting - this is all part of what makes me the writer that I am today.”

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Nicholas Quah founded and writes Hot Pod, a newsletter about the podcasting industry, and reviews podcasts for Vulture.

“I think to some extent I’m in love with the concept of momentum. Sheer velocity. It’s painful. It’s punishing. Physically, I’m worse off for it. But I feel like if I stop moving, something will fall. Something will break. And I’m over. It’s a horrible feeling.”

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Radhika Jones is the editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair and the editor of Women on Women.

“There are a lot of people who still see the value of talking to someone, having a real conversation — about the things that they’re doing, the things that they’re caring about, the things that they’re afraid of, the things that are challenging — because in that conversation, they themselves will discover things that they didn’t realize. It obviously takes courage. It’s a payoff for the reader, certainly, but I think that there are subjects who understand that there is something there for them, too.”

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Andrew Marantz is a staff writer at The New Yorker. His new book is Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation.

“Some nonfiction can be reduced to a bulletpoint primer, but a good book is a good book. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, it should create a feeling, it should create a world, it should be a feeling that you want to live in and that tilts the way you see things. Isn’t that the point?”

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Ken Burns is a documentary filmmaker whose work includes The Vietnam War, Baseball, and The Central Park Five. His new series is Country Music.

“History, which seems to most people safe — it isn’t. I think the future is pretty safe, it’s the past that’s so terrifying and malleable.”

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of The Beautiful Struggle, We Were Eight Years in Power, and Between the World and Me. His new novel is The Water Dancer. Chris Jackson is Coates's editor, and the publisher and editor-in-chief of One World.

“I don’t think an essay works unless I can pin a story to it. You don’t want people to just say, ‘Oh that was a cool argument.’ You want people to say, ‘I could not stop thinking about this.’ You want them to nudge their wives and husbands and say, ‘You have to read this.’ You want them to be bothered by it.”

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Paul Tough is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and the author of The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us.

“The nice thing about a book as opposed to a magazine article is that it’s less formulaic. As a writer, it gives you more freedom — you’re trying to create an emotional mood where ideas have a place to sit in a person’s brain. And when people are moved by a book, it’s not by being told, ‘Here’s the problem, here’s the answer, now go do it.’ It’s by having your vision of the world slightly changed.”

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Mike Issac covers Silicon Valley for The New York Times. He is the author of Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber.

“People try to use journalists all the time. Your job as a journalist is to figure out who’s using you, why they’re using you, and whether you can do something legitimately without playing into one side or another.”

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Michelle García has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post and Oxford American. She directed the PBS film, Against Mexico: The Making of Heroes and Enemies.

“We have to see that within difficult stories there is a very important message of humanity triumphing over despair. If you don’t focus on joy, humanity is squashed. If all you see and all you narrate is pain, then you extinguish the possibility of joy and the important part of holding onto humanity.”

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Jean-Xavier de Lestrade is a French documentary filmmaker. He directed Murder on a Sunday Morning and The Staircase.

“The courtroom in the United States is not really about the truth. It’s more about a story against another story. It’s more about storytelling. The more compelling or believable story by the jury will win. But in the end, we don’t know: is it the truth or not?”

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Taylor Lorenz just announced she is leaving her job covering internet culture for The Atlantic to join The New York Times.

“With technology and internet culture, I am more of an optimist than a lot of other people who cover those topics. It’s more ambiguous for me. It's more like, ‘This is the world we live in now and here are the pros and here are the cons. There are a lot of cons, but there are also these pros.’ I like how things shift and change under me. I like to see how things are constantly evolving.”

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Jia Tolentino is a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of the essay collection Trick Mirror: Reflections of Self-Delusion.

“I feel a lot of useless guilt solidifying my own advantages at a time when the ground people stand on is being ripped away. And I feel a lot of emotional anxiety about the systems that connect us — about the things that make my life more convenient and make other people’s lives worse. It’s the reality of knowing that ten years from now, when there are millions of more climate refugees, that you’ll be okay. It makes me feel so crazy and lucky and intent on doing something with being alive.”

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Baxter Holmes is a senior writer for ESPN. He won the James Beard Award for his 2017 article, “The NBA's Secret Addiction.”

“If there’s anything I’m really fighting for it’s people’s memory. I love the notion of trying to write a story that sticks with people. And that requires really compelling characters. It requires in-depth reporting — you have to take people on a journey. It needs to be so rich and something they didn’t know. I look for a story that I can tell well enough that it will hold up, that it will earn someone’s memory.”

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Jenny Odell is a multidisciplinary artist and the author of How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy.

“I’ve noticed that the times I’m extra susceptible to being on social media is when I am feeling personally insecure or when I’m dealing with existential dread. That within itself is not part of the attention economy - that’s just a human being having feelings and reacting to things. For me, it’s a question of like, ’What do I do with that?’ I can either feed it back into the attention economy and actually get more of it back - more anxiety or more existential dread - or I can go in this other direction and spend time alone or with people who care about the same things. Those are places where I can bring my feelings and they won’t destroy me.”

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Josh Levin is the national editor at Slate. He is the host of the podcast Hang Up and Listen and the author of The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth.

“I think it’s a strength to make a thing, one that people might have thought was familiar, feel strange. And reminding people - in general, in life - that you don’t really know as much as you think you know. I think that carries over into any kind of storytelling.”

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Taffy Brodesser-Akner is a staff writer at the New York Times and the author of Fleishman Is in Trouble: A Novel.

“As a profile writer, the skill I have is getting in the room and staying in the room until someone is like, ‘Why is this bitch still in the room? Get her out of there!’ It’s a journalistic skill that is not a fluffy skill. There are people who are always actively trying to prevent your story, prevent you from seeing it, from seeing the things that would be good to see. There’s a lot of convincing, comforting and listening going on. And there’s a lot of dealing with the fact that somebody in the middle of talking to you can suddenly decide that you are the worst. Those things are very tense and it’s a specific skill that I have that can defray all those things. Or it lets me stay.”

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Renata Adler is a journalist, critic, and novelist. Her nonfiction collection is After the Tall Timber.

“Unless you're going to be fairly definite, what's the point of writing?”

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Alex Mar has written for The Believer, Wired, and New York. She is the author of Witches of America and the director of the documentary American Mystic.

“I really do believe that all of us run on some kind of desire for meaning. And if someone is an atheist and they don’t subscribe to an organized system, it doesn’t mean that they don’t crave something. Maybe it’s their job. Or maybe it’s the way that they raise their children with a certain kind of intense focus. Or something else. As humans, we are built to crave meaning, right? For me, that was something that I wanted to explore about myself.”

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David Epstein has reported for ProPublica, Sports Illustrated, and This American Life. His new book is Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.

“You can’t just introspect or take a personality quiz and know what you’re good at or interested in. You actually have to try stuff and then reflect on it. That’s how you learn about yourself—otherwise, your insight into yourself is constrained by your roster of experiences.”

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