Elizabeth Spencer

Writers are not like wine; most do not improve with age. For many, their first book is their best; others hit their height mid-career. The number who reach their peak – or rediscover it – in old age is vanishingly small.

Wally Lamb

Wally Lamb is back with an “ultra-contemporary novel” that deploys his gift for empathy to explore love, sadness, sexuality, ethnicity and art across two decades among a group of upper-middle class resident of Connecticut.

Paul Auster

Top Ten contributor Paul Auster earns a rave from Sarah Manguso in tomorrow’s New York Times Book Review.

Here’s the opening: “Writing multiple novels is generally considered a triumph, writing multiple memoirs a somewhat shameful habit. Still, I’ve never heard anyone sniff about Paul Auster’s autobiographical recidivism; perhaps his 16 acclaimed novels compensate for it. In any case, on the basis of his five memoirs alone, Auster should be recognized as one of the great American prose stylists of our time.

Roxana Robinson

Literature allows us to enter another person’s mind. Often, it is the same one – the writer’s, refracted and bent through characters who, nevertheless, often have too much in common.

Roxana Robinson’s work is an effort to shatter the constraints of consciousness, bringing readers inside the head of radically different characters, from the artist Georgia O’Keeffe in a nonfiction biography to a young heroin addict and his parents in her 2008 novel, Cost.

Andrea Barrett

Top Ten contributor Andrea Barrett is receiving strong reviews for her ninth book, an “elegant new story collection” titled Archangel.

John Freeman says the five interlaced stories feel “like a dispatch from the moving front of scientific discovery, [spanning] the wake of Darwin’s theory to the aftermath of Einstein’s discovery of relativity.”

The Physics of Communication

(This is the slightly revised text of the speech I gave at North Carolina State University to kick off its annual Communication Week).

When I was invited to speak at N.C State’s Communication Week I wondered – what do they do the other 51 weeks of the year? Is State, in fact, a monastery where everyone takes an oath of silence? Or maybe it’s just preparing students for marriage.

But as I thought it about some more, it made perfect sense. It is true that we communicate more than ever before. I, of course, would never engage in such activities, but my deep scholarly research has unearthed unimpeachable evidence that students routinely send emails at breakfast, visit shopping websites during lectures on European history and even text while driving.