A Pulitzer Prize-winning author's revelatory celebration of the novel - at once an anatomy of the art of fiction, a guide for readers and writers and a memoir of literary life. Over her 20 year career, Jane Smiley has written many kinds of novels - mystery, comedy, historical fiction, epic. But when her impulse to write faltered after 9/11, she decided to approach novels from a different angle: she read 100 of them, from the 1000-year-old Tale of Genji to the recent bestseller White Teeth by Zadie Smith, from classics to little-known gems. With these books and her experience of reading them as her reference, Smiley discusses the pleasure of reading; why a novel succeeds - or doesn't; and how the form has changed over time. She delves into the character of the novelist and reveals how (and which) novels have affected her own life.