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Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  612 ratings  ·  125 reviews
A stunning guide to finding creative inspiration and how it can illuminate your life, your work, and your art—from Stephen King, Junot Díaz, Elizabeth Gilbert, Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini, Roxane Gay, Neil Gaiman, and many more acclaimed writers

What inspires you? That’s the simple, but profound question posed to forty-six renowned authors in LIGHT THE DARK. Each writer begins
Paperback, 334 pages
Published September 26th 2017 by Penguin Books
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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K.M. Weiland
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Usually, I avoid anthologies. Too often, they’re uneven and random. This one, however, is an incredibly special exception. Let me explain with an anecdote: instead of highlighting passages I enjoy, I use “book dart” bookmarks. Well, by the time I finished this book, I only had about four book darts left in the tin.

There’s just so much to love here. Here, we have so many great authors commenting, not so much on the process of writing, but on the life of artistic pursuit, their own inspirations an
Emma Scott
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can't look at everything hard enough.

This book was like attending a mini-seminar from some of the greatest in modern literature. Not only did it feature some of my all-time favorites, including Elizabeth Gilbert, Amy Tan, David Mitchell, Tom Perotta, and my hero, Stephen King; but it featured essays from those who are new-to-me and the quasi-familiar. And each essay by a talented, inspiring writer was about a talented writer who inspired them--an opening line or paragraph or stanza of a poem t
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Here Joe Fassler gives us a collection of short essays by famous contemporary writers, each citing another author's work that lit their creative fires.

Some inspiring authors get double tips of the hat--giants like Emily Dickinson, Franz Kafka, and Walt Whitman, for instance. And admittedly, some of the essays dragged a bit, causing me to leapfrog to the next writer who might be (and usually was) more interesting. (It should be noted, too, that I completely skipped Jane Smiley's essay, for the l
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
Reading this book felt like sitting down for coffee with some of the best writers of our time and picking their brain about the genesis of their relationship with writing, where they derive inspiration, their writing process, and what they love about writing. For anyone who's ever been curious about creative minds and dabbled in writing themselves, this is the book for you.
Dora Okeyo
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
This book gave me a front row seat to one of the most interesting experiences both as a reader and a writer. The Author had three words that were posted to the authors and they were "what inspires you?"
Now, unless you live under a rock, or haven't read much, these are authors who have written some of the best books over the years. Their contribution in shaping the world, cultures, knowledge transition and story-telling has been through their writing. I'm talking about forty six award winning wri
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it
5 stars for Neil Gaiman's essay; 2-4 stars for everyone else.
Language is limited, it's a faulty tool
But oh how it lights the dark
Aimee Bender p5

This is a fitting introduction from the first essay in this illuminating collection of essays by most of the living luminaries of modern literature and its offshoots. Edited by Joe Fassler and published in 2017, it still has the feel of hot off the press.

The essays are all short and personal. The same question was posed to all of the authors. What has inspired you? Each essay is accompanied by a fanciful sketch an
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Light the Dark is a collection of essays detailing the love that influential authors have for writing fiction and reading literature. It is a fascinating plunge into the inner experiences and unique perspectives of talented and sensitive writers, and for an aspiring fiction writer like me, this book was an absolute joy to read. Further, already I can understand how formative these essays are proving to be for me, opening my eyes to important issues contained within fiction and diversifying my ap ...more
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
A terrific series of essays by writers of all stripes discussing how a particular piece -- a poem, a line from a play or a song, a passage from a novel -- inspired them. Some focused on a piece encountered in childhood that set them on the writing path, while others looked at more recent discoveries; some authors stayed focused on the quote, while others talked more broadly about the artistic process and its import in their lives. This is a book you'll want to dip in and out of, if you're intrig ...more
It an interesting look at how writers work and are inspired.
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this collection of short stories. I thought the way the novel was illustrated and the choice of passages each author used inspired me in a sense.
Jenny Leitsch
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this one off and on over a number of months. Every time I picked it up, I came away inspired and affirmed in my love of reading and writing and my unwavering belief in the power of stories.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
153.35 - this book’s Dewey decimal number, for when I want to go back and read it again. Because I know I will. Almost every essay made me think, “no, this one is my favorite.” For writers but also for all types of creators, this book is proof that there is no one right way to make something.
Consistently fantastic reflections on writing, process, and creative inspiration. A few too many white folk/white men for my liking, but most essays were excellent (incl. by some white dudes).


In any case, the first sentence is the handshake, on either side of the writer-reader divide. The reader shakes hands with the writer .The writer has already had to shake hands with the unknown. Assuming both have heard the click, we’ve got it going on. – William Gibson, 53

It’s every eight or nine or
Morgan Wright
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended read!!! (Beware- there are a couple of spoilers here and I also quote a little from the book directly😁)

Of all other books on writing I have ever read, Light the Dark goes unsurpassed.

In this book, 46 critically-acclaimed writers have joined together to create a masterpiece that is truly one of its kind. In an anthology of brief essays, each of these writers center their pieces around quotes and passages that have influenced both their writing and themselves, offering a spellbi
A.J. Vanderhorst
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
The self-contained nature of the chapters made it hard for me to read this book quickly, which wasn't a bad thing. Writers explaining what inspires them—and sometimes struggling to get at it—gave me lots to think about.

Several times, chapters resonated so sharply that I immediately had to go track down the author and his/her best books. Chapters from authors I already knew and respected typically paid off, although...unpopular opinion, maybe...I'd hoped for more from Stephen King and Walter Mos
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
This is an amazing and varied collection of short essays on creativity and inspiration. And some, I liked more than others. But there are enough really inspiring pieces for any reader or writer to delight in. Ethan Canin’s piece, “Rehearsals for Death,” was a real standout for me. I wanted to copy it out, memorize it. I also enjoyed the illustrations by Doug McLean.
Tasha Seegmiller
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a charming collection of essays that share insights into great works that have been written before, and how they inspired some of the greatest writers of our day. Insights on creativity, inspiration, writing, and life nurtured my writerly soul, word by word. I cannot recommend this book to writers highly enough.
Liz VanDerwerken
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Happened upon this book entirely by chance and it is an amazing essay collection about reading and writing. The list of contributors is lengthy and truly impressive; I loved the diversity of voices that were represented and took away so much from reading this.
Theresa Milstein
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a reader and writer, I really responded to this collection. If I counted correctly, there are 46 authors in the collection. Perhaps 6 didn't wow me. Perhaps 10 blew me away with their insight. And the rest were entertaining and inspirational. The last piece is by Neil Gaiman. Enough said.
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Light the Dark is a collection of pieces from Joe Fassler's column "By Heart," which appears in The Atlantic. Each piece is centered around an author who describes a book or short story that influenced them. These authors talk about the writing process, how they approach their crafts, and what makes a good story. One common theme throughout each piece is the power of literature and art to change someone's life, whether its a single sentence, stanza from a poem, or an entire novel.

One thing I re
Pms Mrsmoose
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very cool to see how one passage can inspire so much in someone.
Margrete Cardona
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book will stay with me forever, and I will read it over and over again. It blew my mind. I don't want it to be finished. I'm still floating.
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting & inspirational. Lots of great authors talking about other great authors. How could anyone not enjoy this book? ...more
Aug 01, 2018 rated it liked it
A mixed bag. Some of the essays were really great. Others dull. Quite a few seemed more like political statements than anything else. Neil Gaiman's piece at the end was my favorite. Also, I did not know a lot of the writers inside this book, but their essays made me want to check them out.
Trish Hermanson
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
For instant inspiration for a creative person, read this to see what have been the most profound, most memorable words for other writers.
I have no idea how you could read this and not get inspired to either make art or consume more of it. It's just impossible. A cacophony of voices, some humorous, some reflective, all poignant - talk about how they create, and why, and what was their "aha" moment. Some writers drone on for pages, others barely take two pages to explain themselves. And in all, you may get exposed to writers you didn't know of before, or find in a voice a kinship with someone voicing the same concerns you have in y ...more
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Maybe I'm just not the market for this book anymore, but I didn't find this particularly inspiring or helpful. Although I will say I appreciated the diversity of writers interviewed - that's often lacking today, and I really liked the varying voices.
Mugren Ohaly
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
An interesting concept. But, I found that each piece was too personal for me to relate to. Halfway through I started skimming through the rest and only read the handful of authors I know.
Nathan Albright
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: challenge-2020
My own feelings about this book are somewhat ambivalent, as is often the case when it comes to books dealing with authors talking about creativity and inspiration.  On the one hand, these particular authors show a great deal of respect for those who helped inspire them (and some, it should be noted, claim the inspiration of scripture in their own desire to become authors), and to see people give honor and respect to others as providing encouragement and an example to follow is heartening and wor ...more
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