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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. Smiley takes us deep into the process of novel-writing, sharing the secrets of her own habits and theories of creativity. She offers priceless practical advice to aspiring writers, and even walks us through the publication of her most recent novel, "Good Faith". And in an appendix - one of the most compelling and intelligent reading lists ever compiled - Smiley considers individually the 100 novels she read, giving us a brief but cogent description of each, along with her own opinions and interpretations.