The Questions That Matter Most: Reading, Writing, and the Exercise of Freedom


Product Details

$28.00  $26.04
Heyday Books
Publish Date
5.6 X 8.4 X 1.3 inches | 1.0 pounds

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

Jane Smiley is a novelist and essayist. Her novel A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992, and her novel The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton won the 1999 Spur Award for Best Novel of the West. She has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1987. Her novel Horse Heaven was short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2002, and her novel Some Luck was long-listed for the 2014 National Book Award. She has written for numerous magazines and newspapers, including the New Yorker, the New York Times, Harper's, and The Nation. Her most recent novel, A Dangerous Business, was published in 2022. She lives in Carmel Valley, California.


Praise for The Questions That Matter Most:

"In this slim yet valuable book, Smiley gives educators, readers, and writers much to discuss. Highly recommended." --Library Journal, starred review

"It's hard to overstate the pleasure of reading Jane Smiley--especially, for me, her essays. [...] The Questions that Matter Most offers a case in point. Line for line, Smiley delivers such clear, vibrant, precise prose--handed forth as calmly and equitably as an ice cream cone, even when she's incensed--that a reader feels smarter just taking it in. [...] This quality of keen, cool analysis suffuses every piece." --Joan Frank, The Boston Globe

"In this sharp compendium, Pulitzer Prize winner Smiley brings together her literary criticism, which brims with the same keen observations, inquisitiveness, and humor as her novels. [...] Fleet-footed and smart, this delights." --Publishers Weekly

"[The Questions That Matter Most] gathers essays (and two stories) composed with wit, enthusiasm, expertise, and candor [...] Smiley's agile, seemingly blithe inquiries are wryly incisive, ethically rigorous, and propelled by her profound passion for literature as an endless source of illumination and liberation." --Donna Seaman, Booklist

"The Questions That Matter Most is a slim but rangy volume featuring eighteen accessible B-sides that twine details of place and musings on novels--both writing and reading them. [...] Years ago, she wrote that 'to write novels is to broadcast the various stages of your foolishness.' As the essays here remind us, that's too humble by half." --Alta Journal

"Jane Smiley is an accomplished novelist and a dedicated student of the form. Her latest book, The Questions That Matter Most, assembles pieces on a range of topics: motherhood, childhood and, naturally, novels." --Mark Athitakis, The Washington Post

"The prescient questions Smiley addresses are angled at California and American literary history through the work of a cohort of seminal writers [...] The ambiguity of the Golden State in terms of freedom, autonomy, race, class, identity, sex and other topics is filtered through Smiley's perspectives as a resident of California and paired with the work of these classic writers whose work informs her own." --East Bay Express

"Author Jane Smiley is a literary powerhouse [...] the master of the family psyche, the community psyche, and human relationship analysis." --Monterey County Weekly

"Jane Smiley is a force of nature. Her new book, The Questions That Matter Most, marks her first literary nonfiction collection in nearly 20 years." --Nob Hill Gazette

Praise for Jane Smiley:

"She turns literary and stylistic cartwheels. ... Is there anything Jane Smiley cannot do?"--Pico Iyer, Time

"Smiley unceremoniously plunges us into a torrent of character and event, trusting that we will emerge transformed by her exhilarating baptism, and we do."--The New Yorker

"In her sensuous responsiveness to the facts of the world, Smiley has started to look like the best living American novelist."--Philip Hensher, The Observer (London)