1. Gary Shteyngart on how he appears to others
    “People try to get me involved in crazy schemes. I was in a restaurant in Queens, and this guy said to me, 'I’m going to import geese from Tajikistan and sell them in Israel. You want a piece of that?'"
  2. Michael Pollan on cooking
    “Our food culture has eroded to nothing, and to rebuild it you have to start with kids and make them understand that growing, preparing, and serving food is not a burden or an inconvenience. It’s an enormous pleasure. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that we’re too busy or it’s too hard or it’s not fun.”
  3. Zadie Smith on opinions
    “I guess I always find an absurdity in people’s most strongly held cultural views. Take an extremely determined, Zionist Israeli who is certain about the state of Israel: what if they’d been born five miles around the corner?”
  4. Salman Rushdie on the circus
    “In Bombay, when I was growing up, circus was really big. It used to come all the time. As far back as I can remember we used to get taken to the circus a couple times a year. I loved it—and particularly tightrope walkers.”
  5. Matthew Dickman on death
    “I understand both the dead and the living as much as I understand outer space, which is like zero. But I do know I have feelings about outer space."
  6. Barbara Ehrenreich on personality tests
    “So they don’t want your personality, they want to change it into the one personality that they want, which is extroverted, which is happy all the time, cheery all the time, and never has a negative or resentful thought.”
  7. Aimee Bender on L.A.
    “It can be very introverted in L.A.; you spend so much time in your car, often by yourself, that there’s a lot of down-time. There’s a lot of daydreaming space in L.A."
  8. James McBride on music
    “You can say things in music that you can’t say verbally or as a writer, and in some ways they have a deeper impact. Songs are in many ways the lighthouses of your life. They’re markers. You can remember the song you heard when you fell in love, the song that was out when you had your first car…”
  9. Karen Russell on alligators
    “As for the alligators — I swear to God, if an alligator walked into this apartment right now, I really think I could incapacitate it."
  10. David Rakoff on Mary Tyler Moore
    “She was nice. And you can tell when someone is a bitch covering it up and when they’re actually not a bitch. She’s not a bitch. She’s totally cool! It was a thrill.”
  11. Susan Orlean on judgment
    “While I’m in someone’s world, I have to accept its parameters. What difference does it make how it compares to my world? My world isn’t the standard by which others are judged.”
  12. Neil DeGrasse Tyson on waiting in line
    “So much of human life is wasted waiting in line. In traffic. At the grocery store. Buying tickets. Somebody should work on that one. It’s the 21st century — lines should be a thing of the past.”