National Endowment of the Arts - The Big Read
The Death of Ivan Ilyich

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

by Leo Tolstoy

The goal of the artist is not to solve a question irrefutably, but to force people to love life in all its innumerable, inexhaustible manifestations.

Leo Tolstoy, 1854 (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis)

One of contemporary Britain's preeminent men of letters, Martin Amis is an influential novelist, short-story writer, and essayist. His novels include The Rachel Papers (1974), London Fields (1989), Time's Arrow (1991), and House of Meetings (2006). Amis is a professor of creative writing at the University of Manchester.

A frequent contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Hudson Review, critic Susan Balée is the author of Flannery O'Connor: Literary Prophet of the South (1994), as well as biographical essays for Scribner's British Writers series. She teaches at Temple University.

James H. Billington has served as the Librarian of Congress since 1987. A Rhodes Scholar and historian, he has taught at Harvard and Princeton and was the director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars for fourteen years. A leading authority on Russian history and culture, Dr. Billington's works include The Icon and the Axe (1966), The Face of Russia (1998), and Russia in Search of Itself (2004).

Dana Gioia, former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (2003-2009), is an acclaimed poet, critic, and literary anthologist. His third collection of poetry, Interrogations at Noon (2001), won the American Book Award. He has also written collections of essays, including, Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture (1992; 2002) and Disappearing Ink: Poetry at the End of Print Culture (2004).

Born in Moscow, writer Olga Grushin studied at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and later became the first Soviet citizen to enroll in a four-year American university. Her first novel, The Dream Life of Sukhanov (2005), won the 2007 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. In 2002 she became a U.S. citizen.

Born in London to a Spanish father and an Italian mother, Alfred Molina began his acting career on the stage. His theatre work includes Royal National Theatre productions and Tony Award-nominated roles in the Broadway productions of Art and Fiddler on the Roof. Now a celebrated film actor, Molina can be seen in Chocolat (2000), Frida (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), and The Hoax (2006).

N. Scott Momaday's work as a poet and novelist has won him many awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for his novel House Made of Dawn (1968). Former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma (2007), Momaday is an accomplished playwright whose works include The Indolent Boys, Children of the Sun, and The Moon in Two Windows (collected as Three Plays, 2007). Other honors include awards from the Academy of American Poets, the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and the National Medal of Arts in 2007.

Born in the Bronx to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland is a surgeon and professor of bioethics and medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. He is the editor and author of several books, including How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter (1994), which won the National Book Award.

The daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, writer Cynthia Ozick was born and raised in New York. She has published several novels, short stories, and essay collections, including Trust (1966), Big Read selection The Shawl (1989), The Puttermesser Papers (1997), and The Din in the Head (2006). She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Writer Jay Parini is a professor of English and creative writing at Middlebury College. He has published biographies of William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Robert Frost. Among Parini's four books of poetry and six novels is The Last Station (1990), a historical novel chronicling the final year of Leo Tolstoy's life.

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