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10 Of Our Favorite Literary TED Talks From 2016

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Nikki VanRy

Contributing Editor

Nikki VanRy is a proud resident of Arizona, where she gets to indulge her love of tacos, desert storms, and tank tops. She also writes for the Tucson Festival of Books, loves anything sci-fi/fantasy/historical, drinks too much chai, and will spend all day in bed reading thankyouverymuch. Follow her on Instagram @nikki.vanry.

In 2015, our favorite literary TED talks covered everything from poems about prime numbers to fantastical book art. In 2016, we’ve got another great list of literary TED talks for your watching pleasure. From superheroes to commas to language, there’s a lot to love here.

Christopher Bell: Bring on the female superheroes!

I mean, yes. Just yes to all this. (Also Bell is the author of Hermione Granger Saves the World: Essays on the Feminist Heroine of Hogwarts, which again, just yes.)

Monica Byrne: A sci-fi vision of love from a 318-year-old hologram

Sci-fi writer of books like The Girl in the Road, Monica Byrne, uses the TED stage to give us a glimpse of the future. One that she hopes is full of love and inclusivity.

Nadia Lopez: Why open a school? To close a prison

Lopez, the founding principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy and author of The Bridge to Brilliance: How One Principal in a Tough Community Is Inspiring the World, talks about her journey opening an academic oasis in Brownsville, Brooklyn. You likely recognize her from the incredible series documented by Humans of New York

John McWhorter: 4 reasons to learn a new language

Another for the language nerds. McWhorter is passionate about how language can help us change (and exercise) our minds, to learn more about new cultures, and that doing so is just fun. (And for even more language geekery, check out the equally-fun Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English.) 

Javier Garcia del Moral: Why did we add a bar to our bookstore? 

Moral talks on the history on bookstores that were crucial for encouraging growth in certain communities, as well as how we can encourage these places of  learning, growth, and discovery today. (As he did with The Wild Detectives independent bookstore in Dallas). Bars in bookstores? Yes, let’s encourage that every day.

Ann Morgan: My year reading a book from every country in the world

Morgan undertook an intensive course of international reading that broadened her perspectives. She calls for all of us to re-examine our bookshelves to see where our stories are coming from and ask for more books in translation. (This one did come out in November 2015, but wasn’t covered in my 2015 list.)

Mary Norris: The nit-picking glory of the The New Yorker’s Comma Queen

I certainly don’t need to explain to you word-nerds why you should watch this video from a 30 year old veteran of commas at The New Yorker

Joshua Prager: Wisdom from great writers on every year of life

Prager’s collection of these literary quotes about aging helps us figure out where we are and who we will be. His quotes cover every year of life and come together in his book, 100 Years: Wisdom From Famous Writers on Every Year of Your Life

Shonda Rhimes: My year of saying yes to everything

“For one year, I would say yes to all the things that scared me.” From there, Rhimes talks about how this changed her outlook, her family, and her creative flow. It’s a stunning talk from a fascinating woman who also captured these ideas in her book, Year of YesIt’s one of my favorite literary TED talks from 2016.

Oscar Schwartz: Can a computer write poetry? 

Schwartz’s discussion of poetry written by computers makes us think more deeply about what poetry and creativity is, and how computers could interact with our sacred poetry.

What were your favorite literary TED talks from 2016? Make sure to talk about ’em in the comments.