Poets & Writers

Reviewers & Critics

PARUL Sehgal is a senior editor and columnist at the New York Times Book Review. Previously she was books editor at NPR and a senior editor at Publishers Weekly. She grew up in Washington, D.C., Delhi, Manila, Budapest, and Montreal, where she studied political science at McGill University, and moved to New York City in 2005 to study fiction in the MFA program at Columbia University. In 2010 she was awarded the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle. Her TED talk on literature, titled “An Ode to Envy,” has been viewed more than two million times since it was posted in the summer of 2013.

What was your path to becoming a literary critic?

Random and inevitable. I’ve written a bit about how books were a highly controlled substance in my childhood home. My mother had a marvelous, idiosyncratic or Gore Vidal’s —stuffed in the waistband of my pants. Reading was an illicit, compulsive, and very private activity for me; discovering criticism—in the —opened up a whole world. I suddenly had interlocutors. It was thrilling.

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OUR FIFTH ANNUAL 5 over 50
For the past five years we’ve dedicated this space to featuring five debut authors who have lived a good deal of life before publishing their first books. From the start our aim was to highlight not one path—not some mythical road, paved with youthfu