Hello, kith. My name is Maria Popova — a reader and a wonderer reckoning with the meaning of it all in writing. The Marginalian is the record of the reckoning — a one-woman labor of love, exploring what it means to live a tender, thoughtful life of purpose and gladness, wonder-smitten by reality, governed by the understanding that creativity is a combinatorial force: ideas, insights, knowledge, and inspiration acquired in the course of being alive and awake to the world, composited into things of beauty and substance we call our own.
Founded in 2006 as an email to seven friends under the outgrown name Brain Pickings and since included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive of culturally valuable materials, it remains a chronicle of my ongoing becoming — intellectually, creatively, spiritually, poetically — drawn from my extended marginalia on the search for meaning across science, art, philosophy, and the various other tendrils of human thought and feeling; a private inquiry shimmering with the ultimate question, the great quickening of wonderment that binds us all:
What is all this?
I am also the creator of The Universe in Verse, the author of a very long, very yellow book titled Figuring and a very slender, very colorful book titled The Snail with the Right Heart, the editor of an eight-year labor titled A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader, and a past-life contributor to The New York Times, Wired, The Atlantic, and other editorial exoplanets.
For more about the ethos and the human behind this labor of love, here are some reflections on my most important life-learnings from the first thirteen years of this experiment in living, some answers to The New York Times’ “By the Book” questionnaire, and an On Being conversation with the wonderful and generous Krista Tippett:
The Marginalian has remained free and ad-free and alive thanks to patronage from readers. I have no staff, no interns, no assistant — a thoroughly solitary labor of love that is also my life and my livelihood.
If you are new here, welcome. Here are some of my favorite pieces from the years, to give you a sense of scope and sensibility:
- Hannah Arendt on Love and How to Live with the Fundamental Fear of Loss
- The Writing of “Silent Spring”: Rachel Carson and the Culture-Shifting Courage to Speak Inconvenient Truth to Power
- Kinship: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Love Poem to Trees, the Interleaving of Life and Death, and the Eternal Flame of Being
- Kahlil Gibran on Silence, Solitude, and the Courage to Know Yourself
- James Baldwin on Love, the Illusion of Choice, and the Paradox of Freedom
- Yes to Life, in Spite of Everything: Viktor Frankl’s Lost Lectures on Moving Beyond Optimism and Pessimism to Find the Deepest Source of Meaning
- Big Wolf & Little Wolf: A Tender Tale of Loneliness, Belonging, and How Friendship Transforms Us
- A Stoic’s Key to Peace of Mind: Seneca on the Antidote to Anxiety
- Zadie Smith on Optimism and Despair
- How Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe
- The Blue Hour: A Stunning Illustrated Celebration of Nature’s Rarest Color
- The Healing Power of Gardens: Oliver Sacks on the Psychological and Physiological Consolations of Nature
- Toni Morrison on the Body as an Instrument of Joy, Sanity, and Self-Love
- Telling Is Listening: Ursula K. Le Guin on the Magic of Real Human Conversation
- The Truelove: Poet and Philosopher David Whyte on Reaching Beyond Our Limiting Beliefs About What We Deserve
- Susan Sontag on Storytelling, What It Means to Be a Moral Human Being, and Her Advice to Writers
- Of Trees, Tenderness, and the Moon: Hasui Kawase’s Stunning Japanese Woodblock Prints from the 1920s-1950s
- How (Not) to Love: Breaking Our Patterns to Unbreak Our Hearts, or, Chekhov’s Insight into the Most Disquieting and Liberating Truth about Love
- Patti Smith on Time, Transformation, and How the Radiance of Love Redeems the Rupture of Loss
- The Good Luck of Your Bad Luck: Marcus Aurelius on the Stoic Strategy for Weathering Life’s Waves and Turning Suffering into Strength
- Einstein’s Dreams: Physicist Alan Lightman’s Poetic Exploration of Time and the Antidote to the Anxiety of Aliveness
- The Pattern Inside the Pattern: Fractals, the Hidden Order Beneath Chaos, and the Story of the Refugee Who Revolutionized the Mathematics of Reality
- Emily Dickinson’s Electric Love Letters to Susan Gilbert