“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.”

George Eliot said that, but it hardly takes a novelist of great genius to understand that life is all about influence: What we do and what we don’t, what we love and what we hate, where we live and what we believe all come down to the subtle streams of influence we absorb from the loving souls that surround us.

Today, we’ve three stories about being under the influence: One that observes what happens when the writer you most admire becomes your real-life friend; one that looks at the ideas of one of America’s most influential and controversial thinkers; and one that traces the surprisingly contested origins of Yiddish.

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The Mystery of the Origins of Yiddish Will Never Be Solved

How an academic field—marked by petty fighting, misguided ideological debates, and personal proximity to tragedy—doomed itself

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Q&A: Sam Harris

The Christian right, radical Islamists, and secular leftists agree: this atheist is America’s most dangerous man

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On Literary Love

What happens when the writer you admire most becomes your friend?

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