A journalist, philosopher, and activist, Solnit refuses to be confined by anything but her own wildly roaming passions. The author of 13 books and countless essays, she has unraveled subjects as broad as punk, place, walking, ecology, and hope in the face of hopelessness. Her breakthrough book, River of Shadows, raked in the accolades for asserting that the seeds for both Hollywood and Silicon Valley were planted in 1878 when photographer Eadweard Muybridge proved that a Palo Alto racehorse’s hooves left the ground at once — foreshadowing modern cinema and cementing the peninsula as a hub of innovation. Her latest book, Unfathomable City, a companion to the bestselling Infinite City, weaves together brilliantly reinvented maps and essays that challenge our notions of New Orleans, a city defined as much by its crime, corruption, and disasters as it is by its colorful music, food, and cultural history. She said in an interview with Harper’s, “There is a kind of tragedy to all our lives, consisting of failures, of losses, of mortalities — but that sad landscape is salted with pleasures, with unions, with epiphanies and revelations … The trick is to hold both and maybe value both.” Find some of Solnit’s political essays on TomDispatch.com, or follow her on tumblr.