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Pico Iyer

Travel writer, essayist, novelist, and author of The Global Soul

TED Talk: “The art of stillness”
  • About Pico Iyer

    Pico Iyer is the author of ten books, including such long-running bestsellers on the travel shelves as Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, and The Global Soul. A writer for Time since 1982 and a prolific journalist, he is known for his adventures just about everywhere—from North Korea to Easter Island, Ethiopia to Paraguay—while also writing novels about revolutionary Cuba and mystical Islam. His first book, Video Night in Kathmandu, is featured on many best travel book lists; his first novel, Cuba and the Night, was bought by Hollywood; and his first work of the new millennium, The Global Soul, has inspired websites, multimedia shows, and conferences around the world. His most recent book, The Man Within My Head, is a quirky hybrid story, not quite fiction, not quite nonfiction, retracing Iyer’s lifelong fascination with the late British novelist Graham Greene.

    Born in England to parents from India and educated at Eton, Oxford, and Harvard, Iyer writes frequently on globalism for Harper’s, on culture and politics for The New York Times, on literature for The New York Review of Books, and on many topics for magazines from National Geographic toTricycle: The Buddhist Review.

    An engaging and energetic speaker, Iyer has appeared twice as a Fellow at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, and has spoken at campuses around the United States, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and West Point. He speaks regularly at lecture series, too, from Seattle Arts & Lectures to the 92nd Street Y in New York. He has likewise charmed audiences at literary festivals from Bogotá to Shanghai and Edinburgh to Vancouver.

  • Speaking Topics

    How to Sit Still in the Digital Age

    Drawing on his best-selling TED book, The Art of Stillness, featured in hour-long programs with everyone from Oprah to Krista Tippett—and supported by two 2 million-view TED Talks in 2 years—Pico Iyer talks about how we can try to hold onto our sanity, our humanity, as the world accelerates around us, and our devices proliferate daily. Why, in the age of time-saving inventions, do we sometimes feel as if we have less time than ever before? What can we learn from the creators of our latest technologies about sometimes living without those technologies? Pico Iyer has offered tips for opening up some space in our crowded lives to the government of Dubai, an investor’s conference in Mumbai, the corporations of Silicon Valley and San Francisco Zen Center, among many others. At a time when the World Health Organization names stress as “the health epidemic of the 21st century,” he offers ways for keeping ourselves more balanced, more happy and less stressed.

    How to Find Home in a World on the Move

    More than 230 million people now live in countries not their own—as Pico Iyer explained in his hugely popular TED Talk—which means that our notion of home is growing more complex and challenging by the day. If our parents are in one culture, and our partners in another—while our dreams are located in a third—how do we construct a sense of belonging, and how do we keep our sense of home alive and fluid? What are the implications of this many-homedness for cultures and for governments? As one who grew up in English schools, with an American home and Indian parents—and who later watched his family home burn to the ground—Pico Iyer has been addressing this theme for a lifetime. In this talk he explains how home may be the place where you stand, not where you sleep, and why where you come from, these days, may be less important than where you’re going.

    The Dalai Lama's Realistic and Non-Religious Revolution

    Pico Iyer has been talking and traveling with the XIVth Dalai Lama for 42 years now, and for eight straight Novembers recently he traveled across Japan with the Tibetan leader, eating lunch with him every day, attending all of his public engagements but also sitting in on all his private audiences, with old friends, religious leaders, political strategists and scientists. As in his best-selling meditation on the Dalai Lama, The Open Road, and the articles he has written on Tibet for more than a quarter of a century—for Time, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books and many others—Iyer can offer an unusually intimate view of one of the world’s most celebrated inspirations, and explain what the Dalai Lama has to teach to those of us (like Iyer) who are not Buddhists or Tibetans or monks, but simply long to live more clearly and realistically.

    More Connected, Less Aware: The Loss of Global Wisdom in an Age of Information

    As one who is often to be found in Iran, North Korea, Cuba or Yemen—and as a journalist who’s spent more than 30 years covering war-zones and revolutions from Syria to the Philippines—Pico Iyer discusses all we don’t know about the world, and how much that costs us. Why, in an age of global connectedness, do we sometimes seem farther from our global neighbors than ever before? How is it that the world is not in fact a small one but in many ways a place ever more riven with differences and distances? And what can we do to see beyond our screens and behind our headlines to try to educate ourselves and prepare for the future?

    Why We Travel

    Named by Outside magazine recently as “arguably the world’s greatest living travel writer,” Pico Iyer takes us into the heart and soul of travel, and how it can send us home transformed. Calling on trips everywhere from Bhutan to Easter Island, and Ethiopia to LAX (where he once lived for two weeks), Pico Iyer opens up a world our grandparents could scarcely have imagined, discusses the hidden luxuries of an age of crowds and speed and explains how travel can give us not just new sights, but an entirely different way of looking. An annual speaker at Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas, and a keynote speaker at PURE, the Adventure Travel World Summit, the Educational Travel Conference, and at museums and corporations worldwide, Iyer shares human stories that take us back to the deepest impulses that send us out onto the road—and send us home someone new and unexpected.

    Writing, the Happiest Misery on Earth

    Pico Iyer has written novels, essays, screenplays, works of creative non-fiction and books that refuse to say whether they’re fact or fiction. He draws on all of them to explain how writing can deepen and brighten your life as nothing else can, and why publishers are hungrier than ever for fresh voices. Follow him as he free-lances in his early twenties, writing guidebooks and book reviews, gets a steady job writing on world affairs for Time magazine and then takes off to write books on his own, and looks at the world of publishing (and journalism) as a full-time writer, a constant reader and a frequent reviewer. It may be harder than ever to survive as a writer, he points out, but it’s even harder to survive without writing.

    The Great Planetary Museum

    From the Museo de Coca in La Paz, Bolivia to Sir John Soane's House in London, from the art-island of Naoshima in Japan to the Museum of Jurassic Technology in L.A., Pico Iyer weaves together a lifetime of visiting museums to offer suggestions of what they can do—and what they shouldn't try to do—amidst all the competing temptations of our multi-media age. How much should the museum be forum, lecture-hall and high-class restaurant, how much a sanctuary from all of that?

  • Video

  • Praise for Pico Iyer

    The event was a great success, all thanks to Pico’s brilliance, great generosity, and kindness…[He] was animated, eloquent, and targeted the theme of the Humanities Center –”Home”– better than anybody who has come this year to lecture at Lehigh. His lecture was approachable and easy to follow, and at the same time had a profound intellectual depth. During the Q&A he addressed everybody with kindness and was able to answer with insight to every single question…Many members of the audience came to me afterwards to express their gratitude for having brought Pico to campus and told me how much they had enjoyed the lecture.

    Lehigh University

    Praise for The Man Within My Head

    [Iyer] is a wonderful wordsmith, and he provides engaging stories.


    It may be that Iyer’s beautifully contoured sentences embody all the landscapes he’s absorbed as he’s traveled the world, pen in hand. Iyer is always present in his celebrated books, but never to the extent he is here in this captivating memoir of an unsought, often unnerving affinity…Iyer’s deep-diving expedition also illuminates the mystery and spirit of the literary imperative: ‘A writer is a palmist, reading the lines of the world.’


    A contemplative, idiosyncratic book, a kind of side trip that diverges from the routes of Iyer’s usual writing…as “The Man Within My Head” demonstrates, there’s fellowship to be found in the community of eloquent strangers, an eternal literary companionship

    The New York Times Book Review
  • Books by Pico Iyer

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  • 212 572-2013
  • Pico Iyer travels from Santa Barbara, CA, and Nara, Japan

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