Meet the new Critics-at-Large for our books pages. These 10 writers have beautiful voices, brilliant minds, critical insights and strong opinions. We are delighted that they will share them with us. We see books as being more than something that sits on a shelf (although they are that, enduringly). Books are the keystone in how we define and understand our contemporary moment, our world. With these 10 writers, we will investigate our culture through the conversations that books anchor, in deep dives and in real time. We will explore the mysteries of reading and writing; consider the achievements, acknowledged and under-acknowledged, of the writers who have come before; question the roles of race, heritage, class and gender in what we read; take on the vagaries of the publishing industry, and more. These writers have won dozens of prizes, from a lifetime achievement award to a prize for an unpublished first book. They hail from four different nations and have lived all over the world. Many have deep connections to Southern California, and their writing will help us to understand how Los Angeles fits into the literary landscape and the larger world. Please welcome our Critics-at-Large. Marlon James (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times) Marlon James  James won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for his novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” a fictionalized account of the 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley. He received the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for his prior novel, “The Book of Night Women,” a story of 19th century Jamaican slaves. Born in Jamaica in 1970, James now teaches at Macalester College and lives in Minneapolis.  Laila Lalami Laila Lalami Lalami’s 2014 novel “The Moor’s Account” won the American Book Award, the Arab American Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and was on the Man Booker Prize longlist. She is a columnist for “The Nation” and has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and a Lannan Foundation Residency fellowship. Born in Morocco, Lalami has a PhD in linguistics from USC and teaches at UC Riverside. Susan Straight (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times) Susan Straight Straight is a recipient of the L.A. Times Book Prize’s Robert Kirsch