The Hagia Sophia is one of the city's most well-known Byzantine monuments, but it's also home to a lesser-known memorial: a plaque for the man who encouraged the Fourth Crusade's plundering of the city. Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Soldiers fill a hole left by an explosion on a road outside Beiji, Iraq, in 2005. In his debut novel, Michael Pitre follows a group of Marines doing similar work on Iraq's highways. Ryan Lenz/AP hide caption

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Author Junot Diaz says the publishing industry must have uncomfortable conversations about diversity. The alternative, he believes, is "utter, agonizing silence." Rick Reinhard/Flickr hide caption

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The Dey House, a 140-year-old mansion, is home to the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, one of the oldest MFA writing programs in the country. Director Lan Samantha Chang — who attended the workshop as a student — has made it a priority to attract students and faculty from diverse backgrounds to the program. Linda Kahlbaugh/AP hide caption

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Lev Grossman's bestselling Magicians series was inspired by the long wait between books five and six of the Harry Potter series. Mathieu Bourgois hide caption

itoggle caption Mathieu Bourgois

Mary Lou Longworth has set most of her mysteries in Aix-en-Provence, a small city in Southern France. "I liked the idea of this beautiful, beautiful place having a dark side," she says. Ben Bowes via Flickr hide caption

itoggle caption Ben Bowes via Flickr

The Empire State Building shines while Greenwich Village remains dark during the 1977 New York City blackout. Carlos Rene Perez/AP hide caption

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In November 1973, when Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he talked with reporters about Watergate. In the years that followed, he spoke to Americans' anxieties with a simple message about America's inherent greatness. Paul Vathis/AP hide caption

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The usual suspect: Bats harbor dozens of deadly viruses, such as rabies and influenza. Several studies suggest that bats may also carry Ebola. Tyler Hicks/Getty Images hide caption

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Hall sits in a sunny bay window to write. "My first drafts are always in long hand, on legal pads," she explains. "I love putting pen to paper." Andre Ellis hide caption

itoggle caption Andre Ellis