Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re here, you know already. We are building a new home for world literature online, and we could not be more excited. This is the space where we answer some of the questions that we receive frequently. If there is something else you would like to know or tell us about, please feel free to email us at

And who is “we”, by the way? That would be the founders, Allen, Morgan and Parshwa. Thank you for joining us. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Yours sincerely,
Allen, Morgan and Parshwa


Why are we doing this?

From our CEO Allen Wilcox:
In Short: This was need based for me; as a reader and educator, I knew there was a huge gap in the current product landscape. Literature is my passion, like so many others, but we need tools to allow storytelling to compete in the 21st century.
At Length: I started working on an early version of Time’s Arrow in 2012 to address a shortcoming I saw in my own educational journey. In that sense, Time’s Arrow has always been a deeply personal and mission-driven enterprise.
The problem was this: though I’d been educated at terrific schools, and had put a lot of time and passion into my personal reading life, I’d been struggling to fit the various component pieces of my education—the books, the artwork, the historical and philosophical strands—into a coherent picture of the world.
In one sense, the past fifty years in education has been a story of building skepticism with overarching explanations, meta-narratives, and ‘coherent worldviews’. And yet, without a coherent picture of the world, how could I prevent myself from simply lurching from one haphazard venture to another, from one short term fancy to the next? How could I make thoughtful decisions about my future and hold myself accountable to those decisions? How could I understand what I valued most in the world, and defend those values with a well-lived life?
After college, when I entered the job market, I began to crave a mechanism that would help me integrate the myriad books, music, artwork, and strands of intellectual discourse into a satisfying narrative of human history. Each needed its own place, and to be in conversation with one another. But I didn’t want to bias this mechanism with an ideological presupposition.
Lastly, I knew that I wanted to encounter the best of the best of literature and art. I wanted to be in some real sense “formed” by great art. I wanted to master the canon. This desire was deepened by close personal contact with my mentor, the late Harold Bloom. Professor Bloom endorsed my Shakespearean theater company, The Theater at Woodshill, before he passed, and that event had a galvanizing effect on me.
Life is short, and there’s so much truly transformative imaginative and historical work to explore. It pays to have an instrument to help navigate the waters.

How do we choose the texts to include?

From our COO, Morgan Pile
We are starting by making public domain literature available and accessible, beginning with the English language because our company is based in the US.
That means, generally, we are including English language works published before 1926. Next year, it will be 1927, when works published in that year enter the public domain. There are thousands of titles from all over the world published in different languages that we would love to include as well, but the English translations largely remain under copyright because of their time of publication. For that reason, we have to hold off until we expand into those other languages and come up with our own translations.
The titles we have already included fall under two categories:

  1. They are the books most often assigned to college and university students in the US, i.e. the ones we determine to be the most useful to our users.
  2. They are the books we think should be assigned. That is, lesser known authors who are often excluded from the canon. We determine these authors by tapping into anthologies and the advice from our wide spanning group of contributors with expertise in all areas of literature. This is a work in progress. In fact, it’s our lives’ work. If you have any authors or titles you would like to see included, please let us know. We’d very much like your input.

Who writes your commentary?

Writers, academics, teachers and professors. The contributors’ page, which will include all of their bios and credentials, is coming soon.

Why do you sell some works through Bookshop and Amazon?

We cannot offer works that are in copyright for free, but we can still tell you about them and contextualize them on the timeline. We want to make sure that you can easily find and read the actual works we are referencing, and that, through this platform, we are supporting living authors.
We will partner with Bookstore in the next few weeks, for those of us (and we hope there are many) who want to support local bookstores.
We partner with Amazon for those of us who use Amazon for whatever reason. Those reasons might include needing a book in a hurry or wanting to purchase the digital version to read online.
In the future, we will be offering access to digital copyrighted books directly on Time’s Arrow, but for now, like several other online resources including the New York Times and The Washington Post, we are using affiliate links, and making commission on the sales.