The Definitive (and evergrowing) Essay Hall of Fame

es·say | \\ ˈe-ˌsā | from French essai \”trial, attempt\”

I have a pseudoscientific but probably accurate theory that the best essay writers are also fiction writers. I guess their voice becomes an amalgamous mix of all the identities they inhabit or a new character all on its own. Anyways, their voice acts as cartographer, showing an ebb and flow, hinting at a distance and sometimes a destination.

But all this can apply to essay writers that don’t write fiction too and this list of essays has representation from both and all camps.

“Here Be Dragons” (originally titled “Freaks and the Ideal of American Manhood) by James Baldwin

“A Few Words About Breasts” by Nora Ephron

In Defense of Litmus Tests” by Brianha Joy Gray

“Simple Living: An Antidote to Hedonistic Materialism” by bell hooks

“Confessions of the Human Shield” by Emily Nussbaum

“Generation Why” by Zadie Smith

“Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction” by Zadie Smith

“Peonies? by Zadie Smith (from Intimations)

“American Exception” by Zadie Smith (from Intimations)

When the Hero Is The Problem” by Rebecca Solnit

“We From Ol Virginia” by Jia Tolentino

“In the Closet of the Soul” by Alice Walker

“Big Red Son” by David Foster Wallace

Racism Is ‘Built into the Very Bones’ of Mississippi by Jesmyn Ward

“I’m Sorry But Your Soul Just Died” by Tom Wolfe (in Hooking Up)

“Hooking Up” by Tom Wolfe (in Hooking Up)