Essay: The word might bring up memories of high-school English, of three-point thesis statements, supporting arguments, and conclusion paragraphs. But outside of the classroom, essays and essay collections are something entirely different. They are small, informative pieces, written with the goal of entertainment, enlightenment, and the sheer, unadulterated pleasure of words.

Essays are often places where writers get personal; you learn about their joys and sorrows, failures and successes. A collection might contain one essay that surprises you, one that makes you think about a topic in a way you never have, one that teaches you something you never imagined possible, one that makes you giggle, one that makes you cry.

You can read just one essay out of a collection in one sitting or spend an afternoon with an entire book. You can try a book of essays by a single author, an anthology based on a theme, or a collection of works from different time periods. And with nary a thesis statement in sight!

If you’d like to start reading essays, you can browse in the 814 (American) and 824 (British) nonfiction sections of the Orem Library. Or try one of these great essay collections:

Essay Collections | Librarian Lists

The Best American Essays (series)

Edited by Robert Atwan
Nonfiction

Each year, a different editor reads dozens and dozens of literary magazines to collect the best essays. This series is an excellent introduction to many different American essayists.


Essay Collections | Librarian Lists

The Book of My Lives

By Aleksander Hemon
Nonfiction

This beautifully written collection has pieces about Hemon’s childhood in Sarajevo, his experiences as an immigrant in America, and the ways poetry, music, and journalism have affected his life. But the last essay, about his infant daughter, will leave you a different person.


Essay Collections | Librarian Lists

Citizen: An American Lyric

By Claudia Rankine
Nonfiction

Rankine explores the effects of racism on the lives of people of color by illustrating how often every-day encounters can become racially aggressive.


Essay Collections | Librarian Lists

Ex-Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

By Anne Fadiman
Nonfiction

Essays about the quirks of being a bibliophile.


Essay Collections | Librarian Lists

In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction

Edited by Lee Gutkind
Nonfiction

Creative Nonfiction is a literary magazine that has been publishing essays from both new and established writers for two decades. This collects some of the best.


Essay Collections | Librarian Lists

Let Me Tell You What I Mean

By Joan Didion
Nonfiction

If you haven’t discovered Joan Didion yet, prepare to be astounded. Pretty much everything she’s written is amazing: powerful, intelligent, moving. This new collection gathers pieces from across many years of her writing life.


Essay Collections | Librarian Lists

The Next American Essay

Edited by John D’Agata
Nonfiction

A wide-ranging collection from some of the best American writers.


Essay Collections | Librarian Lists

Things I Don’t Want to Know: On Writing

By Deborah Levy
Nonfiction

These essays respond to one written by George Orwell titled “Why I Write.” Levy answers this question for herself, examining how writing impacted her childhood, her years as a mother, and her sense of self as a woman in the contemporary world.


Essay Collections | Librarian Lists

Whose Story Is This?

By Rebecca Solnit
Nonfiction

Essays that explore the way that who gets to tell the stories of social upheaval is changing.

Written by Amy, Assistant Librarian

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