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:
The Best American Essays (series)
Edited by Robert Atwan
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.
The Book of My Lives
By Aleksander Hemon
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.
Citizen: An American Lyric
By Claudia Rankine
Rankine explores the effects of racism on the lives of people of color by illustrating how often every-day encounters can become racially aggressive.
Ex-Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
By Anne Fadiman
Essays about the quirks of being a bibliophile.
In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction
Edited by Lee Gutkind
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.
Let Me Tell You What I Mean
By Joan Didion
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.
The Next American Essay
Edited by John D’Agata
A wide-ranging collection from some of the best American writers.
Things I Don’t Want to Know: On Writing
By Deborah Levy
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.
Whose Story Is This?
By Rebecca Solnit
Essays that explore the way that who gets to tell the stories of social upheaval is changing.
Written by Amy, Assistant Librarian