Best Contemporary Essays
It’s the life story of a fascinating, quietly brilliant man, and it reads as such.For fans of chess and ill-advised theme parties and growing up more than once. Didion’s extraordinary book of essays, expertly surveying both her native California in the 1960s and her own internal landscape with clear eyes and one eyebrow raised ever so slightly.In making our choices, we’ve steered away from posthumous omnibuses (Michel de Montaigne’s , the collected Orwell, etc.) and multi-author compilations, and given what might be undue weight to our favorite writers (as one does).After the jump, our picks for the 25 greatest essay collections of all time.
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that he’s a brilliant old grump.
This collection, her first, helped establish the idea of journalism as art, and continues to put wind in the sails of many writers after her, hoping to move in that Didion direction.
, John Jeremiah Sullivan This was one of those books that this writer deemed required reading for all immediate family and friends.
His essays, like so many of the greats’, are both incisive social critiques and rigorous investigations into the self, told with a perfect tension between humor and righteous fury.
, David Sedaris His essays often read more like short stories than they do social criticism (though there’s a healthy, if perhaps implied, dose of that slippery subject), but no one makes us laugh harder or longer. , Susan Sontag This collection, Sontag’s first, is a dazzling feat of intellectualism.
The slender volume, filled with examinations of nature both human and not, is deft of thought and tongue, and well worth anyone’s time.