9 Best Essays of All Time (With Links And Writing Tips)

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  1. David Sedaris – “Me Talk Pretty One Day”

 

  1. Joan Didion – “On Keeping a Notebook”

 

  1. James Baldwin – “Notes of a Native Son”

 

  1. Zadie Smith – “On Beauty”

 

  1. Bret Easton Ellis – “American Psycho”

 

  1. Susan Sontag – “On Photography”

 

  1. Roland Barthes – “Camera Lucida”

 

  1. Leslie Jamison – “The Empathy Exams”

 

  1. Virginia Woolf – “A Room of One’s Own”

 

These are some of the best essays of all time, with links to the full versions available online. If you’re looking for more great essays, check out our list of the 100 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time.

 

David Sedaris’s “Me Talk Pretty One Day” tells the story of the author’s experiences growing up as a dyslexic student in America. The essay is funny and self-deprecating, but it also offers a serious look at the challenges faced by students with learning disabilities.

 

Joan Didion’s “On Keeping a Notebook” is a classic of the personal essay genre. In it, Didion reflects on the purpose of keeping a notebook and the ways in which our memories can be shaped by the act of writing.

 

James Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son” is a powerful essay on race in America. Baldwin writes about his experience as a black man in a white-dominated society, and the essay is as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1955.

 

Zadie Smith’s “On Beauty” is a thoughtful and insightful look at the concept of beauty, both in art and in life. Smith challenges the notion that there is one standard of beauty that all should aspire to, and her essay is a timely reminder that beauty is subjective and personal.

 

Bret Easton Ellis’s “American Psycho” is a searing satire of the excesses of the 1980s. Ellis’s protagonist, Patrick Bateman, is a wealthy Wall Street banker who leads a secret life as a serial killer. The essay is a disturbing but darkly humorous look at the shallowness and emptiness of consumer culture.

 

Susan Sontag’s “On Photography” is a classic work of criticism that explores the history and meaning of photography. Sontag offers a complex and nuanced view of the medium, and her essay is essential reading for anyone interested in the history and theory of photography.

 

Roland Barthes’s “Camera Lucida” is a groundbreaking work of criticism that explores the nature of photography. Barthes’s essay is both a theoretical investigation and a personal reflection on the role of photography in his life.

 

Leslie Jamison’s “The Empathy Exams” is a collection of essays that explore the concept of empathy. Jamison writes about her own experiences with empathy, as well as the ways in which we can understand and connect with others.

 

Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” is a classic work of feminist literature. In it, Woolf argues that women need their own space – both physical and mental – in order to create and thrive.

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