History's Greatest Essayists

Over 1.8K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of History's Greatest Essayists
Voting Rules
The greatest essayists. Vote up the absolute best essayists.
Some of the most famous literary works are essays, written by great authors and writers. Essays span a variety of genres, including comedy, non-fiction, history, and current events. Some essays are published as a stand-alone piece in a magazine, while others are grouped into collections. Who are the best essayists of all time?
The essayists on this list come from a variety of backgrounds and time periods in history. Some are still currently writing. It’s no wonder that essays remain a popular literary format as authors can make a point more directly while still following a specific format, allowing the writer to get their point across, or tell their story more quickly.
This list features the best essayists in history, ranked as the best by voters, and including, Virginia Woolf, Geoff Dyer, Ellen Willis, Christopher Hitchens, Nora Ephron, and Zadie Smith. Vote up the best essayists below to see how the essayists you think are great rank!
Most divisive: Phillip Lopate
Ranked by
  • Michel de Montaigne
    353 votes

    Michel de Montaigne

    The Essays of Michel de Montaigne
  • George Orwell
    552 votes
    1984, Animal Farm
  • G. K. Chesterton
    127 votes
    The Man Who Was Thursday, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, The Everlasting Man
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
    210 votes
    The fortune of the Republic, English traits, Representative Men
  • James Baldwin
    194 votes
    The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings, Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • Francis Bacon
    131 votes
    Novum organum, New Atlantis, Of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning