History's Greatest Essayists

List 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!
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  • George Orwell
    1
    577 votes
    1984, Animal Farm
  • Michel de Montaigne
    2
    358 votes

    Michel de Montaigne

    The Essays of Michel de Montaigne
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
    3
    210 votes
    The fortune of the Republic, English traits, Representative Men
  • James Baldwin
    4
    196 votes
    The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings, Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • G. K. Chesterton
    5
    130 votes
    The Man Who Was Thursday, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, The Everlasting Man
  • Samuel Johnson
    6
    176 votes

    Samuel Johnson

    A Dictionary of the English Language, Samuel Johnson's Dictionary: Selections from the 1755 Work That Defined the English Language, Life of Mr Richard Savage