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History's Greatest Essayists

Updated February 14, 2020 5.9k votes 1.6k voters 64.6k views78 items

List RulesThe 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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  • 1
    481
    108
    1984, Animal Farm
  • 2
    288
    58
    The Essays of Michel de Montaigne
  • 3
    172
    49
    JeremyEbbink addedThe fortune of the Republic, English traits
  • 4
    151
    49
    The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings, Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • 5
    140
    46
    looksharp addedA Dictionary of the English Language, Samuel Johnson's Dictionary: Selections from the 1755 Work That Defined the English Language
  • 6
    133
    52
    looksharp addedAdventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • 7
    99
    28
    Andrew C. Durbin addedThe Man Who Was Thursday, The Napoleon of Notting Hill
  • 8
    104
    35
    JohnJ.ScullyJr. addedNovum organum, New Atlantis
  • 9
    213
    118
    God Is Not Great
  • 10
    81
    22
    asthasr addedA History of Western Philosophy, The Analysis of Mind
  • 11
    106
    46
    Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Play It As It Lays
  • 12
    75
    25
    harry adams addedThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • 13
    67
    20
    erdos1 addedLabyrinths, Ficciones
  • 14
    80
    35
    Duet for Cannibals, Promised Lands
  • 15
    96
    50
    nfinite Jest, The Pale King
  • 16
    69
    30
    looksharp addedThe Waste Land, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
  • 17
    66
    28
    looksharp addedCharacters of Shakespear's Plays, The Doubtful Plays Of William Shakespeare
  • 18
    52
    16
    looksharp addedThe prose works of Charles Lamb, The Essays of Elia
  • 19
    56
    22
    erdos1 addedOn the Suffering of the World, The World as Will and Representation
  • 20
    51
    20
    looksharp addedThe Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack
  • 21
    49
    26
    ThanhPham addedAnna Karenina, War and Peace
  • 22
    28
    5
    Gary Linton addedAlice in Wonderland, Brave New World
  • 23
    32
    12
    Gulliver's Travels, Gulliver's Travels
  • 24
    71
    56
    erdos1 addedAn Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Four Dissertations
  • 25
    36
    18
    Les Misérables, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
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List Rules: The greatest essayists. Vote up the absolute best essayists.