America

Famous Essayists from the United States

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Updated October 13, 2018 4.1k views 164 items

List of notable or famous essayists from the United States, with bios and photos, including the top essayists born in the United States and even some popular essayists who immigrated to the United States. If you're trying to find out the names of famous American essayists then this list is the perfect resource for you. These essayists are among the most prominent in their field, and information about each well-known essayist from the United States is included when available.

This list is made up of a variety of people, including Gore Vidal and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This historic essayists from the United States list can help answer the questions "Who are some American essayists of note?" and "Who are the most famous essayists from the United States?" These prominent essayists of the United States may or may not be currently alive, but what they all have in common is that they're all respected American essayists.

Use this list of renowned American essayists to discover some new essayists that you aren't familiar with. Don't forget to share this list by clicking one of the social media icons at the top or bottom of the page. (164 items)
1
Gore Vidal is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 87 (1925-2012)

Birthplace: West Point, Contiguous United States, New York, Orange County, United States of America, + more

Eugene Luther Gore Vidal (; born Eugene Louis Vidal, October 3, 1925 – July 31, 2012) was an American writer and public intellectual known for his patrician manner, epigrammatic wit, and ...more

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The Best Gore Vidal Books #366 of 1,176 The Best Writers of All Time #1,043 of 1,471 The Greatest Minds of All Time

2
Christopher Hitchens is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 62 (1949-2011)

Birthplace: Portsmouth, United Kingdom

Christopher Eric Hitchens (13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011) was an English-American author, columnist, essayist, orator, journalist, and social critic. Hitchens was the author, co-author, ...more

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The Best Christopher Hitchens Books #978 of 1,176 The Best Writers of All Time #570 of 1,471 The Greatest Minds of All Time

3
Ralph Waldo Emerson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 79 (1803-1882)

Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts

Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a ...more

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The Best Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes #104 of 1,176 The Best Writers of All Time #365 of 1,471 The Greatest Minds of All Time

4
Isaac Asimov is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 72 (1920-1992)

Birthplace: Petrovichi, Russia

Isaac Asimov (; c. January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992) was an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He was known for his works of science fiction and popular science. ...more

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The Best Isaac Asimov Books #51 of 1,176 The Best Writers of All Time #148 of 1,471 The Greatest Minds of All Time

5
Langston Hughes is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 65 (1902-1967)

Birthplace: Newton County, United States of America, United States, with Territories, Jasper County, + more

James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. He moved to New York City as a ...more

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#122 of 177 The Best Short Story Writers of All Time #109 of 341 The Greatest American Writers of All Time #10 of 256 The Best Gay Authors

6
James Baldwin is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 63 (1924-1987)

Birthplace: Harlem, New York City, New York

James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) was an American novelist, playwright, and activist. His essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son (1955), explore intricacies of ...more

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#259 of 1,176 The Best Writers of All Time #89 of 177 The Best Short Story Writers of All Time #48 of 341 The Greatest American Writers of All Time

7
James Ellroy is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Age: 70

Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States of America

Lee Earle "James" Ellroy (born March 4, 1948) is an American crime fiction writer and essayist. Ellroy has become known for a telegrammatic prose style in his most recent work, wherein ...more

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#175 of 341 The Greatest American Writers of All Time #106 of 207 The Greatest Living Writers & Most Famous Authors Today #200 of 313 Famous People Most Likely to Live to 100

8
Larry Kramer is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Age: 83

Birthplace: Eastern United States, Fairfield County, New England, Connecticut, United States of America, + more

Larry Kramer (born June 25, 1935) is an American playwright, author, film producer, public health advocate, and LGBT rights activist. He began his career rewriting scripts while working for ...more

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#284 of 341 The Greatest American Writers of All Time #162 of 256 The Best Gay Authors #110 of 113 The Most Influential Contemporary Americans

9
Norman Mailer is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 84 (1923-2007)

Birthplace: Long Branch, New Jersey, United States of America

Norman Kingsley Mailer (January 31, 1923 – November 10, 2007) was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, playwright, film-maker, actor, and liberal political activist. His novel The Naked ...more

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The Best Norman Mailer Books #327 of 1,176 The Best Writers of All Time #185 of 307 The Best Novelists of All Time

10
David Rakoff is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 48 (1964-2012)

Birthplace: Montreal, Canada

David Benjamin Rakoff (November 27, 1964 – August 9, 2012) was a Canadian-born American writer based in New York City, who wrote humorous and sometimes autobiographical non-fiction essays. ...more
11
Jack London is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 40 (1876-1916)

Birthplace: California, United States of America

John Griffith London (born John Griffith Chaney; January 12, 1876 – November 22, 1916) was an American novelist, journalist, and social activist. A pioneer in the world of commercial magazine ...more

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The Best Jack London Books #94 of 1,176 The Best Writers of All Time #530 of 1,471 The Greatest Minds of All Time

12
Robert Hayden is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 67 (1913-1980)

Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan

Robert Hayden (August 4, 1913 – February 25, 1980) was an American poet, essayist, and educator. He served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1976 to 1978, a role today ...more
13
Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 90 (1915-2005)

Birthplace: Harlem, New York City, New York, United States of America

Arthur Asher Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright, essayist, and a controversial figure in the twentieth-century American theater. Among his most popular ...more

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The Best Arthur Miller Quotes #116 of 1,176 The Best Writers of All Time #886 of 1,471 The Greatest Minds of All Time

14
Wallace Thurman is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 32 (1902-1934)

Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah

Wallace Henry Thurman (August 16, 1902 - December 22, 1934) was an American novelist active during the Harlem Renaissance. He also wrote essays, worked as an editor, and was a publisher of ...more
15
Flannery O'Connor is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 39 (1925-1964)

Birthplace: Savannah, Georgia

Mary Flannery O'Connor (March 25, 1925 – August 3, 1964) was an American novelist, short story writer and essayist. She wrote two novels and thirty-two short stories, as well as a number of ...more
16
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Age: 99

Birthplace: Yonkers, New York, United States of America

Lawrence Monsanto Ferlinghetti (born March 24, 1919) is an American poet, painter, socialist activist, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. He is the author of poetry, ...more
17
Bruce Benderson is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Age: 72
Bruce Benderson (born August 6, 1946) is an American author, born to Jewish parents of Russian descent, who lives in New York. He attended William Nottingham High School (1964) in Syracuse, New ...more
18
Ralph Ellison is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 81 (1913-1994)

Birthplace: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Ralph Waldo Ellison (March 1, 1914 – April 16, 1994) was an American novelist, literary critic, and scholar best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953. He ...more

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#237 of 1,176 The Best Writers of All Time #584 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive #44 of 341 The Greatest American Writers of All Time

19
Richard Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Age: 74

Birthplace: California

Richard Rodriguez (born July 31, 1944) is an American writer who became famous as the author of Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (1982), a narrative about his intellectual ...more
20
Robert Rodi is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Age: 63

Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois

Robert Rodi (born 1956 in Chicago, Illinois) is an American novelist, playwright, comic book writer, essayist, and performance artist.
21
John Perry Barlow is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Age: 71

Birthplace: Grant Village, Wyoming, United States of America

John Perry Barlow (October 3, 1947 – February 7, 2018) was an American poet and essayist, a cattle rancher, and a cyberlibertarian political activist who had been associated with both the ...more
22
Jonathan Franzen is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Jonathan Franzen Age: 59

Birthplace: Western Springs, Illinois, United States of America

Jonathan Earl Franzen (born August 17, 1959) is an American novelist and essayist. His 2001 novel The Corrections, a sprawling, satirical family drama, drew widespread critical acclaim, earned ...more

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#445 of 1,176 The Best Writers of All Time #251 of 307 The Best Novelists of All Time #150 of 341 The Greatest American Writers of All Time

23
Droz is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Age: 49

Birthplace: Mays Landing, New Jersey, USA

Darren A. Drozdov (born April 7, 1969) is an American essayist, former football player and retired professional wrestler who competed in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from 1998-99 under ...more

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#251 of 556 The Greatest Pro Wrestlers of All Time #4 of 17 17 Famous Quadriplegics

24
Susan Sontag is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 71 (1933-2004)

Birthplace: New York City, New York

Susan Sontag (; January 16, 1933 – December 28, 2004) was an American writer, filmmaker, philosopher, teacher, and political activist. She mostly wrote essays, but also published novels; she ...more

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#302 of 378 The Best American Actresses Working Today #894 of 1,471 The Greatest Minds of All Time #220 of 341 The Greatest American Writers of All Time

25
Archibald MacLeish is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 90 (1892-1982)

Birthplace: Glencoe, Illinois, United States of America

Archibald MacLeish (May 7, 1892 – April 20, 1982) was an American poet and writer who was associated with the modernist school of poetry. MacLeish studied English at Yale University and law at ...more