American People Famous Essayists from the United States

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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) Gore Vidal was an American writer and a public intellectual known for his patrician manner, epigrammatic wit, and polished style of writing. As Eugene Louis Vidal, he was born to a political ...more

2
Christopher Hitchens is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 62 (1949-2011) Christopher Eric Hitchens was an Anglo-American author, literary critic and journalist. He contributed to New Statesman, The Nation, The Atlantic, London Review of Books, The Times Literary ...more

3
Ralph Waldo Emerson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 79 (1803-1882) Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient ...more

4
Isaac Asimov is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 72 (1920-1992) Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was prolific and ...more

5
Langston Hughes is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 65 (1902-1967) James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz ...more

6
James Baldwin is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 63 (1924-1987) James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. His essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son, explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of ...more

7
James Ellroy is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 70 Lee Earle "James" Ellroy is an American crime fiction writer and essayist. Ellroy has become known for a telegrammatic prose style in his most recent work, wherein he frequently omits ...more

8
Larry Kramer is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 82 Larry Kramer is an American playwright, author, public health advocate, and LGBT rights activist. He began his career rewriting scripts while working for Columbia Pictures, which led him to ...more

9
Norman Mailer is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 84 (1923-2007) Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, playwright, film-maker, actor and political activist. His first novel, The Naked and the Dead, was published in 1948. His ...more

10
David Rakoff is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 48 (1964-2012) David Benjamin Rakoff was a Canadian-born American writer based in New York City who was noted for his humorous, sometimes autobiographical non-fiction essays. Rakoff was an essayist, ...more

11
Jack London is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 40 (1876-1916) John Griffith "Jack" London was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He was a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction and was one of the ...more

12
Robert Hayden is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 67 (1913-1980) Robert Hayden was an American poet, essayist, educator. He served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1976–78, a role today known as US Poet Laureate. He was the first ...more

13
Arthur Miller is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 90 (1915-2005) Arthur Asher Miller was a prolific American playwright, essayist, and prominent figure in twentieth-century American theatre. Among his most popular plays are All My Sons, The Crucible and A ...more

14
Wallace Thurman is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 32 (1902-1934) Wallace Henry Thurman was an American novelist active during the Harlem Renaissance. He also wrote essays, worked as an editor, and was a publisher of short-lived newspapers and literary ...more

15
Flannery O'Connor is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 39 (1925-1964) Mary Flannery O'Connor was an American writer and essayist. An important voice in American literature, she wrote two novels and 32 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries. ...more

16
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 96 Lawrence Ferlinghetti is an American poet, painter, liberal activist, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. Author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art ...more

17
Bruce Benderson is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 71 Bruce Benderson is an American author, born to Jewish parents of Russian descent, who lives in New York. He attended William Nottingham High School in Syracuse, New York and then Binghamton ...more

18
Ralph Ellison is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 81 (1913-1994) Ralph Waldo Ellison was an American novelist, literary critic, scholar and writer. He was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Ellison is best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the ...more

19
Richard Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 73 Richard Rodriguez is an American writer who became famous as the author of Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, a narrative about his intellectual development.

20
Robert Rodi is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 62 Robert Rodi 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 70 John Perry Barlow is an American poet and essayist, a retired Wyoming cattle rancher, and a cyberlibertarian political activist who has been associated with both the Democratic and Republican ...more

22
Jonathan Franzen is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 58 Jonathan Earl Franzen is an American novelist and essayist. His 2001 novel, The Corrections, a sprawling, satirical family drama, drew widespread critical acclaim, earned Franzen a National Book ...more

23
Droz is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 48 Darren A. Drozdov is an American essayist, former gridiron football player and retired professional wrestler who competed in the World Wrestling Federation in 1998 and 1999 under the ring names ...more

24
Susan Sontag is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 71 (1933-2004) Susan Sontag was an American writer and filmmaker, teacher and political activist, publishing her first major work, the essay "Notes on 'Camp'", in 1964. Her best known works include ...more

25
Archibald MacLeish is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 90 (1892-1982) Archibald MacLeish was an American poet, writer, and the Librarian of Congress. He is associated with the Modernist school of poetry. He received three Pulitzer Prizes for his work.

26
Barbara Kingsolver is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 62 Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in the Congo in her early childhood. Kingsolver earned degrees in biology at ...more

27
Adrienne Rich is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 83 (1929-2012) Adrienne Cecile Rich was an American poet, essayist and feminist. She was called "one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century", and was ...more

28
Victor Martinez is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 57 (1954-2011) Victor Martinez is a poet, essayist and writer. He was awarded the 1996 National Book Award for Young People's Literature for Parrot in the Oven, his first novel.

29
John Gardner is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 49 (1933-1982) John Champlin Gardner Jr. was an American novelist, essayist, literary critic and university professor. He is perhaps most noted for his novel Grendel, a retelling of the Beowulf myth from the ...more

30
Conrad Aiken is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 84 (1889-1973) Conrad Potter Aiken was an American writer, whose work includes poetry, short stories, novels, a play, and an autobiography.

31
Allen Tate is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 80 (1899-1979) John Orley Allen Tate was an American poet, essayist, social commentator, and Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1943 to 1944.

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Frank Rich is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 68 Frank Hart Rich, Jr. is an American essayist, op-ed columnist and writer who has—most notably—held various positions within The New York Times from 1980 to 2011. On March 1, 2011, it was ...more

33
Henry Louis Gates is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 67 Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is also an Emmy ...more

34
Cherríe Moraga is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 65 Cherríe Lawrence Moraga is a Chicana writer, feminist activist, poet, essayist, and playwright. She is part of the faculty at Stanford University in the Department of Drama and ...more

35
Thomas Mann is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 80 (1875-1955) Paul Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate. His highly symbolic and ironic epic novels ...more

36
Mary Karr is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 63 Mary Karr is an American poet, essayist and memoirist. She rose to fame in 1995 with the publication of her bestselling memoir The Liars' Club. She is the Peck Professor of English Literature at ...more

37
Richard Wright is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 52 (1908-1960) Richard Nathaniel Wright was an American author of sometimes controversial novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerns racial themes, especially those ...more

38
Robert Christgau is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 75 Robert Thomas Christgau is an American essayist, music journalist, and self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics". One of the earliest professional rock critics, Christgau is ...more

39
Katha Pollitt is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 68 Katha Pollitt is an American feminist poet, essayist and critic. She is the author of four essay collections and two books of poetry. Her writing focuses on political and social issues, ...more

40
Charles W. Chesnutt is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 74 (1858-1932) Charles Waddell Chesnutt was a mixed race author, essayist, political activist and lawyer, best known for his novels and short stories exploring complex issues of racial and social identity in ...more

41
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 59 (1950-2009) Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick was an American academic scholar in the fields of gender studies, queer theory, and critical theory. Her critical writings helped create the field of queer studies. Her ...more

42
George Steiner is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 88 Francis George Steiner, FBA, is a French-born American literary critic, essayist, philosopher, novelist, and educator. He has written extensively about the relationship between language, ...more

43
Bharati Mukherjee is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 76 Bharati Mukherjee is an Indian-born American writer who is currently a professor in the department of English at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Benito Pastoriza Iyodo is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 63 Benito Pastoriza Iyodo is a Puerto Rican author of poetry, fiction and literary articles. He is known for the daring topics of his literary creations, which are both lyrical and thought ...more

45
Al Young is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 78 Al Young is an American poet, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and professor. On May 15, 2005 he was named Poet Laureate of California by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In appointing Young as ...more

46
Ariel Dorfman is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 75 Vladimiro Ariel Dorfman is an Argentine-Chilean novelist, playwright, essayist, academic, and human rights activist. A citizen of the United States since 2004, he has been a professor of ...more

47
Charles Simic is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 79 Dušan "Charles" Simić is a Serbian-American poet and was co-poetry editor of the Paris Review. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990 for The World Doesn't End, and was a ...more

48
Annie Dillard is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
age 72 Annie Dillard is an American author, best known for her narrative prose in both fiction and non-fiction. She has published works of poetry, essays, prose, and literary criticism, as well as two ...more

49
Edmund Wilson is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 77 (1895-1972) Edmund Wilson was an American writer, literary and social critic, and man of letters.

50
Leslie Scalapino is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Famous Essayists from the United States
Dec. at 66 (1944-2010) Leslie Scalapino was a United States poet, experimental prose writer, playwright, essayist, and editor, sometimes grouped in with the Language poets, though she felt closely tied to the Beat ...more