A few months ago, I found an article online that featured several prominent essayists speaking on their top 10 essays of all time (and, of course, now I can't find it). Inspired, I started a list of my own, which I stumbled upon today. My initial list included 18 of what I felt are the "best of all time" (i.e., "the best I've read thus far").
My definition of "best" in this sense has to do with the pieces that have stuck with me, the ones that, in some way or another, changed something within me – whether that "something" is a way of thinking about a topic or idea, or a sense of the world, or a view of writing or style.
I cut it back slightly, but couldn't only choose ten. Thus, I present to you my top 15 essays.
In no particular order:
- "Chimera" by Gerald Callahan
- "Whaling out West" and "Orphans" by Charles D'Ambrosio
- "Total Eclipse" and "Living Like Weasels" by Annie Dillard
- "The White Album" and "On Self-Respect" by Joan Didion
- "Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain" by Leslie Jamison
- "Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying" by Adrienne Rich
- "Perfect Past" by Vladmir Nobokov
- "The Death of the Moth" by Virginia Woolf
- "Shunned" by Meredith Hall
- "Welcome to My Country" by Lauren Slater
- "Language at Play" by Diane Ackerman
- "The Fourth State of Matter" by Jo Ann Beard
Have a favorite essay (or ten or fifteen)? Let me know!