Famous American Essayists

Writing is one of the most ancient professions in the world. Since the early days, people chose to pen their thoughts, views, ideas and beliefs to increase awareness and knowledge in the world. While writing can be of many types, it is essay writing that we are emphasizing on in this segment. Essays are basically literary pieces wherein a writer puts to paper his reflection about an event or episode in history. Spanning across varied topics such as politics, education, social rights, activism, literary criticism and so on, essays help readers to understand the world in a better fashion. In America, essay writing has been prevalent since the early colonial days. Francis Bacon, Samuel Sewall and John Woolman are some of the earliest known American essayists. Much of their work revolved around the revolutionary theme. Post-independence, American essayists focussed on societal problems as the main issue for their works. It also marked the golden period of essay writing as works by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Washington Irving came to foreplay. The romantic and realistic period saw the likes of R.W. Emerson, E.A. Poe and Frederick Douglas giving way to works by Mark Twain, Mary Austin and others. Know about the life and works of some of the best-known American essayists, in this section.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 James Baldwin

James Baldwin
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 2, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
Died: December 1, 1987

Amongst the greatest writers of the 20th century and a leading literary voice in the civil rights movement, James Baldwin extensively explored issues like race, sexuality and humanity in his work. His best known work include his debut novel Go Tell It on the Mountain and his books of essays Notes of a Native Son and Nobody Knows My Name.

 2 Anais Nin

Anais Nin
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: February 21, 1903
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: January 14, 1977

French-Cuban-American diarist, essayist, and novelist Anais Nin wrote several volumes of journals, erotica, novels, critical studies, essays, and short stories. Her journals and diaries are among her most studied works. She had a deep interest in psychoanalysis and studied it extensively with René Allendy and Otto Rank. Critics consider her one of the finest writers of female erotica.

 3 John Hughes

John Hughes
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Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: February 18, 1950
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: August 6, 2009

 4 Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 16, 1928
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: March 2, 1982

Philip K. Dick was an American writer who was known for his work that explores varied social and philosophical themes. Dick's novels have inspired films like Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and The Adjustment Bureau. In 2005, his novel Ubik was included in Time magazine's list of 100 greatest novels published in English since 1923.

 5 Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 22, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
Died: June 5, 2012
Ray Bradbury is best remembered for his writings in the science-fiction, mystery, and horror genres, the most notable being the short story anthology Martian Chronicles and the novel Fahrenheit 451. He also contributed to the screenplays of various series and films, and won an Emmy for writing The Halloween Tree.

 6 Joan Didion

Joan Didion
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Famous As: Screenwriter, Novelist, Journalist, Writer, Essayist
Birthdate: December 5, 1934
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

 7 Sylvia Browne

Sylvia Browne
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Famous As: Essayist, Psychic
Birthdate: October 19, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: November 20, 2013
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 8 Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein
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Famous As: Science Fiction Writer
Birthdate: July 7, 1907
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: May 8, 1988

Robert A. Heinlein was an American author, naval officer, and aeronautical engineer. Heinlein is credited with pioneering a literary subgenre called hard science fiction as he was among the first to stress the importance of scientific accuracy in fiction. Robert A. Heinlein is one of the most influential science-fiction writers of all time.

 9 Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman
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Famous As: Columnist, Economist, Essayist, Blogger, University teacher, Actor, Pundit, Journalist, Writer
Birthdate: February 28, 1953
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

 10 Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 17, 1968
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

 11 Thomas Pynchon

Thomas Pynchon
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Famous As: Writer, Novelist, Essayist, Science fiction writer
Birthdate: May 8, 1937
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

 12 Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O'Connor
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: March 25, 1925
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
Died: August 3, 1964

 13 Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 24, 1951
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

 14 Washington Irving

Washington Irwing
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Famous As: Author, Historian, Diplomat
Birthdate: April 3, 1783
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
Died: November 28, 1859

 15 Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: December 27, 1969
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

 16 Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 16, 1950
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

 17 E. E. Cummings

E.E. Cummings
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: 1894 AD
Nationality: American
Died: 1962 AD

 18 Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 31, 1959
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

 19 Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 17, 1959
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American

 20 E. B. White

E. B. White
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 11, 1899
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: October 1, 1985

 21 Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier
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Famous As: Computer scientist, Composer, Programmer, Writer, Essayist, University teacher
Birthdate: May 3, 1960
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

 22 W. Kamau Bell

W. Kamau Bell
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Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: January 26, 1973
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American

 23 Larry Kramer

Larry Kramer
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Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: June 25, 1935
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

 24 Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon
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Famous As: Writer, Essayist, Screenwriter, Novelist, Columnist, Science fiction writer
Birthdate: May 24, 1963
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American

 25 Robert Christgau

Robert Christgau
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Famous As: Journalist, Reporter, Essayist, Writer, Music critic
Birthdate: April 18, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 26 Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo
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Famous As: Writer, Playwright, Screenwriter, Novelist, Essayist, Journalist
Birthdate: November 20, 1936
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

 27 Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 29, 1918
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: September 6, 2007

 28 Mark Twain

Mark Twain Image
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 30, 1835
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: April 21, 1910

Mark Twain, “the father of American literature,” was one of the world’s greatest 19-th century humorists and authors. His novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were drawn from his childhood experiences in Missouri. In his later life, he sunk into bankruptcy and also recovered.

 29 James Ellroy

James Ellroy
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 4, 1948
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

 30 George Saunders

George Saunders
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 2, 1958
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

 31 Darren Drozdov

Darren Drozdov
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: April 7, 1969
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 32 Jim Harrison

Jim Harrison
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: December 11, 1937
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: March 26, 2016

 33 Harry Turtledove

Harry Turtledove
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 14, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American

 34 John Perry Barlow

John Perry Barlow
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 3, 1947
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: February 7, 2018

 35 Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 20, 1954
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

 36 Robert Anton Wilson

Robert Anton Wilson
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Famous As: Writer, Novelist, Philosopher, Essayist, Playwright, Psychologist, Science fiction writer
Birthdate: January 18, 1932
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: January 11, 2007

 37 Mary Karr

Mary Karr
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: January 16, 1955
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

 38 Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 7, 1934
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: January 9, 2014

 39 Tom Robbins

Tom Robbins
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 22, 1932
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

 40 Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: January 29, 1927
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: March 14, 1989

 41 Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: November 26, 1943
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

 42 Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich
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Famous As: American poet
Birthdate: May 16, 1929
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: March 27, 2012

 43 Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 24, 1961
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

 44 Samuel R. Delany

Samuel R. Delany
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 1, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 45 Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver
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Famous As: Novelist, Poet, Essayist
Birthdate: April 8, 1955
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 46 Fredric Jameson

Fredric Jameson
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Famous As: Essayist, Political scientist, Writer, Professor, Literary critic, Sociologist, Journalist
Birthdate: April 14, 1934
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 47 John Gregory Dunne

John Gregory Dunne
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: May 25, 1932
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
Died: December 30, 2003

 48 Jonathan Ames

Jonathan Ames
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: March 23, 1964
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 49 Joyce Kilmer

Joyce Kilmer
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 6, 1886
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: July 30, 1918

 50 Jamaica Kincaid

Jamaica Kincaid
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: May 25, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American