Essayists

Essayists are the writers who produce essays. Essays are the literary pieces of work in which the author presents their own arguments and reflections. Since essays convey the author’s individual views, they make for compelling and interesting reading. Essayists may write on a number of topics like politics, education, social issues, literary criticisms, environment, human rights, etc. Even though essays are primarily written in prose, essayists like Alexander Pope have taken the liberty to compose their essays in verse. Essayists, like writers of other genres, do not always believe in conforming to traditions. John Locke was one such essayist who chose to ignore the brevity element in composing his voluminous essays like ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding’. The French author Michel de Montaigne who lived during the 16th century is often hailed as the first essayist, though he himself claimed to have been influenced by the writings of Plutarch and Seneca. Essayists like Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Samuel Johnson flourished during the Age of Enlightenment when essays became the preferred literary form for convincing people of their position. Scroll down further for more information on famous essayists from all over the world who enriched literature with their writings.

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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 Voltaire

Voltaire
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 21, 1694
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: French
Died: May 30, 1778
18th-century historian, author, philosopher, and advocate of freedom of speech Voltaire was a leading figure of the French Age of Enlightenment. He often ran into trouble for his criticism of the French nobility and the Roman Catholic Church. He once went to Britain on voluntary exile, fearing imprisonment in France.
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 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 Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 26, 1894
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: British, American
Died: November 22, 1963

English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley wrote countless books, including novels, short stories, non-fiction, and poems. He is best remembered for his science-fiction novels Brave New World and Island. The seven-time Nobel Prize nominee was also a Companion of Literature of the Royal Society of Literature and a Vedanta believer.

 6 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.
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 7 Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy
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Famous As: Novelist, Writer, Screenwriter, Essayist
Birthdate: November 24, 1961
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: Indian
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 8 Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett
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Famous As: Novelist, Playwright, Theater Director
Birthdate: April 13, 1906
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: Irish
Died: December 22, 1989

Samuel Beckett was a legendary Nobel Prize-winning Irish postmodernist and minimalist playwright and author, regarded as a prominent figure of the "Theatre of the Absurd.” He is best known for the play Waiting for Godot and for his tragi-comic themes and black comedy. He was also the Saoi of Aosdána.

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 9 Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 9, 1908
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: French
Died: April 14, 1986
French author and existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir is best remembered for her feminist treatise The Second Sex and her novels The Mandarins and She Came to Stay. Her literary contributions also include essays, biographies, and her autobiographical works. She won the Prix Goncourt and the Jerusalem Prize.

 10 Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 18, 1709
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: British
Died: December 13, 1784

Essayist, biographer, lexicographer, and literary critic Samuel Johnson, or Dr. Johnson, is remembered for his A Dictionary of the English Language and Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets. He was also a poet, a playwright, and a staunch Tory. His mannerisms indicated he had Tourette syndrome.

 11 D. H. Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: British
Died: March 2, 1930

English writer, D. H. Lawrence, was known for exploring sensitive issues, such as sexuality, emotional health,  and instinct. In his works, he often reflected upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialization. The sexual nature of his writings earned him many enemies. Even though he died at the relatively young age of 44, he left behind a rich literary legacy.

 12 Joan Didion

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

 13 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

 14 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.

 15 Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco
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Famous As: Italian Semiotician, Philosopher
Birthdate: January 5, 1932
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: Italian
Died: February 19, 2016

Italian novelist Umberto Eco is best remembered for his novels The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum. He also taught at the University of Bologna and had released quite a few children’s books and translations. He was also known for his work on semiotics and medieval studies.

 16 John Ruskin

John Ruskin
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Famous As: Art Critic and Painter
Birthdate: February 8, 1819
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: British
Died: January 20, 1900

The leading English art critic of the Victorian era, John Ruskin was a hugely influential figure in the latter half of the 19th century. Also a philosopher and prominent social thinker, he wrote on varied subjects like geology, architecture, education, botany, myth, ornithology, literature, and political economy. He founded the charitable trust Guild of St George.

 17 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

 18 Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: 1960 AD
Nationality: Lebanese, British, American
Lebanese-American scholar and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb is known for his work on risk management through uncertainty and probability. His five-volume essay Incerto included his bestselling book The Black Swan. Named to Forbes’s Most Influential Management Gurus list, he is the co-editor-in-chief of the academic journal Risk and Decision Analysis.

 19 Cheryl Strayed

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

 20 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

 21 Rahul Khanna

Rahul Khanna
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 20, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: Indian

 22 Anais Nin

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

 23 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

 24 Orson Scott Card

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

 25 Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 28, 1903
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: British
Died: April 10, 1966

 26 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

 27 E. M. Forster

E. M. Forster
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 1, 1879
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: British
Died: June 7, 1970

 28 Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith
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Famous As: Writer, Novelist, Essayist
Birthdate: October 25, 1975
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: British

 29 Maajid Nawaz

Maajid Nawaz
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: November 2, 1977
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: British

 30 Thomas Mann

Paul Thomas Mann
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Famous As: Novelist, Short Story Writer
Birthdate: June 6, 1875
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: Swiss, German
Died: August 12, 1955

 31 Pierre Bourdieu

Pierre Bourdieu
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Famous As: Philosopher, Sociologist, Anthropologist, Publisher, Essayist, Writer, Professor
Birthdate: August 1, 1930
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: French
Died: January 23, 2002

 32 V. S. Naipaul

V. S. Naipaul
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 17, 1932
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: British
Died: August 11, 2018

 33 Sarah Vowell

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

 34 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.

 35 Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 11, 1967
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: British, American

 36 Mario Vargas Llosa

Mario Vargas Llosa
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 28, 1936
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: Peruvian

 37 Henry Louis Gates Jr.

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

 38 Neal Stephenson

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

 39 Jonathan Franzen

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

 40 Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: December 20, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: Swiss, British

 41 Denis Diderot

Denis Diderot
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 5, 1713
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: French
Died: July 31, 1784

 42 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

 43 Theodor W. Adorno

Theodor W. Adorno
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: September 11, 1903
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: German
Died: August 6, 1969

 44 Amrita Pritam

Amrita Pritam
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 31, 1919
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: Indian
Died: October 31, 2005

 45 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

 46 W. Kamau Bell

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

 47 Larry Kramer

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

 48 Masaru Emoto

Masaru Emoto
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Famous As: Essayist, Writer
Birthdate: July 22, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: Japanese
Died: October 17, 2014

 49 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

 50 Michel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq
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Famous As: Poet, Film director, Songwriter, Essayist, Novelist, Screenwriter, Actor, Writer, Science fiction writer
Birthdate: February 26, 1956
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: French
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