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Important American Essayists On The Essay

Literature as an art has many horizons; it includes books, articles, critical reviews, and essays. At school, teachers assign homework writing tasks. Essays by famous American writers aim to prepare students for the potential career challenges associated with writing. Famous American authors who have introduced world’s best novels accomplished popular essays. Some of them describe one’s life. Other famous American writers represent native history of that time. 19th century was especially rich for the great essays.

A great essay can be more distinguished than a good novel. The most popular genres of essay include:

  • Non-fiction
  • Comedy
  • History
  • Current events
  • Personal reflection
  • Romance
  • Instructive
  • Biography

It’s up to the young author to choose one to practice. If you want to master the art of writing, consider these popular American writers. Read at least several papers published by them to improve your knowledge.

The article offers the list of top-preferred essays written by popular American writers. Find authors from various background and historical periods. Keep in mind the qualities of essay: brief, concise, attention-grabbing, and interesting.

10 Famous American Authors Every Young Writer Should Recognize



  1. James Baldwin

The first man to recall is James Baldwin. Born in 1924, the boy grew up with his stepfather who was an exemplar priest. Baldwin grew up with 8 children; he has never known anything about his dad, so his pain is felt in such pieces as “Tell me when the train left” or “Giovanni’s Room.” His literary career started in Greenwich Village. That place needed his hero who could cheer up the local population living in poverty.

Most of Baldwin’s texts oppose relevant for that time racism, explaining people must be all equal. Regular attacks force the famous artist to transfer to France.

Best essays of all time include several popular works of author:

  • “Notes of a Native Son”
  • “The Evidence of Things Not Seen”
  • “The Price of the Ticket”
  1. Scott Fitzgerald

Scoot F. Fitzgerald, born in 1896, is famous US short story writer and novelist. He best illustrates the Jazz Age; Fitzgerald is a dedicated, honored member of “Lost Generation” (1920s). 164 essays out of 4 collections of short stories were published in popular American magazines during his lifetime.

Fitzgerald was an optimistic person who described the inspiration and excesses of his age. Fitzgerald is the author of popular “The Great Gatsby,” which was remastered and filmed two times. Other famous author’s works are:

  • “This Side of Paradise”
  • “The Beautiful and the Damned”
  1. Norman Mailer

The citizen of New Jersey from the Jewish family managed to create several masterpieces. American artist Normal Mailer finished Harvard; this university made him love literature. At the age of 18, he started his writer’s career. Harvard rewarded the famous author with corresponding appreciation.

The best essays of Mailer include:

  • “The Presidential Papers”
  • “Pieces and Pontifications” (dedicated to Little Boston’s Life)

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  1. Joan Didion

Female author Joan Didion is still available: she came from California and started to write her opening essays at the age of five. While her parents spend entire days at work, the little girl tried to read all possible books found in their apartment. Her Bachelor Degree (Arts and English language) helped her passion. She is among the famous essay writers of the 20th century as Didion predetermined modern culture by working in “Vogue” magazine. The popular author’s works involve:

  • “Salvador.”
  • “Run.”
  • After Henry (dedicated to Earth)
  1. Ernest Hemingway

Among all writers in US history, Hemingway was the true master of word; he introduced the shortest essays/stories made of six words! This popular American genius developed his distinctive style which is still copied by modern artists. Every essay he wrote was simple to read. He avoided introducing new topics or using complex words; you can see it from his most famous essays:

  • “The Garden of Eden”
  • “In Our Time”
  • “The Sun Also Rises”
  • “The Old Man and the Sea”
  1. Robert Atwan

Another famous writer is Robert Atwan. He was born in 1940; he comes from New Jersey. Two popular universities, Seton Hall and Rutgers, had this literature enthusiast among the top century students. American writer was focused on creating short stories during his lifetime:

  • “Great Moments in Literary Baseball” (you can guess what his favorite game is)
  • “Poems and Essays” (describing the seasons)
  1. Stephen King

This century knows Stephen King as the best American horror book author. He has famous essays among his literary works too: his popular essays belong to the categories: supernatural fiction, suspense, and fantasy. These pieces of literature focus on Maine State. Great pieces he wrote include:

  • “Head Down”
  • “Great Hookers I Have Known”
  1. David Foster Wallace

A famous American was born in 1968. His passion for philosophy turned into the love of literature; the author earned a degree in English language and literature. David Foster Wallace used literature as the tool to cure of regular depressions. Wallace died of the prescribed medicine, but he managed to share his best works with society:

  • “Television and U.S. Fiction” (funny story)
  • “A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again” and “Consider the Lobster.”
  1. John McPhee

Famous American writers of 20th century have John McPhee on the list. He is the pioneer of creative nonfiction; he won a Pulitzer Prize in his genre. Famous American author offered outstanding hook sentences which helped to grab target reader’s attention easily. He was teaching Journalism at Princeton University, sharing his best essays.

  • “Progression: How and What?”
  • The Search for Marvin Gardens”
  1. Susan Sontag

Famous American authors list includes Susan Sontag, a popular female writer from New York City. The girl had imaginary friends from books and famous American novels when she was young. The author successfully passed necessary exams to enter Harvard University where she learned English literature to obtain a Master of Philosophy. In Oxford, famous female faced serious gender concerns and challenged related issues in her initial essays. She moved to Paris to release the rest of her works being pressed in America.

  • “Against Interpretation”
  • “Regarding the Pain of Others Styles of Radical Will”

Once you read the suggested literature, you will have a clue of how a short story/essay must look! If you wish to get a great custom essay, place an order with time-tested academic writing team online!

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Do you know that famous novelists and great thinkers found writing essays enjoyable? Of course, when modern students here the word ‘essay’, they immediately have an unpleasant association with a boring, standardized five-paragraph piece of writing on a theme which cannot inspire anyone.

Yet, treasuries of the majority of great authors, including American authors, contain essays. Why would novelists like Ernest Hemingway or poets like Edgar Allan Poe write essays? An essay gives a writer the freedom to analyze urgent issues that would not be a good fit for a bigger literary form. Certainly, writers manage to express their life philosophy in novels through their characters, but essays give them an opportunity to leave the characters behind and use their own voice.

Famous Essayists from Colonial Times till the 20th Century

First American essayists began to write in the early, colonial years. Most of them were clergymen who dedicated their writing to the norms of morality and ethics, etc. The great representatives of the essay writers of this period are John Woolman and Samuel Sewell, who were condemning slave trade in North America.

The next period in the history of America was the democratic period which led to the War of Independence and the creation of the Declaration of Independence. Although these years were not quite beneficial for American writers because of the great influence of the British literature and authors, it gave people a number of prominent political activists and thinkers who also expressed their ideas and theories in essays. Such great thinkers were Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Benjamin Franklin.

The War of Independence and the existence of the Declaration gave the entire nation that necessary strength they required to establish its own, national literature. The democratic period with its revolutionary moods was followed by the era of Romanticism. This was an epoch of admiration for nature, revealing feelings and emotions, and expressing the inner self. The most outstanding writers and essayists of the Romantic period are James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott, and Edgar Allan Poe.

Romanticism didn’t last for too long. Romantic moods were replaced by war moods which resulted in the Civil War between the industrial North and the agrarian South. After the North’s victory, lives of thousands of people have changed and never went back to how they used to be. It was the rise of a new era, in which the strongest and the smartest survive. This was the era of Realism which ‘gave birth’ to a pleiad of brilliant writers and poets. The essayists of this period were would like to mention are Mark Twain, Jack London, Henry James, Mary Austin, Thomas Nelson Page, and Henry Adams.

Years of piece didn’t last too long. The entire world, including the USA, was impacted by the World War I. The great representatives of the ‘lost generation’ are Ernest Hemingway, Francis Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, and T.S.Eliot.

Contemporary American Essayists

The 20th and 21st centuries did not leave readers without fantastic essays writers who managed to polish this writing form and make it even more interesting and creative.

One of the most outstanding novelists and essayists of the modern period is Joan Didion. In her works, Didion raised questions about American morals and social fragmentation through her own personality. Through analyzing her inner self and her way of thinking, she tried to comprehend the world. The works of this author are technically and aesthetically brilliant. So, if you are fond of essays and, for some reason, are not familiar with Joan Didion’s art, you should do it immediately. Some of her most prominent essays are Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream, Marrying Absurd, The Santa Ara, On Morality, etc.

The next author on our list of greatest American essay writers is Gore Vidal. From interviews with Gore Vidal, we can find out that he began to write at the age of five and created his first novel when he was seven years old. He couldn’t remember the time when he was not writing. In his works, he discussed the topics of politics, religion, and sex. Some of his famous essays include The Last Empire, Armageddon, Notes on Our Patriarchal State, Birds and the Bees, and many others.

Themes of democracy, race, and American identity were distinctive in the essays of James Author Baldwin. He was a famous African-American poet, playwright, and social critic. His essays No Name in the Street and The Fire Next Time are known for their book length. Baldwin’s other outstanding works are Many Thousands Gone, Stranger in the Village, etc.

Annie Dillard is another famous American fiction and non-fiction writer known for her distinctive writing technique of giving detailed descriptions and noticing unnoticeable. According to Dillard, essays are so special because they reflect writers’ “self-conscious interest in writing”. In 1975 Annie Dillard became a laureate of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. The winning work was her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Some of Dillard’s essays are This is the Life, The Stunt Person, Total Eclipse, Teaching a Stone to Talk, and others.

The list of brilliant American essayists is, in fact, extremely long. We encourage you to learn more about classic as well as contemporary authors and read their masterpieces.

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