The Ten Greatest Essays, Ever

Amy Benson

These tied for first place:

Joan Didion, “Goodbye to All That”

(from Slouching Towards Bethlehem, 1968)

James Baldwin, “The Fire Next Time”

(from The Fire Next Time, 1963

George Orwell, “Shooting an Elephant”

(from Selected Essays, 1936)

These tied for second place:

Joan Didion, “On Keeping a Notebook”

(from Slouching Towards Bethlehem, 1968)

Amy Hempel, “Celia is Back”

(from The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel, 2007)

These tied for third place:

Joan Didion, “In Bed”

(from The White Album, 1979)

Ralph Ellison, “Richard Wright’s Blues”

(from Shadow and Act, 1966)

Michael Pollan, “An Animal’s Place”

(from The New York Times, November 10, 2002)

Annie Dillard, “Seeing”

(from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 1974)

Jo Ann Beard, “The Fourth State of Matter”

(from The Boys of My Youth, 1998)

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About Amy Benson

Amy Benson is the author of the memoir The Sparkling-Eyed Boy, which was chosen by Ted Conover for the 2003 Katherine Bakeless Nason Nonfiction Prize, which is sponsored by the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference. She has received fellowships from numerous foundations, including Ledig House in upstate New York for a Writer’s Residency. She regularly contributes essays to the journals Fourth Genre, River Teeth, Sonora Review, Quarterly West, Pleiades, River Styx, and elsewhere, and is currently the director of the undergraduate creative writing program at Columbia University. She asked students in her Fall ’08 “Lyric Essay Seminar” at Columbia what their ten favorite essays of all time were.