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Riot Recommendation

21 of the Best Living Essay Writers

Jamie Canaves

Contributing Editor

Jamie Canavés is the Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator and Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter writer–in case you’re wondering what you do with a Liberal Arts degree. She’s never met a beach she didn’t like, always says yes to dessert, loves ‘80s nostalgia, all forms of entertainment, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. You can definitely talk books with her on Litsy and Goodreads. Depending on social media’s stability maybe also Twitter and Bluesky.

This Riot Recommendation listing the best living essay writers is sponsored by I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott.

I Miss You When I Blink cover imageIn this memoir-in-essays full of spot-on observations about home, work, and creative life, acclaimed essayist Mary Laura Philpott takes on the conflicting pressures of modern adulthood with wit and heart. She offers up her own stories to show that identity crises don’t happen just once or only at midlife; reassures us that small, recurring personal re-inventions are both normal and necessary; and advises that if you’re going to faint, you should get low to the ground first. Most of all, Philpott shows that when you stop feeling satisfied with your life, you don’t have to burn it all down and set off on a transcontinental hike (unless you want to, of course). You can call upon your many selves to figure out who you are, who you’re not, and where you belong. Who among us isn’t trying to do that?

What a time to be alive! At least when it comes to the selection of amazing essay collections we’ve been getting the last few years from so many amazing voices. From pop culture to dissections on music to #metoo to body positivity—and so much more.

Add these incredible living essay writers to your TBR. book lists | essay writers | essays to read | living writers | nonfiction

We drop everything to read a great essay collection, so we asked you to help us by telling us who you think the best living essay writers are. And what an amazing list you put together! Here are the best living essay writers in case you need to rub some amazing writing and thoughts on your brain:

Zadie Smith

Hanif Abdurraqib

Alida Nugent

Tressie McMillan Cottom

Joan Didion

Roxane Gay

Esmé Weijun Wang

Kiese Laymon

Rebecca Solnit

David Sedaris

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Samantha Irby

Richard Rodriguez

Elizabeth Wurtzel

Annie Dillard

Phoebe Robinson

Lindy West

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


[Ed.’s Note: List updated to remove deceased authors]