Throwback Thursday: Best Essays of the Past 50 Years

July 17, 2014 § 3 Comments

83142Back in 2011, Flavorwire’s Kathleen Massara sifted through

…innumerable notable essays written between 1961 and today. However, even though it’s a crazy idea to attempt to make a top ten list of the pieces that shaped the era, that’s what we do…

Inspired by the University of Iowa’s Essay Prize, Ms. Massara sought out ten essays she thought “best exemplifie[d] the art of essaying — inquiry, experimentation, discovery, and change.” Included are some legends and some more obscure. And yes, Céline Dion made the list.

Check out the list here. (Some of the links lead to online reads, others to sale pages for books featuring the essays.)

What’s your best essays list? Five Essays That Should Be Famous? Seven Essays That Changed the Author’s Life? Ten Best Essays Under 1000 Words?

Create a category and make your case, then email it to We’ll choose a list or two to feature here on the Brevity blog.

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§ 3 Responses to Throwback Thursday: Best Essays of the Past 50 Years

  • Susan Tiberghien says:

    This is terrific…and generous. Thank you Dinty!

    More good wishes from Geneva,


  • kateflaherty says:

    Great list–I’d add “Fourth State of Matter” by Jo Ann Beard.

  • Tom McGohey says:

    Oh, how I love listing! Here’s my 10 fav essays since 1960 (a frame that, regrettably, painfully, forced me to leave out several great essays from 50s, like Yourcenar’s “That Mighty Sculptor, Time,” andBaldwin’s “Note of a Native Son” and “Stranger in the Village,” and Joseph Mitchell’s “The Rivermen,” which has, IMHO, the greatest nonfiction paragraph in American letters (the opening para). Damn, this was hard!

    “What I Heard in Iraq,” Eliot Weinberger
    “Hitler’s Couch,” Mark Slouka
    “Time and Distance Overcome,” Eula Biss
    “Two Protesters,” Maeve Brennan
    “In Praise of Boredom,” Joseph Brodsky
    “The Birds of Paolo Uccello,” Italo Calvino
    “St. Augustine and the Hall of Memory,” Greta Austin
    “Okinawa: The Bloodiest Battle of All,” William Manchester
    “The Doomed in Their Sinking,” William Gass
    “For My Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business,” Seymour Krim

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