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Writing Tips Oasis

Writing Tips Oasis - A website dedicated to helping writers to write and publish books.

How to Write a Collection of Essays

By Georgina Roy

How to Write a Collection of Essays

Table of Contents

1. Defining the genre

2. the writing process, 3. choosing the right essays, 4. publishing multiple collections, 5. selecting compatible themes, 6. the importance of arrangement, 7. chronological arrangement, 8. arranging for impact, 9. dealing with difficult themes, 10. the importance of second opinion, 11. analysis: are you offering something new, 12. presenting radical ideas, 13. writing and language style, 14. pre-publication options, 15. publishing the collection of essays.

Welcome to Writing Tips Oasis and our newest guide – how to write a collection of essays.

This guide will be different than others, and this is due to the fact that the type of work you’re trying to publish will not fall into a traditional genre – and by that, we mean literary fiction, non-fiction, and genre fiction , including everything from chic lit to dystopian fantasy and science fiction.

If we can call philosophy a genre – and not an academic discipline – then that’s where a collection of essays would belong to. However, philosophy is not isolated from other scientific studies, it encompasses learnings from many other academic disciplines, from history to psychology. A collection of essays may touch upon these, however, most often, a collection of essays is the place where a writer shares their own views and perspective on the world, the life they’ve lived, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

In other words, a collection of essays can be quite a niche, and that comes with its own consequences. In this guide, we will analyze the different aspects and things that you need to be careful about when writing a collection of essays, and, at the end, we will take a look at the publishing process and how it differs from publishing a fiction or a non-fiction book.

A collection of essays might fall under the umbrella of philosophy – barely, but it has an even more difficult time falling into a genre. It’s a mix of autobiography, memoir, and, well, blog posts, and as such, it can be a tough ordeal to even find the right audience for it.

For example, you may want to explore the things you learned while in your teens, and maybe your essays will provide a fascinating insight into what it’s like to be a teenager and what you would’ve liked to know at that age. However, who will read that? The teenagers you’re writing about may be more interested in reading YA vampire novels, people in their early twenties or even thirties may not be so keen to go back to those years – or even think about what they should have known at that age – and people who are older than that may have different things on their minds, which means your book of insightful essays may fall into the hands of other writers or a small group of people who like to think about those things.

Similarly, you may want to document everything you’ve learned as a new parent. Now, that, is a different story altogether, because there will be a lot of people who will relate to that – and be interested in reading it in order to see what they could learn from you. So, from a pure business and marketing point of view, a collection of essays on parenthood will have a better chance at attracting many readers than a collection of essays on being a teenager.

So, what can you do?

Well, for starters, write the essays first. So, let’s cover that aspect before we continue.

The writing process of a collection of essays is quite different compared to a novel or a non-fiction book. Could you decide upon each title in your collection and sit down to write them? Of course, but would those essays be genuine? Chances are, they would sound more like textbook passages, or, even worse, schoolwork assignments.

As such, what you really need to have when you decide to publish a collection of essays are written essays. Whether these will be written over the course of a year, five years, or a decade, is up to you and your writing habits. However, there is one truth that we may be able to claim with relative certainty: all writers write essays. If you’re a writer and you’re not writing essays at the moment, chances are you haven’t noticed that you do. For example, many writers would write essays as a warm up to writing in their novel. Moreover, what are non-fiction books these days but the author’s knowledge and opinion on a certain, specific topic? Of course, good non-fiction novels are supported by facts and a lot of research, but at the core of it, they are still a series of essays in a very specific, very narrow even, topic.

Of course, now, you may find yourself thinking that you should better give up on your goal to publish a collection of essays because you have none at the moment. Our advice is twofold. First, dig into your writing – especially your free writing, musings in your notebooks or forgotten word files in your laptop. Chances are, there is a lot of wisdom hiding in there. Second, make a habit to write down your thoughts. Life is chaos, that’s true, but we learn something every day, and we create the narrative of our lives through our thought processes. Start creating the habit to write these things down, as often as you can. Soon, you will begin to want to do it, because writing can also serve as a form of therapy where we make sense of things. Before you realize it, you will begin to write essays, and you may have enough essays to publish in a collection within a few months or a year.

But, the process does not end there. If the first goal is to have the essays already written, the second goal is to choose the right essays.

Let’s take a look at what that means.

In the first section, we talked about two different types of collections of essays, teenage years and parenthood. But, those two are nothing but examples of the themes and topics that your collection of essays will cover. In other words, you can have collections of essays on many aspects of life. From finding love in a busy world to being a new pet owner after a lifetime of fear of animals, for example. Dealing with hypochondria, dealing with mental illnesses, becoming a parent, choosing not to be a parent and the consequences of that – both personal and social and where and how they meet. You can have collections of essays on sociology, social issues, psychology, even history – if you can offer a different perspective on past events.

The opportunities are endless. Meanwhile, chances are, your essays will revolve around your own life, and what you learn along the way. This means that there will be a variety of topics that you will cover in your essays.

As such, welcome to the one and only rule of writing and publishing an essay collection: choose the correct essays, essays that will revolve around either a single topic or a variety of topics that will revolve around a similar theme or phase in life. You will write many essays in the course of your writing career – even more so if you decide to adopt the habit of writing things down – but that does not mean that every essay you’ve ever written will get to be published. To double down on it even, not every essay you’ve written will be publishable in the first place.

But, of those that are publishable, they will cover a variety of topics, each topic as different from the other as night and day, and those essays will ideally belong in different collections. So, let’s cover that first before we continue on what it means to combine different themes and topics in a single collection.

Some authors have found their niche and publish their essay collections and that is what their career as an author is based upon. Can you do the same?

The answer to that question is complicated. In theory – yes, you can. If you have enough material for many different collections, then you have completed the first step in achieving such a goal. The second step, unfortunately, depends on the wheel of fortune and lady luck herself. You can self-publish, yes; but will your first publication be successful without the backing (and the marketing team) of a publishing house that specializes in publishing essays? Moreover, will you even have the luck to get published traditionally without an agent – who, yes, also specializes in authors who write essay collections?

However, you can publish different collections of essays even if you are predominantly a fiction author. Look at how many authors from the 20 th century, like Bukowski, Bradbury, Vonnegut, and yes, even Stephen King have published their collections of essays throughout the years. Stephen King’s On Writing is one of the most famous books that aspiring writers are recommended to read (and again, consider this mention a recommendation too, because Stephen King is the king of writer discipline, which is what has made him so prolific over the years).

So, maybe after you analyze your essays, you will realize that you have material for three or four different collections. Which then begets the task of organizing the essays into a cohesive whole.

And that’s when you need to begin to think in terms of themes.

writing a collection of essays

Before you even begin to think about which essays to select for your collection, you need to decide on the theme or themes that you will talk about. As writing essays can often be a stream-of-consciousness effort rather than a planned one, you may be tackling different themes as you write them. So, when the moment comes to decide which theme will be prevalent in the essays, you may feel strangled by the need to choose just one.

However, that is the furthest thing from the truth. The goal here is to not promise something that you will not deliver upon – in the title, in the description, in the blurb of the book. If you wish to gather all the essays you’ve written while living in a certain town – whether your hometown or not – then, by all means, allow the reader to understand that the town will be what connects all of them. On the other hand, if you wish to cover your life experiences as an expat for example, or what living as an expat has taught you, then make sure to keep within that margin. The difference between the first and the second example is that the first one is a lot narrower. To continue with the example, let’s say that you were born in one town, but are writing about your experiences while living in another town. In this case, your essays about your hometown will not belong in that collection.

On the other hand, if what connects all your essays together is your life as an expat (still continuing on the other example above), then you can include not only essays about your hometown, and the new town where you moved, but you can include every other essay where your perspective as an expat comes into play.

Again, these two are just examples. You may wish to write about being a feminist (or, as is the case of Roxane Gay, about being a Bad Feminist), and what that means to you. In this case, you would include all the essays where the ideas you express come from that aspect – and it doesn’t matter whether you are talking about the interpretation of dreams or the most prevalent pop culture ideas of the current times.

As such, do not mix essays that do not have a correlation between them. For example, you should not really mix essays on the prevalent homelessness in NYC, while in the same collection, include an essay about what partying at Columbia University was really like. Not only are those two topics quite disconnected from one another, but it would also be in bad taste and give an impression that you, as the writer, are unaware of your own privilege.

Once you make a decision on what would be the theme or aspect about yourself or your life that will connect all of the essays in your collection, you can begin to think about the arrangement of the essays.

How you arrange the essays in your collection is just as important as the essays themselves. There are a few different ways that you can do this: chronologically, for impact, or, to create a cohesive narrative whole.

First and foremost, each essay you have chosen needs to present a point and argue for or against that point, based on your perspective. A collection of essays is not a memoir or an autobiography that will recount past events or experiences – but, an essay will contain those past experiences, along with a certain amount of established, confirmed research findings if you’re dwelling into themes and topics where you need the support of such findings to argue your points. But, an essay needs to have a point, it should end on an abrupt note where it feels unfinished, even if that note may seem powerful to you personally.

A collection of essays, in turn, needs two things: each essay needs to correspond well with the overall theme that connects all of them, and, ultimately, it needs to form a cohesive collection of ideas on the established theme. Whether this will be done through a chronological arrangement, an arrangement for impact, or through an arrangement that hints at a narrative without delving too much into fiction, will depend on both the theme and the author themselves – or, upon you as the author. But, once you decide on which path to take, then make sure to stick to it to ensure that reader gets to close your book after reading all of your essays with the feeling that they have, by reading your essays, gained a new perspective of the theme you are talking about in the essays.

Since it’s impossible to distil these different arrangements without using examples, we will go back to our two previous examples: a collection of essays written in one town, and a collection of essays about your (supposed) life as an expat. And, since we mentioned three ways, we will add another example theme, which can be feminism.

Of our previous examples of themes, the example of life as an expat works best for chronological arrangement of essays. There will be a difference in the essays one would have written in the beginning of such a major change in life, and as time goes along, those essays will have gained a different tone and perspective.

There are other themes that can benefit from chronological arrangement. For example, coming of age in a certain country, coming of age in a certain time period (the 60’s, the 70’s, the 80’s and so forth), coming of age in the time period of the early to late 2000’s, and the major worldwide changes that ensued as a result of the technology boom, or, growing up with a smartphone in hand (something that we assume newly fledged adults will be writing about in the next decade).

The common correlation between all of these themes is time: as time passes, the perspective changes. There is always a change in the tone from the first to the last essay, and the last essay should wrap things up and offer a conclusion on the overall theme presented in the collection. In the end, reading such a collection makes the reader feel that they have gone through a philosophical journey just as much as the author did, and are able to understand the author’s perspective and ideas – even if they don’t agree with them.

Another title for this section could be “arranging due to impact” because there are two different paths the author can take here. First, you can arrange the essays to create a different impact with each of them. Meaning, each essay’s impact will be calculated and placed specifically in that spot in the collection because that essay will be more painful, powerful, or maybe, more humorous than the ones before and after it. Depending on the difficulty of the themes you’re tackling, you might want to arrange the essays in such a way so as to not overwhelm your readers.

To go back to our example, let’s say that your collection is about living a single town. Life in a single town, in which case you can have essays about life, which yes, will include death and birth and everything in between. For example, if your first essay is about death, grief, or mourning, you may have exhausted the reader completely, even though they’ve just begun reading your collection of essays.

However, on the other hand, maybe you do want to start with a bang and then continue on with the other essays. In this case, you want to ensure that you do not use up the most powerful essays all at once in the beginning of the collection, because then your readers might not stick around when the individual themes and topics of the essays become lighter.

In the end, when it comes to arranging for impact – or as a result of the impact of the individual essays – you are the one who should make the final decision on which way you will go. However, it’s very important to keep this impact in mind because ultimately, you want the readers to enjoy reading your collection, even if it deals with difficult themes (and, truthfully, though often humorous, most collection of essays do deal with difficult themes that would make most people even a little uncomfortable). So, the idea is to ease your readers into it before presenting them with some of the most difficult essays – essays that would have a great emotional impact on the readers.

Which brings us to arranging with hints of narrative – and dealing with difficult themes.

how to write an essay collection

When it comes to dealing with difficult themes – or, perhaps the better word here would be traumatic themes – like rape, grief, mourning, murder, suicide, – arranging the essays in such a collection can be a huge challenge.

And the truth is that there is no “correct” way of arranging the essays when it comes to themes like these. Your readers will always fall into two categories: people who have gone through that traumatic experience, and people who haven’t. And each individual from both groups will experience your collection differently.

The reason why we mentioned arranging the essays with a hint of a narrative is because when it comes to themes like dealing with trauma and grief, arranging the essays in such a way can give the reader hope – especially if you do have essays that focus on the aspect of healing. If that’s the case, you have the opportunity to divide the essays in three parts (just like a novel has a beginning, a middle, and an ending). You have the essays that talk about life before the traumatic event, the traumatic event, the post-traumatic period, and the healing period.

Please note that this doesn’t mean that you need to create a fictional story or to rewrite your essays so that they read like fiction, or a string of loosely connected short stories. If you do that, you’ve delved either into fiction territory, or the territory of a memoir or an autobiography (about a certain time period of life). What we talk about is having the essays arranged in such a manner as to show the process of dealing with the trauma and healing.

Or, in other words, you are not always right. Here, we will get a bit away from difficult themes and talk about the other type of difficult topics that we are dealing with today: social issues. As the year 2020 showed, the world is full of social injustices based on race, religion, ethnicity, wealth, sexual orientation, gender (or non-gender) … we can go on and on.

And you may have some strong opinions on these issues. That, however, automatically, will not make you right. In fact, these issues are so complicated, and each person’s views will differ so much that the writer’s background always gets involved into the importance of their opinion – which is not necessarily a good thing – but it happens. Even when a woman writes about what it means to be a feminist, there may be other women who will disagree with her views. Or, a person of color might write about what it means to be oppressed, and then another person of color may come forward and dispute all of those claims. Alas, that is the world we live in.

The best thing you can do is try to get a second opinion – not from a friend, a lover, or a family member, or a person who you know will agree with your views. Quite the opposite actually. Have your essays read by someone who may actually disagree with your views. Have your essays beta read by strangers whose opinion you cannot gauge before you give them your collection. Try to get as many unbiased opinions as possible, and then listen to their feedback.

And this isn’t just because you’re not always right. Additionally, there will always be the chance that some people will not understand your essays. Maybe you did not express your views in the correct manner (which happens quite often), maybe you said something that can be easily taken in a negative connotation out of context – which can later on be posted in reviews of your collection. And don’t forget that cancel culture exists – these days, any public figure can get “cancelled” really quickly because of a wrong word in a wrong spot in a single sentence. It’s not just about not offending a person, a group of people, or a whole nation or gender, it’s about not having your career ruined before it has even begun.

We’ll talk more later about the difference between being honest in your views and being offensive, but first, let’s take a look at what you would be offering in the essays themselves.

Like with any other genre of fiction or non-fiction niche, before you start with the publishing process of your essay collection, read other author’s collections – yes, in the particular theme or topic you wish to tackle.

Read as many as you can. And then, start analyzing.

In fiction, it is advisable to read as many novels in your genre so that you will ensure that you will not publish something that has been seen before. For example, you may have a great idea about a love story between an overbearing, overprotective Alpha-male, and a not-quite-submissive heroine who still needs the hero to rescue her on occasion. And if you thought how that sounds like Twilight (and its adult spawn, 50 Shades of Grey ), you’d be correct.

The same applies to non-fiction niches too. You may have a great idea about a cookbook full of your grandmother’s southern cooking recipes. But then, you do your research and discover that there are about a hundred books out there on southern cooking, and about half of them have the same recipes that you thought were unique to your grandmother’s kitchen.

The same applies to essay collections. You may think that you have great ideas and great insight into life, the universe, and everything, but you may also discover that about a hundred other authors have already said the same thing in different words.

However, do not despair! The chances of that particular scenario happening with a collection of essays is quite slim (but not impossible). Worst case scenario, a few of your essays may present ideas that have been explored by other authors. But, that doesn’t mean that your particular individual perspective will not offer anything new to the table. Because of that, read as many collections as you can, and then analyze your own essays. Decide which essays fall into the category of “no one has said this before” and the category of “someone has talked about this, but they haven’t proposed this idea’ and “people have already talked at length about this, and I’m not really offering anything new.”

And, even better news: the chances of your essays falling into the third category are even slimmer, unless you’re talking about how it’s really bad to hit and abuse street animals, for example. In other words, your essays would need to be written about universal topics with views that are easily shared by most good and kind people in the world. On the other hand, if you’re proposing new and radical ideas about what society should do to protect these street cats and street dogs, then, most of the same good and kind people in the world would probably be all ears.

So, what happens when you do have radical ideas?

First and foremost, the term “radical idea” is both vague and specific, because an idea that was radical fifty years ago is a normal and accepted idea today. An idea that goes against the established common norm is a radical idea, even if it may seem like a normal idea to you, personally. Some radical ideas are positive, however, some can be quite negative. And then, there are the ideas that appeared radical at a first glance, but in reality, they are what should have been the norm all along (like, for example, women having the right to vote and the right to equal wages in comparison to men).

As such, the first thing to do is to analyze – in the same way as in the previous section – whether your ideas can or would be considered radical by your readers. The second step is to see whether you are presenting your ideas properly. As we talked before, you do not want to be misunderstood, because that can be something that will kill your career before you’ve even begun it properly, and this can be especially important if you are planning on making a career as a public speaker and writer of essay collections.

To put it into an example, let’s use feminism as a theme here. Today, the word feminist can often be correlated with a person who believes in equal rights for all genders. On the other hand, a feminist can be also correlated with a person who believes that women need and should not only get special rights, but also special treatment. And, the line between those two gets really, really blurry quite often, so much so that, as we’ve mentioned before, a feminist can read an essay written by another feminist and disagree with the writer and call their views radical (and maybe even harmful).

The best thing to do to avoid being mislabeled and misunderstood is to be very clear in your essays that you do not discard the established norm – or the general view of the idea, but that your idea also deserves merit and consideration. To go back to feminism, or, even deeper, rape culture. Today, it is widely considered that one in five women will be the recipient of unwanted sexual and/or romantic attention. A study in the The New England Journal of Medicine suggested that this number can be lessened by teaching young girls and women to speak up when they feel that their boundaries are being threatened. However, it would be easy for that statement to be misinterpreted as “we need to teach women how to defend themselves, but there is no need to teach men about consent.”

essay collections

You might think, “Oh, they are my essays, and I will write them in any writing style I want.”

You’d be very wrong.

The language and writing style is your choice – however, remember what we talked about in a previous section: you do not wish to alienate your readers by false advertising. Meanwhile, different topics will require a different writing style. For example, observations about life in the modern small town will sound the best written in a language style that would be easy to follow and understand. You might even call it, workman-like prose that does not ask the readers to have had a high SAT score to understand.

On the other hand, if you’re writing about grief and dealing with grief, your language style will have a different requirement. Yes, it’s okay to use workmanlike prose in it too; but, since you would also want to add credibility to your opinions through established psychological research, you might want to find a balance between an academic style and workmanlike prose.

Moreover, you have essays on topics that require a more academic-sounding voice, like societal issues and similar topics. In this case, it’s best to lean slightly towards a more formal, more academic prose that will convince the readers that you know what you’re talking about.

The good news is that this is an issue you would have to deal with in the editing process – after you have chosen your essays and determined their arrangement in the collection. When the time comes for you to edit the collection – and editing is necessary, even if your essays have already been written – you can work on the writing style and use of language in your prose. That is to say, you will not be changing your views or opinions on anything, you will basically be tightening the prose.

Another thing to ensure when you’re editing the essays (which is the final step before starting the publication process), is that all of the essays use the same writing style – regardless of whether the style is humorous, serious, academic, or workmanlike prose. Even so, we would not recommend using workmanlike prose too much in your essays as this can harm your credibility and make people feel that they are reading your blog posts in print – or eBook version of them. Your writing style needs to reassure the readers that your opinions are worth reading about, that they are worth something, and that your insights into the topics you’re talking about are valuable and worth paying for (since ultimately, readers would be buying your essay collection, and you want to ensure that they have gotten their value for the money).

Finally, you would have to proofread your collection. In this step, you should pay attention to spelling and grammar mistakes, yes, but also, pay attention to repetitive words and phrases. When you’re writing in free form (or free writing), you may tend to use the same phrases over and over again without even realizing it. If your essay collection will be beta read, then ask your beta readers (even if they are your friends), to tell you about the phrases that you use most often. In fact, a good beta reader will tell you this even without you asking for that.

Finally, your collection will be ready and in mint condition. And the question that arises after that is: what now?

Well, let’s take a look at some of your options.

First and foremost, understand that publishing any book requires a lot of patience. The road to a successful release of a book is long and difficult, and it will ask you to work for a long time before you will see the fruits of your labor. This is true for any book.

Sure, you might say, but how did this author or that author do it? Well, the answer to that is: it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what the experience was for another author because each author will have their own unique story of how they got published, and, even if you follow their way step by step, you still might not get the same result because publication – successful publication – depends half on luck, and half on the quality of your work.

However, the good news is that there are some things that you can do to make the road to publication for your own essay collection easier.

1) Get out there: Meaning, establish yourself online. Create professional social media accounts for yourself, create a website and a blog. Make sure you’re not an unknown commodity because in that case, publishers will not bet on your book collection being successful, which will make it more difficult for you to get traditionally published. And, if you’re self-publishing, the same applies. A self-published book by an author with a large following online will get more traction, because you would already have a fan base waiting for your book – even if that fan base is small.

2) Get published in magazines: Both online and in print. This will require you to do your homework – meaning, do a lot of research. There are plenty of online magazines out there, as well as magazines that are still in print. Analyze your essays. The good news is that you can publish your essays individually in these magazines to gain traction, and then you will be able to attract publishers for the whole collection. The bad news is that you need to pitch your essays to the right magazines. First, you want to get published in magazines that have a large reader base. Second, you need to make sure that the content and writing style will match the magazine’s style and content. However, you can try to get published in many different magazines, which in this case, can be very helpful because it might enable you to gain traction as an essay writer (or a columnist) quicker. In other words, depending on the content of your essays, you can seek out different types of magazines that will match different essays from your collection.

3) Be a columnist or a guest blogger: Seek out bloggers who have a wide audience and try to be a guest blogger on their blog. Make sure, again, that the topics of your essays will match the topics of the blogger, and, make sure that that particular blogger is a person whom you would not mind to be associated with later on. On the other hand, when it comes to magazines, instead of trying to sell your essays to them, try to become their guest columnist. Again, this doesn’t mean that you need to track down a cooking magazine and try to write a column for them. The magazine should be publishing material that fits you as a writer and fits the themes that you like to write about, especially because a column is a piece that is very close to an essay – meaning, the writer shares their own personal opinion about a certain theme, topic or an issue.

To conclude here, before you begin the publishing process – of which we’ll talk about next – try to make a name for yourself out there. For example, some vloggers from YouTube have landed publishing deals due to garnering a big following there. Having a platform that will wait for your work to get published can be a huge help in having a successful publication that will kick-start your career as a writer – even if you’re not getting traditionally published.

As with any other publication process, you can take two different routes: self-publishing, or traditional publishing. And, if you think that one or the other is easier, you’d be terribly wrong, because both routes are difficult, and, as we’ve already said in this guide, it will require patience.

First, getting an online platform – or getting followers online on social media and websites like YouTube or even Twitch, can be a huge help. It’s not a guarantee that when you publish your essay collection, it will be a major success. You may sell a lot of copies, but the general feedback might not be as optimal as you’d hoped (and nothing will hurt your ratings like bad reviews or Goodreads and Amazon, the two platforms that people use the most these days when they choose the next books).

But, let’s talk about the two publishing processes so far.

Self-publishing: it can be done through Amazon and other platforms, but Amazon also offers print-on-demand, which means that you can get published both in print and in eBook format easily. In this case, your job will involve becoming your own marketing consultant, your own publicist, and your own sponsor for ads and other paid promotion options. And yes, this can be a huge cost for you, and you will not have the guarantee that your investment will pay off. What you can do is ensure that the book has a catchy title and a blurb. Focus on who you are: what makes you unique? Is it your cultural background, or is it your personal experience with the topics you would be covering in your essay collection? Whatever makes you, the writer, unique, needs to be put in the blurb for your essay collection. Read other books’ blurbs.

For example, Roxane Gay’s extremely successful Bad Feminist has what makes her unique in the title: she considers herself an unconventional feminist, and the essays in that essay collection all revolve around that topic. On the other hand, you have Aleksandar Hemon’s The Book of My Lives , which chronicles his life in Sarajevo before the war, and his life in Chicago while his hometown is under siege, where the only thing he was able to do was watch from afar. The one similarity it has with Bad Feminist is in the title: it immediately points to what makes the author unique and what makes their perspective unique. So, your book collection’s title itself should point out to both what makes you, as the writer, unique, and it should point to the topics you are talking about in your essays.

Meanwhile, don’t forget about the cover. Again, it should suit the themes and topics you are covering, and, it should look professional and well done. If you have the skills to create a cover on your own, that’s great, but if your cover looks like something a teenager created while writing fanfiction on Wattpad (and even on that platform, fanfiction covers have become better and better), then you might consider hiring a professional to do it for you.

Traditional publishing: you might think that getting traditionally published will save you the headache of dealing with everything we’ve described above. Again, you’d be wrong. Getting traditionally published means finding a publisher for your novel. Many publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, no matter how well written they are, and if they do, you might end up in the slush pile that gets touched upon once or twice every quarter. With a lot of other manuscripts, essay collections written by authors like yourself.

To avoid this, you would need an agent, someone who will pitch your essay collection to the correct publishing houses that, in turn, might want to sign you on. First, you need the right agent – someone who is established in the niche that is essay collections, and who has successfully worked with other authors who’ve published similar works, like biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. Even so, your best bet might be an agent who’s worked with author’s who’ve published essay collections – or at least one or two authors. Next, it would be a good idea if the agent also has experience in publishing essay collections in similar topics to the ones in your collection.

Furthermore, the publishing house you will be aiming for – if you have a good agent, they will probably already know which publishing houses would be interested in publishing your work. However, if you do not have an agent yet and you still want to send your manuscripts to publishing houses that do accept unsolicited manuscripts, make sure it’s the right publishing houses – meaning, again, they will have published similar work before. Do not send your manuscript of essay collections to a publishing house – or an imprint of a publishing house – that publishes collections of short stories or anthologies. First, they will probably not sign you on, second, even if they do, their audience is not the right audience for your essay collection.

Again, even if you do get an agent, that agent will need something to work with, and not just your essays and the topics you’re covering. For example, sure, you might have written several essays on race and social injustice, but, today, there are many essay collections that deal with that topic, so, there has to be something about you – or your essays – that sets your work apart from all of those that have come before. Moreover, a publisher might reject your manuscript simply because you’re an unknown author who hasn’t established themselves yet, and, even though your essays are well written and have great insights into many problems of the world today, they might not sign you on because they don’t believe that your essay collection will sell well.

That’s why we can’t recommend this enough: create an online presence for yourself, first and foremost. Even if it takes you a year to actually publish your essay collection, start building that online presence right now. Moreover, there are different ways to use social media in a way that will benefit you, the author, and your brand (or the brand you will build around your name as an author). Be careful not to post something or say something online that will backfire on you in the future.

If you want to self-publish, do not do it immediately. Start with the online presence. Then, create a book page for your book on Goodreads. Set up a publication date some months in the future, and create a pre-order page on Amazon. Create a website and a blog, and connect your online presence with the website and the blog. Send out ARCs (advanced reading copies) to reviewers who have a following, and, more importantly, who have reviewed essay collections before. Try to gain traction by being a guest blogger with bloggers who focus on similar themes as yours, and who, ideally, have a large platform themselves and are willing to have you on their blog.

Ultimately, whichever publication route you take, prepare yourself for a lot of work and a lot of patience. It might be a while before your work sees the light of day. Make sure that your essays in the collection have a timeless value (for example, if your essay is talking about a topic that was prevalent and specific when you originally wrote it in 2014, it might not be quite relevant in 2021). More importantly, once you start building your author’s brand online, do not stop, and do not quit. Keep going, even if it takes you a while to build your platform – because, without it, all of your effort might not lead to the commercial success you want. And again, while a platform is no guarantee, it certainly will help to an extent.

Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As a screenwriting student, she is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, watching a film or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her own.

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Definition of essay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Definition of essay  (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

  • composition

attempt , try , endeavor , essay , strive mean to make an effort to accomplish an end.

attempt stresses the initiation or beginning of an effort.

try is often close to attempt but may stress effort or experiment made in the hope of testing or proving something.

endeavor heightens the implications of exertion and difficulty.

essay implies difficulty but also suggests tentative trying or experimenting.

strive implies great exertion against great difficulty and specifically suggests persistent effort.

Examples of essay in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'essay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Middle French essai , ultimately from Late Latin exagium act of weighing, from Latin ex- + agere to drive — more at agent

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Phrases Containing essay

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Cite this entry.

“Essay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/essay. Accessed 1 Jun. 2024.

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What is Essay? Definition, Usage, and Literary Examples

Essay definition.

An essay (ES-ey) is a nonfiction composition that explores a concept, argument, idea, or opinion from the personal perspective of the writer. Essays are usually a few pages, but they can also be book-length. Unlike other forms of nonfiction writing, like textbooks or biographies, an essay doesn’t inherently require research. Literary essayists are conveying ideas in a more informal way.

The word essay comes from the Late Latin exigere , meaning “ascertain or weigh,” which later became essayer in Old French. The late-15th-century version came to mean “test the quality of.” It’s this latter derivation that French philosopher Michel de Montaigne first used to describe a composition.

History of the Essay

Michel de Montaigne first coined the term essayer to describe Plutarch’s Oeuvres Morales , which is now widely considered to be a collection of essays. Under the new term, Montaigne wrote the first official collection of essays, Essais , in 1580. Montaigne’s goal was to pen his personal ideas in prose . In 1597, a collection of Francis Bacon’s work appeared as the first essay collection written in English. The term essayist was first used by English playwright Ben Jonson in 1609.

Types of Essays

There are many ways to categorize essays. Aldous Huxley, a leading essayist, determined that there are three major groups: personal and autobiographical, objective and factual, and abstract and universal. Within these groups, several other types can exist, including the following:

  • Academic Essays : Educators frequently assign essays to encourage students to think deeply about a given subject and to assess the student’s knowledge. As such, an academic essay employs a formal language and tone, and it may include references and a bibliography. It’s objective and factual, and it typically uses a five-paragraph model of an introduction, two or more body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Several other essay types, like descriptive, argumentative, and expository, can fall under the umbrella of an academic essay.
  • Analytical Essays : An analytical essay breaks down and interprets something, like an event, piece of literature, or artwork. This type of essay combines abstraction and personal viewpoints. Professional reviews of movies, TV shows, and albums are likely the most common form of analytical essays that people encounter in everyday life.
  • Argumentative/Persuasive Essays : In an argumentative or persuasive essay, the essayist offers their opinion on a debatable topic and refutes opposing views. Their goal is to get the reader to agree with them. Argumentative/persuasive essays can be personal, factual, and even both at the same time. They can also be humorous or satirical; Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal is a satirical essay arguing that the best way for Irish people to get out of poverty is to sell their children to rich people as a food source.
  • Descriptive Essays : In a descriptive essay, the essayist describes something, someone, or an event in great detail. The essay’s subject can be something concrete, meaning it can be experienced with any or all of the five senses, or abstract, meaning it can’t be interacted with in a physical sense.
  • Expository Essay : An expository essay is a factual piece of writing that explains a particular concept or issue. Investigative journalists often write expository essays in their beat, and things like manuals or how-to guides are also written in an expository style.
  • Narrative/Personal : In a narrative or personal essay, the essayist tells a story, which is usually a recounting of a personal event. Narrative and personal essays may attempt to support a moral or lesson. People are often most familiar with this category as many writers and celebrities frequently publish essay collections.

Notable Essayists

  • James Baldwin, “ Notes of a Native Son ”
  • Joan Didion, “ Goodbye To All That ”
  • George Orwell, “ Shooting an Elephant ”
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, “ Self-Reliance ”
  • Virginia Woolf, " Three Guineas "

Examples of Literary Essays

1. Michel De Montaigne, “Of Presumption”

De Montaigne’s essay explores multiple topics, including his reasons for writing essays, his dissatisfaction with contemporary education, and his own victories and failings. As the father of the essay, Montaigne details characteristics of what he thinks an essay should be. His writing has a stream-of-consciousness organization that doesn’t follow a structure, and he expresses the importance of looking inward at oneself, pointing to the essay’s personal nature.

2. Virginia Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own”

Woolf’s feminist essay, written from the perspective of an unknown, fictional woman, argues that sexism keeps women from fully realizing their potential. Woolf posits that a woman needs only an income and a room of her own to express her creativity. The fictional persona Woolf uses is meant to teach the reader a greater truth: making both literal and metaphorical space for women in the world is integral to their success and wellbeing.

3. James Baldwin, “Everybody’s Protest Novel”

In this essay, Baldwin argues that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin doesn’t serve the black community the way his contemporaries thought it did. He points out that it equates “goodness” with how well-assimilated the black characters are in white culture:

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a very bad novel, having, in its self-righteous, virtuous sentimentality, much in common with Little Women. Sentimentality […] is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel; […] and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.

This essay is both analytical and argumentative. Baldwin analyzes the novel and argues against those who champion it.

Further Resources on Essays

Top Writing Tips offers an in-depth history of the essay.

The Harvard Writing Center offers tips on outlining an essay.

We at SuperSummary have an excellent essay writing resource guide .

Related Terms

  • Academic Essay
  • Argumentative Essay
  • Expository Essay
  • Narrative Essay
  • Persuasive Essay

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The 10 Best Essay Collections of the Decade

Ever tried. ever failed. no matter..

Friends, it’s true: the end of the decade approaches. It’s been a difficult, anxiety-provoking, morally compromised decade, but at least it’s been populated by some damn fine literature. We’ll take our silver linings where we can.

So, as is our hallowed duty as a literary and culture website—though with full awareness of the potentially fruitless and endlessly contestable nature of the task—in the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a look at the best and most important (these being not always the same) books of the decade that was. We will do this, of course, by means of a variety of lists. We began with the best debut novels , the best short story collections , the best poetry collections , and the best memoirs of the decade , and we have now reached the fifth list in our series: the best essay collections published in English between 2010 and 2019.

The following books were chosen after much debate (and several rounds of voting) by the Literary Hub staff. Tears were spilled, feelings were hurt, books were re-read. And as you’ll shortly see, we had a hard time choosing just ten—so we’ve also included a list of dissenting opinions, and an even longer list of also-rans. As ever, free to add any of your own favorites that we’ve missed in the comments below.

The Top Ten

Oliver sacks, the mind’s eye (2010).

Toward the end of his life, maybe suspecting or sensing that it was coming to a close, Dr. Oliver Sacks tended to focus his efforts on sweeping intellectual projects like On the Move (a memoir), The River of Consciousness (a hybrid intellectual history), and Hallucinations (a book-length meditation on, what else, hallucinations). But in 2010, he gave us one more classic in the style that first made him famous, a form he revolutionized and brought into the contemporary literary canon: the medical case study as essay. In The Mind’s Eye , Sacks focuses on vision, expanding the notion to embrace not only how we see the world, but also how we map that world onto our brains when our eyes are closed and we’re communing with the deeper recesses of consciousness. Relaying histories of patients and public figures, as well as his own history of ocular cancer (the condition that would eventually spread and contribute to his death), Sacks uses vision as a lens through which to see all of what makes us human, what binds us together, and what keeps us painfully apart. The essays that make up this collection are quintessential Sacks: sensitive, searching, with an expertise that conveys scientific information and experimentation in terms we can not only comprehend, but which also expand how we see life carrying on around us. The case studies of “Stereo Sue,” of the concert pianist Lillian Kalir, and of Howard, the mystery novelist who can no longer read, are highlights of the collection, but each essay is a kind of gem, mined and polished by one of the great storytellers of our era.  –Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads Managing Editor

John Jeremiah Sullivan, Pulphead (2011)

The American essay was having a moment at the beginning of the decade, and Pulphead was smack in the middle. Without any hard data, I can tell you that this collection of John Jeremiah Sullivan’s magazine features—published primarily in GQ , but also in The Paris Review , and Harper’s —was the only full book of essays most of my literary friends had read since Slouching Towards Bethlehem , and probably one of the only full books of essays they had even heard of.

Well, we all picked a good one. Every essay in Pulphead is brilliant and entertaining, and illuminates some small corner of the American experience—even if it’s just one house, with Sullivan and an aging writer inside (“Mr. Lytle” is in fact a standout in a collection with no filler; fittingly, it won a National Magazine Award and a Pushcart Prize). But what are they about? Oh, Axl Rose, Christian Rock festivals, living around the filming of One Tree Hill , the Tea Party movement, Michael Jackson, Bunny Wailer, the influence of animals, and by god, the Miz (of Real World/Road Rules Challenge fame).

But as Dan Kois has pointed out , what connects these essays, apart from their general tone and excellence, is “their author’s essential curiosity about the world, his eye for the perfect detail, and his great good humor in revealing both his subjects’ and his own foibles.” They are also extremely well written, drawing much from fictional techniques and sentence craft, their literary pleasures so acute and remarkable that James Wood began his review of the collection in The New Yorker with a quiz: “Are the following sentences the beginnings of essays or of short stories?” (It was not a hard quiz, considering the context.)

It’s hard not to feel, reading this collection, like someone reached into your brain, took out the half-baked stuff you talk about with your friends, researched it, lived it, and represented it to you smarter and better and more thoroughly than you ever could. So read it in awe if you must, but read it.  –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Aleksandar Hemon, The Book of My Lives (2013)

Such is the sentence-level virtuosity of Aleksandar Hemon—the Bosnian-American writer, essayist, and critic—that throughout his career he has frequently been compared to the granddaddy of borrowed language prose stylists: Vladimir Nabokov. While it is, of course, objectively remarkable that anyone could write so beautifully in a language they learned in their twenties, what I admire most about Hemon’s work is the way in which he infuses every essay and story and novel with both a deep humanity and a controlled (but never subdued) fury. He can also be damn funny. Hemon grew up in Sarajevo and left in 1992 to study in Chicago, where he almost immediately found himself stranded, forced to watch from afar as his beloved home city was subjected to a relentless four-year bombardment, the longest siege of a capital in the history of modern warfare. This extraordinary memoir-in-essays is many things: it’s a love letter to both the family that raised him and the family he built in exile; it’s a rich, joyous, and complex portrait of a place the 90s made synonymous with war and devastation; and it’s an elegy for the wrenching loss of precious things. There’s an essay about coming of age in Sarajevo and another about why he can’t bring himself to leave Chicago. There are stories about relationships forged and maintained on the soccer pitch or over the chessboard, and stories about neighbors and mentors turned monstrous by ethnic prejudice. As a chorus they sing with insight, wry humor, and unimaginable sorrow. I am not exaggerating when I say that the collection’s devastating final piece, “The Aquarium”—which details his infant daughter’s brain tumor and the agonizing months which led up to her death—remains the most painful essay I have ever read.  –Dan Sheehan, Book Marks Editor

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass (2013)

Of every essay in my relentlessly earmarked copy of Braiding Sweetgrass , Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s gorgeously rendered argument for why and how we should keep going, there’s one that especially hits home: her account of professor-turned-forester Franz Dolp. When Dolp, several decades ago, revisited the farm that he had once shared with his ex-wife, he found a scene of destruction: The farm’s new owners had razed the land where he had tried to build a life. “I sat among the stumps and the swirling red dust and I cried,” he wrote in his journal.

So many in my generation (and younger) feel this kind of helplessness–and considerable rage–at finding ourselves newly adult in a world where those in power seem determined to abandon or destroy everything that human bodies have always needed to survive: air, water, land. Asking any single book to speak to this helplessness feels unfair, somehow; yet, Braiding Sweetgrass does, by weaving descriptions of indigenous tradition with the environmental sciences in order to show what survival has looked like over the course of many millennia. Kimmerer’s essays describe her personal experience as a Potawotami woman, plant ecologist, and teacher alongside stories of the many ways that humans have lived in relationship to other species. Whether describing Dolp’s work–he left the stumps for a life of forest restoration on the Oregon coast–or the work of others in maple sugar harvesting, creating black ash baskets, or planting a Three Sisters garden of corn, beans, and squash, she brings hope. “In ripe ears and swelling fruit, they counsel us that all gifts are multiplied in relationship,” she writes of the Three Sisters, which all sustain one another as they grow. “This is how the world keeps going.”  –Corinne Segal, Senior Editor

Hilton Als, White Girls (2013)

In a world where we are so often reduced to one essential self, Hilton Als’ breathtaking book of critical essays, White Girls , which meditates on the ways he and other subjects read, project and absorb parts of white femininity, is a radically liberating book. It’s one of the only works of critical thinking that doesn’t ask the reader, its author or anyone he writes about to stoop before the doorframe of complete legibility before entering. Something he also permitted the subjects and readers of his first book, the glorious book-length essay, The Women , a series of riffs and psychological portraits of Dorothy Dean, Owen Dodson, and the author’s own mother, among others. One of the shifts of that book, uncommon at the time, was how it acknowledges the way we inhabit bodies made up of variously gendered influences. To read White Girls now is to experience the utter freedom of this gift and to marvel at Als’ tremendous versatility and intelligence.

He is easily the most diversely talented American critic alive. He can write into genres like pop music and film where being part of an audience is a fantasy happening in the dark. He’s also wired enough to know how the art world builds reputations on the nod of rich white patrons, a significant collision in a time when Jean-Michel Basquiat is America’s most expensive modern artist. Als’ swerving and always moving grip on performance means he’s especially good on describing the effect of art which is volatile and unstable and built on the mingling of made-up concepts and the hard fact of their effect on behavior, such as race. Writing on Flannery O’Connor for instance he alone puts a finger on her “uneasy and unavoidable union between black and white, the sacred and the profane, the shit and the stars.” From Eminem to Richard Pryor, André Leon Talley to Michael Jackson, Als enters the life and work of numerous artists here who turn the fascinations of race and with whiteness into fury and song and describes the complexity of their beauty like his life depended upon it. There are also brief memoirs here that will stop your heart. This is an essential work to understanding American culture.  –John Freeman, Executive Editor

Eula Biss, On Immunity (2014)

We move through the world as if we can protect ourselves from its myriad dangers, exercising what little agency we have in an effort to keep at bay those fears that gather at the edges of any given life: of loss, illness, disaster, death. It is these fears—amplified by the birth of her first child—that Eula Biss confronts in her essential 2014 essay collection, On Immunity . As any great essayist does, Biss moves outward in concentric circles from her own very private view of the world to reveal wider truths, discovering as she does a culture consumed by anxiety at the pervasive toxicity of contemporary life. As Biss interrogates this culture—of privilege, of whiteness—she interrogates herself, questioning the flimsy ways in which we arm ourselves with science or superstition against the impurities of daily existence.

Five years on from its publication, it is dismaying that On Immunity feels as urgent (and necessary) a defense of basic science as ever. Vaccination, we learn, is derived from vacca —for cow—after the 17th-century discovery that a small application of cowpox was often enough to inoculate against the scourge of smallpox, an etymological digression that belies modern conspiratorial fears of Big Pharma and its vaccination agenda. But Biss never scolds or belittles the fears of others, and in her generosity and openness pulls off a neat (and important) trick: insofar as we are of the very world we fear, she seems to be suggesting, we ourselves are impure, have always been so, permeable, vulnerable, yet so much stronger than we think.  –Jonny Diamond, Editor-in-Chief 

Rebecca Solnit, The Mother of All Questions (2016)

When Rebecca Solnit’s essay, “Men Explain Things to Me,” was published in 2008, it quickly became a cultural phenomenon unlike almost any other in recent memory, assigning language to a behavior that almost every woman has witnessed—mansplaining—and, in the course of identifying that behavior, spurring a movement, online and offline, to share the ways in which patriarchal arrogance has intersected all our lives. (It would also come to be the titular essay in her collection published in 2014.) The Mother of All Questions follows up on that work and takes it further in order to examine the nature of self-expression—who is afforded it and denied it, what institutions have been put in place to limit it, and what happens when it is employed by women. Solnit has a singular gift for describing and decoding the misogynistic dynamics that govern the world so universally that they can seem invisible and the gendered violence that is so common as to seem unremarkable; this naming is powerful, and it opens space for sharing the stories that shape our lives.

The Mother of All Questions, comprised of essays written between 2014 and 2016, in many ways armed us with some of the tools necessary to survive the gaslighting of the Trump years, in which many of us—and especially women—have continued to hear from those in power that the things we see and hear do not exist and never existed. Solnit also acknowledges that labels like “woman,” and other gendered labels, are identities that are fluid in reality; in reviewing the book for The New Yorker , Moira Donegan suggested that, “One useful working definition of a woman might be ‘someone who experiences misogyny.'” Whichever words we use, Solnit writes in the introduction to the book that “when words break through unspeakability, what was tolerated by a society sometimes becomes intolerable.” This storytelling work has always been vital; it continues to be vital, and in this book, it is brilliantly done.  –Corinne Segal, Senior Editor

Valeria Luiselli, Tell Me How It Ends (2017)

The newly minted MacArthur fellow Valeria Luiselli’s four-part (but really six-part) essay  Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions  was inspired by her time spent volunteering at the federal immigration court in New York City, working as an interpreter for undocumented, unaccompanied migrant children who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. Written concurrently with her novel  Lost Children Archive  (a fictional exploration of the same topic), Luiselli’s essay offers a fascinating conceit, the fashioning of an argument from the questions on the government intake form given to these children to process their arrivals. (Aside from the fact that this essay is a heartbreaking masterpiece, this is such a  good  conceit—transforming a cold, reproducible administrative document into highly personal literature.) Luiselli interweaves a grounded discussion of the questionnaire with a narrative of the road trip Luiselli takes with her husband and family, across America, while they (both Mexican citizens) wait for their own Green Card applications to be processed. It is on this trip when Luiselli reflects on the thousands of migrant children mysteriously traveling across the border by themselves. But the real point of the essay is to actually delve into the real stories of some of these children, which are agonizing, as well as to gravely, clearly expose what literally happens, procedural, when they do arrive—from forms to courts, as they’re swallowed by a bureaucratic vortex. Amid all of this, Luiselli also takes on more, exploring the larger contextual relationship between the United States of America and Mexico (as well as other countries in Central America, more broadly) as it has evolved to our current, adverse moment.  Tell Me How It Ends  is so small, but it is so passionate and vigorous: it desperately accomplishes in its less-than-100-pages-of-prose what centuries and miles and endless records of federal bureaucracy have never been able, and have never cared, to do: reverse the dehumanization of Latin American immigrants that occurs once they set foot in this country.  –Olivia Rutigliano, CrimeReads Editorial Fellow

Zadie Smith, Feel Free (2018)

In the essay “Meet Justin Bieber!” in Feel Free , Zadie Smith writes that her interest in Justin Bieber is not an interest in the interiority of the singer himself, but in “the idea of the love object”. This essay—in which Smith imagines a meeting between Bieber and the late philosopher Martin Buber (“Bieber and Buber are alternative spellings of the same German surname,” she explains in one of many winning footnotes. “Who am I to ignore these hints from the universe?”). Smith allows that this premise is a bit premise -y: “I know, I know.” Still, the resulting essay is a very funny, very smart, and un-tricky exploration of individuality and true “meeting,” with a dash of late capitalism thrown in for good measure. The melding of high and low culture is the bread and butter of pretty much every prestige publication on the internet these days (and certainly of the Twitter feeds of all “public intellectuals”), but the essays in Smith’s collection don’t feel familiar—perhaps because hers is, as we’ve long known, an uncommon skill. Though I believe Smith could probably write compellingly about anything, she chooses her subjects wisely. She writes with as much electricity about Brexit as the aforementioned Beliebers—and each essay is utterly engrossing. “She contains multitudes, but her point is we all do,” writes Hermione Hoby in her review of the collection in The New Republic . “At the same time, we are, in our endless difference, nobody but ourselves.”  –Jessie Gaynor, Social Media Editor

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Thick: And Other Essays (2019)

Tressie McMillan Cottom is an academic who has transcended the ivory tower to become the sort of public intellectual who can easily appear on radio or television talk shows to discuss race, gender, and capitalism. Her collection of essays reflects this duality, blending scholarly work with memoir to create a collection on the black female experience in postmodern America that’s “intersectional analysis with a side of pop culture.” The essays range from an analysis of sexual violence, to populist politics, to social media, but in centering her own experiences throughout, the collection becomes something unlike other pieces of criticism of contemporary culture. In explaining the title, she reflects on what an editor had said about her work: “I was too readable to be academic, too deep to be popular, too country black to be literary, and too naïve to show the rigor of my thinking in the complexity of my prose. I had wanted to create something meaningful that sounded not only like me, but like all of me. It was too thick.” One of the most powerful essays in the book is “Dying to be Competent” which begins with her unpacking the idiocy of LinkedIn (and the myth of meritocracy) and ends with a description of her miscarriage, the mishandling of black woman’s pain, and a condemnation of healthcare bureaucracy. A finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction, Thick confirms McMillan Cottom as one of our most fearless public intellectuals and one of the most vital.  –Emily Firetog, Deputy Editor

Dissenting Opinions

The following books were just barely nudged out of the top ten, but we (or at least one of us) couldn’t let them pass without comment.

Elif Batuman, The Possessed (2010)

In The Possessed Elif Batuman indulges her love of Russian literature and the result is hilarious and remarkable. Each essay of the collection chronicles some adventure or other that she had while in graduate school for Comparative Literature and each is more unpredictable than the next. There’s the time a “well-known 20th-centuryist” gave a graduate student the finger; and the time when Batuman ended up living in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, for a summer; and the time that she convinced herself Tolstoy was murdered and spent the length of the Tolstoy Conference in Yasnaya Polyana considering clues and motives. Rich in historic detail about Russian authors and literature and thoughtfully constructed, each essay is an amalgam of critical analysis, cultural criticism, and serious contemplation of big ideas like that of identity, intellectual legacy, and authorship. With wit and a serpentine-like shape to her narratives, Batuman adopts a form reminiscent of a Socratic discourse, setting up questions at the beginning of her essays and then following digressions that more or less entreat the reader to synthesize the answer for herself. The digressions are always amusing and arguably the backbone of the collection, relaying absurd anecdotes with foreign scholars or awkward, surreal encounters with Eastern European strangers. Central also to the collection are Batuman’s intellectual asides where she entertains a theory—like the “problem of the person”: the inability to ever wholly capture one’s character—that ultimately layer the book’s themes. “You are certainly my most entertaining student,” a professor said to Batuman. But she is also curious and enthusiastic and reflective and so knowledgeable that she might even convince you (she has me!) that you too love Russian literature as much as she does. –Eleni Theodoropoulos, Editorial Fellow

Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist (2014)

Roxane Gay’s now-classic essay collection is a book that will make you laugh, think, cry, and then wonder, how can cultural criticism be this fun? My favorite essays in the book include Gay’s musings on competitive Scrabble, her stranded-in-academia dispatches, and her joyous film and television criticism, but given the breadth of topics Roxane Gay can discuss in an entertaining manner, there’s something for everyone in this one. This book is accessible because feminism itself should be accessible – Roxane Gay is as likely to draw inspiration from YA novels, or middle-brow shows about friendship, as she is to introduce concepts from the academic world, and if there’s anyone I trust to bridge the gap between high culture, low culture, and pop culture, it’s the Goddess of Twitter. I used to host a book club dedicated to radical reads, and this was one of the first picks for the club; a week after the book club met, I spied a few of the attendees meeting in the café of the bookstore, and found out that they had bonded so much over discussing  Bad Feminist  that they couldn’t wait for the next meeting of the book club to keep discussing politics and intersectionality, and that, in a nutshell, is the power of Roxane. –Molly Odintz, CrimeReads Associate Editor

Rivka Galchen, Little Labors (2016)

Generally, I find stories about the trials and tribulations of child-having to be of limited appeal—useful, maybe, insofar as they offer validation that other people have also endured the bizarre realities of living with a tiny human, but otherwise liable to drift into the musings of parents thrilled at the simple fact of their own fecundity, as if they were the first ones to figure the process out (or not). But Little Labors is not simply an essay collection about motherhood, perhaps because Galchen initially “didn’t want to write about” her new baby—mostly, she writes, “because I had never been interested in babies, or mothers; in fact, those subjects had seemed perfectly not interesting to me.” Like many new mothers, though, Galchen soon discovered her baby—which she refers to sometimes as “the puma”—to be a preoccupying thought, demanding to be written about. Galchen’s interest isn’t just in her own progeny, but in babies in literature (“Literature has more dogs than babies, and also more abortions”), The Pillow Book , the eleventh-century collection of musings by Sei Shōnagon, and writers who are mothers. There are sections that made me laugh out loud, like when Galchen continually finds herself in an elevator with a neighbor who never fails to remark on the puma’s size. There are also deeper, darker musings, like the realization that the baby means “that it’s not permissible to die. There are days when this does not feel good.” It is a slim collection that I happened to read at the perfect time, and it remains one of my favorites of the decade. –Emily Firetog, Deputy Editor

Charlie Fox, This Young Monster (2017)

On social media as in his writing, British art critic Charlie Fox rejects lucidity for allusion and doesn’t quite answer the Twitter textbox’s persistent question: “What’s happening?” These days, it’s hard to tell.  This Young Monster  (2017), Fox’s first book,was published a few months after Donald Trump’s election, and at one point Fox takes a swipe at a man he judges “direct from a nightmare and just a repulsive fucking goon.” Fox doesn’t linger on politics, though, since most of the monsters he looks at “embody otherness and make it into art, ripping any conventional idea of beauty to shreds and replacing it with something weird and troubling of their own invention.”

If clichés are loathed because they conform to what philosopher Georges Bataille called “the common measure,” then monsters are rebellious non-sequiturs, comedic or horrific derailments from a classical ideal. Perverts in the most literal sense, monsters have gone astray from some “proper” course. The book’s nine chapters, which are about a specific monster or type of monster, are full of callbacks to familiar and lesser-known media. Fox cites visual art, film, songs, and books with the screwy buoyancy of a savant. Take one of his essays, “Spook House,” framed as a stage play with two principal characters, Klaus (“an intoxicated young skinhead vampire”) and Hermione (“a teen sorceress with green skin and jet-black hair” who looks more like The Wicked Witch than her namesake). The chorus is a troupe of trick-or-treaters. Using the filmmaker Cameron Jamie as a starting point, the rest is free association on gothic decadence and Detroit and L.A. as cities of the dead. All the while, Klaus quotes from  Artforum ,  Dazed & Confused , and  Time Out. It’s a technical feat that makes fictionalized dialogue a conveyor belt for cultural criticism.

In Fox’s imagination, David Bowie and the Hydra coexist alongside Peter Pan, Dennis Hopper, and the maenads. Fox’s book reaches for the monster’s mask, not really to peel it off but to feel and smell the rubber schnoz, to know how it’s made before making sure it’s still snugly set. With a stylistic blend of arthouse suavity and B-movie chic,  This Young Monster considers how monsters in culture are made. Aren’t the scariest things made in post-production? Isn’t the creature just duplicity, like a looping choir or a dubbed scream? –Aaron Robertson, Assistant Editor

Elena Passarello, Animals Strike Curious Poses (2017)

Elena Passarello’s collection of essays Animals Strike Curious Poses picks out infamous animals and grants them the voice, narrative, and history they deserve. Not only is a collection like this relevant during the sixth extinction but it is an ambitious historical and anthropological undertaking, which Passarello has tackled with thorough research and a playful tone that rather than compromise her subject, complicates and humanizes it. Passarello’s intention is to investigate the role of animals across the span of human civilization and in doing so, to construct a timeline of humanity as told through people’s interactions with said animals. “Of all the images that make our world, animal images are particularly buried inside us,” Passarello writes in her first essay, to introduce us to the object of the book and also to the oldest of her chosen characters: Yuka, a 39,000-year-old mummified woolly mammoth discovered in the Siberian permafrost in 2010. It was an occasion so remarkable and so unfathomable given the span of human civilization that Passarello says of Yuka: “Since language is epically younger than both thought and experience, ‘woolly mammoth’ means, to a human brain, something more like time.” The essay ends with a character placing a hand on a cave drawing of a woolly mammoth, accompanied by a phrase which encapsulates the author’s vision for the book: “And he becomes the mammoth so he can envision the mammoth.” In Passarello’s hands the imagined boundaries between the animal, natural, and human world disintegrate and what emerges is a cohesive if baffling integrated history of life. With the accuracy and tenacity of a journalist and the spirit of a storyteller, Elena Passarello has assembled a modern bestiary worthy of contemplation and awe. –Eleni Theodoropoulos, Editorial Fellow

Esmé Weijun Wang, The Collected Schizophrenias (2019)

Esmé Weijun Wang’s collection of essays is a kaleidoscopic look at mental health and the lives affected by the schizophrenias. Each essay takes on a different aspect of the topic, but you’ll want to read them together for a holistic perspective. Esmé Weijun Wang generously begins The Collected Schizophrenias by acknowledging the stereotype, “Schizophrenia terrifies. It is the archetypal disorder of lunacy.” From there, she walks us through the technical language, breaks down the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual ( DSM-5 )’s clinical definition. And then she gets very personal, telling us about how she came to her own diagnosis and the way it’s touched her daily life (her relationships, her ideas about motherhood). Esmé Weijun Wang is uniquely situated to write about this topic. As a former lab researcher at Stanford, she turns a precise, analytical eye to her experience while simultaneously unfolding everything with great patience for her reader. Throughout, she brilliantly dissects the language around mental health. (On saying “a person living with bipolar disorder” instead of using “bipolar” as the sole subject: “…we are not our diseases. We are instead individuals with disorders and malfunctions. Our conditions lie over us like smallpox blankets; we are one thing and the illness is another.”) She pinpoints the ways she arms herself against anticipated reactions to the schizophrenias: high fashion, having attended an Ivy League institution. In a particularly piercing essay, she traces mental illness back through her family tree. She also places her story within more mainstream cultural contexts, calling on groundbreaking exposés about the dangerous of institutionalization and depictions of mental illness in television and film (like the infamous Slender Man case, in which two young girls stab their best friend because an invented Internet figure told them to). At once intimate and far-reaching, The Collected Schizophrenias is an informative and important (and let’s not forget artful) work. I’ve never read a collection quite so beautifully-written and laid-bare as this. –Katie Yee, Book Marks Assistant Editor

Ross Gay, The Book of Delights (2019)

When Ross Gay began writing what would become The Book of Delights, he envisioned it as a project of daily essays, each focused on a moment or point of delight in his day. This plan quickly disintegrated; on day four, he skipped his self-imposed assignment and decided to “in honor and love, delight in blowing it off.” (Clearly, “blowing it off” is a relative term here, as he still produced the book.) Ross Gay is a generous teacher of how to live, and this moment of reveling in self-compassion is one lesson among many in The Book of Delights , which wanders from moments of connection with strangers to a shade of “red I don’t think I actually have words for,” a text from a friend reading “I love you breadfruit,” and “the sun like a guiding hand on my back, saying everything is possible. Everything .”

Gay does not linger on any one subject for long, creating the sense that delight is a product not of extenuating circumstances, but of our attention; his attunement to the possibilities of a single day, and awareness of all the small moments that produce delight, are a model for life amid the warring factions of the attention economy. These small moments range from the physical–hugging a stranger, transplanting fig cuttings–to the spiritual and philosophical, giving the impression of sitting beside Gay in his garden as he thinks out loud in real time. It’s a privilege to listen. –Corinne Segal, Senior Editor

Honorable Mentions

A selection of other books that we seriously considered for both lists—just to be extra about it (and because decisions are hard).

Terry Castle, The Professor and Other Writings (2010) · Joyce Carol Oates, In Rough Country (2010) · Geoff Dyer, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition (2011) · Christopher Hitchens, Arguably (2011) ·  Roberto Bolaño, tr. Natasha Wimmer, Between Parentheses (2011) · Dubravka Ugresic, tr. David Williams, Karaoke Culture (2011) · Tom Bissell, Magic Hours (2012)  · Kevin Young, The Grey Album (2012) · William H. Gass, Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts (2012) · Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey (2012) · Herta Müller, tr. Geoffrey Mulligan, Cristina and Her Double (2013) · Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams (2014)  · Meghan Daum, The Unspeakable (2014)  · Daphne Merkin, The Fame Lunches (2014)  · Charles D’Ambrosio, Loitering (2015) · Wendy Walters, Multiply/Divide (2015) · Colm Tóibín, On Elizabeth Bishop (2015) ·  Renee Gladman, Calamities (2016)  · Jesmyn Ward, ed. The Fire This Time (2016)  · Lindy West, Shrill (2016)  · Mary Oliver, Upstream (2016)  · Emily Witt, Future Sex (2016)  · Olivia Laing, The Lonely City (2016)  · Mark Greif, Against Everything (2016)  · Durga Chew-Bose, Too Much and Not the Mood (2017)  · Sarah Gerard, Sunshine State (2017)  · Jim Harrison, A Really Big Lunch (2017)  · J.M. Coetzee, Late Essays: 2006-2017 (2017) · Melissa Febos, Abandon Me (2017)  · Louise Glück, American Originality (2017)  · Joan Didion, South and West (2017)  · Tom McCarthy, Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish (2017)  · Hanif Abdurraqib, They Can’t Kill Us Until they Kill Us (2017)  · Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power (2017)  ·  Samantha Irby, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life (2017)  · Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (2018)  · Alice Bolin, Dead Girls (2018)  · Marilynne Robinson, What Are We Doing Here? (2018)  · Lorrie Moore, See What Can Be Done (2018)  · Maggie O’Farrell, I Am I Am I Am (2018)  · Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race (2018)  · Rachel Cusk, Coventry (2019)  · Jia Tolentino, Trick Mirror (2019)  · Emily Bernard, Black is the Body (2019)  · Toni Morrison, The Source of Self-Regard (2019)  · Margaret Renkl, Late Migrations (2019)  ·  Rachel Munroe, Savage Appetites (2019)  · Robert A. Caro,  Working  (2019) · Arundhati Roy, My Seditious Heart (2019).

Emily Temple

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Federalist Papers

By: History.com Editors

Updated: June 22, 2023 | Original: November 9, 2009

HISTORY: Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers are a collection of essays written in the 1780s in support of the proposed U.S. Constitution and the strong federal government it advocated. In October 1787, the first in a series of 85 essays arguing for ratification of the Constitution appeared in the Independent Journal , under the pseudonym “Publius.” Addressed to “The People of the State of New York,” the essays were actually written by the statesmen Alexander Hamilton , James Madison and John Jay . They would be published serially from 1787-88 in several New York newspapers. The first 77 essays, including Madison’s famous Federalist 10 and Federalist 51 , appeared in book form in 1788. Titled The Federalist , it has been hailed as one of the most important political documents in U.S. history.

Articles of Confederation

As the first written constitution of the newly independent United States, the Articles of Confederation nominally granted Congress the power to conduct foreign policy, maintain armed forces and coin money.

But in practice, this centralized government body had little authority over the individual states, including no power to levy taxes or regulate commerce, which hampered the new nation’s ability to pay its outstanding debts from the Revolutionary War .

In May 1787, 55 delegates gathered in Philadelphia to address the deficiencies of the Articles of Confederation and the problems that had arisen from this weakened central government.

A New Constitution

The document that emerged from the Constitutional Convention went far beyond amending the Articles, however. Instead, it established an entirely new system, including a robust central government divided into legislative , executive and judicial branches.

As soon as 39 delegates signed the proposed Constitution in September 1787, the document went to the states for ratification, igniting a furious debate between “Federalists,” who favored ratification of the Constitution as written, and “Antifederalists,” who opposed the Constitution and resisted giving stronger powers to the national government.

The Rise of Publius

In New York, opposition to the Constitution was particularly strong, and ratification was seen as particularly important. Immediately after the document was adopted, Antifederalists began publishing articles in the press criticizing it.

They argued that the document gave Congress excessive powers and that it could lead to the American people losing the hard-won liberties they had fought for and won in the Revolution.

In response to such critiques, the New York lawyer and statesman Alexander Hamilton, who had served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, decided to write a comprehensive series of essays defending the Constitution, and promoting its ratification.

Who Wrote the Federalist Papers?

As a collaborator, Hamilton recruited his fellow New Yorker John Jay, who had helped negotiate the treaty ending the war with Britain and served as secretary of foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation. The two later enlisted the help of James Madison, another delegate to the Constitutional Convention who was in New York at the time serving in the Confederation Congress.

To avoid opening himself and Madison to charges of betraying the Convention’s confidentiality, Hamilton chose the pen name “Publius,” after a general who had helped found the Roman Republic. He wrote the first essay, which appeared in the Independent Journal, on October 27, 1787.

In it, Hamilton argued that the debate facing the nation was not only over ratification of the proposed Constitution, but over the question of “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”

After writing the next four essays on the failures of the Articles of Confederation in the realm of foreign affairs, Jay had to drop out of the project due to an attack of rheumatism; he would write only one more essay in the series. Madison wrote a total of 29 essays, while Hamilton wrote a staggering 51.

Federalist Papers Summary

In the Federalist Papers, Hamilton, Jay and Madison argued that the decentralization of power that existed under the Articles of Confederation prevented the new nation from becoming strong enough to compete on the world stage or to quell internal insurrections such as Shays’s Rebellion .

In addition to laying out the many ways in which they believed the Articles of Confederation didn’t work, Hamilton, Jay and Madison used the Federalist essays to explain key provisions of the proposed Constitution, as well as the nature of the republican form of government.

'Federalist 10'

In Federalist 10 , which became the most influential of all the essays, Madison argued against the French political philosopher Montesquieu ’s assertion that true democracy—including Montesquieu’s concept of the separation of powers—was feasible only for small states.

A larger republic, Madison suggested, could more easily balance the competing interests of the different factions or groups (or political parties ) within it. “Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests,” he wrote. “[Y]ou make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens[.]”

After emphasizing the central government’s weakness in law enforcement under the Articles of Confederation in Federalist 21-22 , Hamilton dove into a comprehensive defense of the proposed Constitution in the next 14 essays, devoting seven of them to the importance of the government’s power of taxation.

Madison followed with 20 essays devoted to the structure of the new government, including the need for checks and balances between the different powers.

'Federalist 51'

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” Madison wrote memorably in Federalist 51 . “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

After Jay contributed one more essay on the powers of the Senate , Hamilton concluded the Federalist essays with 21 installments exploring the powers held by the three branches of government—legislative, executive and judiciary.

Impact of the Federalist Papers

Despite their outsized influence in the years to come, and their importance today as touchstones for understanding the Constitution and the founding principles of the U.S. government, the essays published as The Federalist in 1788 saw limited circulation outside of New York at the time they were written. They also fell short of convincing many New York voters, who sent far more Antifederalists than Federalists to the state ratification convention.

Still, in July 1788, a slim majority of New York delegates voted in favor of the Constitution, on the condition that amendments would be added securing certain additional rights. Though Hamilton had opposed this (writing in Federalist 84 that such a bill was unnecessary and could even be harmful) Madison himself would draft the Bill of Rights in 1789, while serving as a representative in the nation’s first Congress.

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Ron Chernow, Hamilton (Penguin, 2004). Pauline Maier, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 (Simon & Schuster, 2010). “If Men Were Angels: Teaching the Constitution with the Federalist Papers.” Constitutional Rights Foundation . Dan T. Coenen, “Fifteen Curious Facts About the Federalist Papers.” University of Georgia School of Law , April 1, 2007. 

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Course: US history   >   Unit 3

  • The Articles of Confederation
  • What was the Articles of Confederation?
  • Shays's Rebellion
  • The Constitutional Convention
  • The US Constitution

The Federalist Papers

  • The Bill of Rights
  • Social consequences of revolutionary ideals
  • The presidency of George Washington
  • Why was George Washington the first president?
  • The presidency of John Adams
  • Regional attitudes about slavery, 1754-1800
  • Continuity and change in American society, 1754-1800
  • Creating a nation

a collection of essays meaning

  • The Federalist Papers was a collection of essays written by John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton in 1788.
  • The essays urged the ratification of the United States Constitution, which had been debated and drafted at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.
  • The Federalist Papers is considered one of the most significant American contributions to the field of political philosophy and theory and is still widely considered to be the most authoritative source for determining the original intent of the framers of the US Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation and Constitutional Convention

  • In Federalist No. 10 , Madison reflects on how to prevent rule by majority faction and advocates the expansion of the United States into a large, commercial republic.
  • In Federalist No. 39 and Federalist 51 , Madison seeks to “lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty,” emphasizing the need for checks and balances through the separation of powers into three branches of the federal government and the division of powers between the federal government and the states. 4 ‍  
  • In Federalist No. 84 , Hamilton advances the case against the Bill of Rights, expressing the fear that explicitly enumerated rights could too easily be construed as comprising the only rights to which American citizens were entitled.

What do you think?

  • For more on Shays’s Rebellion, see Leonard L. Richards, Shays’s Rebellion: The American Revolution’s Final Battle (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002).
  • Bernard Bailyn, ed. The Debate on the Constitution: Federalist and Anti-Federalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters During the Struggle over Ratification; Part One, September 1787 – February 1788 (New York: Penguin Books, 1993).
  • See Federalist No. 1 .
  • See Federalist No. 51 .
  • For more, see Michael Meyerson, Liberty’s Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote the Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World (New York: Basic Books, 2008).

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 177 college essay examples for 11 schools + expert analysis.

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College Admissions , College Essays


The personal statement might just be the hardest part of your college application. Mostly this is because it has the least guidance and is the most open-ended. One way to understand what colleges are looking for when they ask you to write an essay is to check out the essays of students who already got in—college essays that actually worked. After all, they must be among the most successful of this weird literary genre.

In this article, I'll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 11 different schools. Finally, I'll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. With links to 177 full essays and essay excerpts , this article is a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!

What Excellent College Essays Have in Common

Even though in many ways these sample college essays are very different from one other, they do share some traits you should try to emulate as you write your own essay.

Visible Signs of Planning

Building out from a narrow, concrete focus. You'll see a similar structure in many of the essays. The author starts with a very detailed story of an event or description of a person or place. After this sense-heavy imagery, the essay expands out to make a broader point about the author, and connects this very memorable experience to the author's present situation, state of mind, newfound understanding, or maturity level.

Knowing how to tell a story. Some of the experiences in these essays are one-of-a-kind. But most deal with the stuff of everyday life. What sets them apart is the way the author approaches the topic: analyzing it for drama and humor, for its moving qualities, for what it says about the author's world, and for how it connects to the author's emotional life.

Stellar Execution

A killer first sentence. You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: you have to suck the reader in, and the best place to do that is the first sentence. Great first sentences are punchy. They are like cliffhangers, setting up an exciting scene or an unusual situation with an unclear conclusion, in order to make the reader want to know more. Don't take my word for it—check out these 22 first sentences from Stanford applicants and tell me you don't want to read the rest of those essays to find out what happens!

A lively, individual voice. Writing is for readers. In this case, your reader is an admissions officer who has read thousands of essays before yours and will read thousands after. Your goal? Don't bore your reader. Use interesting descriptions, stay away from clichés, include your own offbeat observations—anything that makes this essay sounds like you and not like anyone else.


Technical correctness. No spelling mistakes, no grammar weirdness, no syntax issues, no punctuation snafus—each of these sample college essays has been formatted and proofread perfectly. If this kind of exactness is not your strong suit, you're in luck! All colleges advise applicants to have their essays looked over several times by parents, teachers, mentors, and anyone else who can spot a comma splice. Your essay must be your own work, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help polishing it.

And if you need more guidance, connect with PrepScholar's expert admissions consultants . These expert writers know exactly what college admissions committees look for in an admissions essay and chan help you craft an essay that boosts your chances of getting into your dream school.

Check out PrepScholar's Essay Editing and Coaching progra m for more details!

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Links to Full College Essay Examples

Some colleges publish a selection of their favorite accepted college essays that worked, and I've put together a selection of over 100 of these.

Common App Essay Samples

Please note that some of these college essay examples may be responding to prompts that are no longer in use. The current Common App prompts are as follows:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. 2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you? 5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of 177 college essay examples responding to current and past Common App essay prompts. 

Connecticut college.

  • 12 Common Application essays from the classes of 2022-2025

Hamilton College

  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2026
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2018
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2012
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2007

Johns Hopkins

These essays are answers to past prompts from either the Common Application or the Coalition Application (which Johns Hopkins used to accept).

  • 1 Common Application or Coalition Application essay from the class of 2026
  • 6 Common Application or Coalition Application essays from the class of 2025
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2024
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2023
  • 7 Common Application of Universal Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 5 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2021
  • 7 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2020

Essay Examples Published by Other Websites

  • 2 Common Application essays ( 1st essay , 2nd essay ) from applicants admitted to Columbia

Other Sample College Essays

Here is a collection of essays that are college-specific.

Babson College

  • 4 essays (and 1 video response) on "Why Babson" from the class of 2020

Emory University

  • 5 essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) from the class of 2020 along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on why the essays were exceptional
  • 5 more recent essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on what made these essays stand out

University of Georgia

  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2019
  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2018
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2023
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2022
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2021
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2020
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2019
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2018
  • 6 essays from admitted MIT students

Smith College

  • 6 "best gift" essays from the class of 2018


Books of College Essays

If you're looking for even more sample college essays, consider purchasing a college essay book. The best of these include dozens of essays that worked and feedback from real admissions officers.

College Essays That Made a Difference —This detailed guide from Princeton Review includes not only successful essays, but also interviews with admissions officers and full student profiles.

50 Successful Harvard Application Essays by the Staff of the Harvard Crimson—A must for anyone aspiring to Harvard .

50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays and 50 Successful Stanford Application Essays by Gen and Kelly Tanabe—For essays from other top schools, check out this venerated series, which is regularly updated with new essays.

Heavenly Essays by Janine W. Robinson—This collection from the popular blogger behind Essay Hell includes a wider range of schools, as well as helpful tips on honing your own essay.


Analyzing Great Common App Essays That Worked

I've picked two essays from the examples collected above to examine in more depth so that you can see exactly what makes a successful college essay work. Full credit for these essays goes to the original authors and the schools that published them.

Example 1: "Breaking Into Cars," by Stephen, Johns Hopkins Class of '19 (Common App Essay, 636 words long)

I had never broken into a car before.

We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for Humanity work site. The Hotchkiss volunteers had already left, off to enjoy some Texas BBQ, leaving me behind with the college kids to clean up. Not until we were stranded did we realize we were locked out of the van.

Someone picked a coat hanger out of the dumpster, handed it to me, and took a few steps back.

"Can you do that thing with a coat hanger to unlock it?"

"Why me?" I thought.

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame. Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally. My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed. "The water's on fire! Clear a hole!" he shouted, tossing me in the lake without warning. While I'm still unconvinced about that particular lesson's practicality, my Dad's overarching message is unequivocally true: much of life is unexpected, and you have to deal with the twists and turns.

Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, a little pushed around, I learned to roll with reality, negotiate a quick deal, and give the improbable a try. I don't sweat the small stuff, and I definitely don't expect perfect fairness. So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for seven people? Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night.

But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary. Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder. Different things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt.

Back then, these techniques were merely reactions undertaken to ensure my survival. But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The question caught me off guard, much like the question posed to me in Laredo. Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger had been handed to me.

Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in a thing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. It's family. It's society. And often, it's chaos. You participate by letting go of the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing the unexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness. My family experience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence.

What Makes This Essay Tick?

It's very helpful to take writing apart in order to see just how it accomplishes its objectives. Stephen's essay is very effective. Let's find out why!

An Opening Line That Draws You In

In just eight words, we get: scene-setting (he is standing next to a car about to break in), the idea of crossing a boundary (he is maybe about to do an illegal thing for the first time), and a cliffhanger (we are thinking: is he going to get caught? Is he headed for a life of crime? Is he about to be scared straight?).

Great, Detailed Opening Story

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame.

It's the details that really make this small experience come alive. Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one. The volunteers aren't going to get food or dinner; they're going for "Texas BBQ." The coat hanger comes from "a dumpster." Stephen doesn't just move the coat hanger—he "jiggles" it.

Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. The person who hands Stephen the coat hanger isn't just uncomfortable or nervous; he "takes a few steps back"—a description of movement that conveys feelings. Finally, the detail of actual speech makes the scene pop. Instead of writing that the other guy asked him to unlock the van, Stephen has the guy actually say his own words in a way that sounds like a teenager talking.


Turning a Specific Incident Into a Deeper Insight

Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

Stephen makes the locked car experience a meaningful illustration of how he has learned to be resourceful and ready for anything, and he also makes this turn from the specific to the broad through an elegant play on the two meanings of the word "click."

Using Concrete Examples When Making Abstract Claims

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally.

"Unpredictability and chaos" are very abstract, not easily visualized concepts. They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability. By instantly following up with highly finite and unambiguous illustrations like "family of seven" and "siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing," Stephen grounds the abstraction in something that is easy to picture: a large, noisy family.

Using Small Bits of Humor and Casual Word Choice

My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed.

Obviously, knowing how to clean burning oil is not high on the list of things every 9-year-old needs to know. To emphasize this, Stephen uses sarcasm by bringing up a situation that is clearly over-the-top: "in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed."

The humor also feels relaxed. Part of this is because he introduces it with the colloquial phrase "you know," so it sounds like he is talking to us in person. This approach also diffuses the potential discomfort of the reader with his father's strictness—since he is making jokes about it, clearly he is OK. Notice, though, that this doesn't occur very much in the essay. This helps keep the tone meaningful and serious rather than flippant.


An Ending That Stretches the Insight Into the Future

But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The ending of the essay reveals that Stephen's life has been one long preparation for the future. He has emerged from chaos and his dad's approach to parenting as a person who can thrive in a world that he can't control.

This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.

What Could This Essay Do Even Better?

Even the best essays aren't perfect, and even the world's greatest writers will tell you that writing is never "finished"—just "due." So what would we tweak in this essay if we could?

Replace some of the clichéd language. Stephen uses handy phrases like "twists and turns" and "don't sweat the small stuff" as a kind of shorthand for explaining his relationship to chaos and unpredictability. But using too many of these ready-made expressions runs the risk of clouding out your own voice and replacing it with something expected and boring.

Use another example from recent life. Stephen's first example (breaking into the van in Laredo) is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation. But his essay also emphasizes that he "learned to adapt" by being "different things to different people." It would be great to see how this plays out outside his family, either in the situation in Laredo or another context.

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Example 2: By Renner Kwittken, Tufts Class of '23 (Common App Essay, 645 words long)

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go," and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration.

Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear.

I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

In the lab, Dr. Ray encouraged a great amount of autonomy to design and implement my own procedures. I chose to attack a problem that affects the entire field of nanomedicine: nanoparticles consistently fail to translate from animal studies into clinical trials. Jumping off recent literature, I set out to see if a pre-dose of a common chemotherapeutic could enhance nanoparticle delivery in aggressive prostate cancer, creating three novel constructs based on three different linear polymers, each using fluorescent dye (although no gold, sorry goldbug!). Though using radioactive isotopes like Gallium and Yttrium would have been incredible, as a 17-year-old, I unfortunately wasn't allowed in the same room as these radioactive materials (even though I took a Geiger counter to a pair of shoes and found them to be slightly dangerous).

I hadn't expected my hypothesis to work, as the research project would have ideally been led across two full years. Yet while there are still many optimizations and revisions to be done, I was thrilled to find -- with completely new nanoparticles that may one day mean future trials will use particles with the initials "RK-1" -- thatcyclophosphamide did indeed increase nanoparticle delivery to the tumor in a statistically significant way.

A secondary, unexpected research project was living alone in Baltimore, a new city to me, surrounded by people much older than I. Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research. Whether in a presentation or in a casual conversation, making others interested in science is perhaps more exciting to me than the research itself. This solidified a new pursuit to angle my love for writing towards illuminating science in ways people can understand, adding value to a society that can certainly benefit from more scientific literacy.

It seems fitting that my goals are still transforming: in Scarry's book, there is not just one goldbug, there is one on every page. With each new experience, I'm learning that it isn't the goldbug itself, but rather the act of searching for the goldbugs that will encourage, shape, and refine my ever-evolving passions. Regardless of the goldbug I seek -- I know my pickle truck has just begun its journey.

Renner takes a somewhat different approach than Stephen, but their essay is just as detailed and engaging. Let's go through some of the strengths of this essay.

One Clear Governing Metaphor

This essay is ultimately about two things: Renner’s dreams and future career goals, and Renner’s philosophy on goal-setting and achieving one’s dreams.

But instead of listing off all the amazing things they’ve done to pursue their dream of working in nanomedicine, Renner tells a powerful, unique story instead. To set up the narrative, Renner opens the essay by connecting their experiences with goal-setting and dream-chasing all the way back to a memorable childhood experience:

This lighthearted–but relevant!--story about the moment when Renner first developed a passion for a specific career (“finding the goldbug”) provides an anchor point for the rest of the essay. As Renner pivots to describing their current dreams and goals–working in nanomedicine–the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” is reflected in Renner’s experiments, rejections, and new discoveries.

Though Renner tells multiple stories about their quest to “find the goldbug,” or, in other words, pursue their passion, each story is connected by a unifying theme; namely, that as we search and grow over time, our goals will transform…and that’s okay! By the end of the essay, Renner uses the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” to reiterate the relevance of the opening story:

While the earlier parts of the essay convey Renner’s core message by showing, the final, concluding paragraph sums up Renner’s insights by telling. By briefly and clearly stating the relevance of the goldbug metaphor to their own philosophy on goals and dreams, Renner demonstrates their creativity, insight, and eagerness to grow and evolve as the journey continues into college.


An Engaging, Individual Voice

This essay uses many techniques that make Renner sound genuine and make the reader feel like we already know them.

Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other).

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.

I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Renner gives a great example of how to use humor to your advantage in college essays. You don’t want to come off as too self-deprecating or sarcastic, but telling a lightheartedly humorous story about your younger self that also showcases how you’ve grown and changed over time can set the right tone for your entire essay.

Technique #2: intentional, eye-catching structure. The second technique is the way Renner uses a unique structure to bolster the tone and themes of their essay . The structure of your essay can have a major impact on how your ideas come across…so it’s important to give it just as much thought as the content of your essay!

For instance, Renner does a great job of using one-line paragraphs to create dramatic emphasis and to make clear transitions from one phase of the story to the next:

Suddenly the destination of my pickle car was clear.

Not only does the one-liner above signal that Renner is moving into a new phase of the narrative (their nanoparticle research experiences), it also tells the reader that this is a big moment in Renner’s story. It’s clear that Renner made a major discovery that changed the course of their goal pursuit and dream-chasing. Through structure, Renner conveys excitement and entices the reader to keep pushing forward to the next part of the story.

Technique #3: playing with syntax. The third technique is to use sentences of varying length, syntax, and structure. Most of the essay's written in standard English and uses grammatically correct sentences. However, at key moments, Renner emphasizes that the reader needs to sit up and pay attention by switching to short, colloquial, differently punctuated, and sometimes fragmented sentences.

Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research.

In the examples above, Renner switches adeptly between long, flowing sentences and quippy, telegraphic ones. At the same time, Renner uses these different sentence lengths intentionally. As they describe their experiences in new places, they use longer sentences to immerse the reader in the sights, smells, and sounds of those experiences. And when it’s time to get a big, key idea across, Renner switches to a short, punchy sentence to stop the reader in their tracks.

The varying syntax and sentence lengths pull the reader into the narrative and set up crucial “aha” moments when it’s most important…which is a surefire way to make any college essay stand out.


Renner's essay is very strong, but there are still a few little things that could be improved.

Connecting the research experiences to the theme of “finding the goldbug.”  The essay begins and ends with Renner’s connection to the idea of “finding the goldbug.” And while this metaphor is deftly tied into the essay’s intro and conclusion, it isn’t entirely clear what Renner’s big findings were during the research experiences that are described in the middle of the essay. It would be great to add a sentence or two stating what Renner’s big takeaways (or “goldbugs”) were from these experiences, which add more cohesion to the essay as a whole.

Give more details about discovering the world of nanomedicine. It makes sense that Renner wants to get into the details of their big research experiences as quickly as possible. After all, these are the details that show Renner’s dedication to nanomedicine! But a smoother transition from the opening pickle car/goldbug story to Renner’s “real goldbug” of nanoparticles would help the reader understand why nanoparticles became Renner’s goldbug. Finding out why Renner is so motivated to study nanomedicine–and perhaps what put them on to this field of study–would help readers fully understand why Renner chose this path in the first place.

4 Essential Tips for Writing Your Own Essay

How can you use this discussion to better your own college essay? Here are some suggestions for ways to use this resource effectively.

#1: Get Help From the Experts

Getting your college applications together takes a lot of work and can be pretty intimidatin g. Essays are even more important than ever now that admissions processes are changing and schools are going test-optional and removing diversity standards thanks to new Supreme Court rulings .  If you want certified expert help that really makes a difference, get started with  PrepScholar’s Essay Editing and Coaching program. Our program can help you put together an incredible essay from idea to completion so that your application stands out from the crowd. We've helped students get into the best colleges in the United States, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale.  If you're ready to take the next step and boost your odds of getting into your dream school, connect with our experts today .

#2: Read Other Essays to Get Ideas for Your Own

As you go through the essays we've compiled for you above, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you explain to yourself (or someone else!) why the opening sentence works well?
  • Look for the essay's detailed personal anecdote. What senses is the author describing? Can you easily picture the scene in your mind's eye?
  • Find the place where this anecdote bridges into a larger insight about the author. How does the essay connect the two? How does the anecdote work as an example of the author's characteristic, trait, or skill?
  • Check out the essay's tone. If it's funny, can you find the places where the humor comes from? If it's sad and moving, can you find the imagery and description of feelings that make you moved? If it's serious, can you see how word choice adds to this tone?

Make a note whenever you find an essay or part of an essay that you think was particularly well-written, and think about what you like about it . Is it funny? Does it help you really get to know the writer? Does it show what makes the writer unique? Once you have your list, keep it next to you while writing your essay to remind yourself to try and use those same techniques in your own essay.


#3: Find Your "A-Ha!" Moment

All of these essays rely on connecting with the reader through a heartfelt, highly descriptive scene from the author's life. It can either be very dramatic (did you survive a plane crash?) or it can be completely mundane (did you finally beat your dad at Scrabble?). Either way, it should be personal and revealing about you, your personality, and the way you are now that you are entering the adult world.

Check out essays by authors like John Jeremiah Sullivan , Leslie Jamison , Hanif Abdurraqib , and Esmé Weijun Wang to get more examples of how to craft a compelling personal narrative.

#4: Start Early, Revise Often

Let me level with you: the best writing isn't writing at all. It's rewriting. And in order to have time to rewrite, you have to start way before the application deadline. My advice is to write your first draft at least two months before your applications are due.

Let it sit for a few days untouched. Then come back to it with fresh eyes and think critically about what you've written. What's extra? What's missing? What is in the wrong place? What doesn't make sense? Don't be afraid to take it apart and rearrange sections. Do this several times over, and your essay will be much better for it!

For more editing tips, check out a style guide like Dreyer's English or Eats, Shoots & Leaves .


What's Next?

Still not sure which colleges you want to apply to? Our experts will show you how to make a college list that will help you choose a college that's right for you.

Interested in learning more about college essays? Check out our detailed breakdown of exactly how personal statements work in an application , some suggestions on what to avoid when writing your essay , and our guide to writing about your extracurricular activities .

Working on the rest of your application? Read what admissions officers wish applicants knew before applying .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

The recommendations in this post are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links PrepScholar may receive a commission.

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Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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Organizing Academic Research Papers: Reviewing Collected Essays

  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Executive Summary
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tertiary Sources
  • What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • How to Manage Group Projects
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Essays
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Acknowledgements

Collected essays vary in form and content [see below] but generally refers to a single book that contains essays [chapters] written by a variety of contributing authors. The overall work may cover a broad subject area, such as health care reform, or examine a narrow research problem, such as antitrust regulation in the clothing industry. Each chapter in a scholarly collected essay book is written by an expert in the field examining a particular aspect of that topic. Most collected essay works include a foreword or introductory chapter that summarizes current research in the field, placing the studies discussed by each author in the book within the larger scholarly context.

How to Approach Writing Your Review

Types of Collected Works

  • Conference Proceedings --a collection of papers published as part of an academic conference or other gathering of professionals. The purpose is to inform a wider audience of the material presented at the conference as well as to document the work of scholars who have participated in that conference. Many conferences are held annually and, thus, the proceedings are published annually and may focus on a particular theme representing a cutting edge issue in the field [e.g., Proceedings of the 10th Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research--Social Networks: Making Connections between Citizens, Data, and Government ].
  • Collection of an Author's Research --a collection of works by a distinguished scholar. The contents of collected works by a particular researcher can take the form of reprints of prior research or of selected reprints with a new introductory chapter by the author or an expert in the field that synthesizes and updates the overall status of research [e.g., The Nature of Politics: Selected Essays of Bertrand de Jouvenel . Edited and with an introduction by Dennis Hale and Marc Landy; Foreword by Wilson Carey McWilliams. New York: Schocken Books, 1987. xxxv, 254 pp.]
  • Festschrift --a volume of articles or essays by colleagues and admirers that serve as a tribute or memorial to a preeminent scholar or public figure. The essays usually relate to, or reflect upon, an honoree's contributions to their scholarly field, but may include original research by the authors that build upon the research of the honoree [e.g., Social Cognition, Social Identity, and Intergroup Relations: A Festschrift in Honor of Marilynn B. Brewer . Roderick M. Kramer, Geoffrey J. Leonardelli, Robert W. Livingston, editors. New York: Psychology Press, 2011. xi, 423 pp.].
  • Reader --a collection of scholarly papers, most often reprinted from journals, representing a cross-section of research about a particular topic. Most readers are intended to be used in the classroom. Readers serve to document the breadth and range of the most important research that has developed in a particular area of study and, often, as specified over a period of time [e.g., Companion Reader on Violence Against Women . Claire M. Renzetti, Jeffrey L. Edleson, Raquel Kennedy Bergen, editors. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2012. x, 411 pp.].
  • Reprints --sometimes in the form of a multi-volume set, this is a selective collection of previously published materials. Most frequently, reprints contain scholarly journal articles gathered together to form a comprehensive overview of prior research in a particular area of study.
  • Thematic Articles --the most common form of collected works in the social sciences, this is a collection of new scholarly essays from multiple authors examining a particular research problem or topic.

Developing an Assessment Strategy for Each

The challenge with reviewing a book of collected essays is that you must begin by thinking critically about the research problem that underpins each of the individual essays, synthesizing the multiple arguments of multiple authors, and then clearly organizing those arguments into conceptual categories [themes] as you write your draft.

Here are some questions to ask yourself depending on the type of collected work you're reviewing . Note that all types require you to first identify the overarching subject of the book of collected essays.

  • Conference Proceedings --what organization is sponsoring the conference? Is there a specific theme to the conference? Was the collection of papers selectively chosen or do the proceedings represent all papers presented at the conference? If not, how were the papers selected? Are the papers reprinted as they were presented or have they been updated or significantly edited prior to publication [this is often noted in the introduction]? Are the proceedings online and, if so, how might this facilitate access to additional materials? Is there foreword or an introductory chapter that effectively synthesizes the collection? Is it logically organized and include important front and back matter such as a table of contents and an index?
  • Collection of an Author's Research --who is the author and why do you believe his or her work is important enough to be gathered together for publication? Is there an underlying theme or does the collection represent a "best of" collection? What may have been ommitted? Are any original works included or are the contents only reprints? Is there a bibliography of the all of the author's writings? Is there a foreword or an introductory chapter written by the author or a guest contributor that effectively synthesizes the collection? Is the book logically organized and include important front and back matter such as a table of contents and an index?
  • Festschrift --who is being honored and why? Do the contributions represent essays of general tribute or do the contributions represent original research that builds upon the honoree's prior work? Is there a list of contributors and does it include biographical profiles of each that helps determine their relationship to the honoree? Is there a foreword or an introductory chapter that effectively synthesizes the collection? Is it logically organized and include important front and back matter such as a table of contents and an index?
  • Reader --does the collection represent a broad spectrum of publications about a research topic or only a few? Are there underrepresented areas of research in the collection? Is there a list of editors/compilers and does it include biographical profiles of each? Are the contents reprinted in their entirity or is the text only excerpted? Are the reprints readily available through other means or do they represent a compilation of hard-to-find publications? Is there a foreword or an introductory chapter that effectively synthesizes the collection? Is it logically organized and include important front and back matter such as a table of contents and an index?
  • Reprints --does the collection represent reprints from a variety of publications or only a few? Are there underrepresented areas of research in the collection? Are the reprints readily available through other means or do they represent a compilation of hard-to-find publications? Are the reprints from relatively current or older publications? Is there a foreword or an introductory chapter that effectively synthesizes the collection? Is it logically organized and include important front and back matter such as a table of contents and an index?
  • Thematic Articles --how are the contents arranged? Do the contributions survey a broad area of research or do they examine multiple issues associated with a particular research problem? Is there a list of contributors and does it include biographical profiles of each? Do you the contributors come from one or a variety of institutions? Do the contributors all come from the United States or are there any international contributors? Is there foreword or an introductory chapter that effectively synthesizes the collection? Does the work include important front and back matter such as a table of contents and an index?

Structure and Writing Style

I. Bibliographic Information

Provide the essential information about the book using the writing style that your professor has asked to use for the course [e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.]. Depending on how your professor wants you to organize your review, the bibliograophic information represents the heading of your review. In general, it would look like this:

El Ghonemy, Mohamad Riad. Anti-Poverty Land Reform Issues Never Die: Collected Essays on Development Economics in Practice . (New York: Routledge, 2010. xx, 223 pp.)

Reviewed by [your name].

II. Scope/Purpose/Content

The first challenge in reviewing any type of collected essay work is to identify and summarize its overarching scope and purpose, with additional focus on describing how the book is organized and whether or not the arrangement of its individual parts facilitates and contributes to an understanding of the subject area. Most collected works include a general statement of purpose in the foreword or an introductory chapter. In some cases, the editor will discuss the scope and purpose at the beginning of each essay.

To help develop your own introductory thesis statement that covers all of the material, start by reviewing and taking notes about the aim and intent of each essay. Once completed, identify key issues and themes. For example, in a compilation of essays on environmental law, you may find the papers examine various legal approaches to environmental protection, describe alternatives to the law, and compare domestic and international issues. By identifying the overall themes, you create a framework from which you can cogently evaluate the contents.

As with any review, your introductory statement must be succinct, accurate, unbiased, and clear. However, given that you are reviewing a number of parts within a much larger work, you may need several paragraphs to provide a comprehensive overview of the book's overall scope, purpose, and content.

If you find it difficult to discern the overall aims and objectives of the collected essay work [and, be sure to point this out in your review if you believe it to be a deficiency], you may arrive at an understanding of the purpose by asking yourself a the following questions:

  • Why did the contributing authors write on this subject rather than on some other subject? Why is it important?
  • From what point of view is the work written? Do some essays take one stance while others investigate another or are they just a mish-mash of viewpoints?
  • Were the authors trying to give information, to explain something technical, or to convince the reader of a belief’s validity by dramatizing it in action?
  • What is the general field or genre, and how does the book fit into it? Review related literature from other books and journal articles to familiarize yourself with the field, if necessary.
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What are each author's style? Do they clash or do they flow together? Is it formal or informal? You can evaluate the quality of the writing style by noting some of the following standards: coherence, clarity, originality, forcefulness, correct use of technical words, conciseness, fullness of development, and fluidity.
  • Scan the Table of Contents because it can help you understand how the book is organized and will aid in determining the main ideas covered and how they are developed [e.g., chronologically, topically, thematically, etc.]
  • How did the book affect you? Were any prior assumptions you had on the subject changed, abandoned, or reinforced due to this book? Did some essays stand out more than others? In what ways?
  • How is the book related to your own course or personal agenda? What personal experiences have you had that relate to the subject?
  • How well has the book achieved its goal(s)?
  • Would you recommend the book to others? Why or why not?

III.  Critically Evaluate the Contents

Critical comments should form the b ulk of your book review . A good method for reviewing a collected work is to follow the arrangement of contents, particularly if the essays are grouped in a particular way, and to frame the analysis in the context of the key issues and themes you identified in the introduction. State whether or not you feel the overall treatment of the subject matter is appropriate for the intended audience. Ask yourself:

  • Has the purpose of the book been achieved?
  • Have all of the essays contributed something important to the overall purpose? If not, how have some author's failed to add something meaningful?
  • What contribution does the book make to the field?
  • Is the treatment of the subject matter unbiased?
  • Are there facts and evidence that have been omitted?
  • What kinds of data, if any, are used to support the author's thesis statement?
  • Can the same data be interpreted to alternate ends?
  • Is the writing style clear and effective?
  • Does the book raise important or provocative issues or topics for discussion and further research?

Support your evaluation with evidence from the text and, when possible, in relation to other sources.Do not evaluate each essay one at a time but group the analysis around  the key issues and themes you first identified. If relevant, make note of the book's format, such as, layout, binding, typography, etc. Do some or all of the essays include tables, charts, maps, illustrations, or other non-textual elements? Do they aid in understanding the research problem?

IV.  Examine the Front Matter and Back Matter

Back matter refers to any information included after the final chapter of the book. Front matter refers to anything before the first chapter. Front matter is most often numbered separately from the rest of the text in lower case Roman numerals [i.e. i-xi ]. Critical commentary about front or back matter is generally only necessary if you believe there is something that diminishes the overall quality of the work or there is something that is particularly helpful in understanding the book's contents.

The following back matter may be included in a book and should be considered for evaluation when reviewing the overall quality of the book:

  • Table of contents --is it clear? Does it reflect the true contents of the book?
  • Author biography --also found as back matter, the biography of author(s) can be useful in determining the authority of the writer and whether the book builds on prior research or represents new research. In scholarly reviews, noting the author's affiliation can be a factor in helping the reader determine the overall validity of work [i.e., are they associated with a research center devoted to studying the research problem under investigation].
  • Foreword --in a scholarly books, a foreword may be written by the author or an expert on the subject of the book. The purpose of a foreword is to introduce the reader to the author as well as the book itself, and attempt to establish credibility for both. A foreword does not contribute any additional information about the book's subject matter, but it serves as a means of validating the book's existence. Later editions of a book sometimes have a new foreword prepended [appearing before an older foreword if there was one], which might explain in what respects that edition differs from previous ones.
  • Preface --generally describes the genesis, purpose, limitations, and scope of the book and may include acknowledgments of indebtedness to people who have helped the author complete the study. Is the preface helpful in understanding the study? Does it effectively provide a framework for what's to follow? A Preface is often very important to understanding the overall purpose oft he collected work.
  • Chronology --also found as back matter, a chronology is generally included to highlight key events related to the subject of the book. Does it contribute to the overall work? Is it detailed or very general?
  • List of non-textual elements --if a book contains a lot of charts, photographs, maps, etc., they will often be listed in the front.
  • Afterword --this is a short, reflective piece written by the author that takes the form of a concluding section, final commentary, or closing statement. It is worth mentioning in a review if it contributes information about the purpose of the book, gives a call to action, or asks the reader to consider key points made in the book.
  • Appendix/appendices --is the supplementary material in the appendix or appendices well organized? Do they relate to the contents or appear superfluous? Does it contain any essential information that would have been more appropriately integrated into the text?
  • Index --is the index thorough and accurate? Are there elements such as bold text, to help identify specific parts of the book?
  • Glossary --are the definitions clearly written? Is the glossary comprehensive or are key terms missing?
  • Endotes/Footnotes --check any end notes or footnotes as you read from essay to essay. Do they provide important additional information? Do they clarify or extend points made in the body of the text?
  • Bibliography/Further Readings --review any bibliography or further readings the author may have included. What kinds of sources [e.g., primary or secondary, recent or old, scholarly or popular, etc.] appear in the bibliography? How does the author make use of them? Make note of important omissions.

V.  Summarize and Comment

State your general conclusions succinctly. Pay particular attention to any capstone chapter that summarizes the work. Collected works often have one. List the principal topics, and briefly summarize the key themes and issues, main points, and conclusions. If appropriate and to help clarify your overall evaluation, use specific references and quotations to support your statements. If your thesis has been well argued, the conclusion should follow naturally. It can include a final assessment or simply restate your thesis. Do not introduce new information or ideas in the conclusion.

Bazerman, Charles. Comparing and Synthesizing Sources . The Informed Writer: Using Sources in the Disciplines. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Book Reviews . Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Book Reviews . The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Writing a Book Review . The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Rhetorical Strategies: Comparison and Contrast . The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Visvis, Vikki and Jerry Plotnick. The Comparative Essay . The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Writing Book Reviews. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University.

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What is an Anthology? Definition, Examples, & More

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What is an anthology? It’s one of those literary terms that sounds sophisticated, but its definition is simple. An anthology is a collection of written works gathered into a single publication.  

It comes from the Greek words for “a collection of flowers”— how lovely is that? — because that’s how the Greeks envisioned a compilation of poems. 

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These days, an anthology can be more than solely a way to publish poetry , (although that’s a great use for it). It can also include other types of writing, like essays, transcripts, short stories, and more! We’ll talk about how to define an anthology, what typically goes in one, and everything else you need to know in this article. Let’s jump right in. 

What is an anthology? This blog covers that and more…

Anthology definition .

One of the cool things about an anthology is that it can be so diverse. There’s no real common writing style across these books. An anthology might consist of essays , poems , or short stories, for example. Or it can feature a big mix of everything. 

It might include work from just one author or multiple authors. Often, it’s a collage of voices and ideas. 

That said, anthologies typically have some unifying element . It could be a certain theme, genre, cultural identity, era, or nearly anything else you can think of. 

Because theme is a common throughline in anthologies, let’s explore that a little more. 

Common themes in anthologies 

A theme, or a central idea that unifies a piece of literature, is an excellent, intuitive way to organize an anthology. 

If you’d like to find an anthology you’re interested in (or compile one of your own), here are a few literary themes you may consider: 

  • The human experience . Here’s one we can all relate to. There’s a bounty of work reflecting on what it means to be mortal and the obstacles we endure. 
  • Nature . In our age of technology, we’re more disconnected from nature than ever. A nature anthology can help us reconnect to our surroundings. 
  • Travel, adventure, and exploration. None of us will manage to see the entire world in our lifetimes, but we can read and write about it.
  • Coming of age . Adolescence is an engaging, layered topic whether you’re in the midst of it or emerged from it long ago. It can be surprisingly moving to read diverse voices on growing up, regardless of your age.
  • Loss and grief. Much as we’d like to avoid it, none of us is exempt from anguish. Thankfully, mourning is made more bearable in the community, and reading from authors who have faced sorrow can be an excellent way to feel communion. 

How long is a typical anthology? 

There is no required length for an anthology. It can be brief or hundreds of pages long. It all depends, of course, on the number of works it contains and how long those works are. 

How many pieces of work are in an anthology? 

There isn’t a set number of pieces required for an anthology, either. The choice of how many to include will largely depend on the theme or focus of the anthology, the length of the pieces, the editor’s vision for the collection, and perhaps the publisher’s preferences. 

To get an idea of the variation in anthology lengths, compare Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Fifty Really Short Stories , which is less than 150 pages, to The Oxford Anthology of English Literature: Romantic Poetry and Prose , which is nearly 900 pages!

Can an anthology have multiple authors? 

Yes! In fact, it’s common for an anthology to have pieces from different writers. Often its goal is to compile diverse work serving a common theme or purpose. By featuring writers with unique voices and writing styles, the anthology editor adds dimension to a topic. 

That said, you’ll also find anthologies featuring writing from just one author—typically one who has a vast body of work like Lydia Davis or Edgar Allen Poe . 

Examples of anthologies 

Whether you need inspiration for your own anthology or you simply want to read some, these are a few of the best:

  • The Best American Essays Series which compiles—you guessed it—the best essays written by Americans each year, according to the editor selected to compile them. 2023’s Edition is led by feminist writer and critic, Vivian Gornick. 
  • The Seashell Anthology of Great Poetry , edited by Christopher Burns, is a collection of beloved poetry classics that you’ll return to throughout the years. 
  • The Beatles Anthology by The Beatles is not only a treat for fans but an example of how an anthology can include different works like stories, transcripts, and photographs.
  • Never Whistle at Night: An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology , edited by Shane Hawk and Theodore C. Van Alst Jr is a new and highly-rated fiction anthology that will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you’re interested in authors who write short stories , this one’s for you. 
  • The Moth Presents Series is a collection of anthologies presented by beloved podcast, The Moth. Each book, like Occasional Magic and All These Wonders , is an engrossing collection of essays, short stories, and more from familiar and brand-new voices. 

There’s a nearly endless list of anthology genres , so if none of these appeal to you, we encourage you to do some research! We promise you’ll find one you love. 

Want to publish your own anthology? What to know

Wondering where to publish poetry , essays, or short stories? An anthology (or anthology series) is a great option—especially for any short-form writing. Here are a few things to bear in mind as you compile your work: 

  • Choose pieces that have a common theme, focus, or purpose so your anthology has a cohesive feel. 
  • Make sure to select only your best works for the anthology. Quality over quantity is the rule of the day! Have someone else objectively read your pieces to help you determine which ones shine.
  • Consider working with a professional editor and/or proofreader to polish your work. 
  • Use book writing software to make the process easier. 

Ready to write a book , anthology, or otherwise? At Selfpublishing.com, we can help you through the process of writing and publishing your own volume from start to finish. Book a free call to get started, or claim your free book outline template below. 

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Academic Essay Writing Made Simple: 4 types and tips

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The pen is mightier than the sword, they say, and nowhere is this more evident than in academia. From the quick scribbles of eager students to the inquisitive thoughts of renowned scholars, academic essays depict the power of the written word. These well-crafted writings propel ideas forward and expand the existing boundaries of human intellect.

What is an Academic Essay

An academic essay is a nonfictional piece of writing that analyzes and evaluates an argument around a specific topic or research question. It serves as a medium to share the author’s views and is also used by institutions to assess the critical thinking, research skills, and writing abilities of a students and researchers.  

Importance of Academic Essays

4 main types of academic essays.

While academic essays may vary in length, style, and purpose, they generally fall into four main categories. Despite their differences, these essay types share a common goal: to convey information, insights, and perspectives effectively.

1. Expository Essay

2. Descriptive Essay

3. Narrative Essay

4. Argumentative Essay

Expository and persuasive essays mainly deal with facts to explain ideas clearly. Narrative and descriptive essays are informal and have a creative edge. Despite their differences, these essay types share a common goal ― to convey information, insights, and perspectives effectively.

Expository Essays: Illuminating ideas

An expository essay is a type of academic writing that explains, illustrates, or clarifies a particular subject or idea. Its primary purpose is to inform the reader by presenting a comprehensive and objective analysis of a topic.

By breaking down complex topics into digestible pieces and providing relevant examples and explanations, expository essays allow writers to share their knowledge.

What are the Key Features of an Expository Essay

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Provides factual information without bias

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Presents multiple viewpoints while maintaining objectivity

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Uses direct and concise language to ensure clarity for the reader

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Composed of a logical structure with an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion

When is an expository essay written.

1. For academic assignments to evaluate the understanding of research skills.

2. As instructional content to provide step-by-step guidance for tasks or problem-solving.

3. In journalism for objective reporting in news or investigative pieces.

4. As a form of communication in the professional field to convey factual information in business or healthcare.

How to Write an Expository Essay

Expository essays are typically structured in a logical and organized manner.

1. Topic Selection and Research

  • Choose a topic that can be explored objectively
  • Gather relevant facts and information from credible sources
  • Develop a clear thesis statement

2. Outline and Structure

  • Create an outline with an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion
  • Introduce the topic and state the thesis in the introduction
  • Dedicate each body paragraph to a specific point supporting the thesis
  • Use transitions to maintain a logical flow

3. Objective and Informative Writing

  • Maintain an impartial and informative tone
  • Avoid personal opinions or biases
  • Support points with factual evidence, examples, and explanations

4. Conclusion

  • Summarize the key points
  • Reinforce the significance of the thesis

Descriptive Essays: Painting with words

Descriptive essays transport readers into vivid scenes, allowing them to experience the world through the writer ‘s lens. These essays use rich sensory details, metaphors, and figurative language to create a vivid and immersive experience . Its primary purpose is to engage readers’ senses and imagination.

It allows writers to demonstrate their ability to observe and describe subjects with precision and creativity.

What are the Key Features of Descriptive Essay

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Employs figurative language and imagery to paint a vivid picture for the reader

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Demonstrates creativity and expressiveness in narration

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Includes close attention to detail, engaging the reader’s senses

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Engages the reader’s imagination and emotions through immersive storytelling using analogies, metaphors, similes, etc.

When is a descriptive essay written.

1. Personal narratives or memoirs that describe significant events, people, or places.

2. Travel writing to capture the essence of a destination or experience.

3. Character sketches in fiction writing to introduce and describe characters.

4. Poetry or literary analyses to explore the use of descriptive language and imagery.

How to Write a Descriptive Essay

The descriptive essay lacks a defined structural requirement but typically includes: an introduction introducing the subject, a thorough description, and a concluding summary with insightful reflection.

1. Subject Selection and Observation

  • Choose a subject (person, place, object, or experience) to describe
  • Gather sensory details and observations

2. Engaging Introduction

  • Set the scene and provide the context
  • Use of descriptive language and figurative techniques

3. Descriptive Body Paragraphs

  • Focus on specific aspects or details of the subject
  • Engage the reader ’s senses with vivid imagery and descriptions
  • Maintain a consistent tone and viewpoint

4. Impactful Conclusion

  • Provide a final impression or insight
  • Leave a lasting impact on the reader

Narrative Essays: Storytelling in Action

Narrative essays are personal accounts that tell a story, often drawing from the writer’s own experiences or observations. These essays rely on a well-structured plot, character development, and vivid descriptions to engage readers and convey a deeper meaning or lesson.

What are the Key features of Narrative Essays

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Written from a first-person perspective and hence subjective

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Based on real personal experiences

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Uses an informal and expressive tone

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Presents events and characters in sequential order

When is a narrative essay written.

It is commonly assigned in high school and college writing courses to assess a student’s ability to convey a meaningful message or lesson through a personal narrative. They are written in situations where a personal experience or story needs to be recounted, such as:

1. Reflective essays on significant life events or personal growth.

2. Autobiographical writing to share one’s life story or experiences.

3. Creative writing exercises to practice narrative techniques and character development.

4. College application essays to showcase personal qualities and experiences.

How to Write a Narrative Essay

Narrative essays typically follow a chronological structure, with an introduction that sets the scene, a body that develops the plot and characters, and a conclusion that provides a sense of resolution or lesson learned.

1. Experience Selection and Reflection

  • Choose a significant personal experience or event
  • Reflect on the impact and deeper meaning

2. Immersive Introduction

  • Introduce characters and establish the tone and point of view

3. Plotline and Character Development

  • Advance   the  plot and character development through body paragraphs
  • Incorporate dialog , conflict, and resolution
  • Maintain a logical and chronological flow

4. Insightful Conclusion

  • Reflect on lessons learned or insights gained
  • Leave the reader with a lasting impression

Argumentative Essays: Persuasion and Critical Thinking

Argumentative essays are the quintessential form of academic writing in which writers present a clear thesis and support it with well-researched evidence and logical reasoning. These essays require a deep understanding of the topic, critical analysis of multiple perspectives, and the ability to construct a compelling argument.

What are the Key Features of an Argumentative Essay?

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Logical and well-structured arguments

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Credible and relevant evidence from reputable sources

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Consideration and refutation of counterarguments

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Critical analysis and evaluation of the issue 

When is an argumentative essay written.

Argumentative essays are written to present a clear argument or stance on a particular issue or topic. In academic settings they are used to develop critical thinking, research, and persuasive writing skills. However, argumentative essays can also be written in various other contexts, such as:

1. Opinion pieces or editorials in newspapers, magazines, or online publications.

2. Policy proposals or position papers in government, nonprofit, or advocacy settings.

3. Persuasive speeches or debates in academic, professional, or competitive environments.

4. Marketing or advertising materials to promote a product, service, or idea.

How to write an Argumentative Essay

Argumentative essays begin with an introduction that states the thesis and provides context. The body paragraphs develop the argument with evidence, address counterarguments, and use logical reasoning. The conclusion restates the main argument and makes a final persuasive appeal.

  • Choose a debatable and controversial issue
  • Conduct thorough research and gather evidence and counterarguments

2. Thesis and Introduction

  • Craft a clear and concise thesis statement
  • Provide background information and establish importance

3. Structured Body Paragraphs

  • Focus each paragraph on a specific aspect of the argument
  • Support with logical reasoning, factual evidence, and refutation

4. Persuasive Techniques

  • Adopt a formal and objective tone
  • Use persuasive techniques (rhetorical questions, analogies, appeals)

5. Impactful Conclusion

  • Summarize the main points
  • Leave the reader with a strong final impression and call to action

To learn more about argumentative essay, check out this article .

5 Quick Tips for Researchers to Improve Academic Essay Writing Skills

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Use clear and concise language to convey ideas effectively without unnecessary words

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Use well-researched, credible sources to substantiate your arguments with data, expert opinions, and scholarly references

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Ensure a coherent structure with effective transitions, clear topic sentences, and a logical flow to enhance readability 

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To elevate your academic essay, consider submitting your draft to a community-based platform like Open Platform  for editorial review 

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Review your work multiple times for clarity, coherence, and adherence to academic guidelines to ensure a polished final product

By mastering the art of academic essay writing, researchers and scholars can effectively communicate their ideas, contribute to the advancement of knowledge, and engage in meaningful scholarly discourse.

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Liberty Hardy

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty

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I feel like essay collections don’t get enough credit. They’re so wonderful! They’re like short story collections, but TRUE. It’s like going to a truth buffet. You can get information about sooooo many topics, sometimes in one single book! To prove that there are a zillion amazing essay collections out there, I compiled 50 great contemporary essay collections, just from the last 18 months alone.  Ranging in topics from food, nature, politics, sex, celebrity, and more, there is something here for everyone!

I’ve included a brief description from the publisher with each title. Tell us in the comments about which of these you’ve read or other contemporary essay collections that you love. There are a LOT of them. Yay, books!

Must-Read Contemporary Essay Collections

They can’t kill us until they kill us  by hanif abdurraqib.

“In an age of confusion, fear, and loss, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s is a voice that matters. Whether he’s attending a Bruce Springsteen concert the day after visiting Michael Brown’s grave, or discussing public displays of affection at a Carly Rae Jepsen show, he writes with a poignancy and magnetism that resonates profoundly.”

Would Everybody Please Stop?: Reflections on Life and Other Bad Ideas  by Jenny Allen

“Jenny Allen’s musings range fluidly from the personal to the philosophical. She writes with the familiarity of someone telling a dinner party anecdote, forgoing decorum for candor and comedy. To read  Would Everybody Please Stop?  is to experience life with imaginative and incisive humor.”

Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Taste Buds  by Yemisi Aribisala

“A sumptuous menu of essays about Nigerian cuisine, lovingly presented by the nation’s top epicurean writer. As well as a mouth-watering appraisal of Nigerian food,  Longthroat Memoirs  is a series of love letters to the Nigerian palate. From the cultural history of soup, to fish as aphrodisiac and the sensual allure of snails,  Longthroat Memoirs  explores the complexities, the meticulousness, and the tactile joy of Nigerian gastronomy.”

Beyond Measure: Essays  by Rachel Z. Arndt

“ Beyond Measure  is a fascinating exploration of the rituals, routines, metrics and expectations through which we attempt to quantify and ascribe value to our lives. With mordant humor and penetrating intellect, Arndt casts her gaze beyond event-driven narratives to the machinery underlying them: judo competitions measured in weigh-ins and wait times; the significance of the elliptical’s stationary churn; the rote scripts of dating apps; the stupefying sameness of the daily commute.”

Magic Hours  by Tom Bissell

“Award-winning essayist Tom Bissell explores the highs and lows of the creative process. He takes us from the set of  The Big Bang Theory  to the first novel of Ernest Hemingway to the final work of David Foster Wallace; from the films of Werner Herzog to the film of Tommy Wiseau to the editorial meeting in which Paula Fox’s work was relaunched into the world. Originally published in magazines such as  The Believer ,  The New Yorker , and  Harper’s , these essays represent ten years of Bissell’s best writing on every aspect of creation—be it Iraq War documentaries or video-game character voices—and will provoke as much thought as they do laughter.”

Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession  by Alice Bolin

“In this poignant collection, Alice Bolin examines iconic American works from the essays of Joan Didion and James Baldwin to  Twin Peaks , Britney Spears, and  Serial , illuminating the widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster men’s stories. Smart and accessible, thoughtful and heartfelt, Bolin investigates the implications of our cultural fixations, and her own role as a consumer and creator.”

Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life  by Jenny Boully

“Jenny Boully’s essays are ripe with romance and sensual pleasures, drawing connections between the digression, reflection, imagination, and experience that characterizes falling in love as well as the life of a writer. Literary theory, philosophy, and linguistics rub up against memory, dreamscapes, and fancy, making the practice of writing a metaphor for the illusory nature of experience.  Betwixt and Between  is, in many ways, simply a book about how to live.”

Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun

“In  Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give , Ada Calhoun presents an unflinching but also loving portrait of her own marriage, opening a long-overdue conversation about the institution as it truly is: not the happy ending of a love story or a relic doomed by high divorce rates, but the beginning of a challenging new chapter of which ‘the first twenty years are the hardest.'”

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays  by Alexander Chee

“ How to Write an Autobiographical Novel  is the author’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend. He examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history, including his father’s death, the AIDS crisis, 9/11, the jobs that supported his writing—Tarot-reading, bookselling, cater-waiting for William F. Buckley—the writing of his first novel,  Edinburgh , and the election of Donald Trump.”

Too Much and Not the Mood: Essays  by Durga Chew-Bose

“ Too Much and Not the Mood is a beautiful and surprising exploration of what it means to be a first-generation, creative young woman working today. On April 11, 1931, Virginia Woolf ended her entry in A Writer’s Diary with the words ‘too much and not the mood’ to describe her frustration with placating her readers, what she described as the ‘cramming in and the cutting out.’ She wondered if she had anything at all that was truly worth saying. The attitude of that sentiment inspired Durga Chew-Bose to gather own writing in this lyrical collection of poetic essays that examine personhood and artistic growth. Drawing inspiration from a diverse group of incisive and inquiring female authors, Chew-Bose captures the inner restlessness that keeps her always on the brink of creative expression.”

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy  by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“‘We were eight years in power’ was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s ‘first white president.'”

Look Alive Out There: Essays by Sloane Crosley

“In  Look Alive Out There,  whether it’s scaling active volcanoes, crashing shivas, playing herself on  Gossip Girl,  befriending swingers, or squinting down the barrel of the fertility gun, Crosley continues to rise to the occasion with unmatchable nerve and electric one-liners. And as her subjects become more serious, her essays deliver not just laughs but lasting emotional heft and insight. Crosley has taken up the gauntlets thrown by her predecessors—Dorothy Parker, Nora Ephron, David Sedaris—and crafted something rare, affecting, and true.”

Fl â neuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London  by Lauren Elkin

“Part cultural meander, part memoir,  Flâneuse  takes us on a distinctly cosmopolitan jaunt that begins in New York, where Elkin grew up, and transports us to Paris via Venice, Tokyo, and London, all cities in which she’s lived. We are shown the paths beaten by such  flâneuses  as the cross-dressing nineteenth-century novelist George Sand, the Parisian artist Sophie Calle, the wartime correspondent Martha Gellhorn, and the writer Jean Rhys. With tenacity and insight, Elkin creates a mosaic of what urban settings have meant to women, charting through literature, art, history, and film the sometimes exhilarating, sometimes fraught relationship that women have with the metropolis.”

Idiophone  by Amy Fusselman

“Leaping from ballet to quiltmaking, from the The Nutcracker to an Annie-B Parson interview,  Idiophone  is a strikingly original meditation on risk-taking and provocation in art and a unabashedly honest, funny, and intimate consideration of art-making in the context of motherhood, and motherhood in the context of addiction. Amy Fusselman’s compact, beautifully digressive essay feels both surprising and effortless, fueled by broad-ranging curiosity, and, fundamentally, joy.”

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture  by Roxane Gay

“In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are ‘routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied’ for speaking out.”

Sunshine State: Essays  by Sarah Gerard

“With the personal insight of  The Empathy Exams , the societal exposal of  Nickel and Dimed , and the stylistic innovation and intensity of her own break-out debut novel  Binary Star , Sarah Gerard’s  Sunshine State  uses the intimately personal to unearth the deep reservoirs of humanity buried in the corners of our world often hardest to face.”

The Art of the Wasted Day  by Patricia Hampl

“ The Art of the Wasted Day  is a picaresque travelogue of leisure written from a lifelong enchantment with solitude. Patricia Hampl visits the homes of historic exemplars of ease who made repose a goal, even an art form. She begins with two celebrated eighteenth-century Irish ladies who ran off to live a life of ‘retirement’ in rural Wales. Her search then leads to Moravia to consider the monk-geneticist, Gregor Mendel, and finally to Bordeaux for Michel Montaigne—the hero of this book—who retreated from court life to sit in his chateau tower and write about whatever passed through his mind, thus inventing the personal essay.”

A Really Big Lunch: The Roving Gourmand on Food and Life  by Jim Harrison

“Jim Harrison’s legendary gourmandise is on full display in  A Really Big Lunch . From the titular  New Yorker  piece about a French lunch that went to thirty-seven courses, to pieces from  Brick ,  Playboy , Kermit Lynch Newsletter, and more on the relationship between hunter and prey, or the obscure language of wine reviews,  A Really Big Lunch  is shot through with Harrison’s pointed aperçus and keen delight in the pleasures of the senses. And between the lines the pieces give glimpses of Harrison’s life over the last three decades.  A Really Big Lunch  is a literary delight that will satisfy every appetite.”

Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me  by Bill Hayes

“Bill Hayes came to New York City in 2009 with a one-way ticket and only the vaguest idea of how he would get by. But, at forty-eight years old, having spent decades in San Francisco, he craved change. Grieving over the death of his partner, he quickly discovered the profound consolations of the city’s incessant rhythms, the sight of the Empire State Building against the night sky, and New Yorkers themselves, kindred souls that Hayes, a lifelong insomniac, encountered on late-night strolls with his camera.”

Would You Rather?: A Memoir of Growing Up and Coming Out  by Katie Heaney

“Here, for the first time, Katie opens up about realizing at the age of twenty-eight that she is gay. In these poignant, funny essays, she wrestles with her shifting sexuality and identity, and describes what it was like coming out to everyone she knows (and everyone she doesn’t). As she revisits her past, looking for any ‘clues’ that might have predicted this outcome, Katie reveals that life doesn’t always move directly from point A to point B—no matter how much we would like it to.”

Tonight I’m Someone Else: Essays  by Chelsea Hodson

“From graffiti gangs and  Grand Theft Auto  to sugar daddies, Schopenhauer, and a deadly game of Russian roulette, in these essays, Chelsea Hodson probes her own desires to examine where the physical and the proprietary collide. She asks what our privacy, our intimacy, and our own bodies are worth in the increasingly digital world of liking, linking, and sharing.”

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.: Essays  by Samantha Irby

“With  We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. , ‘bitches gotta eat’ blogger and comedian Samantha Irby turns the serio-comic essay into an art form. Whether talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making ‘adult’ budgets, explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette—she’s ’35-ish, but could easily pass for 60-something’—detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father’s ashes, sharing awkward sexual encounters, or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms—hang in there for the Costco loot—she’s as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths.”

This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America  by Morgan Jerkins

“Doubly disenfranchised by race and gender, often deprived of a place within the mostly white mainstream feminist movement, black women are objectified, silenced, and marginalized with devastating consequences, in ways both obvious and subtle, that are rarely acknowledged in our country’s larger discussion about inequality. In  This Will Be My Undoing , Jerkins becomes both narrator and subject to expose the social, cultural, and historical story of black female oppression that influences the black community as well as the white, male-dominated world at large.”

Everywhere Home: A Life in Essays  by Fenton Johnson

“Part retrospective, part memoir, Fenton Johnson’s collection  Everywhere Home: A Life in Essays  explores sexuality, religion, geography, the AIDS crisis, and more. Johnson’s wanderings take him from the hills of Kentucky to those of San Francisco, from the streets of Paris to the sidewalks of Calcutta. Along the way, he investigates questions large and small: What’s the relationship between artists and museums, illuminated in a New Guinean display of shrunken heads? What’s the difference between empiricism and intuition?”

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter: Essays  by Scaachi Koul

“In  One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter , Scaachi Koul deploys her razor-sharp humor to share all the fears, outrages, and mortifying moments of her life. She learned from an early age what made her miserable, and for Scaachi anything can be cause for despair. Whether it’s a shopping trip gone awry; enduring awkward conversations with her bikini waxer; overcoming her fear of flying while vacationing halfway around the world; dealing with Internet trolls, or navigating the fears and anxieties of her parents. Alongside these personal stories are pointed observations about life as a woman of color: where every aspect of her appearance is open for critique, derision, or outright scorn; where strict gender rules bind in both Western and Indian cultures, leaving little room for a woman not solely focused on marriage and children to have a career (and a life) for herself.”

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions  by Valeria Luiselli and jon lee anderson (translator)

“A damning confrontation between the American dream and the reality of undocumented children seeking a new life in the U.S. Structured around the 40 questions Luiselli translates and asks undocumented Latin American children facing deportation,  Tell Me How It Ends  (an expansion of her 2016 Freeman’s essay of the same name) humanizes these young migrants and highlights the contradiction between the idea of America as a fiction for immigrants and the reality of racism and fear—both here and back home.”

All the Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers  by Alana Massey

“Mixing Didion’s affected cool with moments of giddy celebrity worship, Massey examines the lives of the women who reflect our greatest aspirations and darkest fears back onto us. These essays are personal without being confessional and clever in a way that invites readers into the joke. A cultural critique and a finely wrought fan letter, interwoven with stories that are achingly personal, All the Lives I Want is also an exploration of mental illness, the sex industry, and the dangers of loving too hard.”

Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish: Essays  by Tom McCarthy

“Certain points of reference recur with dreamlike insistence—among them the artist Ed Ruscha’s  Royal Road Test , a photographic documentation of the roadside debris of a Royal typewriter hurled from the window of a traveling car; the great blooms of jellyfish that are filling the oceans and gumming up the machinery of commerce and military domination—and the question throughout is: How can art explode the restraining conventions of so-called realism, whether aesthetic or political, to engage in the active reinvention of the world?”

Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America  by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding

“When 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump and 94 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton, how can women unite in Trump’s America? Nasty Women includes inspiring essays from a diverse group of talented women writers who seek to provide a broad look at how we got here and what we need to do to move forward.”

Don’t Call Me Princess: Essays on Girls, Women, Sex, and Life  by Peggy Orenstein

“Named one of the ’40 women who changed the media business in the last 40 years’ by  Columbia Journalism Review , Peggy Orenstein is one of the most prominent, unflinching feminist voices of our time. Her writing has broken ground and broken silences on topics as wide-ranging as miscarriage, motherhood, breast cancer, princess culture and the importance of girls’ sexual pleasure. Her unique blend of investigative reporting, personal revelation and unexpected humor has made her books bestselling classics.”

When You Find Out the World Is Against You: And Other Funny Memories About Awful Moments  by Kelly Oxford

“Kelly Oxford likes to blow up the internet. Whether it is with the kind of Tweets that lead  Rolling Stone  to name her one of the Funniest People on Twitter or with pictures of her hilariously adorable family (human and animal) or with something much more serious, like creating the hashtag #NotOkay, where millions of women came together to share their stories of sexual assault, Kelly has a unique, razor-sharp perspective on modern life. As a screen writer, professional sh*t disturber, wife and mother of three, Kelly is about everything but the status quo.”

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman  by Anne Helen Petersen

“You know the type: the woman who won’t shut up, who’s too brazen, too opinionated—too much. She’s the unruly woman, and she embodies one of the most provocative and powerful forms of womanhood today. In  Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud , Anne Helen Petersen uses the lens of ‘unruliness’ to explore the ascension of pop culture powerhouses like Lena Dunham, Nicki Minaj, and Kim Kardashian, exploring why the public loves to love (and hate) these controversial figures. With its brisk, incisive analysis,  Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud  will be a conversation-starting book on what makes and breaks celebrity today.”

Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist  by Franchesca Ramsey

“In her first book, Ramsey uses her own experiences as an accidental activist to explore the many ways we communicate with each other—from the highs of bridging gaps and making connections to the many pitfalls that accompany talking about race, power, sexuality, and gender in an unpredictable public space…the internet.”

Shrewed: A Wry and Closely Observed Look at the Lives of Women and Girls  by Elizabeth Renzetti

“Drawing upon Renzetti’s decades of reporting on feminist issues,  Shrewed  is a book about feminism’s crossroads. From Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign to the quest for equal pay, from the lessons we can learn from old ladies to the future of feminism in a turbulent world, Renzetti takes a pointed, witty look at how far we’ve come—and how far we have to go.”

What Are We Doing Here?: Essays  by Marilynne Robinson

“In this new essay collection she trains her incisive mind on our modern political climate and the mysteries of faith. Whether she is investigating how the work of great thinkers about America like Emerson and Tocqueville inform our political consciousness or discussing the way that beauty informs and disciplines daily life, Robinson’s peerless prose and boundless humanity are on full display.”

Double Bind: Women on Ambition  by Robin Romm

“‘A work of courage and ferocious honesty’ (Diana Abu-Jaber),  Double Bind  could not come at a more urgent time. Even as major figures from Gloria Steinem to Beyoncé embrace the word ‘feminism,’ the word ‘ambition’ remains loaded with ambivalence. Many women see it as synonymous with strident or aggressive, yet most feel compelled to strive and achieve—the seeming contradiction leaving them in a perpetual double bind. Ayana Mathis, Molly Ringwald, Roxane Gay, and a constellation of ‘nimble thinkers . . . dismantle this maddening paradox’ ( O, The Oprah Magazine ) with candor, wit, and rage. Women who have made landmark achievements in fields as diverse as law, dog sledding, and butchery weigh in, breaking the last feminist taboo once and for all.”

The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers and Life  by Richard Russo

“In these nine essays, Richard Russo provides insight into his life as a writer, teacher, friend, and reader. From a commencement speech he gave at Colby College, to the story of how an oddly placed toilet made him reevaluate the purpose of humor in art and life, to a comprehensive analysis of Mark Twain’s value, to his harrowing journey accompanying a dear friend as she pursued gender-reassignment surgery,  The Destiny Thief  reflects the broad interests and experiences of one of America’s most beloved authors. Warm, funny, wise, and poignant, the essays included here traverse Russo’s writing life, expanding our understanding of who he is and how his singular, incredibly generous mind works. An utter joy to read, they give deep insight into the creative process from the prospective of one of our greatest writers.”

Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race by Naben Ruthnum

“Curry is a dish that doesn’t quite exist, but, as this wildly funny and sharp essay points out, a dish that doesn’t properly exist can have infinite, equally authentic variations. By grappling with novels, recipes, travelogues, pop culture, and his own upbringing, Naben Ruthnum depicts how the distinctive taste of curry has often become maladroit shorthand for brown identity. With the sardonic wit of Gita Mehta’s  Karma Cola  and the refined, obsessive palette of Bill Buford’s  Heat , Ruthnum sinks his teeth into the story of how the beloved flavor calcified into an aesthetic genre that limits the imaginations of writers, readers, and eaters.”

The River of Consciousness  by Oliver Sacks

“Sacks, an Oxford-educated polymath, had a deep familiarity not only with literature and medicine but with botany, animal anatomy, chemistry, the history of science, philosophy, and psychology.  The River of Consciousness  is one of two books Sacks was working on up to his death, and it reveals his ability to make unexpected connections, his sheer joy in knowledge, and his unceasing, timeless project to understand what makes us human.”

All the Women in My Family Sing: Women Write the World: Essays on Equality, Justice, and Freedom (Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God)  by Deborah Santana and America Ferrera

“ All the Women in My Family Sing  is an anthology documenting the experiences of women of color at the dawn of the twenty-first century. It is a vital collection of prose and poetry whose topics range from the pressures of being the vice-president of a Fortune 500 Company, to escaping the killing fields of Cambodia, to the struggles inside immigration, identity, romance, and self-worth. These brief, trenchant essays capture the aspirations and wisdom of women of color as they exercise autonomy, creativity, and dignity and build bridges to heal the brokenness in today’s turbulent world.”

We Wear the Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America  by Brando Skyhorse and Lisa Page

“For some, ‘passing’ means opportunity, access, or safety. Others don’t willingly pass but are ‘passed’ in specific situations by someone else.  We Wear the Mask , edited by  Brando Skyhorse  and  Lisa Page , is an illuminating and timely anthology that examines the complex reality of passing in America. Skyhorse, a Mexican American, writes about how his mother passed him as an American Indian before he learned who he really is. Page shares how her white mother didn’t tell friends about her black ex-husband or that her children were, in fact, biracial.”

Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

“Since she burst spectacularly into view with her debut novel almost two decades ago, Zadie Smith has established herself not just as one of the world’s preeminent fiction writers, but also a brilliant and singular essayist. She contributes regularly to  The New Yorker  and the  New York Review of Books  on a range of subjects, and each piece of hers is a literary event in its own right.”

The Mother of All Questions: Further Reports from the Feminist Revolutions  by Rebecca Solnit

“In a timely follow-up to her national bestseller  Men Explain Things to Me , Rebecca Solnit offers indispensable commentary on women who refuse to be silenced, misogynistic violence, the fragile masculinity of the literary canon, the gender binary, the recent history of rape jokes, and much more. In characteristic style, Solnit mixes humor, keen analysis, and powerful insight in these essays.”

The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays  by Megan Stielstra

“Whether she’s imagining the implications of open-carry laws on college campuses, recounting the story of going underwater on the mortgage of her first home, or revealing the unexpected pains and joys of marriage and motherhood, Stielstra’s work informs, impels, enlightens, and embraces us all. The result is something beautiful—this story, her courage, and, potentially, our own.”

Against Memoir: Complaints, Confessions & Criticisms  by Michelle Tea

“Delivered with her signature honesty and dark humor, this is Tea’s first-ever collection of journalistic writing. As she blurs the line between telling other people’s stories and her own, she turns an investigative eye to the genre that’s nurtured her entire career—memoir—and considers the price that art demands be paid from life.”

A Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause  by Shawn Wen

“In precise, jewel-like scenes and vignettes,  A Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause  pays homage to the singular genius of a mostly-forgotten art form. Drawing on interviews, archival research, and meticulously observed performances, Wen translates the gestural language of mime into a lyric written portrait by turns whimsical, melancholic, and haunting.”

Acid West: Essays  by Joshua Wheeler

“The radical evolution of American identity, from cowboys to drone warriors to space explorers, is a story rooted in southern New Mexico.  Acid West  illuminates this history, clawing at the bounds of genre to reveal a place that is, for better or worse, home. By turns intimate, absurd, and frightening,  Acid West  is an enlightening deep-dive into a prophetic desert at the bottom of America.”

Sexographies  by Gabriela Wiener and Lucy Greaves And jennifer adcock (Translators)

“In fierce and sumptuous first-person accounts, renowned Peruvian journalist Gabriela Wiener records infiltrating the most dangerous Peruvian prison, participating in sexual exchanges in swingers clubs, traveling the dark paths of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris in the company of transvestites and prostitutes, undergoing a complicated process of egg donation, and participating in a ritual of ayahuasca ingestion in the Amazon jungle—all while taking us on inward journeys that explore immigration, maternity, fear of death, ugliness, and threesomes. Fortunately, our eagle-eyed voyeur emerges from her narrative forays unscathed and ready to take on the kinks, obsessions, and messiness of our lives.  Sexographies  is an eye-opening, kamikaze journey across the contours of the human body and mind.”

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative  by Florence Williams

“From forest trails in Korea, to islands in Finland, to eucalyptus groves in California, Florence Williams investigates the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain. Delving into brand-new research, she uncovers the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and strengthen our relationships. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas—and the answers they yield—are more urgent than ever.”

Can You Tolerate This?: Essays  by Ashleigh Young

“ Can You Tolerate This?  presents a vivid self-portrait of an introspective yet widely curious young woman, the colorful, isolated community in which she comes of age, and the uneasy tensions—between safety and risk, love and solitude, the catharsis of grief and the ecstasy of creation—that define our lives.”

What are your favorite contemporary essay collections?

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a collection of essays meaning

The Existential Husserl

A Collection of Critical Essays

  • © 2022
  • Marco Cavallaro 0 ,
  • George Heffernan 1

Institut für Philosophie, Universität Koblenz-Landau, Landau in der Pfalz, Germany

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Philosophy Department, Merrimack College, North Andover, USA

  • This is the first book to cover Husserl’s phenomenology of existence
  • Collects the contributions of a team of internationally recognized scholars collaborating on a neglected but essential aspect of Husserl’s phenomenology
  • Remedies the widespread but misleading impression that transcendental phenomenology does not and cannot deal with existential questions

Part of the book series: Contributions to Phenomenology (CTPH, volume 120)

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About this book

This book examines Husserl’s approach to the question concerning meaning in life and demonstrates that his philosophy includes a phenomenology of existence. Given his critique of the fashionable “philosophy of existence” of the late 1920s and early 1930s, one might think that Husserl posited an opposition between transcendental phenomenology and existential philosophy, as well as that in this respect he differed from existential phenomenologists after him. But texts composed between 1908 and 1937 and recently published in Husserliana XLII,  Grenzprobleme der Phänomenologie  (2014), show that  the existential Husserl  was not opposed but open to the phenomenological investigation of several basic topics of a philosophy of existence. A collection of contributions from a team of internationally recognized scholars drawing on these and other sources, the present volume offers insights into the relationship between phenomenology and philosophy of existence.It does so by (1) delineating the basic outlines of Husserl’s phenomenology of existence, (2) reinterpreting the tension between Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology and Jaspers’s and Heidegger’s philosophy of existence as well as Kierkegaard’s and Sartre’s existentialism, and (3) investigating the existential aspects of Husserl’s phenomenological ethics. Thus focusing on neglected aspects of Husserl’s thought, the volume shows that there is a consensus between classical phenomenology and existential phenomenology on the urgency of addressing the existential questions that in  The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology  (1936) Husserl calls “the questions concerning the meaning or meaninglessness of this entire human existence”.  The Existential Husserl  represents a major contribution to the clarification of the historical and philosophical developments from transcendental phenomenology to existential phenomenology. The book should appeal to a wide audience of many readers at all levels looking for phenomenological answers to existential questions.

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a collection of essays meaning

Life and the Natural World in the Early Work of Jan Patočka (1930–1945)

a collection of essays meaning

Edmund Husserl, Hannah Arendt and a Phenomenology of Nature

  • Essence and Existence in Phenomenology
  • Existential Phenomenology
  • Existential Philosophy
  • Limit Problems of Phenomenology
  • Phenomenological Ethics and Metaethics
  • Phenomenological Metaphysics
  • Phenomenology of Existence
  • Philosophy of Existence
  • Husserl and Existentialism
  • Husserl and Ethics

Table of contents (15 chapters)

Front matter, husserl’s phenomenology of existence: a very brief introduction.

George Heffernan

Transcendental Anthropology and Existential Phenomenology of Happiness

  • Jagna Brudzińska

“I Want, Therefore I Can”: Husserl’s Phenomenology of Heroic Willing

Marco Cavallaro

“Mag die Welt eine Hölle sein”: Husserl’s Existential Ethics

  • Nicolas de Warren

The Development of Husserl’s Categorical Imperative: From Universal Ethical Legislation to Individual Existential Exhortation

A phenomenological and logical clarification of individual existence.

  • Carlos Lobo

Is Husserl’s Later Ethics Existentialist? On the Primal Facticity of the Person and Husserl’s “Existentialist Rationalism”

  • Sophie Loidolt

Birth, Death, and Sleep: Limit Problems and the Paradox of Phenomenology

  • James Mensch

Husserl, Jaspers, and Heidegger on Life and Existence

  • Dermot Moran

Authentic Existence in Husserl and Heidegger

  • Thomas Nenon

Kierkegaard and Husserl

  • Bernhard Obsieger

Husserl’s Concept of the Absolute Ought: Implications for Ethics and Value Theory

  • Sonja Rinofner-Kreidl

Revisiting Husserl’s Transcendental Phenomenology of the Ego: Existence and Praxis

  • Rosemary R. P. Lerner

The Existential Situatedness of the Transcendental Subject

  • Rochus Sowa

Existential Choice: Husserl Meets Heller

  • Andrea Staiti

Back Matter

Editors and affiliations, about the editors.

Marco Cavallaro (Ph.D., University of Cologne) is Assistant Professor at the Institute for Philosophy of the University of Koblenz-Landau. He earned his Ph.D. degree with a thesis on Husserl’s System of a Theory of Science (forthcoming). He has published several articles on Husserl and phenomenology, including in  Husserl Studies ,  Phänomenologische Forschungen , and Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology . He is co-editor of the volume Phenomenology of Phantasy and Emotions (WBG, 2022). His current research focuses on phenomenological ethics, philosophy of digitality, and philosophical anthropology. 

Bibliographic Information

Book Title : The Existential Husserl

Book Subtitle : A Collection of Critical Essays

Editors : Marco Cavallaro, George Heffernan

Series Title : Contributions to Phenomenology

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-05095-4

Publisher : Springer Cham

eBook Packages : Religion and Philosophy , Philosophy and Religion (R0)

Copyright Information : Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022

Hardcover ISBN : 978-3-031-05094-7 Published: 26 October 2022

Softcover ISBN : 978-3-031-05097-8 Published: 26 October 2023

eBook ISBN : 978-3-031-05095-4 Published: 25 October 2022

Series ISSN : 0923-9545

Series E-ISSN : 2215-1915

Edition Number : 1

Number of Pages : XVIII, 354

Topics : Phenomenology , Existentialism , Ethics

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All Thing Are Too Small: Essays in Praise of Excess - It all gets a bit too much in the end

Becca rothfeld’s collection is energetic and charmingly verbose, but her tendency to demystify everything wears thin.

a collection of essays meaning

Becca Rothfeld: Moments of clear insight and great beauty

All Thing Are Too Small: Essays in Praise of Excess

Towards the end of All Things Are Too Small, Becca’s Rothfeld’s defence of maximalism, she reproduces a quotation that she has “so thoroughly digested and metabolised” that it is now an essential fixture of her “mental repertoire”.

“I love a demystified thing inordinately.”

Yes, I thought, that’s it. That’s the problem with this book: Rothfeld’s tendency towards such relentless demystification of her subjects that they’re pallid and lifeless by the time she’s through.

This is not true of all the essays in the collection. It opens promisingly and with astounding energy and vigour. Initially, one forgives Rothfeld’s immediately evident habit of making grand, inaccurate statements, such as: “Desire is as good a guide to truth as anything else.” If anything, her verbosity and inexactitude seem charming – she’s wrong because she’s passionate. Reading, I felt myself at a dinner table surrounded by voices stridently debating all manner of interesting things: literature, meaning, mindfulness, feminism, sex, sex and more sex (to give an idea of the topics of these essays).

Minor travel disasters and me: Ask me about how I discovered Germany had two Freiburgs

Minor travel disasters and me: Ask me about how I discovered Germany had two Freiburgs

Ben Kane: When writing about combat and injuries, it helps that I know what blades do to flesh

Ben Kane: When writing about combat and injuries, it helps that I know what blades do to flesh

Harpy: A Manifesto for Childfree Women; Others Like Me: The Lives of Women Without Children - listening to a wider narrative

Harpy: A Manifesto for Childfree Women; Others Like Me: The Lives of Women Without Children - listening to a wider narrative

The Stalin Affair: The Impossible Alliance That Won The War by Giles Milton

The Stalin Affair: The Impossible Alliance That Won The War by Giles Milton

My God, though, did I want that dinner to end, so I could return somewhere peaceful and reflective, to cease the ringing in my ears of all this terribly intelligent demystifying. The humour, too, wears thin. Yes, it’s hilarious to mock the bourgeois aesthetic of Marie Kondo (I laughed aloud at “the declutterer dreams of a house without f**king or sh**ting”), but by the end of the collection, these knowing asides and the unremitting sarcasm made me feel like I was trying to converse with a surly, unimpressed teenager.

Also, Rothfeld’s attempts at love-writing made me physically cringe. At one point, she tells us that her husband loves reading so much, he does so in the shower. The impossible logistics of this image will never, I fear, cease to irritate me.

Yet, there are moments of clear insight, and of great beauty. Rothfeld’s capacious vocabulary left me stunned, and exquisite phrases such as “the gleaming purity of a history” almost made up for her agonising attempts at poeticism.

“The night was cool as mint. Behind him, the light from the streetlamp became butter melting. His voice was flat and nasal, mouthy as saltwater toffee.”

Ultimately, this collection’s great weakness is that these pieces have been gathered into a collection at all. I can see that, taken one at a time, Rothfeld’s tone would be pithy and gratifying, and these qualities would make up for her prolix, excessive demystification and broad, questionable statements. Alas, reading her thoughts over and over, all in a row, I grew frustrated, tired and harried. By the end, I wanted to leave the dinner party, to run out into the street, to regain the relief of a little mystery.


Around the world in 80 years by ranulph fiennes: extraordinary exploration stories, international protection applicant helps rescue woman from river liffey in dublin city centre, fired supervalu worker accused of clocking in and going to sleep, ‘old mr brennan’, founder of family-run irish bread maker, dies, dublin constituency: left-wing candidates face dog fight for the last seat, taoiseach keeping ‘open mind’ on asylum processing in third countries, latest stories, sewage crisis: why this uk election is being fought on – and in – rivers and lakes, election ads on tiktok breach company’s rules and eu code, write a ‘letter’ to the irish times and win €3,000, judgment day nears for musk as shareholders vote on $56bn pay day, new garda body-worn cameras expected to lead to more prosecutions of far right.

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Check your sources —

Google’s “ai overview” can give false, misleading, and dangerous answers, from glue-on-pizza recipes to recommending "blinker fluid," google's ai sourcing needs work..

Kyle Orland - May 24, 2024 11:00 am UTC

This is fine.

Further Reading

Factual errors can pop up in existing LLM chatbots as well, of course. But the potential damage that can be caused by AI inaccuracy gets multiplied when those errors appear atop the ultra-valuable web real estate of the Google search results page.

"The examples we've seen are generally very uncommon queries and aren’t representative of most people’s experiences," a Google spokesperson told Ars. "The vast majority of AI Overviews provide high quality information, with links to dig deeper on the web."

After looking through dozens of examples of Google AI Overview mistakes (and replicating many ourselves for the galleries below), we've noticed a few broad categories of errors that seemed to show up again and again. Consider this a crash course in some of the current weak points of Google's AI Overviews and a look at areas of concern for the company to improve as the system continues to roll out.

Treating jokes as facts

  • The bit about using glue on pizza can be traced back to an 11-year-old troll post on Reddit. ( via ) Kyle Orland / Google
  • This wasn't funny when the guys at Pep Boys said it, either. ( via ) Kyle Orland / Google
  • Weird Al recommends "running with scissors" as well! ( via ) Kyle Orland / Google

Some of the funniest example of Google's AI Overview failing come, ironically enough, when the system doesn't realize a source online was trying to be funny. An AI answer that suggested using "1/8 cup of non-toxic glue" to stop cheese from sliding off pizza can be traced back to someone who was obviously trying to troll an ongoing thread . A response recommending "blinker fluid" for a turn signal that doesn't make noise can similarly be traced back to a troll on the Good Sam advice forums , which Google's AI Overview apparently trusts as a reliable source.

In regular Google searches, these jokey posts from random Internet users probably wouldn't be among the first answers someone saw when clicking through a list of web links. But with AI Overviews, those trolls were integrated into the authoritative-sounding data summary presented right at the top of the results page.

What's more, there's nothing in the tiny "source link" boxes below Google's AI summary to suggest either of these forum trolls are anything other than good sources of information. Sometimes, though, glancing at the source can save you some grief, such as when you see a response calling running with scissors "cardio exercise that some say is effective" ( that came from a 2022 post from Little Old Lady Comedy ).

Bad sourcing

  • Washington University in St. Louis says this ratio is accurate, but others disagree. ( via ) Kyle Orland / Google
  • Man, we wish this fantasy remake was real. ( via ) Kyle Orland / Google

Sometimes Google's AI Overview offers an accurate summary of a non-joke source that happens to be wrong. When asking about how many Declaration of Independence signers owned slaves, for instance, Google's AI Overview accurately summarizes a Washington University of St. Louis library page saying that one-third "were personally enslavers." But the response ignores contradictory sources like a Chicago Sun-Times article saying the real answer is closer to three-quarters. I'm not enough of a history expert to judge which authoritative-seeming source is right, but at least one historian online took issue with the Google AI's answer sourcing .

Other times, a source that Google trusts as authoritative is really just fan fiction. That's the case for a response that imagined a 2022 remake of 2001: A Space Odyssey , directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by George Lucas. A savvy web user would probably do a double-take before citing citing Fandom's "Idea Wiki" as a reliable source, but a careless AI Overview user might not notice where the AI got its information.

reader comments

Promoted comments.

a collection of essays meaning

View attachment 81471
  • garbage in, garbage out. Even the LLM says it's from a Reddit post.
  • people having unrealistic expectations about LLMs. Perhaps this will convince everyone that they're parroting what they're fed and have no understanding or self consciousness.
  • google shooting themselves in the foot. It's one thing to give a result like the Reddit suggesion as a link to the original post on Reddit. It's another one entirely to get it in this overview where it sounds like it's endorsed by Google.

a collection of essays meaning

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'Appeal to Heaven' Flag, Part of City Collection For Decades, Quietly Removed From SF's Civic Center Plaza

A flag that had caused zero controversy for much of its time in a San Francisco city-owned collection of historic flags, which have flown outside City Hall since the 1960s, has been quietly removed by Rec & Park staff after it has come to take on new meaning.

A flag that was one of several historic flags coopted by the Stop the Steal movement following the 2020 election — and specifically associated with a far-right segment of the Christian right — has made headlines in the last week since it was revealed that it had been flying outside the vacation home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. For many years, it has been one of a collection of 18 flags representing different moments in American history that have flown on flagpoles in what's known as the Pavilion of American Flags in Civic Center Plaza.

Known as the Pine Tree Flag, it was created in 1775 at the request of George Washington, with the phrase "An Appeal to Heaven" on it, to be flown on colonial fighters' ships so that they could recognize one another.

The phrase was inspired by a resolution that had been adopted by the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts following the Battle of Lexington and Concord, which used the phrase, "Appealing to Heaven for the justice of our cause, we determine to die or be free."

As this history of the Pavilion of American Flags, posted by KQED in 2017, explains, "The flagpoles were installed during a period of great nationalism, especially in San Francisco," and the flags were first raised in 1964. The American flag as we know it had just been redesigned following the statehoods of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959, and a local service club, called the Sertoma Club, came up with the idea of a collection of flags — which included obscure ones from the country's history, including the now ubiquitous "Don't Tread on Me" snake flag, known as the Gadsen Flag, which also dates to 1775.

The Gadsen Flag and the Pine Tree Flag were both among those flown by January 6th rioters, and as we learned via the Alito incident, the Pine Tree Flag has taken on new meaning since it was coopted by a particular Christian right preacher and ardent fan of Donald Trump, Dutch Sheets. Sheets has been giving the flag to various figures on the right, including Sarah Palin and House Speaker Mike Johnson, and it's being used to symbolize a call for the re-Christianization of the country.

The Pine Tree Flag takes on especially problematic meaning for Alito and the increasing sense of the Supreme Court's illegitimacy and partisanship. And an example of it that was briefly flown late last week atop a building in Jackson Square caused a stir, and it was taken down — though it's not clear what the flag's owner was trying to express there.

As the Chronicle reports today , Rec & Parks officials have quietly removed the flag from Civic Center Plaza, saying in a statement that while it once symbolized a "quest for American independence," it has "since been adopted by a different group — one that doesn’t represent the city’s values."

It has been swapped out for a standard American flag.

In recent years, and even as recently as last week , right-wing commentators on social media have noted the irony of liberal San Francisco displaying the Appeal to Heaven flag outside City Hall.

The Chronicle notes that the last controversial flag in the city's collection that was removed was the Confederate Flag, which was controversial from the moment it first flew in front of City Hall in 1964 — as the Chronicle reported at the time.

It was still part of the collection for another 20 years, having been replaced along with a number of the flags that had grown ragged while Dianne Feinstein was mayor in 1981. After the Confederate flag was ripped down in protest and replaced once in 1984 , and then ripped down again by the same protester, Feinstein relented and listened to a Black member of the Board of Supervisors, agreeing not to have the flag replaced again.

Previously: The Same Insurrectionist Flag That Flew Over Samuel Alito's Beach House Just Flew Over a Building In SF's Jackson Square

Photo: cezanneab/X

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What These Stories About Samuel Alito’s “Provocative” Flags Are Really About

No, john roberts is not going to do anything about this one either..

It’s easy to be furious at Samuel Alito, who has recently racked up yet another petty personal grievance display over, of all things, flags. Last week saw the earthquake report that his wife flew a flag upside down—signaling either that the country is in danger or that the election was stolen—in the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. This week,   the New York Times further reports that Alito was flying an “Appeal to Heaven” flag at his New Jersey beach house this past summer. That flag is not merely another Jan. 6 signifier but is also rooted in John Locke’s “appeal to heaven,” meaning “a responsibility to rebel, even use violence, to overthrow unjust rule.”

In some ways, this is another very ridiculous, very 2024 story about the lengths to which ostensible adults will go toward owning the libs, and one justice’s fantastically bad judgment and cluelessness about the appearance of impropriety. But this is not even about Samuel Alito. Neither, actually, was the bombshell report about his alleged leak of the outcome of the Hobby Lobby decision in 2014 to wealthy religious Supreme Court lobbyists about Samuel Alito. To expend energy railing against this one petty, petty little man is to inveigh against the symptom as opposed to the problem.

It is just as easy to be enraged at Clarence Thomas and his myriad and corrosive ethics violations. His wife has texted with Mark Meadows over what she believed to be a stolen 2020 election, tried to encourage state legislators to support a slate of dummy electors, attended part of the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, and testified before the Jan. 6 committee that she still believed that that election had been stolen. And Thomas has declined to recuse himself from the three Jan. 6 cases heard at the high court this year. But again, this is not about Ginni or Clarence Thomas. Expending energy hopelessly trying to shame Clarence Thomas or Samuel Alito is an act of incalculable futility.

It is not even, I fear, about Chief Justice John Roberts, who might have, in a different time and under different circumstances, been the type of history-minded leader who would have dealt with this shameless and flagrant squandering of the court’s reputation as a serious body. After all, Roberts once told Jeffrey Rosen in the Atlantic, “The Court is also ripe for a similar refocus on functioning as an institution, because if it doesn’t it’s going to lose its credibility and legitimacy as an institution.” But that chief justice left the chat at least a decade ago. In failing to act, over and over, he has been a powerful actor.

In Legitimacy Roberts’ stead we have been left with yet another defensive , thin-skinned thunderer about judicial independence and a longtime coddler of insurrectionists and grifters. Which is why calling on Roberts to take a page from Chief Justice Earl Warren’s playbook and use his moral authority to do something about Alito and Thomas—as Warren once did about Abe Fortas—is almost as futile as calling for him to put real teeth into an ethics code or conduct a meaningful investigation of the Dobbs leak. Roberts, respectfully, has long ago made the decision that he is simply one coequal vote among nine. He neither wants nor possesses the authority to rein in the MAGA justices. He may vote as though he cares about court legitimacy, but he chief justices like the harassed mother of a kid throwing a tantrum at Safeway—all shrugs and eye rolls. We can and should demand that Roberts account for what he knew and when he knew it, but Roberts will not solve the problem he has allowed to fester and grow.

So if the real problem here is not Sam Alito, or Clarence Thomas, or John Roberts, why have we wasted years of ink and umbrage and energy trying to change their behavior? Alito and Thomas will not be recusing themselves from either Fisher or the Trump immunity case. The chief justice will not be urging them to do so. No lawyer arguing in front of the court will, as Sherrilyn Ifill has been urging , demand a recusal or an investigation of justices with blatant conflicts of interest hearing these Jan. 6 cases because, as Noah Bookbinder of CREW recently told us on the Amicus podcast, to ask the very people you want to cast votes for you to find themselves conflicted is rank insanity. “The system of leaving it up to litigants to challenge justices as potentially conflicted doesn’t make any sense,” Bookbinder said. “Of course that’s not going to work. And leaving justices to make that determination doesn’t make any sense. You need to have some kind of outside body who can evaluate those kinds of questions.”

Who, who, who might that outside body be? Tapping my chin—you tap yours.

Bookbinder’s answer points beautifully to the real problem: We have a judicial enterprise that rules over us with absolutely no one ruling over it. Nobody should be all that surprised that Sen. Dick Durbin has announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee will not launch a probe into Alito’s recent conduct. The Senate has also been trying to unearth the financing for Thomas’ quarter-million-dollar, salt-of-the-earth RV, amid other ethics violations, and Leonard Leo has declined to comply with subpoenas related to it. Yes, the Senate should be acting to resolve this problem, but that seems to have largely stalled at “Ask them to recuse.”

So, just to review, this isn’t really a Sam Alito problem, or a Clarence Thomas problem, or a John Roberts problem—but it also isn’t even a Senate-Dems-who-can’t-muster-the-energy-to-close-the-deal problem.

No, I have come to conclude that this is an us problem. Because rather than hurling ourselves headlong into the “Alito Must Recuse” brick wall of “yeah, no,” we need to dedicate the upcoming election cycle, and the attendant election news cycle, to a discussion of the courts. Not just Alito or Thomas, who happen to go to work every day at the court, and not just Dobbs and gun control, which happen to have come out of the very same court, but the connection between those two tales: what it means to have a Supreme Court that is functionally immune from political pressure, from internal norms of behavior, from judicial ethics and disclosure constraints, and from congressional oversight, and why that is deeply dangerous. More so, why justices who were placed on the court to behave as well-compensated partisan politicians would do so in public as well as on paper. Until we do that, Alito will continue to fly around the world, giving speeches about his triumph in Dobbs and Thomas will keep taking gifts and failing to disclose them. That won’t be the end of the Supreme Court story; it will be just the start of it.

My friend Jennifer Rubin unspooled a call for Democrats to run in November on the promise of abortion rights and court and filibuster reform. That too will be a start. But Donald Trump is already training us to accept the argument that presidents need to be able to order the assassination of their rivals, and Alito is training us to tolerate the notion that if we don’t grant presidents immunity for such acts, they won’t agree to peacefully leave office. In the span of a week, Alito has also trained us to accept that justices can fly whatever inciting and ideological symbols they like, even if the guys who work in the SCOTUS mailroom can’t, because justices are also the recipients of blanket immunity. The problem with these arguments about offering immunity to bad actors is that you can metabolize the helplessness almost as rapidly as you metabolize the idea of immunity itself. It’s not merely the idea that law is for suckers that we have normalized in this precarious moment—it’s the tragic collective conclusion that there is nothing to be done about the fact that the light is really flashing red right now.

An imperial court is the problem, not Martha-Ann Alito’s childish tantrums and not whatever her husband will tell Fox News tomorrow about how the haters made him fly a Christian nationalist flag as the court took on the mifepristone case. Please don’t let the rapid riptides of the news cycle or the sense that God wants us all to live under the fist of an imperial court forever and ever, amen, distract from the fact that term limits, court expansion, an inspector general, and filibuster reform, all of this is possible, and none of it is happening in the wake of the Alito flag revelations, just as none of it was happening when Ginni Thomas showed up at an insurrection rally. The court is hearing cases on the docket while some justices are living life off the docket that prove one thing only: that institutional immunity is not so much taken as silently and invisibly conferred. If we have learned anything at all in the recent past, it’s that it’s also contagious.

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Rep. Jasmine Crockett's viral 'Bleach blonde bad built butch body': coming to t-shirts soon?

a collection of essays meaning

Last week’s insult-laden House committee hearing may soon be immortalized on a hoodie or pair of socks. 

Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas, filed a trademark application Sunday for rights to the phrase “BLEACH BLONDE BAD BUILT BUTCH BODY.” Crockett hurled the alliterative insult seemingly at Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Thursday during a heated House Oversight Committee session.  

Lawmakers were meeting to vote on holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for  refusing to turn over  audio recordings of President Joe Biden's interview with special counsel Robert Hur. 

Greene sparked the verbal back-and-forth with Crockett. “I don’t think you know what you’re here for," the Georgia Republican said. "I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you’re reading.”  

Later in the hearing, Crockett posed the question, “I’m just curious ... If someone on this committee then starts talking about somebody’s bleach blonde bad built butch body, that would not be engaging in personalities, correct?” 

Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide

Telling CNN Sunday she had just wanted clarification on violations of congressional protocol, the Texas lawmaker said she did not regret what she said.  

And quickly after the exchange, Crockett began advertising “A Crockett Clapback Collection” on X , formerly Twitter. 

“This collection will feature various swag that includes random things I’ve said,” Crockett wrote in a post Friday, also indicating that money from sales will go towards supporting House Democrats. 

Crockett said the collection needs “a little time” before officially launching but that the “BLEACH BLONDE BAD BUILT BUTCH BODY” – featured on a black T-shirt in a photo attached to the post – will be up first. 

Her recent trademark filing indicates Crockett plans to use the phrase for clothing, including hats, hoodies, socks, and T-shirts, as well as political consultancy. Josh Gerben, a trademark attorney of the law firm Gerben IP, discovered the filing and flagged it to USA TODAY

Crockett and her attorney for the filing could not be immediately reached for comment. Greene's office also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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  11. A Collection of Essays by George Orwell

    The best collection of essays that I've read so far. 14 well-written essays by Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950) also known as George Orwell.It covers a wide range of topics from his childhood, Spanish Civil War, Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Jewish religion, politics, etc to his shooting of an elephant while serving as a police in Burma.

  12. 177 College Essay Examples for 11 Schools + Expert Analysis

    Here is a collection of essays that are college-specific. Babson College. 4 essays (and 1 video response) on "Why Babson" from the class of 2020 ... They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability. By instantly following up with highly finite and unambiguous illustrations like "family of seven" and ...

  13. Corpus

    A corpus is a collection of writings. If you tend to never throw anything away, you might have your entire school corpus, from your first scribbled words to your high school English essays.

  14. What Is an Anthology? Definition, Examples, and Its Purpose in

    It may be a compilation of essays, poems, short stories, song lyrics, and even excerpts by various authors. In genre fiction, an anthology is understood as a collection of shorter works (such as short stories or novellas) by different authors and published into a single volume. These stories are not related by plot or characters but by the ...

  15. Reviewing Collected Essays

    Definition. Collected essays vary in form and content [see below] but generally refers to a single book that contains essays [chapters] written by a variety of contributing authors. ... Conference Proceedings--a collection of papers published as part of an academic conference or other gathering of professionals. The purpose is to inform a wider ...

  16. What is an Anthology? Definition, Examples, & More

    Anthology definition . One of the cool things about an anthology is that it can be so diverse. ... is an engrossing collection of essays, short stories, and more from familiar and brand-new voices. There's a nearly endless list of anthology genres, so if none of these appeal to you, we encourage you to do some research! We promise you'll ...

  17. How to Cite an Anthology or Collected Works

    by Chelsea Lee. An anthology is a collection of works, organized around a central theme, that has been assembled by an editor or publisher. One type of anthology is often called a collected works or complete works, in which all the writings of a particular author are published in one volume (or set of volumes) for easy reference.Other anthologies contain works by many different authors all of ...

  18. The Federalist Papers

    The Federalist Papers is a collection of 85 articles and essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay under the collective pseudonym "Publius" to promote the ratification of the Constitution of the United States.The collection was commonly known as The Federalist until the name The Federalist Papers emerged in the twentieth century. ...

  19. Types of Essays in Academic Writing

    Narrative Essay. 4. Argumentative Essay. Expository and persuasive essays mainly deal with facts to explain ideas clearly. Narrative and descriptive essays are informal and have a creative edge. Despite their differences, these essay types share a common goal ― to convey information, insights, and perspectives effectively.

  20. 50 Must-Read Contemporary Essay Collections

    The attitude of that sentiment inspired Durga Chew-Bose to gather own writing in this lyrical collection of poetic essays that examine personhood and artistic growth. Drawing inspiration from a diverse group of incisive and inquiring female authors, Chew-Bose captures the inner restlessness that keeps her always on the brink of creative ...

  21. The Existential Husserl: A Collection of Critical Essays

    Marco Cavallaro, George Heffernan. This is the first book to cover Husserl's phenomenology of existence. Collects the contributions of a team of internationally recognized scholars collaborating on a neglected but essential aspect of Husserl's phenomenology. Remedies the widespread but misleading impression that transcendental phenomenology ...

  22. Work and meaning: Definitions and interpretations.

    Citation. Brief, A. P., & Nord, W. R. (1990). Work and meaning: Definitions and interpretations. In A. P. Brief & W. R. Nord (Eds.), Meanings of occupational work: A ...

  23. The Meaning of Occupational Work: A Collection of Essays.

    effect of work meanings on the importance or valence of job. outcomes, perceptions of the environment, goal. development, and rewards. The chapter demonstrates "that. outcome valence, expectancies ...

  24. All Thing Are Too Small: Essays in Praise of Excess

    All Thing Are Too Small: Essays in Praise of Excess - It all gets a bit too much in the end Becca Rothfeld's collection is energetic and charmingly verbose, but her tendency to demystify ...

  25. Solved: Messages app crashing

    Once the app is stopped, either disable the app or uninstall any updates. ① Settings > Apps > search 'Meet' > tap Force stop. ② Settings > Apps > search 'Meet' > More options (⁝) > tap 'Uninstall updates'. Users can also change the default messaging app from Samsung Message to Google Messages. Navigate to and open Settings ...

  26. Google's "AI Overview" can give false, misleading, and dangerous

    Some of the funniest example of Google's AI Overview failing come, ironically enough, when the system doesn't realize a source online was trying to be funny. An AI answer that suggested using "1/8 ...

  27. 'Appeal to Heaven' Flag, Part of City Collection For Decades, Quietly

    A flag that had caused zero controversy for much of its time in a San Francisco city-owned collection of historic flags, which have flown outside City Hall since the 1960s, has been quietly ...

  28. Sam Alito's second flag story and what it means about ethics at the

    This week, the New York Times further reports that Alito was flying an "Appeal to Heaven" flag at his New Jersey beach house this past summer. That flag is not merely another Jan. 6 signifier ...

  29. 'Bleach blonde bad built butch body' Crockett trademarks viral insult

    Crockett said the collection needs "a little time" before officially launching but that the "BLEACH BLONDE BAD BUILT BUTCH BODY" - featured on a black T-shirt in a photo attached to the ...

  30. What Does Donald Trump's Conviction Mean for the Election?

    Donald Trump's convictions are class F felonies in New York, the lowest tier in the state, with each carrying a maximum sentence of four years. when determining the sentence, the judge will have to take into account Trump's age - 77 - his lack of previous criminal convictions, and the fact that the case involves a non-violent crime.