William Smart Eight Modern Essayists

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Incredibly prolific both in the academic and essay format (and in many other types of media as well), hooks writes about race, gender, feminism, class, art, and the world at large, often through a postmodern lens.

She is fiery and unabashed about her beliefs, as every intelligent woman should be, and though this has of course caused some to criticize her, it has caused many more to love her.

Fun fact: she’s also a voice actor, best known for her portrayal as Violet Parr in , published last year, reveals her to be a complete nerd — in the best of ways, of course. Constant through all his mediums, however, are his insightful, intimate — and often hilarious — observations about race, class, and the wild and crazy world of pop culture.

Unpretentiously in love with literature and blessed with a relentlessly charming voice, almost everything we read by Batuman sends us scrambling back to our bookshelves for that novel she’s reminded us we’re dying to dive into. In his most recent book, , he explores race as “a completely liquid shape-shifter that can take any form” and aims “to attack and destroy the idea that there is a correct or legitimate way of doing blackness.” Provocative and brilliant, we think this is a guy who’ll keep changing the cultural landscape for years to come.

, has had everyone raving since it hit shelves in October — and with good reason.

With exacting, witty prose, Sullivan tackles pop culture and history with equal ability, writing about everything from alumni to Christian rock festivals in the Ozarks to Constantine Rafinesque, a nineteenth-century genius struggling for a foothold., Shields argues that the “lyric essay” is contemporary culture’s premier literary form — but that such terms don’t really matter, as all of culture is in the midst of getting mixed up in a huge intellectual blender.While we had our issues with the book, he makes some fascinating points, all worth reading in this age of mash-ups and DIY and shifting intellectual property rights.Sloane Crosley Crosley’s hilarious personal essays are smart and observant and relentlessly sly.Like a lady Sedaris, she wins you over with self-deprecating humor and indignant reactions to the weirdness of the everyday world.Obviously, we’re in the latter camp., where many of her essays get their starts, she comes at the contemporary social world with a supreme understanding of our country’s past.After all, she does write a lot about assassinated presidents. We’ve been excited about this book for a while now, so if you’ve been reading our books coverage with any regularity you probably already know we think it’s something worth picking up.Great as it is, Robinson’s collection only whet our appetites for more essays by contemporary writers, so in case it does the same for you, we’ve put together a list of contemporary essayists we think everyone should be reading right now (or, you know, whenever you finish watching ).We’ve tried to stick to authors who are still alive — so David Foster Wallace and Christopher Hitchens are off the table, though they both would have made this list with flying colors were they still with us — and limited ourselves to American writers, but even with those caveats, there is enough in these writers’ oeuvres to keep you up and thinking for weeks on end.Click through to read our list, and please do add your own suggestions for top-notch essayists we should all be reading in the comments., “a useful antidote to the increasingly crude and slogan-loving culture we inhabit,” and we’re comfortable expanding that statement to Robinson’s work at large — always challenging, always thought provoking, always making us want to be better.


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