'The essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything'. Aldous Huxley's words describe the freedom and undefinable form of the essay. The essay, using the personal voice, illuminates the conscience of the author and explores their thoughts and observations of a particular person, event, subject or concept. They are longer than an article but shorter than a novel or memoir and are, thus, one of my favourite literary forms. I enjoy their diversity: some are banal, some are thrilling, others are melancholy and some are hilarious. Some tell a story and some are random snippets of everyday life.
Essay collections vary from world renowned authors trying their hand at something new, which in Zadie Smith's case she did with aplomb discussing lockdown, race and relative suffering. While for other authors this is their only prose like Samantha Irby who is hilarious and insightful about her life as a gay, black woman. Nora Ephron is a jack of all trades but masters them all - I Feel Bad About My Neck is my favourite of this list as she reflects on getting old and the things that she loves. Then, there are collections with essays from multiple contributors. I have included two in this list put together by Scarlett Curtis and Nikesh Shukla who have both carefully sourced some brilliant thoughts, experiences and teachings from a vast array of public voices to explore feminism and race.