Top 7 Essayists to Learn From

Do you want to become better at essay writing? Of course, you do! Even students who are already good at it would not object to honing their writing skills even further. And if you struggle from the first sentence to the last, you should be dying to know what you can do about it.  

So, how do you hone your writing skills? There are many tips, but the one present in every list is to read a lot. Indeed, that is essential if you want to become better at producing texts of any genre and purpose. 

Yet, this is the long and thorny path to better grades. If you need quick results, there is always an option to order essay help on the online essay service and have it done with. But it is not all about the grades, right? Reading is beneficial in more ways than one, so we suggest that you try it anyway. 

To save your time, we’ve put together a list of top essayists you can learn from right now and become a better writer yourself.   


Michel de Montaigne 

French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne is considered one of the most influential essayists ever. Despite being written centuries ago, his “Essais” volume is still listed among the most prominent works of the genre, and students and authors alike still have a lot to learn from it.  

Ironically, de Montaigne was mostly known as a statesman during his lifetime. His literary works were not given due credit until later when society was ready to appreciate his innovations. 

The best-known pieces from the philosopher’s massive volume include:

  • Of Vanity; 
  • Of Friendship; 
  • Of Cannibals; 
  • Of Experience. 

What you can learn: 

  • Incorporating personal anecdotes and digressions into your text. 

Mark Twain 

Most people know Mark Twain (nee Samuel Langhorne Clemens) as the author of the beloved children’s coming-of-age classic “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” – but there’s far more to his legacy than that. Besides novels, this prominent American author has also written short stories, speeches, and essays. 

Among his best-known (and most humorous) works are such as:

  • How to Tell a Story;
  • At the Funeral;
  • Advice to Youth;
  • A Presidential Candidate. 

What you can learn: 

  • Incorporating humor and satire into your writing. 

George Orwell 

This British writer is primarily known for his novel “1984” – one of the most famous dystopias ever written – and his satirical novella “Animal Farm”. But George Orwell (nee Eric Arthur Blair) has also produced a bunch of essays that are still considered to be some of the best examples of the genre. 

Orwell’s works typically touch on such subjects as politics and society, imperialism, and social injustice. Some of his most popular pieces in the genre include: 

  • Politics and the English Language; 
  • A Hanging; 
  • Why I Write; 
  • Decline of the English Murder.

 What you can learn: 

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  • Discussing complex topics such as politics and society. 

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway’s writing style and legacy may be polarizing – but there are no doubts as to the fact that he is one of the 20th century’s most celebrated writers. The author of “A Farewell to Arms”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and other famous novels, he has also published nonfiction prose throughout his career.  

His writing style has inspired the developers of one of the most popular online editors and readability checkers – Hemingway Editor.

Although Hemingway was not a prolific essayist, his style was so influential that every student needs to learn from his legacy. Here are some of the Nobel Prize winner’s noteworthy non-fiction works:

  • The Art of the Short Story;
  • By-Line: Ernest Hemingway (selected journalism);
  • Death in the Afternoon;
  • A Movable Feast. 

What you can learn:

  • Using simple grammar and plain language to convey ideas clearly and concisely.

Bertrand Russell

One doesn’t have to be a writer by trade to create great essays. Many examples confirm this thesis, and Bertrand Russell’s written works are among the best ones. Being a scientist, this British mathematician has also managed to leave a significant literary legacy. 

Russell has even written a book named “How I Write” to explain his method. You can find many useful tips there, especially if you are a science student striving to become better at writing. As for his essays, some of the most prominent ones are:

  • On Denoting;
  • Why Men Fight; 
  • Free Thought and Official Propaganda; 
  • Why I Am Not a Christian.

What you can learn:

  • Explaining complex ideas without using professional jargon.

Nora Ephron 

You probably know Nora Ephron as the witty screenwriter behind romantic comedies such as “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless In Seattle”. Yet, she was also a renowned columnist who published her essays in New Yorker and Esquire. Most of these were later released as books and went on to become bestsellers. 

Today, when feminism is yet again on the rise, Ephron’s prose is more relevant than ever. Here are a few suggestions on what to read by this author:  

  • I Feel Bad About My Neck;
  • A Few Words About Breasts;
  • The New Porn;
  • What Narrative Writers Can Learn from Screenwriters.

What you can learn: 

  • Being funny and light-hearted while speaking up on serious issues. 

Nassim Taleb 

One more brilliant example of a scientist-turned-writer is a Lebanese-American author Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Primarily known as an essayist nowadays, he originally started out as a financier, practicing mathematical finance, managing hedge funds, and trading derivatives. 

Today, Nassim Taleb is most famous for his best-selling book “The Black Swan”, part of a series called “Incerto”. Other books from the series include:

  • Fooled by Randomness;
  • Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder; 
  • Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life.

What you can learn:

  • Using scientific data to support your arguments. 

Final Thoughts 

If you want to be a better writer, start with becoming an avid reader. But take care what you read lest you want to make your style worse instead of better! If you’re not sure where to start exploring the legacy of the world’s greatest authors, bookmark the list of our suggestions and choose whatever you prefer every once in a while.    

Disclaimer: This content does not necessarily represent the views of IWB.


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