I decided to exclude all the great examples of New Journalism—Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Michael Herr, and many others can be reserved for another list. I also decided to include only American writers, so such outstanding English-language essayists as Chris Arthur and Tim Robinson are missing, though they have appeared in The Best American Essays series. And I selected essays, not essayists. A list of the top ten essayists since 1950 would feature some different writers.
Some are obvious choices (Baldwin, Mailer, Sontag, Didion), some I wasn’t familiar with, but all look worth reading (and most have links for online reading), so I thought I’d share the bounty.