10 best essay collections written by women to be inspired by
Covering perspectives on everything from sexual politics to race, these essays are provocative, enlightening and above all, truthful
Essay collections are nothing new – writers have always wanted to write non-fiction pieces from their own point of view. But it is fair to say that essay collections among women seem to be enjoying something of a Golden Age.
Being heard as a woman has always been difficult and if the past couple of years post #MeToo has taught us anything, women are still being censored, ignored and erased.
Sexual politics crop up in almost any essay collection by a woman – how could they not? Unique perspectives on universal experiences – sex, work, identity, love – are what essayists do best. However, often it is the more niche topics that really allow an essayist to be at their best and most exposing – which is to say at their most vulnerable, from detailing how they take notes or how they make frittata or what they think of Shakespeare’s sisters, readers get to access a more personal side of what is so often political writing.
Many of these essays cover race today – how it intersects with feminism or what it feels like to repeatedly feel shame when viewing yourself through the lens of White America.
Plenty of these collections offer advice on writing itself – and on reading and narrative.
Almost all of these collections are contemporary – with one exception, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, a collection of Joan Didion’s writing from the 1960s, which is a masterclass in essay-writing. We were looking for essays which were provocative, comforting, enlightening and above all, truthful – authours needed to clearly present opinion without straying into self-indulgence. Crucially, all of the essay collections here are by authors with a unique and distinct voice and all feel like little gifts from the writers.
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The verdict: Essay collections written by women
Our best buy goes to Minor Feelings because there is simply nothing else like it. Funny, horrifying and clever, Park Hong shines a light on the horrors of the small, minor feelings she has about being overlooked and in between and all the other things she has been taught are her fate as an Asian American.
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