Essays, Articles, and Speeches

Study questions and links to resources about essays, articles, and speeches

Resources for Readers

One of the best ways to develop one’s skills as a reader, thinker, and writer is to read essays and journalism from a variety of sources on a variety of topics. From online and book sources like those below, students can gain exposure to persuasive and informative writing that goes far beyond the limitations of the essays and reports they write in secondary school.

Resources on essay writing can be found in the Writing section of Camilla’s English Page.

Online Resources

The New York Times: With unmatched journalistic resources, the Times is generally considered one of the best newspapers in the world. It’s an indispensable resource for anyone interested in staying informed on current events, but it’s also a great resource for its in-depth journalism, essays, and opinion pieces. The New York Times Magazine is an especially good resource for budding writers.

The New Yorker: Featuring everything from journalism to fiction to cartoons, The New Yorker is an acclaimed weekly magazine that publishes pieces by many notable writers.

The American Scholar: Named after a famous speech and essay by Henry David Thoreau, whose ideals it reflects, The American Scholar is an award-winning quarterly magazine that publishes essays, articles, criticism, poetry, and fiction.

Harper’s Magazine: The oldest general-interest monthly magazine in the United States, Harper’s publishes essays and articles on politics and culture, as well as fiction, poetry, and visual art.

Triquarterly: Published twice a year by Northwestern University, Triquarterly features fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, literary essays, reviews, a blog, and graphic art.

The Threepenny Review: The Threepenny Review is an acclaimed quarterly literary magazine that features fiction, memoirs, poetry, essays and criticism. See its Reading Room page for selected pieces from its archives.

The Atlantic: Notable for its articles and essays covering politics, current events, technology, the arts, and more, The Atlantic publishes ten issues a year but also has a constantly updated website.

Esquire: A “men’s magazine” that publishes eight issues a year, Esquire covers fashion, culture, and entertainment, but it is also notable for its often scathing political commentary.

Books: Essay Anthologies

The Best American Essays of the Century: Edited by Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Atwan, this popular and highly rated collection features essays by many of the most acclaimed American writers of the twentieth century, including Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Annie Dillard, and Joan Didion.

Amazon | Parnassus | Powell’s

The Best American Essays 2015: An especially highly rated edition of the annual Best American Essays series, this edition includes essays by acclaimed writers Zadie Smith, Rebecca Solnit, and David Sedaris, among others, and is available as an e-book.

Amazon | Parnassus | Powell’s

Books: Collections by Acclaimed Essayists

Self-Reliance and Other Essays (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson: free Project Gutenberg e-book

How to Tell a Story and Other Essays (Mark Twain)
Free e-book

The Souls of Black Folk (W.E.B. Du Bois)
Free Project Gutenberg e-book

The Common Reader (Virginia Woolf)

The Crack-Up (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

A Collection of Essays (George Orwell)

The Fire Next Time (James Baldwin)

Against Interpretation and Other Essays (Susan Sontag)

Slouching Towards Bethlehem (Joan Didion)
Kindle Unlimited e-book

The Writing Life (Annie DIllard)

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays (David Foster Wallace)

Selected Essays

The selections below are important essays for which I have written questions to facilitate discussion with my students and written responses to the essays.

Orwell, George

The English writer George Orwell is acclaimed as much for his insights into modern society and human psychology as for his skill as a writer. “Politics and the English Language,” his interesting and highly influential 1946 essay on what he saw as disturbing trends in English, is an example of both his important insights and his masterful style. It is well worth reading and pondering, though it does have its flaws, and critics have had a variety of reactions to it. (See the Wikipedia page on the essay for more information about its critical reception.)

“Politics and the English Language”: Questions for Discussion and Writing (PDF)

Pollan, Michael

Michael Pollan is an American writer, journalist, activist, and university professor who is best known for his writing and activism about food. “Why Mow? The Case Against Lawns” is an essay published in The New York Times Magazine in 1989 in which, as the title suggests, he argues against the suburban American insistence on conformity to rules about lawn maintenance.

“Why Mow? The Case Against Lawns”: Questions for Discussion and Writing (PDF)

Why Mow? The Case Against Lawns (alternate link to essay)

Rauch, Jonathan

A writer on public policy, culture, and economics and a fellow at the prestigious Brookings Institution, Jonathan Rauch tackles difficult questions in his work. The provocatively titled “In Defense of Prejudice: Why Incendiary Speech Must Be Protected” is a controversial essay that argues for the prime importance of freedom of expression. As a gay man, Rauch has felt directly threatened by hate speech, but he believes that prejudice is better dealt with through open debate than through suppression of offensive speech.

“In Defense of Prejudice”: Questions for Discussion and Writing (PDF)