In honor of Women’s History Month, we have chosen ten standout essay collections by women we’ve published in the last year. From Marilynne Robinson’s ruminations on modern politics and faith to Durga Chew-Bose’s exploration of creativity and first-generation American identity, these essay collections explore, instruct, question, challenge, confront, and resonate with us every day of every month. We are proud to showcase writers who push the boundaries of what an essay can do, offering fresh views of the world around us.
What Are We Doing Here? by Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne Robinson’s writing plumbs the human spirit to exceptional effect, garnering accolades from the National Book Critics Circle Award to the Pulitzer Prize. With her essay collection What Are We Doing Here?, Robinson turns her incisive mind to the challenges of our political climate and to questions of faith. Her powerful writing is at once a call to action and an earnest request that we engage in more introspection as a society and as individuals. These essays spring to life on the page, exemplifying Robinson’s peerless prose and boundless humanity.
Nothing Good Can Come from This by Kristi Coulter
Kristi Coulter inspired and incensed the internet when she wrote about what happened when she stopped drinking. Nothing Good Can Come from This is her debut—a frank, funny, and feminist essay collection by a keen-eyed observer offering a portrait of a life in transition. By turns hilarious and heartrending, this collection explores society’s complex expectations of women in sex, power, love, work, and addiction. Nothing Good Can Come from This introduces a fierce new voice, perfect for anyone who has ever stood in the middle of a so-called perfect life and looked for an escape hatch.
Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose
This debut essay collection—part memoir, part criticism—offers an intimate and lyrical collection of poetic essays that examine personhood and artistic growth. Chew-Bose is a first-generation Indian-Canadian living in Brooklyn, and her writing allows her a space for self-reflection as she forges links between identity and culture. Chew-Bose’s sharp insights turn “the vulnerability inherent in being a woman of color into strength” (Slate).
Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley
New York Times-bestselling author Sloane Crosley brings her trademark hilarity, wit, and charm once again to the form that made her a household name: the essay. We get to tag along for her wild but relatable adventures, whether scaling active volcanoes, crashing shivas, befriending swingers, or staring down the barrel of the fertility gun. This collection reflects a more mature Crosley, whose writing delivers not only humor but also lasting emotional heft and insight.
The White Album by Joan Didion
One of the most distinctive prose stylists of our era, Joan Didion displays her mastery of the essay form in this exploration of individual and social disintegration. First published in 1979 and recently reissued with its beautiful original cover design, The White Album turns its focus to the upheavals and aftermaths of the 1960s. Through the lens of her own spiritual confusion, Didion helped define mass culture as we now recognize it. With her signature sureness of tone and linguistic precision, she delivers a central text of American reportage and a classic of American autobiography.
Things That Helped by Jessica Friedmann
Australian writer Jessica Friedmann weaves a memoir in essays, detailing her recovery from postpartum depression. Each essay focuses on a separate representative entity—from pho to red lips to the trans musician Anohi—to bring us a deeply personal and culturally resonant story that touches class, race, gender, sexuality, motherhood, and mental illness. Her words are powerfully moving and beautifully crafted, and we follow her slow and complex journey of reassembling a life fractured by depression.
Future Sex by Emily Witt
Future Sex is a whip-smart and much-needed antidote to conventional attitudes about sex and the single woman, presenting us with an open-minded, deeply personal, and stunningly written account of the contemporary pursuit of connection and pleasure. Witt is single, in her thirties, and always imagined herself following expectations to settle down and get married. Yet, as many of us have found, things are more complicated than that. Love is rare and frequently unreciprocated. Sexual experience doesn’t necessarily lead to a future of traditional monogamy—and why should it? This funny and moving collection explores internet dating, pornography, polyamory, and avant-garde sexual subcultures—capturing them in all their strangeness, ridiculousness, and beauty.
American Originality by Louise Glück
This striking collection of essays from one of our most inventive and influential poets brings the same probing, analytic control that makes her poetry unique. Glück’s essays challenge readers to think about contemporary poetry in radical ways, extracting ample, often contradictory meaning from our current literary discourse. Literary Hub reviewer Jonny Diamond raved: “Glück is an essayist at once generous and sharp, and her insights into craft, classic American poetry, and the souls of the poets, are essential reading.”
A Grace Paley Reader by Grace Paley (edited by Kevin Bowen and Nora Paley)
This selection of Paley’s writing across genres showcases her breadth of work, and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. The book features essays that illuminate her brilliant economy of words as well as her role as a committed activist and passionate American citizen. Her words feel especially pressing when read through a modern lens, and her determination and commitment to her beliefs are inspiring and vital.
Would Everybody Please Stop? by Jenny Allen
Jenny Allen has been called one of the funniest writers in America, and this essay collection is further proof of that title—a laugh-out-loud collection of first-person essays celebrating womanhood and growing older. Reporting to us from midway through life’s journey, Allen questions everything from fat-free half-and-half to living with a serious illness. Known for her one-woman show “I Got Sick Then I Got Better,” Allen is a performer at heart and brings that same vigor and spirit to these short essays. Her writing is brimming with sharp wit, compassion, and social commentary, and they make the everyday refreshing and hilarious.