Resources for Finding Great Essays

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Essayist William Bradley shares his list of favorite resources for people interested in creative nonfiction.

Many of us are aware of the fantastic essays published in respected, high-profile magazines like The New Yorker and Harper’s. But for those of you looking for less well-known sources for compelling, thought-provoking essays, I offer the following list of magazines and other resources:

Print magazines:


Creative NonfictionThere’s a temptation to call Creative Nonfiction “the magazine that started it all.”  That’s not entirely accurate—Montaigne gave us the essay form in the 16th century, after all. Still, it’s impossible to understate the impact this magazine—the first that I know of devoted exclusively to nonfiction forms of literary expression—has had on this genre. Their website has a pretty generous selection of online reprints of pieces that originally appeared in the print magazine.


Fourth GenreFourth Genre has been around almost as long as Creative Nonfiction, and it too specializes in nonfiction forms, the essay included. I particularly enjoy reading (and, occasionally, writing) their book reviews, which are longer than standard book reviews and function more like essays centered around literature in general and the reviewed books specifically.


Hotel AmerikaHotel Amerika is not, strictly speaking, a nonfiction magazine—they publish all genres.  But their nonfiction is frequently bold, often formally daring, and is always compelling.


The Normal SchoolHands-down, my current favorite literary magazine.  Founded by Steven Church, Sophie Beck, and Matt Roberts (among others) in 2008, The Normal School’s very first issue featured poetry from Philip Levine, fiction by Steve Almond, and nonfiction from Dinty W. Moore. They publish a healthy mix of established and emerging talents, too.


The PinchAnother multi-genre magazine, edited by Kristen Iversen, author of the acclaimed memoir Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky FlatsThe Pinch may be most notable for finding new, up-and-coming voices, and the essays they publish are top-notch.


River Teeth I can’t really put it better than Robert Atwan, who wrote in this year’s Best American Essaysanthology, “Although the general reading public may not be familiar with the journal, [River Teeth] is well known to nonfiction writers for its exacting standards and wide-ranging topics.” So I won’t even try. 


Online magazines and websites:


Bending GenreThis online resource came about after Nicole Walker and Margot Singer published their essay anthology Bending Genre. The book itself sought to delineate and question the lines between fact and fiction in creative nonfiction writing; the website presents genre-bending work by the authors whose essays appear in the collection and, recently, other author the editors admire. 


BrevityFounded in 1997 by editor Dinty W. Moore, Brevity is an excellent online magazine of brief (fewer than 750 words) nonfiction, from some of the best writers in the field including Sherman Alexie, Lia Purpura, Bob Cowser Jr, Jill Talbot, Judith Kitchen, and more. All of their back issues are available online, and for free. For news and commentary about essays and other creative nonfiction forms, check out The Brevity Blog, updated just about every day.


Essay DailyEstablished by Ander Monson (one of the most compelling essayists writing today), this blog is exactly what it sounds like—an ongoing discussion of essays, written by essayists both prominent and promising, updated every day. Indispensible for any lover of the form.


QuotidianaThis collection of classical essays available through public domain is curated by essayist Patrick Madden. While many of these essays are available elsewhere online, many are not, and it’s rather amazing to see so many essays by so many essayists—from the fifth to the twentieth centuries—arranged in one place. You could spend days reading these essays, and still feel like you’d only scratched the surface.


Sweet: A Literary ConfectionI often think of Sweet —which was founded and is edited by Ira Sukrungruang, Katherine Riegel, and K.C. Wolfe—as “that new online magazine of poetry and creative nonfiction.” It’s not really new at all—it’s been around for years. And in those years, they’ve published some great works by the likes of Joe Bonomo, Lee Martin, Michael Martone, Brenda Miller, Maureen Stanton, Nicole Walker, and many others. It’s well worth your time.

William Bradley’s essay“Acquiring Empathy Through Essays”  was recently published in Utne Reader (January/February 2014). His work has appeared in a variety of magazines and journals including The Missouri ReviewCreative NonfictionThe Chronicle of Higher Education, and College English. Three of his essays have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and one,”The Bald and the Beautiful,” was listed as a “Notable Essay of 2005” in that year’s Best American Essays anthology. He lives in New York’s North Country, where he teaches at St. Lawrence University and has recently finished revising his own essay collection. 

Photo courtesy katerha, licensed under Creative Commons.

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