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This is a book on how to read the essay, one that demonstrates how reading is inextricably tied to the art of writing. It aims to treat the essay with the close attention that has been given to other literary genres, and in doing so it suggests the beauty and depth of the form as a whole. At once personal appreciations and acute critical assessments, the pieces collected here broaden our perspective on the essay as a major literary art, tracing its history from William Hazlitt to Joan Didion.