The essay is one of the richest of literary forms. Its most obvious characteristics are freedom, informality and the personal touch - though it can also find room for poetry, satire, fantasy and sustained argument. All these qualities, and many others, are on display in this volume. A wide-ranging collection, it includes 140 essays by 120 writers: classics, curiosities, meditations, diversions, old favourites, and recent examples felt to deserve being better known. A particular feature is the amount of space allotted to American essayists, from Benjamin Franklin to John Updike and beyond.;The anthology opens with comments on the nature of truth and closes with a consideration of the novels of Judith Krantz. Some of the other topics discussed in its pages are anger, pleasure, Gandhi, Beau Brummell, wasps, party-going, gangsters, plumbers, Beethoven, potato crisps, the importance of being the right size, and the demolition of Westminster Abbey.