Curiosity is the best part of an essayist’s job. This fall, I got curious about the relationship between Best American Essays, the journals represented, and the writing programs that house those journals. Thanks to Assay’s editorial assistant, Nick Nelson, we have more data than I expected–and it’s thought-provoking enough that we want to share it. We are presenting that information without commentary or opinion, but just as straight data. Make of it what you will. We didn’t intend this data for public consumption, only for our internal information, but we believe it’s interesting enough and important enough to share with the wider world, even at this stage. There are some errors here and there, but again, we did not intend this for an audience beyond our own staff. We also don’t pretend this is comprehensive or complete.
Nick’s process unfolded this way: he took the last five years of Best American Essays (excepting 2012, which I didn’t have on hand for him) and he collated all the journals represented in the Notables and the frequency of representation. Nick then took that information and investigated the university writing programs attached to the journals in the top 30 spots. In the interests of transparency, we are including here the raw Top 30 (which includes commercial journals not attached to writing programs, like The New Yorker), but we are also including the Top 30 with those commercial journals removed. We anticipate adding more years and more information in the future.
I am incredibly grateful to Nick for doing this work–thank you!