After two long, exciting years of working on this project, it’s finally here! Assay’s Best American Essays data project includes the name of the author, the name of the essay, the journal it first appeared in, the BAE edition it appeared in, whether it was a notable or a reprint, and the gender of the author. Our goal is for this to be a resource for our community.We will continue to update the database as new issues are published.
The process of compiling this data was twofold: the data collecting took one semester; organizing and checking took a year and a half. Just in terms of naming, I needed to work through names that were spelled wrong in the editions that I had as well as authors who changed their preferred names throughout their tenure as writers. Some journals are printed with “The” while some don’t; this is often not consistent between issues (we’re all human). Organizing these into correct categories was an adventure. The gender breakdown has been particularly challenging, especially as we consider authors who do not identify in the gender binary.
I do not, however, pretend that it is currently without error: if you find errors, please email me. We would love particular help being accurate with gender, as this will assist VIDA in its counts. As this project goes live, it becomes a community resource. I’ve spent two years alone with this information—I’d love to hear your feedback and engagement. What did you find? What was unexpected as you explored?
The goal of this project is to put the BAE data into the world for the world to further explore. Feel free to use as you see fit. If you have questions or comments, if you’ve found errors we should correct, please email us. It’s observations from everyone that build up the community, and, like Robert Atwan said in his piece from Essay Daily this past year, “the essay as a literary form [is] alive and well.”
We are incredibly grateful also to Nathan, for his technical expertise! Use the search bar on the right to find what you want to know! The data table is an incredibly large file, so give the page a few moments to load.
-Nick Nelson, Assay