The PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay aims to preserve the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature. Here we feature selected essays from this year’s finalists, whose wide-ranging topics and often dramatic differences in style, tone, approach, and subject matter are a testament to the creativity inherent in the essay form. This year’s winner is Ian Buruma for Theater of Cruelty: Art, Film, and the Shadows of War.

 “The Twisted Art of Documentary” by Ian Buruma 
from Theater of Cruelty: Art, Film, and the Shadows of War (New York Review Books)

“The Empathy Exams” by Leslie Jamison
from The Empathy Exams (Graywolf Press)

“By Way of a Preface” by Charles D’Ambrosio
from Loitering (Tin House Books)

Three Essays by Angela Pelster
from Limber (Sarabande Books)

“The Self-Deceptions of Empire” by David Bromwich
from Moral Imagination (Princeton University Press)