Clearly, it takes a certain generous "compost pile" of material to cook up your reading into a meaningful essay. It is sad that one's erudition can fade so quickly without continuous re-reading, and how large complicated works read years in the past can be reduced to a few, often wrong, faint echoes in your brain, like a message relayed through a series of partially deaf messengers in some Kafkian scenario proving that the truth can never be reliably known.
Still, essays written by those few savants that can keep dozens of intellectual platters spinning simultaneously are probably my favorite form of reading. And in fiction, I like tales wherein at least some egghead of vast erudition serves as ringmaster to the show. Reading in John Fowles' Wormholes, I find him saying "I've always wanted to write (in this order) poems, philosophy, and only then novels." But he says that first and foremost he wants to impact society, other human lives. Perhaps the novel allows for greater impact than a book of philosophical essays, taking the cue from Plato that conversation is far more lively, and putting that in combination with imagined situations that seemingly effortlessly display how one should live?
Aldous Huxley produced a whole pile of essays which I find pleasant enough to read, though most are not particularly world shattering. But they are pleasant because they are indicative of a literary and human comprehension at work in a process basic to the growth of the intellect. Every human being (according to me) should be engaged in this sort of activity (even when not taking the time to jot it down), and it is exaclty the absence of this process that is the most glaring omission of our contemporary society. I would have good feelings about the chances for a US full of Huxley-like thinkers carefully surveying the challenges ahead. Unfortunately, such skills seem to be forgotten or be even now deemed unnecessary for life as we know it. Thinking is for eggheads, nerds. What kind of society is it where one has to apologize for being smart? The question is no longer-- Will we survive? It has become instead-- What will we wear to the extinction?