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This "great volume" highlights the "very best of this year's fiction, nonfiction, alternative comics, screenplys, blogs and more" (OK!). Compiled by Dave Eggers and students from his San Francisco writing center, it is "both uproarious and illuminating" (Publishers Weekly). This "great volume" highlights the "very best of this year's fiction, nonfiction, alternative comics, screenplys, blogs and more" (OK!). Compiled by Dave Eggers and students from his San Francisco writing center, it is "both uproarious and illuminating" (Publishers Weekly).


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This "great volume" highlights the "very best of this year's fiction, nonfiction, alternative comics, screenplys, blogs and more" (OK!). Compiled by Dave Eggers and students from his San Francisco writing center, it is "both uproarious and illuminating" (Publishers Weekly). This "great volume" highlights the "very best of this year's fiction, nonfiction, alternative comics, screenplys, blogs and more" (OK!). Compiled by Dave Eggers and students from his San Francisco writing center, it is "both uproarious and illuminating" (Publishers Weekly).

30 review for The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009

  1. 4 out of 5

    David

    This year's volume confirms the status of this collection as my perennial favorite in the whole "Best American" series of anthologies. Whatever you might think of Dave Eggers, he redeems himself on an annual basis with this collection (this year, IMO, he has doubly redeemed himself, with the publication of the extraordinary "Zeitoun", but that's material for a whole 'nother post). This collection is hard to sum up in a single sentence - one might think of it as an edgier - and more entertaining - This year's volume confirms the status of this collection as my perennial favorite in the whole "Best American" series of anthologies. Whatever you might think of Dave Eggers, he redeems himself on an annual basis with this collection (this year, IMO, he has doubly redeemed himself, with the publication of the extraordinary "Zeitoun", but that's material for a whole 'nother post). This collection is hard to sum up in a single sentence - one might think of it as an edgier - and more entertaining - version of the "Best American Essays". But a far better collection, because Eggers (and this year's guest editor, Marjane Satrapi) are savvy enough to cast a far broader net. So, for instance, in addition to standbys like "best craigslist ads", "best police blotter items", "best kids' letters to Obama", "best book titles published in 2008 (Baboon Metaphysics? Excrement in the late Middle Ages? anyone?), "best poem titles of 2008" (A Plea for the Cessation of Fruit Metaphors, I need more Cowbell, What your Dad's Underpants have to do with Space Travel, If my Life were a Radio, lately I would Prefer another Station, Why not Oysters?...), there are such fine contributions as Phillip Connors's "diary of a Fire Lookout", Anne Gisleson's "Your exhausted Heart" (about the Saturn Bar in new Orleans), Denis Johnson's "Boomtown Iraq", Jonathan Franzen's tribute to david Foster Wallace, excellent pieces by Rivka Galchen, Rebekah Bliss, Eula Biss, and Susan Breen. This partial list doesn't include the three or four charming picture essays, nor the five or six other equally good pieces by authors like Nick Flynn, David Grann and Amelia Kahaney. I can do no better than to paraphrase what I wrote about the 2008 volume - this is writing that informs me about stuff that I would otherwise not encounter, brilliantly executed by authors whose worldview extends - praise the lord - beyond their own navels. Like a bunch of exotically flavored Dove bars - unfamiliar at first, but reliably delicious. material that takes you outside of your comfort zone, in the best possible way. 4.5 stars, which I think deserve to be rounded up to 5, because the percentage of dross in this collection is very low indeed. As always, if you find yourself in the bookstore, faced with the entire gamut of the "best American XXX 2009" series, and you have only $14 to spend, there's no question about it - this is the one you should pick. I don't know what it is we have against Dave Eggers anyway. With this series alone, he has surely exonerated himself from any residual blame that might result from the youthful indiscretion that was - well, you know the one I'm talking about. That staggering book ....

  2. 5 out of 5

    KAOS

    this one was disappointing. i read every year's edition and have liked the selections a lot more in the past. the front section is getting out of control with its "best american" lists - dave eggers is nothing if not overly precious, and it gets annoying. i only liked 8 of the 21 selections. i was actually blown away by "relations" by eula bliss and "the chameleon" by david grann (which i had actually already read in the new yorker, but it is amazing in how fucked up it is). the cover illustrati this one was disappointing. i read every year's edition and have liked the selections a lot more in the past. the front section is getting out of control with its "best american" lists - dave eggers is nothing if not overly precious, and it gets annoying. i only liked 8 of the 21 selections. i was actually blown away by "relations" by eula bliss and "the chameleon" by david grann (which i had actually already read in the new yorker, but it is amazing in how fucked up it is). the cover illustration by banksy is pretty rad. otherwise, a weak edition in a good series.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    This book was TOTALLY AWESOME. Deep yet fluffy, reminded me of "This American Life." There are stories about big American issues-- race, war, love, peace, nature-- Big stuff. But every story -- fiction, or non-fiction-- is deeply subjective-- a perspective coming from inside a specific person's head. So it's informative on a level that news can't be. What does it FEEL like to be in Iraq, with billionaires investing in strip malls and oil seeping out of the ground, getting patted down at checkpoi This book was TOTALLY AWESOME. Deep yet fluffy, reminded me of "This American Life." There are stories about big American issues-- race, war, love, peace, nature-- Big stuff. But every story -- fiction, or non-fiction-- is deeply subjective-- a perspective coming from inside a specific person's head. So it's informative on a level that news can't be. What does it FEEL like to be in Iraq, with billionaires investing in strip malls and oil seeping out of the ground, getting patted down at checkpoints across the desert? Or to be an isolated fire lookout in a windy tower in Southern California? Or a reporter interviewing the Abu Ghraib prisoners? Or a new hire in the World's Next EnviroCorporation that will rule the world? Or on a salvaged corner in New Orleans at the neighborhood bar, waving at a bus of disaster tourists? Here's some dog-eared bits: p110- "a world of more mountains than a man could walk in a lifetime. I sit trancelike in the tower and feel myself begin to empty, to disappear almost, in the immensity of the country all around." 168- "you could smell the ozone from the crackling precision of his sentence structure, his effortless and pitch-perfect shifting about ten different levels of high, low, middle, techhnical, hipster, nerdy, philosophical, vernacular, vaudevillian, hortatory, tough-guy, broken-hearted, lyrical diction." 359- "the state and I, for all our disagreements, agreed on one thing: weddings are powerfully numinous ceremonies, crude talismans to defiantly shake in the face of Thanatos. Perhaps it is not so coincidental that weddings are so weirdly similar to funerals -- the elbaorate, stylized perparations, the high formality, the priest incanting blessings, the gathered family, the tears, even the sense of something present, immortal, but no seen: in one case, a marriage; in the other, a soul."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I have bored about 10,000 students in my day. God knows why I thought they would enjoy Hamlet, Catch-22, Proof, etc, etc. There I would be, talking endlessly about some wonderful metaphor, and half of the class would be staring out the doorway, the other half staring out the window, one poor lass stuck in the middle having to look at me. So one semester a couple back, I ordered this book of that year, and it worked. I just ordered and received this edition, and I am full of extreme hope that my s I have bored about 10,000 students in my day. God knows why I thought they would enjoy Hamlet, Catch-22, Proof, etc, etc. There I would be, talking endlessly about some wonderful metaphor, and half of the class would be staring out the doorway, the other half staring out the window, one poor lass stuck in the middle having to look at me. So one semester a couple back, I ordered this book of that year, and it worked. I just ordered and received this edition, and I am full of extreme hope that my students will love it. I do love it--and I've ordered it up for three classes in the spring, hoping they will love it too!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Justin Difazzio

    This is actually one of the better collections I've read. The pieces on gay marriage, the Abu-Ghraib prisoners (which I think is more about poetry and potential than anything political), drifting down the Mississippi River, and working a locker room (more about humanity than journalism) are amazing. They're the kind of pieces that stop you in your tracks and make you grab a pen to highlight something that you want to be able to find again when the world doesn't make sense anymore. Great stuff! This is actually one of the better collections I've read. The pieces on gay marriage, the Abu-Ghraib prisoners (which I think is more about poetry and potential than anything political), drifting down the Mississippi River, and working a locker room (more about humanity than journalism) are amazing. They're the kind of pieces that stop you in your tracks and make you grab a pen to highlight something that you want to be able to find again when the world doesn't make sense anymore. Great stuff!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Philitsa

    David Eggers is never going to top the 2007 edition of this collection. I don't know why I bother reading any others. This one, in particular, was way too depressing -- perhaps it's the economy. All of these were well-written stories, indeed, but they left no impression on me once I moved on to the next story. I can still remember stories from the 2007 edition to this day, though. David Eggers is never going to top the 2007 edition of this collection. I don't know why I bother reading any others. This one, in particular, was way too depressing -- perhaps it's the economy. All of these were well-written stories, indeed, but they left no impression on me once I moved on to the next story. I can still remember stories from the 2007 edition to this day, though.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    My favorite pieces from this collection: +Phillip Connors - Diary of a Fire Lookout +David Grann - The Chameleon +Tom Kaczynski - Million Year Boom +Amelia Kahaney - The Temp +Nick St. John - Further Notes on My Unfortunate Condition

  8. 4 out of 5

    Abraham

    Oddly enough, this is probably the first short story collection I've read cover-to-cover. This is cause for celebration, or at least a new "shelf" on Goodreads. I think I'll call it "short-stories." (oooh!) If you're going to read your first short story collection why not this one? It is part of an annual series that collects a few stories and non-fiction pieces published that year in some of the better magazines and websites. So it's a smörgåsbord -- or perhaps a "mixed bag" if you are a cynic, Oddly enough, this is probably the first short story collection I've read cover-to-cover. This is cause for celebration, or at least a new "shelf" on Goodreads. I think I'll call it "short-stories." (oooh!) If you're going to read your first short story collection why not this one? It is part of an annual series that collects a few stories and non-fiction pieces published that year in some of the better magazines and websites. So it's a smörgåsbord -- or perhaps a "mixed bag" if you are a cynic, or if that little circle above the "a" frightens you. After the Introduction by Marjane Satrapi -- which explains her early reading tastes and devotes not a single word to the works it is introducing -- there follows 30-50 pages of random facts, of the kind commonly found in the "Uncle John's Bathroom Reader" series. So "out-of-place" and "confused" are words sure to come to mind. In other words, between Satrapi's admission to being humbled while reading giants like Dostoevsky, and a list of the "Best Craigslist ads," I was scratching my head (perhaps only metaphorically), wondering just what I was reading. But it's all good. Satrapi is always fun to read, and who doesn't like reading a few lists of trivia? Especially me, who once-upon-a-time read almanacs avidly. Then there are the stories. I find there is no need -- nor am I able -- to write about every single story in the collection. Instead, a general word about the stories as a whole: eclectic and varied; decidedly leftward leaning (doesn't the cover speak that clearly enough?); and, as always with these collections, variable in terms of quality. Tastes vary, although I doubt any story in this collection will cause even the most picky reader to throw the book down in disgust. Nor do I doubt that everyone will find at least one worthwhile story. And now about some of my personal favorites (Note: Some of these works can be read online, in part or in full, so I will be sure to post a link where appropriate): The Chameleon by David Grann (non-fiction): about a 30-something French man, Frédéric Bourdin, a serial impostor, who often posed as a young boy. He used to wander around Europe, creating new characters and scenarios, sometimes convincing people for many months at a time. He says he only wanted love and attention. The law enforcement were always unsure of how and for what to punish him. His ugliest hour came when he posed as a missing American boy and hoodwinked the lost boy's family for several months, though eventually turned himself in. He is now married and has a young daughter, and claims to have given up his old ways. Wild Berry Blue by Rivka Galchen: A story of an eight-year-old Jewish girl who "falls in love" with a former heroine addict who works at McDonalds -- I'm not making this up. The story is told from the point of view of the girl, all grown up, and we learn at the end of the story that there have been many similarly odd infatuations since. Diary of a Fire Lookout by Philip Connors (non-fiction): Even with all the exciting works of the collection within the realm of fiction, somehow this simple diary of a man who sits in a tower in Gila National Forest in New Mexico and looks for forest fires is near the top of my list. There are some touching moments (he finds a solitary, dying fawn), and some interesting encounters (with a pair of "smokejumpers," people trained to jump out of planes to combat fires in rugged, otherwise unreachable areas; and with a pair of hikers, who were planning to hike, if not all, then most of the Rocky Mountains). I am a bit miffed that people with degrees from upper-crust universities seem to gravitate towards that kind of job (*sigh* you are not Thoreau); still, this an interesting piece of work. Mississippi Drift by Mathew Power(non-fiction): The writer joins a group of "river vagrants" as they attempt to sail down the Mississippi River. The skipper and primary constructor of their makeshift boat is a guy named Matt, "a dumpster-diving, train-hopping, animal-rights-crusading anarchist and tramp," who runs his ship with an oddly totalitarian grip. During the story we also encounter "Poppa Nuetrino," a kind of grandfather of trash-boat builders and the main proponent of a "Whoa, man -- far out!" kind of "philosophy." There is a biography of this man, The Happiest Man in the World, by Alec Wikinson. Regarding Matt and his own trash boat, the other crew members steadily dropped off, until Matt was alone and the boat eventually capsized. The Temp by Amelia Kahamey: A new woman, a temporary employee, steps into a typical humdrum office and steadily convinces the other employess -- without saying a direct word about it -- to quit their jobs for happier pastures. An uplifter, for sure. To be frank, this collection is loaded with works taken from magazines that I never read. But it is nice to get an annual look into the world of well-pressed button-down shirts and the soft-spoken voices of NPR personalities. And for the record, there are only two classes of people who use the word "intelligent" when they mean to say "smart": the under-educated and the over-educated.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    A decent collection blending comics, non-fiction, short stories, and, oh yeah... craigslist posts, Eggers and his team of teenaged editors (from his reading advocacy volunteer corps 826 National) seemed a bit preoccupied with the sensational. Most of the non-fiction had a political bent, and the hot topics seemed to be race, identity, Iraq, Katrina (still?), gay rights, and anarchy. While some of these themes got to be a bit repetitive, it made some of the writing itself a little easier to compa A decent collection blending comics, non-fiction, short stories, and, oh yeah... craigslist posts, Eggers and his team of teenaged editors (from his reading advocacy volunteer corps 826 National) seemed a bit preoccupied with the sensational. Most of the non-fiction had a political bent, and the hot topics seemed to be race, identity, Iraq, Katrina (still?), gay rights, and anarchy. While some of these themes got to be a bit repetitive, it made some of the writing itself a little easier to compare and contrast. For instance, Eula Biss's necessary and personal "Relations" was a much more interesting look at racial identity than J. Malcom Garcia's meandering, scattered "A Product of This Town", which at times was even confusing in its narrative and seemed to have no actual thesis. While Nick Flynn's prose was at turns very beautiful in "The Ticking Is The Bomb" it suffered slightly for his confusing infusion of his own childhood memories and the anticipation of his daughter being born into a story about the torture of falsely-accused prisoners of war at Abu Ghraib. Denis Johnson's "Boomtown, Iraq", on the other hand, was unlike anything I've ever read about Iraq and was a much more revealing article. I loved that it was followed by Tom Kaczynski's surreal comic "Million Year Boom" which was supposedly an accident of alphabetizing but really couldn't have been; it evoked this creepy 1984-esque vibe and related it back to corporate America and the green movement. Still, my favorite pieces were the irreverent, nonsensical ones. Nick St. John's "Tell Me Again Why I Can't Be A Manta Ray", a small section of some of his collected comics entitled "Further Notes On My Unfortunate Condition" was brilliant and charming, rendered in a scratchy and intricate style reminiscent of Edward Gorey's drawings. Olivier Schrauwen's hair analysis comic was also wonderful. David Grann wrote so compelling an article about con artist Frederic Boudin that I found myself thinking "This would make a great movie" and then found out one was already in production. Michelle Seaton's "How To Work A Locker Room" was stunning for what it did NOT say, and since its focus was really about journalistic restraint it came off brilliantly (also a nice finish to the collection, once again appearing to be much more than alphabetical coincidence). The fiction within the collection was solid, with stellar offerings by Yannick Murphy, Rebecca Makkai and Rivka Galchen coming out strongest. I wasn't entirely wowed by everything in this volume, but there is certainly a lot included here. Then again, that's supposed to be where editing comes in.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    Just can't get into these. It's fairly obvious, from where I'm standing, that these stories were chosen by a particularly precocious group of youngsters (no, I'm not 70). I mean, in the long run that's actually a good thing; if any little percentage of new readers start reading because of these books, that's well and good. But, from the constant inhibition to resort to recent world headlines, i.e., Iraq, Katrina, economic recession, rinse and repeat, this collection is accustomed to hopping righ Just can't get into these. It's fairly obvious, from where I'm standing, that these stories were chosen by a particularly precocious group of youngsters (no, I'm not 70). I mean, in the long run that's actually a good thing; if any little percentage of new readers start reading because of these books, that's well and good. But, from the constant inhibition to resort to recent world headlines, i.e., Iraq, Katrina, economic recession, rinse and repeat, this collection is accustomed to hopping right on the train of eccentricity ad nauseum. Why can't I just read a story about a human being? Why does it always have to be sugarcoated with a bombardment of bellicose peculiarities? Alas, these collections just might not be for me (although, the opening pages are usually the most interesting and amusing). I just kept on wanting one of these stories to pick up some pace and really spark some life into otherwise neglected literary elements, such as the actual writing. I'm not asking for Faulkner, but just a little creativity beyond character and story; I mean, obviously these stories follow proper writing protocol and are full of blinding white clarity (not always a good thing). But that's just my prerogative. "The Chameleon" was pretty good, anyway. 2010's collection is staring me down on my bookshelf, but it's going on the perpetual back burner. Their otherwise day job collection, The Best American Short Stories, and then, The Pen/O. Henry yearly roundups, seem to be biting at the heels more often nowadays.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tiny Pants

    I know... I really haven't been reading much lately. I've been crocheting a freakin' ton (look me up on Ravelry! Same username) but yeah, my reading has been a bit limited, mainly keeping up with New York and the New Yorker. But sometime this fall, in a former Borders location, I discovered ... a new Crown Books location! Yes, as of this writing, it's already having its going out of business sale, but oh, it was good while it lasted. Amazing deadstock of weird 80s YA (a bunch of the Cheerleaders I know... I really haven't been reading much lately. I've been crocheting a freakin' ton (look me up on Ravelry! Same username) but yeah, my reading has been a bit limited, mainly keeping up with New York and the New Yorker. But sometime this fall, in a former Borders location, I discovered ... a new Crown Books location! Yes, as of this writing, it's already having its going out of business sale, but oh, it was good while it lasted. Amazing deadstock of weird 80s YA (a bunch of the Cheerleaders books), wrestlers' autobiographies, all the important stuff. Shockingly also though, some pretty legitimate trade paperbacks, which is how I wound up buying this, despite my previous avowals that I was done with the Nonrequired series and my at least a decade-old hatred of Dave Eggers. Even more shocking -- this one wasn't that bad. Maybe it was the infusion of Michigan teenagers tempering the obnoxiousness of the Bay Area ones (sorry, did I forget to mention I also hate the Bay Area? Because I frickin' do), but for the first time in years, this collection didn't read entirely like it was chosen by high schoolers who are picking out short fiction and journalism as if they were collecting yearbook quotes. Yes, there's the semi-inevitable over-emphasis on big, important, current events (gotta remember what happened your senior year, right?), but on the whole, this collection was surprisingly, refreshingly readable. Well played, Eggers. I'm back on board and buying the next one.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mabel

    I accidentally stumbled upon this book during my search for the 2010 addition but the 2009 edition proved to be just as good as the next. My favorite section would definitely be the Best American Kids' Letters to Obama. It reminded me of when I was younger and I wanted to write letters to Bill Clinton. The innocence of these children and the level of how heartfelt these letters are, will bring a smile to anyone's face. Though this was one of my favorite sections, I do have another that I thoroug I accidentally stumbled upon this book during my search for the 2010 addition but the 2009 edition proved to be just as good as the next. My favorite section would definitely be the Best American Kids' Letters to Obama. It reminded me of when I was younger and I wanted to write letters to Bill Clinton. The innocence of these children and the level of how heartfelt these letters are, will bring a smile to anyone's face. Though this was one of my favorite sections, I do have another that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The section of The Best American Anonymous Postcards proved to be extremely humorous. Although I enjoyed reading the 2009 edition, I have to say that I do, in fact, prefer the 2010 edition instead. The 2010 edition includes several chapters and genres that focus on issues that I find to be interesting and important. Fast- Food Related Crimes, Freedom, and Seven Months, Ten Days In Captivity are some of my favorites and I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a laugh or any kind of entertainment.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Arnold

    I'm always a fan of this collection. Best bits: Best American Titles of Poems Published in 2008 (faves: "If My Life Were a Radio, Lately I Would Prefer Another Station," "A Plea for the Cessation of Fruit Metaphors" - and people say poetry doesn't have a purpose. Where else can we express our exasperation with the fruit metaphor?) Best American Censorship Blunder, wherein a conservative website's filters replaced runner Tyson Gay's last name with the word homosexual, resulting in completely uninte I'm always a fan of this collection. Best bits: Best American Titles of Poems Published in 2008 (faves: "If My Life Were a Radio, Lately I Would Prefer Another Station," "A Plea for the Cessation of Fruit Metaphors" - and people say poetry doesn't have a purpose. Where else can we express our exasperation with the fruit metaphor?) Best American Censorship Blunder, wherein a conservative website's filters replaced runner Tyson Gay's last name with the word homosexual, resulting in completely unintentionally funny/slightly naughty sounding passages, such as: "In Saturday's opening heat, Homosexual pulled way up, way too soon..." "I'm sore right now," Homosexual said, "but probably from the victory lap." On a more serious note, Jonathan Franzen's essay on David Foster Wallace's death is a lovely tribute to a writer I truly miss. Best short story - Amelia Kahany's "The Temp." Best essays: Denis Johnson's "Boomtown Iraq" and David Grann's "The Chameleon."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    "The Outlaw Bride" is by K.G. Schneider, who is my workshop-mate! I have to plug this for her.... such a HUGE honor to have your work chosen for this! Also, thus far, Jonathan Franzen's eulogy for David Foster Wallace has already made me bawl, and the first half of the pieces in the collection have been wholly entertaining and well-written (duh). And of course, the opening "quirky" section (no surprise here, as Dave Eggers is the editor...) is hilarious and borderline hard to believe that it's a "The Outlaw Bride" is by K.G. Schneider, who is my workshop-mate! I have to plug this for her.... such a HUGE honor to have your work chosen for this! Also, thus far, Jonathan Franzen's eulogy for David Foster Wallace has already made me bawl, and the first half of the pieces in the collection have been wholly entertaining and well-written (duh). And of course, the opening "quirky" section (no surprise here, as Dave Eggers is the editor...) is hilarious and borderline hard to believe that it's all true. 2/9/10 (after finishing): Looooooved it. Not as pretentious/obnoxious as I found some of the previous volumes... I really enjoyed each of these pieces - especially Franzen's eulogy for David Foster Wallace, and the stories by Rebekah Bliss, Rebecca Makkai, K.G. (see above), Eula Biss, and others... I don't have the book with me at the moment. Anyway, very enjoyable, zesty, illuminating, lovely, and of course, fantastically written.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Mattson

    With any collection, some parts stood out more than others. The good: Marjane Satrapi in a charming illustrated story entitled "Why my mother refused to buy me toys" she explains how, she assumed her mother thought she was ugly when she gave young Satrapi the advice to "never injest in your looks! Invest in your brains!" Jonathan Franzen gives a touching eulogy for David Foster Wallace. In "How to Work a Locker Room," Michelle Seaton manages to handle the difficult subjects of sexism, the sexual With any collection, some parts stood out more than others. The good: Marjane Satrapi in a charming illustrated story entitled "Why my mother refused to buy me toys" she explains how, she assumed her mother thought she was ugly when she gave young Satrapi the advice to "never injest in your looks! Invest in your brains!" Jonathan Franzen gives a touching eulogy for David Foster Wallace. In "How to Work a Locker Room," Michelle Seaton manages to handle the difficult subjects of sexism, the sexual abuse of children, and emotional detachment with an hand that is neither to heavy nor to light. A few for all the wrong reasons: In "Triplet", by Susan Breen, a woman agrees to have sex with a man with a triplet fetish who has already slept with her identical sisters, felt just plain creepy. Rebekah Frumkin's "Monster", written mostly from the perspective of a six-year-old boy is wrapped in a garbled metaphor that is resolved clumsily. Over all, An enjoyable collection.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    Again, as in years past, BANR delivers. The lists and short clips in Section 1 read well; my favorite being the letters to Obama. Section 2 started off a bit slow (admittedly, as much as I love this volume every year, some articles miss their mark with me), but ended in a whirlwind of powerful ideas and great writing. Amelia Kahaney's short story "The Temp" may be the funniest story ever contained in this collection, while David Grann's "The Chameleon" kept me glued to the page with rapt attenti Again, as in years past, BANR delivers. The lists and short clips in Section 1 read well; my favorite being the letters to Obama. Section 2 started off a bit slow (admittedly, as much as I love this volume every year, some articles miss their mark with me), but ended in a whirlwind of powerful ideas and great writing. Amelia Kahaney's short story "The Temp" may be the funniest story ever contained in this collection, while David Grann's "The Chameleon" kept me glued to the page with rapt attention to the multiple levels of narrative. Tom Kaczynski's graphic short story "Million Year Boom" is a testament that BANR features a variety of different styles and forms without sacrificing quality. 2009 is a VERY good issue of BANR. Enough depth of content to feel good about reading, and enough stylization (pictures, sub-headings, and of course the lists) to keep the reader coming back one article after another.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I'm not usually one to moan about half stars, but if 3 1/2 were an option on this one I would take it. I adore this series, and always buy it the second it appears at the bookstore, but this was not my favorite edition. I enjoyed the short and fun stuff at the beginning, and Marjane Satrapi's introduction. There were a couple of outstanding pieces in the main body of the book, particularly "The Chameleon", a New Yorker piece about a modern day changeling, and K.G. Schneider's "The Outlaw Bride". I'm not usually one to moan about half stars, but if 3 1/2 were an option on this one I would take it. I adore this series, and always buy it the second it appears at the bookstore, but this was not my favorite edition. I enjoyed the short and fun stuff at the beginning, and Marjane Satrapi's introduction. There were a couple of outstanding pieces in the main body of the book, particularly "The Chameleon", a New Yorker piece about a modern day changeling, and K.G. Schneider's "The Outlaw Bride". The fiction and the comics were more miss than hit for me this time around, which is unusual; that isn't to say they were bad, but none of them really made a deeper connection with me. I still love the idea behind the Nonrequired Reading series, and the way the selections are chosen. I enjoyed the book on the whole, but not to the extent I usually do.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    It's always hard to review short story collections, as you can really only comment on the overall "feel" of the book. I found this collection to be immensely satisfying, especially since I can actually remember a number of the stories (the wildfire watcher, the river floaters, the temp). Too many collections just seem like a blur of a theme, but most of the stories here stand on their own. I carried this around with me on a number of trips and I'm sad to finally put it permanently back on the sh It's always hard to review short story collections, as you can really only comment on the overall "feel" of the book. I found this collection to be immensely satisfying, especially since I can actually remember a number of the stories (the wildfire watcher, the river floaters, the temp). Too many collections just seem like a blur of a theme, but most of the stories here stand on their own. I carried this around with me on a number of trips and I'm sad to finally put it permanently back on the shelf (except to reread the closing comic, "Further Notes on My Unfortunate Condition" by Nick St. John). A note: Don't be misled by the opening section which collects things like "Best American Festival Names" or "Best American College Annual Alumni Reports from 2008." This is pretty much a straightforward collection of essays with the occasional comic here and there.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tinea

    Essays and fiction from the magazines and journals I never had time to read all year. Perfect bus book. Handed off to someone else on the road. Ah! Links to two essays I recommend: The Chameleon: Gripping! Suspenseful! True life crime mystery! and Mississippi Drift: Cynical hipster writer joins an anarchopunk travelerkid on a raft ride down the Mississippi River for an article in Harpers... wtf amirite?? If you know of the indignant "you got me allll wronggg" drama that must have come from this stor Essays and fiction from the magazines and journals I never had time to read all year. Perfect bus book. Handed off to someone else on the road. Ah! Links to two essays I recommend: The Chameleon: Gripping! Suspenseful! True life crime mystery! and Mississippi Drift: Cynical hipster writer joins an anarchopunk travelerkid on a raft ride down the Mississippi River for an article in Harpers... wtf amirite?? If you know of the indignant "you got me allll wronggg" drama that must have come from this story existing, please share it with me! I read it the whole time with my hand covering the O that was my mouth: this story will have made many people very mad!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Patrick McCoy

    It has become a yearly tradition to read The Best American Nonrequired Reading for the variety of comics, magazine pieces, and unheralded short stories. I recently finished the 2009 edition with a introduction by cartoonist Marjare Satrapi and found a lot to like. There were several good nonfiction pieces like “Boomtown, Iraq” by Denis Johnson, “A Product of This Town” (a story about the Jena 6) by J. Malcolm Garcia, Jonathan Franzen’s tribute to David Foster Wallace, “Relations” (a piece on rac It has become a yearly tradition to read The Best American Nonrequired Reading for the variety of comics, magazine pieces, and unheralded short stories. I recently finished the 2009 edition with a introduction by cartoonist Marjare Satrapi and found a lot to like. There were several good nonfiction pieces like “Boomtown, Iraq” by Denis Johnson, “A Product of This Town” (a story about the Jena 6) by J. Malcolm Garcia, Jonathan Franzen’s tribute to David Foster Wallace, “Relations” (a piece on race) by Eula Bliss, “The Ticking Is The Bomb” (a piece on Iraq) and “Your Exhausted heart” (about the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans) by Anne Gileson. There were also a number of entertaining short stories like “Triplets” by Susan Breen, “Wild Berry Juice” by Rivlsa Galchen, “Monster” by Rebekah Frumkin, “The Temp” by Amelia Kachary, and “The Good Word” by Yannick Murphy.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Standouts: KG Schneider's "Outlaw Bride", Rivka Galchen's story of tweenage crushes, the story of the Jena 6 (which, somehow, seems much more distant than a mere five years ago), New Orleans' recovery, if it can be called that, viewed through the Saturn Bar, and the story on Abu Ghraib, one of the hardest things I've ever read (and for that reason so necessary), and the story of working the locker room. A few misses- Jonathan Franzen's tribute to DFW was beautiful at times but still managed to m Standouts: KG Schneider's "Outlaw Bride", Rivka Galchen's story of tweenage crushes, the story of the Jena 6 (which, somehow, seems much more distant than a mere five years ago), New Orleans' recovery, if it can be called that, viewed through the Saturn Bar, and the story on Abu Ghraib, one of the hardest things I've ever read (and for that reason so necessary), and the story of working the locker room. A few misses- Jonathan Franzen's tribute to DFW was beautiful at times but still managed to make DFW's suicide about him (that is, about Franzen). The best of lists in the beginning seemed a bit tired, though, of course, the listicle fatigue of the mid 2010s could not have been anticipated when the book was published. Overall, a really good read, much of it from authors I'm otherwise unfamiliar with.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    Amusing, as always. I love the front section. Of the stories, I especially liked the essay about floating the Mississippi River. I'd never heard an insider's perspective on the homeless/drifter community. There's also a non-fiction piece written by a fire lookout in the Gila National Forest (he lives by himself for months in a small lookout that's a five mile hike from any road) that was just fascinating to read. I think my favorite piece in here was "How to Work a Locker Room." The second-perso Amusing, as always. I love the front section. Of the stories, I especially liked the essay about floating the Mississippi River. I'd never heard an insider's perspective on the homeless/drifter community. There's also a non-fiction piece written by a fire lookout in the Gila National Forest (he lives by himself for months in a small lookout that's a five mile hike from any road) that was just fascinating to read. I think my favorite piece in here was "How to Work a Locker Room." The second-person voice was engaging and worked well (sometimes it doesn't) and it brought back so many memories of my own reporter days, both the good and the bad about being the impartial receptor of people's stories. There were other ones I liked in this book, and also some I didn't.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    This is somewhat of a cheat since the only material I read from this was that by J Malcolm Garcia at the recommendation of Dave Eggars. He told me that this was a writer he'd "follow anywhere," and the story obtained herein is testament to that opinion. Another story available on kindle only is also 5 star worthy === also about post-Katrina New Orleans but also about coming of age is Riding out Katrina with the Red Baron. I cannot say enough about this story. It covers Garcia's first hand experi This is somewhat of a cheat since the only material I read from this was that by J Malcolm Garcia at the recommendation of Dave Eggars. He told me that this was a writer he'd "follow anywhere," and the story obtained herein is testament to that opinion. Another story available on kindle only is also 5 star worthy === also about post-Katrina New Orleans but also about coming of age is Riding out Katrina with the Red Baron. I cannot say enough about this story. It covers Garcia's first hand experiences in New Orleans, but also his relationship with a Gulf Coast writer with whom he'd kept up correspondence since he was 12 but had never met in person and also his fascination with Baron von Richtofen. I look forward to reading anything he writes.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kards Unlimited

    Andy's Pick! Reading lost its status as a leisure activity long ago. Television, the internet, video games…the list of ‘more relaxing’ alternatives goes on. The continued publication of The Best American Nonrequired Reading, though, attempts to reintroduce the written word into the fold. From graphic novels, to constitutions, to outright lists, the 2009 collection places a renewed interest on entertaining and interesting pieces of writing without any expectations of ‘intellectualism’. Reading the Andy's Pick! Reading lost its status as a leisure activity long ago. Television, the internet, video games…the list of ‘more relaxing’ alternatives goes on. The continued publication of The Best American Nonrequired Reading, though, attempts to reintroduce the written word into the fold. From graphic novels, to constitutions, to outright lists, the 2009 collection places a renewed interest on entertaining and interesting pieces of writing without any expectations of ‘intellectualism’. Reading these pieces is just fun, but even when one falls flat, there’s always another to turn to. And this may be the most important function of the collection -- the realization that unlike required reading it’s ok to abandon a text and move on.

  25. 4 out of 5

    dirt

    The Front Section had some great moments, especially The Loudest Vacuum in the World, though the police blotter kind of fell short of others. Remember in the previous edition when the police were called because a man was yelling in his driveway and it turned out he was trying to rap? The second part was as delicious as ever. Too many good stories to enumerate. Just go get the book. If I had to say something bad, I would go off on the cover. But that's just because I am tired of Bansky. You know w The Front Section had some great moments, especially The Loudest Vacuum in the World, though the police blotter kind of fell short of others. Remember in the previous edition when the police were called because a man was yelling in his driveway and it turned out he was trying to rap? The second part was as delicious as ever. Too many good stories to enumerate. Just go get the book. If I had to say something bad, I would go off on the cover. But that's just because I am tired of Bansky. You know who likes Bansky... white people.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Benbo

    The front section, as always, contains some hilarious gems. Favorites were the Best Letter to the Editor and the Best Craigslist bartering ads. The longer form selections on the whole were not as touching or moving or funny or eye-opening as in previous years, but nonetheless excellent reading material. Highlights for me include Jonathan Franzen's article about his friend and colleague David Foster Wallace, the story about a child that interacts with a pen pal and a monster, the piece about a pa The front section, as always, contains some hilarious gems. Favorites were the Best Letter to the Editor and the Best Craigslist bartering ads. The longer form selections on the whole were not as touching or moving or funny or eye-opening as in previous years, but nonetheless excellent reading material. Highlights for me include Jonathan Franzen's article about his friend and colleague David Foster Wallace, the story about a child that interacts with a pen pal and a monster, the piece about a pathological child impersonator, and a biting story about a how an office reacts to a new temp.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    A mostly solid collection of fiction, nonfiction, lists, comics, and ephemera, not unlike a really good issue of McSweeney's (not surprising, really). My favorite bits were: Jonathan Franzen's eulogy for his lost friend, David Foster Wallace; investigative journalism pieces by Denis Johnson, J. Malcolm Garcia, and David Grann; the story of a post-Katrina bar in New Orleans trying to stay in business after the owner's death; Nathan Englander on family and memory; and the kids' letters to Obama. T A mostly solid collection of fiction, nonfiction, lists, comics, and ephemera, not unlike a really good issue of McSweeney's (not surprising, really). My favorite bits were: Jonathan Franzen's eulogy for his lost friend, David Foster Wallace; investigative journalism pieces by Denis Johnson, J. Malcolm Garcia, and David Grann; the story of a post-Katrina bar in New Orleans trying to stay in business after the owner's death; Nathan Englander on family and memory; and the kids' letters to Obama. There's also a lovely Gorey-esque comic in the back about wanting to be a manta ray.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    Some humorous lists in the front section, then a mix of essays, short stories, and comics. If I had to pick a theme, I would say that a lot of this volume seems to be about issues of identity. Like most anthologies, it varies in tone and quality and I skipped some. Unlike most, I thought the latter half of the book was better than the first half. Jonathan Franzen's essay about David Foster Wallace was great. Some humorous lists in the front section, then a mix of essays, short stories, and comics. If I had to pick a theme, I would say that a lot of this volume seems to be about issues of identity. Like most anthologies, it varies in tone and quality and I skipped some. Unlike most, I thought the latter half of the book was better than the first half. Jonathan Franzen's essay about David Foster Wallace was great.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vickie

    Marjane Satrapi's introduction didn't exactly fit with the volume as well as I was expecting - it read like an addendum to Persepolis, which it is fortunate I have seen (though not read), or I would have been really, really lost. That's pretty much my only criticism, however. I'll have to go and check out the previous volumes of this one of the series - as ridiculous as it is that the crazy Craigslist authors get to be republished to further fame(ish) and infamy, it's still hilarious. Marjane Satrapi's introduction didn't exactly fit with the volume as well as I was expecting - it read like an addendum to Persepolis, which it is fortunate I have seen (though not read), or I would have been really, really lost. That's pretty much my only criticism, however. I'll have to go and check out the previous volumes of this one of the series - as ridiculous as it is that the crazy Craigslist authors get to be republished to further fame(ish) and infamy, it's still hilarious.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Allison Doyle

    It took me longer to read this collection of stories than some other novels, and the reason for that was because I found each individual essay and story so enjoyable and unique that I didn't want to read another one before allowing the one I had just read to sink in a bit. As I said, I enjoyed learning about new writers and I'm certainly going to look some of their other writing up. I'm glad this book was introduced to me. It took me longer to read this collection of stories than some other novels, and the reason for that was because I found each individual essay and story so enjoyable and unique that I didn't want to read another one before allowing the one I had just read to sink in a bit. As I said, I enjoyed learning about new writers and I'm certainly going to look some of their other writing up. I'm glad this book was introduced to me.

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