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Paperback The Best American Nonrequired Reading Book

ISBN: 0618246967

ISBN13: 9780618246960

The Best American Nonrequired Reading

(Part of the Best American Nonrequired Reading Series)

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Book Overview

Since its inception in 1915, the Best American series has become the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction. For each volume, the very best pieces are selected by an editor who is widely recognized as a leading writer in his or her field, making the Best American series the most respected -- and most popular -- of its kind.
Dave Eggers, who will be editing The Best American Nonrequired Reading annually, has...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Mostly the stories are about survival

Sherman Alexie writes of Sacagawea, the Shoshone who accompanied Lewis and Clark. She died of some mysterious illness when she was only in her twenties. Lynda Barry's entry is in the nature of a graphic short story. She covers the interesting subject of the peculiar scent of each person's house. Ryan Boudinot writes of having a costume as Hitler for a school harvest carnival. First he created trouble on the school bus. His fourth grade teacher was amused and disturbed. Another student dressed as Anne Frank. The teacher elected to have a discussion about the Second World War. The girl playing Anne Frank saw her popularity soar. Davy, the boy character of the story, decided not to be Hitler that evening. He and his father found a Frankenstein mask. Mark Bowden writes of the tyrant, Saddam Hussein. In his sixties, he cannot appear to age since his power is based on fear. He swims, he dyes his hair. His desk is immaculate. He reads voraciously which is a good thing since he is fed lies. His passion is Arabic history and military history. People have reported it is plesant to sit and talk to Saddam. As people age, the area of making choices is reduced. A tyrant has the narrowest field of all. Power shuts the tyrant off from the world. Saddam's clan was known to be violent and clever. Saddam committed his crimes publicly, cloaking them in patriotism. Things started with ego and ambition and became a political movement. The conflict in Iraq was a conflict in mentalities, between the city and the village. The backbone of politics is in the city. In the city politics is a matter of law, not blood. Saddam was a man of the village, of tribal loyalty. His favorite movies were THE GODFATHER and THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA. The invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was a military miscalculation. Mark Bowden explains that cruelty is the tyrant's art. Judy Budnitz in "Visiting Hours," describes visiting her brother Ezra in the hospital after he suffered a concussion causing short term memory loss. She tells her parents she is danger of being suspended from school because she has taken time-off to visit her brother. The family dynamics appear to be conflict-ridden and mysterious. The brother suffers a new injury to remain in the hospital. David Drury states in a piece that a suburb is a delicate thing. A family whose house burns down inherited the house from an aunt. The blended family did not really fit into the neighborhood. Family members did not tend the lawn, and Christmas decorations were taken from the yards of the other houses. The children did not have the approved kinds of bicycles and they were shunned by the other children. Tribute bands are a maligned sector of the rock and roll scene claims Chuck Klosterman in "The Pretenders." Being derivative is not simple. Fans already exist for the tribute band. You don't have to beg your friends to come to watch you play. This selection of material by Dave Eggers and hi

Very fun read

This eclectic collection of writing was loaned to me by a friend who thought it would be right up my alley. She was right! I had never heard of the series and am now seeking out the other years of "Nonrequired Reading." Every selection is different, so you are bound to love something in here. Several entries had me giggling delightedly. Others had me crying. Most I just enjoyed without any sloppy emotionalism. Definitely recommended.

Are we "forced" to read it?

Another reviewer accuses Eggers of "forcing" his tastes on the reader. I must be one of the lucky few who Dave Eggers did not force to read this book at gunpoint. The title of this book is "Nonrequired Reading" - by definition, you are going to find pieces which are off the beaten path.Personally, I found this book an invaluable tool to judge the state of modern writing. This is the only "Best American" collection I own, and I think it is the most valuable. Whereas this one gets criticized for being "too hip" the others strike me as being too high-brow or revisionist. This collection shows what people ACTUALLY READ. The story behind the book is that Eggers has a team of literary-minded high school students cull the best of everything they've read from the entire year. The works contained in this collection run the gamut from fiction, to journalism, to humor, to essays - it even includes a comic strip. What makes this book so indispensable for any aspiring writer is not only that it gives an idea of the current voice of writing and the new young authors who are writing it, but it also lists the publications where one can find them.Among the new authors that this book has helped me to discover is the very young J.T. Leroy. The author of Blackhawk Down provides an incisive and disturbing biography Saddam Hussein. The always dependable David Sedaris provides a very funny account of his brother Rooster's wedding. I would have felt I got my money's worth from the book if I had just read the forward by Eggers (the part we were supposed to "skip"). Eggers is one of the best, freshest voices in writing today. Even better is the introduction by Zadie Smith where she provides guidelines of "how to read", complete with a lot of useful quotes from literature.

Thought-provoking variety

This category was added last year - short pieces from periodicals big and small, chosen for young adults by young adults - San Francisco high school kids. A dubious prospect. But, whether it's youthful enthusiasm or the editor's "firm, unrelenting" guidance, the result is a funny, serious, edgy, clever and thoughtful mix, for all ages.There's a long, quietly chilling piece on Saddam Hussein by Mark Bowden and a buoyantly resolute piece on growing up American and Muslim during the first Gulf War by V. Kvashay-Boyle.A number of pieces turn on the traumas of childhood and dealing with family. "Then there's the time I went as Hitler for Halloween," begins Ryan Boudinot. David Drury gets childhood cruelty and suburban conformity down pat in "Things We Knew When the House Caught Fire." David Sedaris, funny as ever, offers up his family on his brother, Rooster's, wedding day, and Jonathan Safran Foer has a clever piece on the silences of family communication. More edgy are Douglas Light's wrenching story of abandoned sisters, J.T. Leroy's tale of an angry, ambitious, homeless boy, and Judy Budnitz' eerie, creepy story of a girl visiting her busted-up brother in the hospital.The journalism is first rate, especially George Packer's fascinating exploration of what, exactly, happens to all those donated clothes, "How Susie Bayer's T-Shirt Ended Up on Yusuf Mama's Back;" and Chuck Closterman's profile of a tribute band, "The Pretenders."Shorter pieces - Sherman Alexie's meditative "What Sacagawea Means to Me," as well as the Onion's humorous "I'll Try Anything with a Detached Air of Superiority," and Amanda Holzer's brief, smart, story in song titles - round out the mix.Whether funny, grim, hip, winsome or informative, all these pieces are stimulating, gripping, thought-provoking. An excellent, well-balanced anthology.

Another great Nonrequired collection

This is the second collection of the Best American Nonrequired Reading series. Like the first volume, this is a collection of a wide variety of writing, both fiction and nonfiction alike. Also, like the first volume, there are a few excellent pieces in this collection with the rest being good, but not quite as good. A couple of the standout pieces are Mark Bowden's "Tales of the Tyrant", Daniel Voll's "Riot Baby", and Ryan Boidinot's "The Littlest Hitler". The Tyrant in question in Bowden's piece is Saddam Hussein, and this is a very interesting look at the dictator. Daniel Voll's article is about a boy who was born during the L.A. Riots a decade ago. "The Littlest Hitler" is an excellent short story. Other pieces that I would highlight are: "Things We Knew When the House Caught Fire", "The Guide to Being a Groupie", "Love, and Other Catastrophes: A Mix Tape", "I'll Try Anything With a Detached Air of Superiority", "Rooster at the Hitchin' Post", and "Lost Boys". These are not the only pieces that I enjoyed, and as a whole, I would say that this collection was better than the first. There were fewer weaker pieces, and the Nonrequired Reading collection is one to look for every year.
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