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The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003 written by Dave Eggers


The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003 written by Dave Eggers


This is the second year we’ve put this book together, and we’re beginning to have some idea of what we’re doing. But do we know exactly what this book is? We do not. The original purpose of the collection was to introduce younger readers--high school and college-age people, more or less--to good writing from contemporary writers. But then the book came out and we discovered that the readership was not what we’d expected. Sure, there were some high school and college readers, but there were also older readers, and younger readers, and readers from every walk of life—police officers, firefighters, animal control experts, air-conditioning repair technicians, and prisoners. It runs the gamut.
Now, your questions answered:

What is the purpose of this book? —Dominique, Santa Monica, CA Thank you for your question, Dominique. (Such a lovely name!) The purpose of this book is to collect good work of any kind—fiction, humor, essays, comics, journalism—in one place, for the English-reading consumer. The other books in the Best American series are limited by their categories, most particularly the popular but constraining Best American Catholic Badger Mystery Writing. This collection is not so limited, which is why, we think, it dominates all similar collections, making them whimper and cower in a way that is shameful.

Why aren't there more pieces about badgers? —Reginald, Myrtle Beach, SC We had plans to include at least seven pieces about badgers—their manufacture, appearance, and care—but were prevented from doing so by Zadie Smith. This was a condition of her inclusion in this volume.

In addition to the pieces included in the collection, and Ms. Smith’s introduction—or whatever it is—will there be a piece by the editor about a young man with a crush on a sixty-five-year-old woman whose lawn he cuts? —Peter and Nam Mee, Washington, DC We might have such a piece. It might be immediately following this sentence.

(From the Foreword by Dave Eggers)

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 once again chosen the best and least-expected fiction, nonfiction, satire, investigative reporting, alternative comics, and more from publications large, small, and on-line--The Onion, The New Yorker, Shout, Time, Zoetrope, Tin House, Nerve.com,and McSweeney's, to name just a few. Read on for "Some of the best literature you haven't been reading . . . And it's fantastic. All of it." (St. Petersburg Times).

Lynda Barry Jonathan Safran Foer Lisa Gabriele Andrea Lee J. T. Leroy Nasdijj ZZ Packer David Sedaris

Publishers Weekly

In his deliciously kooky foreword, Eggers (You Shall Know Our Velocity) describes this excellent literary compilation as a gathering of "good writing from contemporary writers," but it's much more than that. The 25 pieces, previously published in glossies (the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Harper's) and smaller outlets (Tin House, Alaska Quarterly Review, Nerve.com) were selected by San Francisco high schoolers, and all are worthy of the reprint they get here. The eclectic assemblage of fiction, nonfiction, humor and comics alternates between serious articles, such as Mark Bowden's elaborate, exhaustive examination of Saddam Hussein ("Tales of the Tyrant"), and the comic brilliance of illustrator Lynda Barry, the charmingly goofy sentimentality of David Sedaris and the flippancy of the Onion's "I'll Try Anything with a Detached Air of Superiority." Last year's collection was aimed at young adults, and several selections here address themes of peer pressure and children's cruelty: Ryan Boudinot's Halloween-themed "The Littlest Hitler," David Drury's story of suburban misfits in "Things We Knew When the House Caught Fire" and Judy Budnitz's disturbing family tale "Visiting Hours." The street-smart spunk of J.T. Leroy's "Stuff" and K. Kvashay-Boyle's "Saint Chola" combine with Daniel Voll's unflinching view of life in South Central Los Angeles to give the collection a dash of grit. Readers of all ages should be delighted with this literary smorgasbord. Eggers deserves credit for another first-rate collection-and for donating his portion of the proceeds to his nonprofit educational organization, 826 Valencia. (Oct.) Forecast: This latest series addition to Houghton Mifflin's "Best American" lineup is holding its own critically and commercially, thanks to its association with Eggers but also to the high quality of its selections. The second annual entry won't disappoint, and should help grow the franchise. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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