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The Best American Short Stories 2011 (The Best American Short Stories)

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,592 Ratings  ·  206 Reviews
The Best American Series
First, Best, and Best-Selling

The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction. Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites. A special guest editor, a leading writer in the field, then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish
Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Sep 22, 2012 christa rated it really liked it
I’m trying to become a short story writer, or better yet a novelist, and it is tricky. I don’t know what’s good. I don’t know if I’d read my own work if my work was by a stranger. I wonder if I’d close the anthology I was featured in and sigh, contentedly, at the way I tugged a heart string or made a reader feel bile burn in the back of her throat. Mostly I just want to a) tell a good story in a new way and b) make a reader want to barf.

I don’t have many idols in the world of short stories. I’m
Oct 06, 2015 Chris rated it liked it
Making my way through this one. So far, on a scale from (1) "Wish I had those 15-30 minutes back" to (5) "Read, Reread, Repeat":

Five Stars

Four Stars

George Saunders "Escape from Spiderhead" 4.5
Saunders now; Saunders forever.

Bret Anthony Johnston "Soldier of Fortune" 4.5
No surprise here, btw. Pretty much bought the collection for BAJ

Claire Keegan "Foster"
A quiet but lovely tale of a Scottish kid passed off to another family while her mother births a baby brother for her. The estrangement of earl
Jul 19, 2013 Jessica marked it as aborted-efforts
I always forget how often short story anthologies make me want to grab the nearest metal kitchen implement and trepan the part of my brain that knows how to read. Really not sure why this is, but there's something about a lot of short stories in succession that makes me wish I didn't understand written words anymore.

I'm sure all these stories are, on their own, extremely fine. In fact, I clearly remember weeping in my bathroom back in Queens as I read the Richard Powers one in The New Yorker a c
Chris Gager
Jul 02, 2016 Chris Gager rated it liked it
Have rescued a few of these over the past few years. From the local transfer station I assume. Seven of the twenty stories first appeared in the New Yorker so I may have already read some of these.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - "Ceiling" - Nigerian middle class blues. Not bad, not great.

Megan Mayhew Bergman - "Housewifely Arts" - Lonely, clueless, rootless, drifting single mom blues. Not terribly original - Alice Munro lite.

Tom Bissell - "A Bridge Under Water" - Got-married-to-an-asshole-because-I-
Kimberly Faith
Oct 18, 2011 Kimberly Faith rated it liked it
I find that these collections are strongest when a favorite writer of mine is editing them (similar taste, perhaps). This was one of the more disappointing volumes. Which is a shame because my good friend Sara Batkie's story "Cleavage" was listed as a distinguished story in the back of the book!!! I love looking over that list after reading the collection and sighing to see which stories that floored me throughout the year of lit journal reading didn't make the volume or didn't make the distingu ...more
Mar 02, 2012 daniel rated it really liked it
there is some very good writing, of course, that does not stir the blood. it's cool, cerebral. tricksy, clever. i admire it in the same way i admire the technical proficiency of a cirque de soleil acrobat: 'look what she's doing up there. i didn't realize a rotator cuff had that range of motion.' but i'm not moved by it. and by the end of the show, so many amazing things have been done that amazement becomes a kind of boredom.

-- ms. brooks's introduction

with these best-of collections, it often s
Feb 01, 2012 Dan rated it really liked it
Stories so taut they twang
The most compelling part of the 2011 American short story anthology just may be the introduction by this year’s editor, author Geraldine Brooks.

She writes about short story form: setup, reveal, reversal and release. “If one element fails, the edifice crumbles.” Brooks writes that she likes stories that, well, tell a story.

She doesn’t care for short stories that treat plot “as if it were a hair in the soup.” If a story is bleak it ought to have clearly earned its bleakne
Apr 16, 2012 Angie rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Short stories are a gift to e-book readers--we end up using our devices during the in-between moments of our lives and, sometimes, the stories in this collection felt a bit like filler, actually. But most of them are amazing and serve as excellent introductions to the authors' work. I loved the story, "Foster" by Claire Keegan, in which an Irish girl discovers how parents are supposed to act when she is temporarily fostered by a loving couple. I liked the story by Jennifer Egan, "Out of Body," a ...more
Jan 13, 2016 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Apropos to very little, I liked guest editor Geraldine Brooks's anecdotes about being a journalist where you learn quickly that the grit of a story is out in the world and not in flowery, distracting word choices. That being said, most of my favorites in this collection were about culture clashes/brushes with tragedy and didn't adhere to style over substance.

They are:

"Ceiling" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Granata.) The nouveau rich go shoulder to shoulder with the slums in Lagos, Nigeria.

"A Brid
Ally Armistead
Jan 08, 2012 Ally Armistead rated it liked it
Every year, I look forward to BASS with breathless anticipation. As a great lover and writer of the short story form, reading this collection is the holy mecca of genius and inspiration. My favorites over the years have included Stephen King's 2007 edition, and last year's (2010) Richard Russo's edition, so when I found out that Geraldine Brooks--author of March and A Year of Wonders--was 2011's guest selector, I was psyched.

However, while there were a handful of truly exceptional stories in Bro
Christina Gagliano
Feb 18, 2014 Christina Gagliano rated it it was amazing
I've only read the first 3 1/2 stories so far; however, "A Bridge Under Water" by Tom Bissell is one of the best short stories I've ever read and would be worth the price of the entire book. If, as the author said in the end note "a large part of the reason I wrote this story was to determine why I can sometimes be an insufferable dick," well, I'm glad he went through this exercise and, whether or not he's still an insufferable dick, he wrote an amazing short story! I'll just make sure never to ...more
Nov 01, 2011 Sara rated it liked it
Picked it up in an airport. Would recommend for a long flight. Some were good, some were weird, some were bizarre. It was a nice mix to keep me interested and focused on something other than the rampant farter sitting in the next row.
Nov 01, 2014 Georganne rated it it was amazing
I love this series. I have copies going back to 2002 and read them even before that. There was a time when my working life ate my brain so to speak. I turned to short stories (specifically this series) to read during my short lunch break (this break room was dark and windowless). The stories took my mind away to another place providing a stress relieving life saver for me. Now sometimes, I forget how enjoyable a well written short story can be. I fall behind in reading them (like now), but I'm i ...more
Jan 01, 2012 John rated it liked it
Overall this year’s stories were a bit disappointing. Although there are some phenomenal stories, there were a lot that seemed ordinary to me. I have been reading the yearly publications for perhaps a decade now and usually I love nearly every story. This year’s stories are still worth reading, but seemed to lack the connection to make it a great read. A 3.5

Ceiling – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 3
Well woven and written, but did not blow me out of the water.

Housewifey Arts – Megan Mayhew Bergman 4.5
Three and a half stars. Some stories were amazing, others just didn't work for me.

Ceiling, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -- 3 stars
Housewifely Arts, by Megan Mayhew Bergman -- 5 stars
A Bridge Under Water, by Tom Bissell -- 2 stars
Out of Body, by Jennifer Egan -- 4.5 stars
Free Fruit for Young Widows, by Nathan Englander -- 5 stars
La Vita Nuova, by Allegra Goodman -- 3 stars
Gurov in Manhattan, by Ehud Havazelet -- 2 stars
The Sleep, by Caitlin Horrocks -- 4 stars
Soldier of Fortune, by Bret Anthony J
Jun 03, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, 2011
This wonderful series is always a mixed bag by its nature, but kudos to the editors for always including a variety so there is something for every taste. That must be a challenge. There wasn't much to flat-out love here, but this year it was easy to see the talent and excellence in just about every selection.

My favorite was Claire Keegan's "Foster," an exceptional story that shows one of the best reasons to read this series - learning about great new voices. Keegan is clearly yet another in a l
Mar 11, 2016 Caitlin rated it really liked it
A collection of stories that are designed to make you think. As such, they tend to be more sad than happy, asking tough questions about right and wrong, the nature of love, family, etc.
Well-written, though varied in style and subject, these feel carefully chosen, without the weaker stories that often creep into a collection. Great for short story fans, but not for those who require the whole story, as many end leaving the future unresolved.
Jan 17, 2012 Alan rated it it was amazing
These anthologies are amazing. Not every story is super but at least half of them are. I discover the best modern American writers every year by reading this anthology. This year my discoveries are: 1) Caitlin Horrocks, whose story, The Sleep, is a straightforward exploration of people like me who would be much happier if we could just sleep through winter and wake up when spring begins; 2) Claire Keegan, whose story, Foster, had the richest description of character and place I have ever read; a ...more
Feb 26, 2013 Meredith rated it really liked it
As with any collection, there were several stories that I found hum-drum or downright confusing, but there were also a few that moved me to tears. I don't get moved to tears often. My favorites were: "Ceiling," "A Bridge Under Water," "ID," and "The Call of Blood." Honestly, it was a difficult collection to read because I never knew if the next story was going to punch me in the gut and create a night of bad dreams. But, hey, that's what good writing is all about....right? (*as she drives to the ...more
Kris Bigalk
Jan 10, 2012 Kris Bigalk rated it liked it
Having read every Best American Short Stories since 1988, I can say this one was a disappointment. Besides some shining stars, such as Rebecca Makkai's "Peter Torelli, Falling Apart" and "La Vita Nuova" by Allergra Goodman, most of these stories seemed overly preoccupied with themselves, or intent on being "trendy". Though Nathan Englander is one of my favorite writers, the story included by him was just OK, and didn't include the underlying humor I have found in his work previously. Glad I boug ...more
Oct 05, 2011 Joe rated it liked it
The 2010 and the 2008 collections of “Best American Short Stories’’ chosen, respectively, by Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo and Salman Rushdie, delivered some of the truly best stories of this century. This year’s collection, picked by another Pulitzer Prize winner, Geraldine Brooks, fails to match the excellence of the two earlier volumes, though “BASS 2011’’ isn’t as weak as the 2009 Alice Sebold edition.

Go to my Blog:

And then to my Boston Globe rev
Oct 22, 2011 Logan rated it liked it
A pleasant collection of unassuming quality, despite the superlative title. The only two stories that stood out were "The Dungeon Master" by San Lipsyte and "Escape From Spiderhead" by George Saunders, both dark and devilishly funny. Joyce Carol Oates' "ID" was solid, as was Tom Bissell's "A Bridge Under Water" and Ehud Havazelet's "Gurov in Manhattan." The rest seemed like those water-tight, sorrow-pedaling bedroom dramas that literary journals love but fail to stimulate the layperson's mind.
Dec 24, 2014 Joanna rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-stories
Two stories in: not EVERY American short story has to be about a terrifyingly mismatched couple and their rapidly dissolving marriage, right? Two for two so far....
Next pairing: a teenaged suicide attempt survivor and a Holocaust surviver. Will the stories continue to come in pairs? Will they continue to trend so bleak? Was 2011 a particularly grim year in storytelling?
Two more disastrous relationships, sigh.
Two winners! The Sleep and Soldier of Fortune were both fantastic and creative stories.
Pat Pujolas
Nov 20, 2011 Pat Pujolas rated it really liked it
another great collection this year... my faves: "housewifely arts" by megan mayhew bergman, "soldier of fortune" by bret anthony johnston, "the dungeon master" by sam lipsyte, and "phantoms" by steven milhauser. "foster" by claire keegan was so good it made me cry. but then i drank a bottle of gin and punched a football player, so we're still cool...
D Fisher
Feb 16, 2016 D Fisher rated it it was amazing
An outstanding Foreword by Heidi Pitlor where she writes about the new norm of writing that is void of momentum and uninterested in the reader, and the introduction by Geraldine Brooks is even more fascinating and fun, every aspiring writer should read her "carps of the day." Some of the stories left me blank but then the writing was always excellent. I'll read anything Adichie writes and Ceiling didn't disappoint. Egan is a magician with words and mood, and La Vita Nuova was just so beautiful i ...more
Nov 14, 2011 Beth rated it liked it
Shelves: shortstories
This was uneven (as always), but had a few standouts: Ceiling, The Sleep, Soldier of Fortune, Property, and Escape from Spiderhead. I use this collection mainly to find new authors, so I'll consider this year's edition a success. I'm also looking forward to tracking down some of the honorable mentions.
Jan 16, 2014 Abby rated it liked it
I'm preparing to read the Best American Short Stories from 2013 and thought I'd go back and read 2011 and 2012 as well.

In my opinion, this collection was a mixed bag, with strong stories interspersed with not-so-strong ones.

I enjoyed:
- Ceiling, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- La Nuova Vita, by Allegra Goodman (go Cambridge!)
- Soldier of Fortune, Bret Anthony Johnston
- ID, Joyce Carol Oates (a powerful exploration of subtle emotion)
- The Call of Blood, Jess Row

Okay stories included:
- A Bridge Under
Feb 27, 2016 MizLaT rated it really liked it
Love to settle in and read a great American short story! This collection will make you laugh, cry, or scratch your head wondering where in the world the ideas hatched. Finishing it felt like saying goodbye to some favorite characters...I simply must find another collection!
Thorn MotherIssues
Oct 18, 2011 Thorn MotherIssues rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2011
Consistently good, but now I can't think of any standouts. That might be because I was feverish when I read it, though.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and attended Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issu
More about Geraldine Brooks...

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The Best American Short Stories (1 - 10 of 89 books)
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“This was no coincidence. The best short stories and the most successful jokes have a lot in common. Each form relies on suggestion and economy. Characters have to be drawn in a few deft strokes. There's generally a setup, a reveal, a reversal, and a release. The structure is delicate. If one element fails, the edifice crumbles. In a novel you might get away with a loose line or two, a saggy paragraph, even a limp chapter. But in the joke and in the short story, the beginning and end are precisely anchored tent poles, and what lies between must pull so taut it twangs. I'm not sure if there is any pattern to these selections. I did not spend a lot of time with those that seemed afraid to tell stories, that handled plot as if it were a hair in the soup, unwelcome and embarrassing. I also tended not to revisit stories that seemed bleak without having earned it, where the emotional notes were false, or where the writing was tricked out or primped up with fashionable devices stressing form over content. I do know that the easiest and the first choices were the stories to which I had a physical response. I read Jennifer Egan's "Out of Body" clenched from head to toe by tension as her suicidal, drug-addled protagonist moves through the Manhattan night toward an unforgivable betrayal. I shed tears over two stories of childhood shadowed by unbearable memory: "The Hare's Mask," by Mark Slouka, with its piercing ending, and Claire Keegan's Irishinflected tale of neglect and rescue, "Foster." Elizabeth McCracken's "Property" also moved me, with its sudden perception shift along the wavering sightlines of loss and grief. Nathan Englander's "Free Fruit for Young Widows" opened with a gasp-inducing act of unexpected violence and evolved into an ethical Rubik's cube. A couple of stories made me laugh: Tom Bissell's "A Bridge Under Water," even as it foreshadows the dissolution of a marriage and probes what religion does for us, and to us; and Richard Powers's "To the Measures Fall," a deftly comic meditation on the uses of literature in the course of a life, and a lifetime. Some stories didn't call forth such a strong immediate response but had instead a lingering resonance. Of these, many dealt with love and its costs, leaving behind indelible images. In Megan Mayhew Bergman's "Housewifely Arts," a bereaved daughter drives miles to visit her dead mother's parrot because she yearns to hear the bird mimic her mother's voice. In Allegra Goodman's "La Vita Nuova," a jilted fiancée lets her art class paint all over her wedding dress. In Ehud Havazelet's spare and tender story, "Gurov in Manhattan," an ailing man and his aging dog must confront life's necessary losses. A complicated, only partly welcome romance blossoms between a Korean woman and her demented” 2 likes
“Disappointment is a beautiful woman reading Ayn Rand.” 0 likes
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