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The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011: The Best American Series (Best American Nonrequired Reading)

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  863 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews

A selection of the best writing, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comics, and blogs,published during 2010. Edited by Dave Eggers.

ebook, 416 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Oct 31, 2011 Nathan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have no idea what shelf to file this in. Dave Eggers edited it, Neil Gaiman contributed one small piece (clever, but not stellar), and there's just a little too much of the self-absorbed modern writer in it for me to be entirely happy. I skipped a lot, but did find a few fiction pieces I liked. The best work in the book, though, by a country mile, is the stellar non-fiction essay "Solitude and Leadership" by William Deresiewicz. It's an address to a West Point (military officer school) class, ...more
Nov 21, 2011 Tuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
these are getting a bit predictable, with some bleeding heart magazine articles, some quirky "edgy" short stories, some more staid and mature essays, and new band names (but really..? they could get better american band names by listening to london's 6music grumble grumble grumble). some highlights of good editing are a short section of mark twain autobio part 1, some wikileaks that make the us govt seem not only like cynical evil empire dangerous, but also complete twits and morons, and a LIST ...more
Feb 27, 2016 Dorothea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The bulk of this anthology is superb. Some of the short stories that really stand out are:

- Neil Gaiman's "Orange" --- a police interview with a teenaged girl whose sister uses an experimental dye as a self-tanning cream

- Anthony Doerr's "The Deep" is the BEST piece in the collection and likely the best short story I've ever read. The story is about a boy with a heart condition growing up in Detroit in the decade before the Great Depression. Each sentence is practically a work of art in this pie
Oct 01, 2011 Kilean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These non-requireds have been requirements of mine for a few years now and this might be the greatest one yet. Roughly four hundred and twenty-six pages on printed paper with a gorgeous cover, it’s funny, sad, provocative, angry, and perhaps the best bunch of disparate writings to be had this year. Hard to dislike a book that lists, among many things, right there in the Front Section, “Best American Call of Duty Handles” and “Best American WiFi Network Names” along with some Twain quotes/passage ...more
Dec 10, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
an enjoyable smorgasbord of mind-blowing variety.
Patrick McCoy
Feb 13, 2012 Patrick McCoy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011 is always a good way to find new authors to read. This edition has an introduction by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro most well-known for Pan's Labyrinth. This edition only has one story that I had previously come across, Chris Jones' excellent profile for Esquire: "Roger Ebert: The Essential Man." In fact most of my favorite pieces in this collection were nonfiction pieces: Gary Shteyngart's profile of M.I.A. for GQ, "An Oral History of Adama Bah" ...more
Nov 04, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another interesting, eclectic, thought-provoking batch of goodies this year. My favorite bits include the oral history of Adama Bah; Tim Crothers' "The Game of Her Life"; Neil Gaiman's "Orange"; "the Imaginist" comic from Oliver Schrauwen; and a West Point commencement speech about how solitude is necessary for leadership, which is making me seriously rethink how I spend my time. The Sloane Crosley story did nothing for me, and the Joyce Carol Oates piece about a plastic surgeon was too icky to ...more
I didn't like this as much as I remember liking collections in past years. Things like this are always hit or miss, though. In any case it's always an interesting combination of things, this edition includes a couple of comics, short stories, nonfiction essays, random lists, and a few other things. I didn't read it cover to cover -- if something wasn't holding my interest I moved on. If you like these sorts of random compilations of things I would definitely check it out, but it's not for everyo ...more
Dec 18, 2012 Indira marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
a fabulous gift from terry, who understands that the short story is all i can handle at the moment. :)
Nov 01, 2011 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Best Best in a few years I think...
Ryan J.
Apr 02, 2015 Ryan J. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: form-ii-english
For March, I read The Best American Non-Required Reading, edited by Dave Egger. It is a collection of excerpts from fiction and nonfiction articles, novels, letters, gaming websites, short stories, etc. The most obvious part of the book was the aspect and message that popped out at me last. As I was reading, I was wondering and asking myself why people did the things they did. The excerpts in this book were funny, confusing, saddening, inspiring, and hopeful. I was looking at the minor ideas and ...more
This was the first "Best American" book I have read and I wanted so badly to like the book. It took me over 4 months to finally finish this book. Overall I would give it 2 1/2 stars, but have to curve down. There were some interesting stories, but I couldn't bear to read some of the others.

My favorite stories were:
- Some of the beginning lists like the best Call of Duty gamer tag names, best new band names and best lawsuits

- Adama Bah. An Oral History Of Adama Bah from Patriot Acts: Narrative
Kayl Parker
Jan 31, 2012 Kayl Parker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not only filled with incredible articles and a few short stories but also includes an assortment of the "the Best American..." etc. chosen by a group of high school students. A few of these could have been left out, in my opinion, as they seemed to be boring like the one about the oil spill (none of it is easily recignizable since the tiny references are so obscure) or the commune/wifi names (really, these are the best american?..boring). Worth reading if only for the introduction b ...more
Aug 05, 2013 Brandon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a particularly tricky review to write because this is a collection of stories by multiple authors, not a single story by a single individual. But, that very reason may be why I give top honors to this book. It is such a diverse collection of stories - some fiction, some non-fiction - by such a diverse collection of authors that you never quite know what lies at the end of one story and the beginning of another.

The entire collection is compiled as part of an 826 National initiative. From
S King
Jan 21, 2015 S King rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
loved it!
This was a Christmas present from . After exams I find that I need shorter pieces to read because to be frank my attention span has been shot and I cannot focus on a full novel.
I read this during my trip to Cambodia and Vietnam. I thought it would cut through the holiday fuzz that seems to seep in, and yeah it totally did! This collection of short stories allowed an escape (from the escapade that an overseas holiday is? okay...whatever steph) from the swarms of motorbike traffic in Hano
Jan 23, 2014 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some terrific non-fiction and fiction pieces in here..

the best fiction:
The Deep (Anthony Doerr) -- a terrific short story, the best in the collection
Pleiades (Anjai Sachdeva)
The Boy's School, or the News from Spain (Joan Wickersham) - written in the 2nd person, interesting

the best non-fiction:
An Oral History of Adama Bah - Terrifying story of a Guinean immigrant teenager detained after 9/11
Game of Her Life (Tim Crothers) - Fascinating story about a female Ugandan chess prodigy
Art of the Steal (J
Garrett Zecker
Aug 19, 2012 Garrett Zecker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like all of the BANR books, this one is a stellar collection of engaging, rough, masterful, touching, and hilarious stories across all genres. The work that is contained within was edited by high school students who have read a tremendous amount of media and work, choosing the best and the brightest of last years pieces that should be contained in a volume meant for the masses. The board had unanimously chosen well, and the work itself is striking and beautiful, resilient and timely, and just a ...more
I chose this after enjoying the The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century. Short stories are my friend. And this one is edited by Dave Eggers, so it looked promising.

Once I got past the Readers-Digest-like "lists" of the first section, the second section was full of fascinating fiction & non-fiction selections from different publications, that I would expect a team of high schoolers to pick (& who actually are the selection comity.) It's a collection of mostly edgy & uncomfor
Feb 03, 2016 Denise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not normally something that would cross my radar, but it came up on a library search for Neil Gaiman (and then when I got to the Gaiman story in this collection I realized I'd already read it in his most recent short story book, oops!). Very different pieces of writing, very enriching (well except perhaps for some of the oddball selections like "best Call of Duty screen names" or whatever, most of which I skipped). My memory is so bad that I feel like I don't get as much from anthologies as I do ...more
Jennifer Arnold
I've been a fan of this series for a long time, but this may be my least favorite of those I've read so far. Unusually, for me, I found that I enjoyed many of the short stories far more than the nonfiction pieces - usually, it's the other way around. The highlights:

The Best American Fax from Don DeLillo - there's probably never been more insightful and thoughtful writing captured in a fax.

Neil Gaiman's short story "Orange," which originally appeared in the Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine (
Feb 04, 2013 Jeff rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read a bunch from this book, but never found anything worthwhile in it. I didn't see the point of DeLillo's fax (but then again I'm not a DeLillo fan), the Mark Twain quotes were not his best, and if Shteyngart's profile of M.I.A. is the best celebrity profile, then I obviously haven't been missing much by not reading any others.

I should have known. This book is a lot like Eggers' writing in general. It shows some initial promise, then quickly peters out, and by the end, you get the idea he ha
Jan 29, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Not my favourite edition of this series, but there were still some standout pieces that are fun to retell over beers with friends. The Joyce Carol Oates story about trepanning nearly made me pass out twice, definitely made me say something outloud to myself (or maybe just gasp in horror), and will not be forgotten any time soon. Other standouts included the profile on Roger Ebert (I had no idea!!!) and the last short story of the bunch. I thought I wanted to read a little more Sloane Crosley, bu ...more
Mar 19, 2012 Meg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone looking for some original reading material
Recommended to Meg by: Julie - Book Hooked Blog
Shelves: short-stories
This was my first foray into the "Best American Non-required Reading" collection, and it was such a refreshing change of pace from everything else I typically read. From the amusing tidbits of the front section to the unusual short stories to the engaging articles, it was a thoroughly delightful experience, and there were only a few pieces of the entire anthology that I didn't love. While the included pieces may not be the absolute "best" (such a subjective matter to begin with) they are all des ...more
May 24, 2012 Dana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always wanted to read one of these collections and finally did. It's a nice change of pace: mix of short stories, magazine articles, internet content, illustrated "comic" strips, and one transcript of a NPR "This American Life" story. Of course some are better than others, but even if you one doesn't click with you, the writing is still quality and topics are thought provoking. Introduction by Guillermo Del Toro is appropriate as I think the majority of pieces are kinda dark and unsettling.
Post Defiance
Originally posted at, written by Sweet Pea Flaherty.

Eggers and his team of voracious readers have scoured hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites, searching for the best pieces written in 2011. Among many others, this volume contains work by Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Daniel Alarcon, Clare Beams, and Mohammed Hanif. Also included: The Best American Commune Names, Wifi Network Names, and Call of Duty Handles.
Jul 04, 2015 JDK1962 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Skimmed. Probably 50-75% of the content was not of interest to me (i.e., if I had encountered it in a magazine, I would have skipped based on subject), or were by authors of whom I am less than enamored (e.g., Gary Shteyngart) writing about subjects about which I had no interest. And discovering that Don DeLillo "doesn't use email" and only uses faxes makes me think Don DeLillo should grow the f--k up ("US Postal Service? Oh, no, I'm a special snowflake scratching out messages on vellum produced ...more
Will Kent
A review of everything you didn't read in 2011. This year's collection was exceptionally sad. The compilation was mechanically efficient in making me consider the threads of silver lining woven into each stormy story. Highlights include:

Best American Profile of an International Pop Star - Shteyngart
Art of the Steal - Bearman
Game of Her Life - Crothers
Solitude and Leadership - Deresiewicz
The Deep - Doerr
What Killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones - LeDuff
Mid-Life Cowboy - Spring

Give it a read.
Apr 23, 2012 Sgmulvey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classroom-tools
This book has some fantastic short stories and it even includes a couple short graphic stories. Most were interesting and carried deep meaning, so reading them was a thought-provoking experience. I would recommend this to high school teachers to use as a classroom tool. The stories have many themes that are relate-able to all sorts of literature. My very favorite is the graphic story called "The Imaginist" by Olivier Schrauwen. It only takes a few minutes to read, but like the other stories of t ...more
John R.
Mar 13, 2012 John R. rated it really liked it
Shelves: nook
This book was on sale for $1.99 as one of Nook's daily deals, and when I saw that Guillermo del Toro and Neil Gaiman were contributers, I was excited that this would be a quirky, semi-fantastical romp through odd-duck fiction from the last year. It was not. And that was awesome.

The book is comprised mostly of nonfiction, American authors in odd or dangerous situations, and really eye-opening. I enjoyed it a lot.

Now I need to find a unicorn chaser.
Mar 09, 2012 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really good book. Wasn't sure what to expect with a vague title like "Nonrequired Reading," but it was really good. Had excerpts from Wikileaks, a neat speech from an inspiring general on solitude & leadership, and a really moving story from a 16-year old girl who was accused of being a suicide bomber by someone in her mosque. It was a horrific experience and really moving. This collection is really interesting, and I've enjoyed most every story I've read from it.
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Dave Eggers is the author of ten books, including most recently Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, The Circle and A Hologram for the King, which was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award. He is the founder of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing company based in San Francisco that produces books, a quarterly journal of new writing (McSweeney’s Quarterly ...more
More about Dave Eggers...

Other Books in the Series

Best American Nonrequired Reading (1 - 10 of 15 books)
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  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007
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