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The Best American Short Stories 2008 (The Best American Short Stories)

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  1,333 ratings  ·  194 reviews
This brilliant collection, edited by the award-winning and perennially provocative Salman Rushdie, boasts a “magnificent array” (Library Journal) of voices both new and recognized.With Rushdie at the helm, the 2008 edition “reflects the variety of substance and style and the consistent quality that readers have come to expect” (Publishers Weekly).

“We all live in and with a
Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 8th 2008 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Love Firsts by C.L. StoneThe Best American Short Stories 2008 by Salman RushdieMurder for Christmas by Thomas GodfreyGood Poems by Garrison KeillorImpromptu Scribe by Alex Morritt
2nd out of 69 books — 11 voters
The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsMockingjay by Suzanne CollinsCatching Fire by Suzanne CollinsThe Help by Kathryn StockettDivergent by Veronica Roth
2012: What women born in the '80's have read so far
272nd out of 1,015 books — 141 voters

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Community Reviews

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Despite two incredibly lame introductions from both editor Salman Rushdie and series editor Heidi Pitlor (exactly how many variations on "What is 'Best'?" "What is 'American'?" "What is 'Short'?" "What is 'The'?" will we have to read before they find some other solution for the opening pages?), this book was definitely one of the better ones in the series. Way to go Salman! It does seem strange, though, that among the thousands of stories that came out this year, so many of the "Best" (whatever ...more
Mar 16, 2009 Joseph rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in fine writing in general and the short story genre in particular.
Recommended to Joseph by: Myself
While I have read only 30% of the stories so far, I'd like to make a preliminary comment,while recognizing that such a way of judging a work of art is both dangerous and subject to change. However, since we are dealing with unrelated short stories ,the problem is not so severe.
To begin,all editor's are subject to their prejudices when selecting "the best" of anything. Rushdie admits as much in the introduction,which ,thankfully says a lot more than series editor,Heidi Pitlor, does. Ms.Pitlor
What I like most about this collection is the variety. There are some insanely dark stories, and some happier stories, some rigidly realistic stories, and some fantastical stories. I think this shows the wide variety that good writing comes in and challenges the rigid genre boundaries that I hate, but that everyone seems compelled to impose on quality fiction. As far as I'm concerned, a good story is a good story and this year's anthology has plenty of those. Some notables include "The Year of S ...more
There are only a handful of stories I enjoyed among those compiled here. My favorite was "The Worst You Ever Feel", by Rebecca Makkai, richly imagined and infused with music and history. Having just read Chabon's entreaty to put action back into fiction, which I fully support, I couldn't help but notice the preponderence of slice-of-life stories.
I put the book down, forgot about it, picked it up again. I went through the first lines of all of the stories, and the first paragraphs. "Make somethi
"What I learned from this book"... hmmm, that maybe there's a reason why the publishing industry is crashing along with every other industry - most modern short fiction (at least as represented here) is stylistically, linguistically, and thematically redundant. This could easily have been "The Best American Short Stories (fill in any year since 1987). I was much more impressed with the work in the "Best New American Voices." Good, well-crafted, well-written, polished stories of which I remember ...more
Derek Lubangakene
Skip both introductions by Heidi Pitlor & Salman Rushdie. Skip nothing else, even the Contributors notes are worth the read.
I must admit, this is the first book in the Best of American Short Stories series I've ever read, but, damn, what a collection. It's taken me a month to read this whole book. You can't even begin to imagine the amount of restraint I've had to put up with--restricting myself to just one short story a day despite the temptation. But that's the only way to read this book,
It's been my january ritual for the past several years to start the best short story anthology. ..this year it took 4 months of intermittent reading to complete. Salman Rushdie was the guest editor, and I must say, I liked his overall taste much more than last year's, Stephen King. There are rarely any "bad" stories in this long-running series, of course. The permanent editor reads thousands of submitted entries and transmits a fraction to the guest editor who makes the final choices, which incl ...more
Jan 09: I keep all the editions of these when I buy them, and traveling would be too rough on this heavy paperback, so it waits for me at home.

July 20: One of the fun things about this series is that the guest editor flavors the final selections. There is a series editor who reads thousands of stories, and delivers at least 120 to the guest editor, who reads those and maybe others that he or she has found, and winnows it down to about twenty stories. I would say that a quarter of Rushdie's choic
The best BASS collection in years, mainly due to the fact that Salman Rushdie is the editor. It's obvious that he chose these stories to form a book that culls from an incredible diversity of voices and styles, not merely stories that he "likes" or that are similar to his own work. Stephen King, last year's editor, could take a huge lesson from this. It certainly upped my enjoyment factor that some of my favorite writers are included this year: A.M. Homes, Alice Munro, Tobias Wolff, and T.C. Boy ...more
Chad Bearden
As is the case with every volume of "Best American", this year's edition is filled with all quality writing. Not every story will appeal to every reader, nor did every story appeal to me, but I can't say anything in here just didn't work. Again, it's all quality writing.

That said, the stories from this series can usually be broken down into three categories, "Meh", "Decent", and "Great", and the 2008 edition is no different.

The Great
There were a handful of stories that really jumped out at me, a
Since 1978, the best American short stories have been collected annually in a series plainly enough titled The Best American Short Stories. The Houghton Mifflin Company publishes it and Heidi Pitlor is the series editor. She does the heavy lifting, reading thousands of short stories published in such well-respected literary magazines as The New Yorker and in many more obscure publications, as well as the stories published by various university presses. It’s Pitlor’s job to whittle the collectio ...more
I guess my problem is that I'm not "literary" enough. But I like to think that I know a good story when I read one. And there were, probably 4 in this collection of 20. Maybe five. So I would have to go with 1/4th of the stories that I enjoyed. Or understood, maybe.

I've been taught maybe things about the art of crafting a short story, and because of that I've had the time to develop my own opinions based on the opinions and teachings of others. One thing that I believe must hold true in a short
I really like this series. The different editors each year ensure that (across the series anyway) you don't get that sense that you're just rereading the same story over and over again. I have to admit that I accidentally left the book on an airplane, so I didn't read the last two stories. But, even if they were exceptionally good or exceptionally bad, my rating would probably still stand.

My one issue was with the story, "Missionaries". I'm OK with the fact that one elder was portrayed as a for
Billie Pritchett
The Best American Short Stories series is always worth reading as a digest of a year's good stories. However, some volumes are not nearly as good as others due to bad picks from the guest editor or the series editor, or just a bad year for published short stories in general. I don't know which was the cause for the quality of this volume, but few stories I would consider memorable, vivid, or enjoyable. Those that were really good, though, were Miroslav Penkov's "Buying Lenin;" Karen Russel's "Va ...more
I read these collections most years I can get my hands on it, and this is one of the best I can remember. Almost every story is worth reading and a few are absolute standouts. I particularly liked The Year of Silence, Man and Wife (though..yuck), Buying Lenin, and Bible. It was a bit strange to see some of the choices from the New Yorker, which I read religiously, especially The King of Sentences, which was one of my least favorite of the whole year. I also didn't particularly like Child's Play, ...more
Is it a coincidence that the first handful of stories in this collection were my favorites? Or is this further evidence of my reaction to most short story collections - I read them earnestly and appreciatively at first, and then I sort of get bored with the format?

In any case, there were some amazing stories in here, a few duds, and some so-sos. The stories I was most impressed with, that stuck with me the most were:

Admiral - T.C. Boyle
The Year of Silence - Kevin Brockmeier (*LOVED IT*)
Man And W
Grace Pennington
While these short stories are exceptionally well-crafted for the most part, I can recommend almost none of them due to inappropriate sexual content. I expected this, and went into it looking for education in honing my writing craft, not entertainment. While there were a few very good stories in there, I'm disappointed that apparently to be "best" a story needs gratuitous or indecent sexual content. Maybe I can help change this standard a bit? Who knows. :)
I bought this book for a short story class I took, but I felt compelled to finish reading it on my own. These books are a great way to see what's happening in the world of short fiction, with a mix of well-known and obscure writers. My personal favorites were "Man and Wife," "Virgins," "Buying Lenin," and "Puppy." Some are creepy, some are touching, and some are just plain weird. And I mean that in a good way!
A great collection of short stories with a lot of variety. Stand outs for me were Kevin Brockmeier's The Year of Silence, Alice Munro's Child's Play, and Karen Russell's Vampires in the Lemon Grove.
Read in bed while deliriously ill with bird flu or something. Pretty much 100 percent of the stories were depressing this year. I don't really like fall.
For the first time in years I read more of the entries than I skipped. 2008 was a good year!
Good, but perhaps not my favorite. Some gems.
Richard Jespers
A real sea change seems to take place with the 2007 edition, when the series editor shifts from Katrina Kenison to Heidi Pitlor including the selection of more commercial writers like Stephen King and Rushdie to be guest editors.

Overall, one sees a preponderance of the same journals represented—New Yorker et. al.—but many of the stories just don’t seem to be of the same caliber as before. Am I wrong? Someone please tell me I’m wrong. I loved King’s “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,”
Tiny Pants
Either I'm really procrastinating packing my stuff to move later this week, or this was the best Best American in a few years, because I read this in about three days flat. Yes, it was a bit heavy on the genocide, creepy and manipulative lovers, and cruelty to pets (I know, I'm going to hell for casually tossing off that as a list) but come on people, it's literary fiction, what do you expect. Depressing or not, this was a much stronger collection than 2006 or 2007, possibly the best of the '00s ...more
Jason Goodman
The Best American Short Stories for 2008, edited by: Salman Rushdie. If anything were noteworthy about this title it is the fact that approximately half of the authors were in fact women. Though, that in itself was not enough to maintain and eager pace while reading the book. I personally read a lot of short stories, this is out of necessity of sleep, a short story allows to to stop reading, turn off the light and fall asleep, as opposed to novels etc. which will force me into the morning light. ...more
Carl Duzett
This edition's guest editor was Salman Rushdie, who pared down the top 120 or so stories selected by Heidi Pitlor into just 20 stories. Unfortunately, that didn't make those 20 stories any better. Especially after a 2008 edition that had five or six truly amazing stories, with almost all the others impressing in one way or another, this one was pretty disappointing. There were several stories that definitely classified as “good”, but the majority of the collection was pretty head-scratch-inducin ...more
As typical with these sorts of collections, it's hit and miss. But luckily this year, more often there were hits and despite being a fan of lit mags, most of these were new to me which made for an exciting experience. Short stories are an unappreciated art, I think. When done well, they're about as close as literature can come to perfection. They require an author to do so much with minimal space and the best stories are those that get you right in the gut. Several this year did that for me. Bro ...more
Allie Schembra
I can't even rate this. I didn't even get passed the introductions by the editors -- what's-her-name and Salman Rushdie. I'm trying this new thing where if I'm not liking a book... I'll stop reading it. Otherwise, it takes me FOREVER to finish a book I don't even want to read in the first place. Maybe I'll pick it up again sometime and skip the terrible introductions and get to the stories because they might be pretty good.
Dec 30, 2013 Liz added it
I have a little collection of these annual anthologies--going all the way back to 1995! But sometime in the mid-2000s I fell behind in reading them, so now I'm trying to get caught up. Although I do always find at least one or two stories in each year's volume that stick with me through time, it's actually not that common that I find a volume that is extraordinary in its entirety. But I think this volume is one such; I pretty literally couldn't put it down, and each story only made me want to re ...more
Kevin Quinley
A short story compendium seems highly suitable given my daily reading diet of text messages, blog entries, and message board posts. Fortunately, these selected tales allow me to binge guilt free on carefully constructed narratives with themes ranging from the mundane (Alice Munro's "Closely Held") to the metaphysical realm ("The Year of Silence"). To be sure, this literary buffet is subject to your own tastes, and while I wasn't particularly compelled by "The Worst You Ever Feel" or the "Wizard ...more
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Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie is a novelist and essayist. Much of his early fiction is set at least partly on the Indian subcontinent. His style is often classified as magical realism, while a dominant theme of his work is the story of the many connections, disruptions and migrations between the Eastern and Western world.

His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, led to protests from Muslims in several coun
More about Salman Rushdie...

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