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The Best American Short Stories 2009 (The Best American Short Stories)

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3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  835 ratings  ·  104 reviews
Edited by critically acclaimed, best-selling author Alice Sebold, the stories in this year's collection serve as a provacative literary "antenna for what is going on in the world" (Chicago Tribune). The collection boasts great variety from "famous to first-timers, sifted from major magazines and little reviews, grand and little worlds" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), ensuring y ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 8th 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,709)
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Steve
Strongest BASS in quite a while! I was absolutely knocked out by Steve De Jarnatt's amazing "Rubiaux Rising," which could make a short story reader out of any skeptic. Other standouts for me: stories by Richard Powers, Annie Proulx, Ethan Rutherford and Joseph Epstein. Wow, genius! Two stories on modern China (by Greenfeld and Li) also fascinated me.

Hey! Somebody consult the legal department! There are no Alice Munro stories here. She lands three on the extended list, but it's hard to believe no
...more
Mark Gabriel
As with every year, an underwhelming anthology save for a few gems (I continue to feel as if there is just way too much stories out there for too many journals/mags; I'm of the school of writing less, but writing better). Maybe I'm just bitter because my picks didn't make the cut, but whatever. Highly recommend the Makkai piece, which was just wonderfully wrought. "The Anniversary Trip" manages so much with so little; reminds me just how soft subtle stories can really work. "Sagittarius" was pre ...more
Billie Pritchett
I'm a glutton for punishment with this book series, which I think is in no wise a reflection of its title, or if it is the state of American fiction is only mildly interesting from year to year. Nevertheless, I probably won't stop reading the series. As for this volume, the first story is "The Idiot President," which is also the name of the play a troupe of Peruvian actors perform throughout Peru in the story. The second story "Yurt" is sort of about the semi-private love lives of elementary sch ...more
Chad Bearden
As with all the 'Best American' anthologies, the enjoyment you're likely to take away varies from story to story, but most of the stories are above-average to great. The 2009 edition is no different, with a lot of really nice work, and only one dud (in my opinion).

The one misfire was Steve de Jarnatt's Rubiaux Rising, which was just a bit beat-you-over-the-head for my taste. War veteran stories can work. Hurricane Katrina stories can work. But when your story is about a war veteran amputee locke
...more
Bojan Tunguz
"The Best American Short Stories" is, as they proudly like to point out on the cover, "best, first and best selling" collection of short stories published in the US over the preceding year. The second of these claims is of course entirely subjective, but there is no doubt that this series is one of the most respected and widely used anthologies of contemporary American short fiction. These anthologies give a snapshot of current trends in fiction writing, and are, for better or worse, representat ...more
Mary Stella
Generally, this year's stories dealt with tragedy, injustice, and reaching brick walls. Each story seemed to hinge on a difficult decision, urging the main characters to test their moral limits. Many of the stories verged on missing a conclusion - though, that is the era we're in. Many stories, many lives are lead without resolution - this is a time of clif-hangers and uncertainty. This collection reflected that well. While my rating of this book is rather neutral (mostly due to several bland or ...more
Mollie
Not one of the stronger collections, I didn't think. Some years I devour every single story without thinking about anything else. This year, not so much. I am working on my skills of just stopping reading something when I'm not enjoying it, and I probably did that with five or six of the stories in here. And then I had read a bunch in the New Yorker already, so there were probably only a handful of new stories that I really enjoyed in this on.

On a sidenote, can someone explain to me why it seems
...more
Rachel
On finishing this, I realized why I am always slow to pick up every year's BA - they're exhausting (also why I am terrified of my phone-book sized Pushcart collections). This edition has the usual hits-and-misses, and I deducted a star for a) Sebold's obnoxious introduction about awards and her acquiescing in guest editing, and b) all the stories that really stood out were writers I expected to stand out (McCorkle, Moffett, Proulx) and there were only a few who I wanted to read more of (Bynum, d ...more
Susan
This is one of the best BASS in recent years. My favorites from this excellent collection are Alice Fulton's "A Shadow Table" and Annie Proulx's "Them Old Cowboy Songs." With so many fine stories being written these days, I don't envy Alice Seybold having to select twenty. Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's "Yurt" is also a standout.
Terry
Maybe I just wasn't in the mood, but I found this collection kind of...dull. Nothing really lept out at me as something bold or new or unexpected, with that little frission of finding something amazing, which was disappointing since I expect more from Sebold. On the other hand, I think she should have selected the essay collection, not the fiction collection, as I find her a much stronger nonfiction writer, but nobody asked me! Oh well.
Angela
This collection was odd, but I think I only say so because of my personal preference for subtlety and lack of description in stories. The only story I completely disliked in the collection was Epstein's "Beyond the Pale" (due to an excess of summary and lack of character) and my favorite was Rose's "Ostracon."
Sarah
Favorites:
Yurt by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum
Rubiaux Rising by Steve de Jarnatt
A Shadow Table by Alice Fulton
Sagittarius by Greg Hrbek
Hurricanes Anonymous by Adam Johnson
The Anniversary Trip by Victoria Lancelotta
The Briefcase by Rebecca Makkai
Modulation by Richard Powers
Into The Gorge by Ron Rash
Jen
Favorites:
"Yurt" by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum (The New Yorker)
"The Farms" by Eleanor Henderson (Agni)
"Sagittarius" by Greg Hrbek
Eric
It's taken me a while to decide how to rate this book because I wasn't sure whether to rate the compilation choices (that is, Alice Sebold's preferences), rate the compilation holistically (try to somehow synthesize my various reactions), or rate the compilation based on my favorites. I've chosen the latter option, and taken off a star for the stories I didn't care for. There are many 5-star worthy stories in this year's edition, and I most highly recommend Rebecca Makkai's "The Briefcase," Anni ...more
E.D. Martin
I'll preface this with two things. One, all of the stories in this collection were extremely well-written. Language, grammar, story consistency, character development - there's a reason that these are the best of the year. Two, I love literary fiction. The more it makes you think, the better.

That said, some of these stories I loved, and some I hated. Some moved me, and some I'll never think of again. I realize that the stories are subject to the opinion of the editor, but I would've left about h
...more
Tiny Pants
I was teetering between two stars ("it was ok") and three stars ("I liked it") on this one, and in the end went with three stars because you know what, I did like it. As much as I've complained about this series in recent years, this was a stronger entry than they've had in a while. Which quite frankly I found surprising, since I wasn't expecting Alice Sebold to be the greatest editor. Does she even write short fiction? And in spite of the success of The Lovely Bones, I've never felt like her ot ...more
Amy
So not my thing, and maybe I'm in a ridiculously picky mood, but I wasn't impressed by anything I read in here. I got kind of excited as I moved toward the end of the collection and spotted stories by Jill McCorkle and Annie Proulx. I was also impressed by Alex Rose's writing in his story, "Ostracon" from Ploughshares, but none of the stories grabbed me the way stories from other collections have.

As I read through this collection, I started wondering, Have I been corrupted by reading all that YA
...more
Mythili
A struggling South American actor who never manages to leave his
country as he planned; a public teacher reckoning with her late
20s; an Iraq veteran trapped in Hurricane Katrina; and an
aging John D. Rockefeller are just some of the characters who
populate this commanding volume. Many of the stories in this year’s
collection focus on questions of shifting communities: “The Farms,”
for example, chronicles one rainy afternoon when a girl who finds
herself quietly confronting questions of economic class
...more
Brandon James
The collection started with a great introduction by Alice Sebold that really made me want to dig into the stories. I was hoping her introduction and humor had set the tone for the stories chosen for this volume, but it did not. Unfortunately, most of the stories fell flat.

There were a handful of standouts.

Namwali Serpell - Muzungu
Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum - Yurt
Ethan Rutherford - The Peripatetic Coffin

A couple of the stories dealt with Katrina and the aftermath. Adam Johnson's Hurricanes Anonymous l
...more
daniel
all the stories are 2 to 4 stars, i guess, but as a collection: what? this is the state of the short story? what happened to the third person? when did all short stories get dragged to the time-filling, but mind-numbing, middle-place of witty quotidian half-insights?

where's the innovation? the imagination?

i feel like i'm back in freshmen year attending seminar after seminar on diversity, but... the collection seems to be okay with diversity resting largely with authors' names and world-region of
...more
Misty
These are the best American short stories? All I'll say is that reading this collection has made me seriously doubt the short story medium. There were three or four that I liked a lot, or maybe even loved. Reading other reviews of this books reminds me of some of the highlights, although there were many stories I didn't even finish or seemed very heavy handed on topical issues (Katrina, China).

I can't help but think that people read these anthologies, because they are interested in the writing
...more
Ethan Chatagnier
Standout stories for me were:
- NowTrends by Karl Taro Greenfield
-Hurricanes Anonymous by Adam Johnson
-The Briefcase by Rebecca Makkai
-Magic Words by Jill McCorkle
-Modulation by Richard Powers
Ursula
This BASS collection was stronger than I anticipated. Among the best were: "The Idiot President" by Daniel Alarcon, "Beyond the Pale" by Joseph Epstein, "Hurricanes Anonymous" by Adam Johnson, "One Dog Year" by Kevin Moffet, "A Man Like Him" by Yiyun Li, "Into the Gorge" by Ron Rash, "The Anniversary Trip" by Victoria Lancelotta and "Muzungu" by Nawali Serpell. Perhaps the Annie Proulx story worked for others--I can never engage much with her work. Her landscapes and cowboy characters always tur ...more
Mindy Magee
Some terrific short stories here, others that are just eh.
Jennifer Lauren Collins
Just a mediocre collection. All of the stories are well written, but they blend together...few of them take risks, and fewer of them are really interesting or striking. By far, the best of the stories are "The Briefcase" by Rebecca Makkai and "Magic Words" by Jill McCorkle. The most interesting and unique is "Modulation" by Richard Powers.

Overall, though, this isn't a collection I'd recommend. I've read some "Best Of" in this series where every other story begs me to search out more work by the
...more
Michael
As usual with the Best American Series, not everything contained within these pages knocked my socks off. Many of the stories were good enough, and were well enough written, but weren't anything to write home about. I only skiped over one of the stories (the one by the only Pulitzer Prize winner that I know of in the collection). There were a few gems, though, such as Greg Hrbek's "Sagittarius," Adam Johnson's "Hurricanes Anonymous," and Yiyun Li's "A Man Like Him." The collection is worth readi ...more
Marisa
There were many stories that I really loved, and make me want to go find other things by those writers; and then there are some duds. There's something for everyone though, and overall I enjoyed it more than not. Sagittarius (Greg Hrbek), Them Old Cowboy Songs (Annie Proulx), The Briefcase (Rebecca Makkai), The Anniversary Trip (Victoria Lancelotta), and Ostracon (Alex Rose) were among my favorites.

Now I'm thinking back and remembering that I liked a lot more of the stories than I am giving cre
...more
Will
I pick these up on the cheap and pick through the stories and usually read about 50% of them before I put the book away. I am a very finicky reader.
"In the Gorge" was agreat story. I appreciated the sentimentality of the circular generations linked to the land. It was mystical, botanical and even violent.
Be aware that these "Best of ..." books are going to undoubtedly have something you don't like, but they are addicting because you always feel that there might be that one story in there that
...more
Jessica
2009 was the worst year ever, and I guess BASS was no exception. Only a few stories are worth reading: "Sagittarius" by Greg Hrbek, "Ostracon" by Alex Rose, and "Muzungu" by Namwali Serpell. Annie Proulx's, Adam Johnson's, and Ron Rash's stories were okay, but nothing spectacular. The rest I struggled through and even skimmed, which I never do when reading. I find it hard to believe that these stories are the best the editors (Heidi Pitlor and Alice Sebold) could come up with. Really?
Grace Pennington
Like the 2008 volume, this collection of short stories was brilliantly written overall, but contained much language and some inappropriate sexual content. Also, all of the stories are very grim, with little or no hope presented, which makes sense from a secular perspective, but which I as a Christian found rather wearing. I have nothing against sad endings, I just prefer that they have hope and meaning. But I did learn a lot of good style points from this book.
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Alice Sebold is an American writer. She has published three books: Lucky (1999), The Lovely Bones (2002), and The Almost Moon (2007).

More about Alice Sebold...

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