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

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  958 Ratings  ·  112 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
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 8th 2009 by Mariner Books
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Labyrinths by Jorge Luis BorgesThe Winter of Our Discontent by John SteinbeckThe Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieA Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinMiddlemarch by George Eliot
My Super Ambitious 2010 list
25th out of 37 books — 9 voters
The Lovely Bones by Alice SeboldLucky by Alice SeboldThe Almost Moon by Alice SeboldThe Lovely Bones & Looking Glass by Alice SeboldThe Best American Short Stories 2009 by Alice Sebold
Best of Alice Sebold
5th out of 6 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,018)
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Jun 11, 2011 Steve rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, 2009
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
Mark Gabriel
Nov 17, 2009 Mark Gabriel rated it liked it
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
Jun 29, 2016 Billie Pritchett rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
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
Oct 22, 2010 Chad Bearden rated it really liked it
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
Bojan Tunguz
Oct 10, 2011 Bojan Tunguz rated it really liked it
"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
Jan 13, 2010 Mary Stella rated it liked it
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
Jan 05, 2010 Mollie rated it liked it
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
Dec 09, 2014 Rachel rated it really liked it
Shelves: stories, 2010
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
May 27, 2010 Susan rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 08, 2016 Raul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always look forward to this Christmas gift from my son, and the joy of taking time out at the end of the year to read it. As Alice tells us, in these hard times, when publishing houses are folding right and left (because of the economy crash in 1998, as well as reader's changing habits) "highlighting good fiction is more important now than it has ever been." Indeed, as one reads these stories, one can only admire the creativity and skill of the authors, and their dedication in becoming good fi ...more
Jul 27, 2010 Terry rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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.
Timons Esaias
Jul 28, 2016 Timons Esaias rated it it was amazing
Okay, yeah, I'm behind in my Best American reading. It took me seven years to get to this one, but (as usual) I greatly enjoyed the excellent writing. (My writing instructor demon makes me point out two grimaces in the anthology, which is fairly good for literary/mainstream; and two phony past tense examples, both by the same author.)

Ahem. The stories had the usual wide range, with a refreshingly low incidence of cancer stories. Two of them were historical-figure-POV exercises (John D. Rockefell
Dec 21, 2010 Angela rated it liked it
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."
Aug 10, 2010 Sarah rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
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
Jun 15, 2015 Kawai rated it liked it
It feels a bit more rangy than some of the previous collections, and many of the stories were more memorable, which isn't always the case with these anthologies, at least for me. But you're always going to get a mixed bag with the 'Best American', so a reader's mileage will vary. Every year some subset of famously anthologized authors are included in this collection, and more often than not I'm left scratching my head at the reasons behind their selection; the 2009 edition seemed more free of th ...more
Apr 23, 2012 Jen added it
Shelves: short-stories
"Yurt" by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum (The New Yorker)
"The Farms" by Eleanor Henderson (Agni)
"Sagittarius" by Greg Hrbek
Mar 23, 2010 Eric rated it really liked it
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
Aug 01, 2011 E.D. Martin rated it liked it
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
Tiny Pants
Jan 23, 2010 Tiny Pants rated it liked it
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
Jun 09, 2011 Amy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 17, 2010 Mythili rated it liked it
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
Brandon James
Sep 03, 2014 Brandon James rated it liked it
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
Feb 27, 2010 daniel rated it did not like it
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
Jun 09, 2011 Misty rated it it was ok
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
Dec 13, 2015 Erin rated it really liked it
I've loved every book in this series. I think they publish one every year. Easy to find older editions at your local low price book store. I've never been disappointed, and I've read several of these.
Courtney Johnson
Jan 16, 2016 Courtney Johnson rated it it was ok
I had to read this book for one of my classes in college. I found most of the stories to be extremely boring, or really weird. There were a few good ones, but I definately will not read this book again.
Ethan Chatagnier
May 01, 2014 Ethan Chatagnier rated it really liked it
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
Rebecca Curtis
A lovely selection of some of the greatest authors of our time. The editing to compile these works was flawless.
Jun 25, 2015 Philip rated it liked it
Meh. So many stories were just "and here's a scene from my life." Joseph Epstein is once again a stand out.
Aug 02, 2012 Ursula rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
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
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Stillwater Free L...: Short Story Selections 1 1 Sep 25, 2014 01:44PM  
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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...

Other Books in the Series

The Best American Short Stories (1 - 10 of 89 books)
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  • The Best American Short Stories of 1916: And the Yearbook of the American Short Story (1917)
  • The Best Short Stories of 1917
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  • The Best Short Stories of 1921, and the Yearbook of the American Short Story
  • The Best Short Stories of 1922 and the Yearbook of the American Short Story
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