David's Reviews > The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008 by Dave Eggers
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's review
Dec 02, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-in-2008
Recommended for: everyone
Read in November, 2008

As today is anthology review day, I just want to take the opportunity to pimp this one, and the whole series. Review follows:

Once again this series, always the star of the "Best American" anthologies, delivers the goods. Here is just a selection of the delights it offers this year:

A hilarious introduction by Judy Blume
Best American police blotter items from Kensington, California
Best American facebook groups
Best American NY Times headlines from 1907 ("Man pours molten lead into own ear - believed to have been reading Hamlet"; "President's quiet Sunday: He goes to church, Greets neighbors, Has shot only rabbits"; "Have you a fetich? Most of us have")
Best American: last sentences of books, Ron Paul facts, champion showdog names, Kurt Vonnegut writings, diary of a young girl, diary of the living dead.

pieces by Marjorie Celona, J. Malcolm Garcia, Andrew Sean Greer, Helon Habila, Raffi Khatchadourian, Stephen King, Emily Raboteau, George Saunders, jake Swearingen, Patrick Tobin, Laura van den Berg, Gene Weingarten, Laurie Weeks, and Malerie Willens

an excerpt from Paul Hornschemeier's graphic novel, "The Three Paradoxes"
an illustrated story by Rutu Modan: "Queen of the Scottish Fairies"

When I say that this anthology "delivers the goods", what I mean is - of the eight pieces I've read thus far, each has been fascinating, well-written, and not something I would otherwise have come across. (Other than one piece from each of The New Yorker, The new York Times, and The Washington Post, the selection is deliberately weighted to represent non-mainstream publications, such as The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Zoetrope).

J. Malcolm Garcia's "The White Train", about the cartoneros of Buenos Aires (people who, following the economic collapse of 2001, have been forced to make a living from recycling cardboard and paper) and George Saunder's portrait, "Bill Clinton, Public Citizen" (a fascinating account of the Clinton Foundation's work throughout the developing world) -- these two pieces alone are so good, they make it worth the price of admission.

What this series manages to do, reliably, is to track down material that may be a little off the beaten path, but that is compulsively readable, and that expands the reader's horizons in the most enjoyable way possible. Starting each piece is like biting into an exotically flavored Dove bar - unfamiliar at first, but totally delicious.

This anthology rocks!
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David Well, I just had to look up that Hamlet story for myself. And sure enough:

Man pours molten lead in own ear : believed to have been reading Hamlet

What have we learned? Hamlet can be hazardous to your health.

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