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The Best American Short Stories of the Century

(The Best American Short Stories)

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4.14  ·  Rating details ·  2,083 ratings  ·  160 reviews
Since the series' inception in 1915, the annual volumes of The Best American Short Stories have launched literary careers, showcased the most compelling stories of each year, and confirmed for all time the significance of the short story in our national literature. Now THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF THE CENTURY brings together the best of the best - fifty-five extraord ...more
Paperback, 835 pages
Published April 20th 2000 by Mariner Books
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4.14  · 
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 ·  2,083 ratings  ·  160 reviews


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Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of Short Literary Fiction
The title is a misnomer. Not that there aren't some wonderful stories here, but they were never really chosen because they're the best American short stories of the 20th century. Rather, these are Updike's 56 picks out of the 2,000 stories originally chosen in the 84 volumes of a yearly anthology published from 1915 through 1999. If a story was never published in Best American Stories they weren't available to be selected. Updike couldn't select "Paul's Case" by Willa Cather, "Are These Actual M ...more
Nancy
An incredibly un-putdown-able selection of the best short fiction writing of the 20th century. It’s rare I consider short story collections page turners, but there was just one masterful read after another. Of course, there were a couple of clunkers, but I loved over 90% of the stories and considering this collection is a door stopper, that’s pretty good!! Bravo John Updike (RIP) for a superb job editing this anthology. It can’t be easy choosing 56 stories to call the “best” spanning 100 years.
Ollie
Dec 16, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: John Updike fans
It can't be easy to choose the best American short stories of the 20th Century. Even if you have over 700 pages to fill (like this collection) classic stories are bound to be left out. Although there are plenty of good stories here from canonical writers, I had a few problems with this anthology. First of all, some of the stories were not very good, and I can't help feeling that they were chosen because they fit some kind of needed token representation. It's a crime that Shirley Jackson's "The L ...more
Michael
Oct 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Many of my favorite authors were in here, Ernest hemingway, William Faulkner, Joyce carol Oates, Richard Wright, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, Robert Penn Warren and many more I plan on reading in the future. This was a wonderful collection of short stories from crime, love, illness, death, racism, and humor.
John Wiswell
Aug 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Literary readers, short story readers, modern classics readers
Updike's The Best American Short Stories of the Century underrepresents humor and "genre" fiction, and for every drop of optimism there is a bucket of pessimism - so, it's a typical literary fiction collection. These are not the best-told stories, nor the most interesting stories. Those Updike selects are chosen for their literary value, their intellectual depth and understanding of more delicate elements of the craft, like religious allusions or flexible voice. Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzge ...more
Hafeez Lakhani
Nov 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
OK I know it's cliche to rate this five stars but for the record I normally don't rate BASS and BAE that well.. BUT here I got a chance to read writer's I've long heard so much about but hadn't really read - like Joyce Carol Oates (ridonculous, time-less story in here, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, about a pretty girl who gets lots of attention but it eventually gets her in a jam), and F. Scott Fitzgerald, because really I'd long been in the camp who'd read Gatsby and nothing else o ...more
Lindsey
May 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a truly amazing collection! My mom and I each had a copy and read it at roughly the same time. (My mom, of course, finished first!) I eagerly await each yearly edition of the Best American Short Stories, so this volume was a special treat for me. One of the things that surprised me about this book was just how 'American' it is. John Updike notes in his introduction that he tried not just to choose stories written in America, but stories that truly tell us something ABOUT America. I think ...more
Nick Black
Jun 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to Nick by: Doug Davis
This ought have been called the "Best American Short Stories About New York WASPs, Jewish Males and the Dark South." From Flannery O' Connor we get "Greenleaf", a questionable and surely non-representative selection; from Hemingway "The Killers", probably among the lesser third from The Snows of Kilmanjaro. Also, I'm pretty sure Alice Munro is Canadian, yet John O' Hara finds no place here (both are semi-explained in Updike's introduction--the former hailing from "Anglophone Canada" (how does th ...more
Crystal
Aug 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
What I learned from this book... Edward O'Brien, who started the annual Best American Short Stories, saw the virtue in our diversity as a nation being represented so well in a distinctly American literature. So from the intro I learned that the short story form is an American genre (think Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, etc) and it has been mostly dismissed by the rest of the literary world for lacking "sophistication and technique".
The introductions are given by the year's guest editor and
...more
Kathryn
Sep 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This book has been my occasional bedtime reading material since the middle of September (OK, there was a while when I wasn’t reading before going to sleep). The Best American Short Story volumes have been publishing the best American short stories for each year since 1915; and this volume contains the editors’ opinion of the best fifty-five stories, from “Zelig” by Benjamin Rosenblatt in 1915 to “The Half-Skinned Steer” by Annie Proulx in 1998. Some of these stories I have encountered before in ...more
Nicholas
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I would be hard-pressed to say anything negative about a collection of short stories selected by John Updike. This collection of stories are character and era-defining, stunning classics of American short story literature. With pieces from classic American authors like Faulkner, O'Brian, and Lardner, it does not disappoint. I was excited to read and reread each story to pick up differnt details and subtlities; each author had his/her own way of expressing the period sentiment.

My opinion of this
...more
Tyler
Apr 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
First you should know I've always loved short stories. The really great ones seem to have all the richness and plot and feeling of a novel, but wrapped up in a few short pages. So it's a challenging genre to do well, sort of like the famous apology from Blaise Pascal for writing a long letter because he "lacked the time to make it short." This book is specifically American stories published in the 20th century, and you can imagine the process they must have gone through to narrow down the list. ...more
Shan
Feb 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Short stories! What could be better reading material for someone with a head cold, mild general malaise, and the attention span of a five-year-old?

There actually is an answer to this question, and it's "comic books." But I'm fresh out, so Updike's favorites will have to tide me over.
Abby
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Some of these stories were amazing, and others were amazingly depressing.
Vincent
Yes, I finished the last four stories of this fifty-six story volume during the week that little Nico decided to arrive in this world. I found it useful to have this book at the hospital as I read outloud a few of the stories I most appreciated to Jessica and Nico during labor (yes, there are some calmer moments before the dilation and the "big push"). I noted about 20 stories for a re-read due to story construction, writing technique, or overall likability of the story, which of course, is trul ...more
Realini
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Best American Short Stories of The Century

These wonderful short stories have helped me re-discover the magic of a fabulous if short story. After finishing them I have started reading short tales…again.
They are different in subject and manner but they share something: Their outstanding value.
From the very famous Scott F. Fitzgerald lo the lesser known (at least for this reviewer) Raymond Carver, the authors have made me a happier man, and, from what Aristotle says- that’s the whole point in l
...more
Ginny Thurston
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
My husband loves John Updike, so it is interesting to see what he chose as the best short stories. They were fairly evenly spread through the decades and included all the greats like Faulkner, Hemingway, Nabokov, Cather,Saroyan, E.B. White, Tennessee Williams,Flannery O'Connor, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, and, of course, Updike himself. I had taught several of these in AP English...my favorite being "The Things They Carried " by Tim O'Brien. There are plenty of obscure writers, as well.I rem ...more
James Edwards
Jan 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Technically all the stories were written perfectly. However, I was disappointed that the majority of them were depressing. In addition, it seemed as if some of the authors were more interested in writing techniques than creating characters or stories that drew you in. This is unfortunate because there's not much room in a short story for development of plot or character depth. I was surprised I didn't care for some stories written by big names, while others I was relieved that they came through ...more
Bryan Murphy
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Not sure about the best, but most of them are pretty bloody good, though there is a bit too strong a focus, for my taste, on the grim: indeed, upon the Grim Reaper. One thing I did not expect was to enjoy "big names", especially the earlier ones, so much. I also noticed that few of the later stories are at all experimental in style or language. A fine addition to anyone's bookshelf.
Bet
Nov 05, 2011 rated it liked it
A wonderful collection. We really lost a jewel when Updike died.
Lori Walsh
Nov 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So many good stories in here!
Linda Canup
Apr 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
If you only read one of these stories, read "I Want to Live!" By Thom Jones.
Lisa
Jun 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Just not a fan of short stories, but I did catch an interesting one or two.
Ryan McShane
Echoing other reviews - this collection of short stories is not even close to meeting its title's promise. But, there were some solid stories in here (as well as some very plain ones). My favorite kind of short story usually includes twists at the end (RE: Roald Dahl). However, what this collection lacked in excitement it made up for in its broad overview of humanity.

It was rich in its viewpoints, and included a story about a janitor learning about people from their trash, a story about dying pe
...more
Billie Pritchett
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, bass
Here's why you should read The Best American Short Stories of the Century: it's a good-faith attempt to offer up the best American stories of the twentieth century. All fifty-five (55?! what a number) of these stories were curated from the previous volumes of The Best American Short Stories series. Glass half empty, of course some stories were missed. Glass half full, imagine what it took for just one of these stories to make it into this set of fifty-five. As John Updike explains in his introdu ...more
Anup Sinha
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you are into short stories, this is a Godsend. Simple as that, just read the title.

I have purchased and read the annual Best American Short Stories anthologies for most of the last 20 years and have only been disappointed with a few of them, when they just did a poor job picking their guest editor. This, of course, covers from 1915-1999 and it was really neat to read such legendary writers from way before my time.

I didn’t love all 56 stories, but I’d say I got something out of all of them and
...more
Janet
Dec 28, 2018 rated it liked it
A good anthology but where was O. Henry, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, and Max Steele?
Strong Extraordinary Dreams
One word: twee.

A collection of white people (mostly) pottering about (mostly) and then, to REALLY mix things up a bit, a couple of stories about (horror of horrors) social an economic stress. Phew, that was intense.

A complete lack of imagination by the editor: these are no one's best short stories.
Kerri
Mar 24, 2015 rated it liked it
So hard to review a collection as a whole when it's made up entirely of conspicuously individual parts and third party opinion...some stories get 5 stars easily, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, is one such example...also possibly, Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver.

Others sit comfortably in the 3 star range, like The German Refugee by Bernard Malamud, The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick, I Want to Live by Thom Jones, Birthmates by Gish Jen, Here We Are by Dorothy Parker, and Wild Plums by Gr
...more
Linda
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: big, short-stories
I can't believe I read the whole thing, basically. What a journey. I highly recommend doing what I did, and just kind of leaving this book lying around for a month or two but actually reading *every* story, in order, to experience the Progress of the American Century. (Ahem.) Highlights include:

*Famous authors! Wheee!! All the cool kids are here, from Hemingway & Faulkner to Cather & Fitzgerald. You got your Welty, your Porter, your Roth, plus your Houston/Proulx/McPherson/Carver/Beatti
...more
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New Short Story Collection from Updike's Son 1 18 Jul 21, 2009 11:51AM  

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1,596 followers
John Hoyer Updike was an American writer. Updike's most famous work is his Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and Rabbit Remembered). Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for Updike. Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class," Updike is well known for his careful craftsmanship and prolific writing, havin ...more

Other books in the series

The Best American Short Stories (1 - 10 of 91 books)
  • The Best Short Stories of 1915, and the Yearbook of the American Short Story
  • The Best American Short Stories of 1916: And the Yearbook of the American Short Story (1917)
  • The Best Short Stories of 1917
  • The Best Short Stories of 1918 and the Yearbook of the American Short Story
  • The Best Short Stories of 1919
  • The Best Short Stories of 1920 and the Yearbook of the American Short Story
  • 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
  • Best Short Stories: 1927
  • The Best Short Stories of 1931 And the Yearbook of the American Short Story 1931