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The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  492 ratings  ·  70 reviews
For the past year, a group of high school students met at a publishing house in San Francisco every Monday night to read literary magazines, chapbooks, graphic novels, and countless articles. This committee was assisted by a group of students that met in the basement of a robot shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Together, and under the guidance of guest editor Adam Johnson, thes ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published October 6th 2015 by Mariner Books
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The essays, poems and short stories in this particular anthology are always picked by young people - high school aged. Because of that it's a unique look at what interests them -- but also means that the picks can have a limited appeal. What I found that most of the writing here shared was an intensity and vividness, but also an episodic quality that didn't always satisfy. The short stories seemed to share a tendency to be about a whole life encapsulated, instead of a moment - which kind of flie ...more
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every year, the pieces included in the Best American Nonrequired Reading are selected by a team of high school students. While the selections are almost always pretty good - and this year's is the strongest entry in this series that I've read - the Nonrequired Reading is almost always dominated by pieces in technicolor, with strong, unsubtle themes. Stories in this edition involve a man overboard at sea; addiction; the decay of corpses; child sexual abuse; domestic violence (x2); PTSD; and the g ...more
Pat Pujolas
Nov 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Every once in a while, this series gets it absolutely right. Such is the case for 2015. This is a crazy eclectic blend of fiction and non-fiction that feels like it was chosen by a diverse audience whose only goal was seeking superior quality of writing and stories. The collection petered out for me towards the end, but the first 60-70% was enough to warrant five big stars. Find this edition at your local library. I promise you won't be disappointed. ...more
Oct 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Major disappointment. I was going to mark this as just 2 stars, but considering the actual writing is high-quality, I bumped it up one. Call me generous. The reason I was planning on rating it so low, however, is the absolute lack of variety I am used to seeing in a volume of The Best American Nonrequired Reading. I need that variety! This editor did a seriously poor job of representing the broad array of topics, styles, and interests one can normally find in an edition of this series, and for t ...more
Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Can I give it 6 stars? Please?
Jun 17, 2016 rated it liked it
This was an interesting selection. It was not as strong as some of the other collections I have read, but there were certainly worthwhile stories.

Highlights include :

Wells Tower : Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant in which the narrator travels to Africa with an American woman, a trophy hunter, who seeks out an old bull elephant to have the " experience." Whatever position you had on elephant hunting before the article is most likely your opinion after.

Daniel Alarcon : The Contestant tells of a p
Nov 24, 2017 rated it liked it
As others have said, the stories published in bigger publications (NYT magazine, NatGeo, etc) were of a much higher quality. Some others were just plain strange, with writing mistakes that made them hard to finish. But overall an interesting experiment in letting kids choose.
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book defies categorization since it contains poetry, graphic novellas (if that is a thing), fiction and non-fiction pieces. I didn't enjoy all of the pieces equally, of course, but none of the works left any doubt about why it had been included, demonstrating clear command of language, novel perspectives or treatments, fascinating topics, and other clear signs of literary merit in various combinations. Overall the non-fiction pieces seemed to slightly surpass the fiction pieces, but that is ...more
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
"The Best American Non-requires Reading" is an anthology of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic novels that is selected by a committee of high school students. As a high school teacher, I was curious to see what high schoolers would select as the best literature. I found their picks interesting and surprising.

Wells Tower's "Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant?" was eye-opening as it was shocking to read about the account of big-game hunting. Tower is open about his bias (anti-elephant hunting) b
Justin Ferguson
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
"The Best American Non-requires Reading" is an anthology of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic novels that is selected by a committee of high school students. As a high school teacher, I was curious to see what high schoolers would select as the best literature. I found their picks interesting and surprising.

Wells Tower's "Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant?" was eye-opening as it was shocking to read about the account of big-game hunting. Tower is open about his bias (anti-elephant hunting) b
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
When I first heard that these Nonrequired Reading compilations were determined by the 826 Valencia students, I was immediately intrigued, and I've bought several of the collections (or asked for them for Christmas) for the last decade.

This 2015 edition is the one I've read the most from, ever. I don't know if my reading interests are briefer, as the rest of my life is chaotic and I don't have a lot of extra bandwidth to read a long novel, but these selections were also just really good.

I was p
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Dang-Troys always give me a copy of the latest Best American Nonrequired Reading and I repeatedly feel bad because it takes me so long to finish (I still haven't finished the 2014 edition). I get caught up in other books, but I am always delighted when I finally get around to my nonrequired reading. I continuously learn something new (about body farms in Texas), am inspired (by moments of time passing in Wish You Were Here You Are), or have my imagination captured (by Fear Itself).

The story
Trent Mikesell
Jan 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I give the concept more than 5 stars, but I just didn't happen to love all their choices. A few groups of high school students get together and go through journals, magazines, and more to find the "best" American nonrequired reading. I love that idea. I also enjoyed reading what they had chosen, but I was perhaps slightly biased knowing it was high school students because I felt like their choices tended to learn toward high school topics (complicated emotions and sex). Still, great book and I p ...more
Stuart Lutzenhiser
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Very solid anthology this year with a wider range of subjects than previous years. An interesting graphic novel excerpt about Andre the Giant next to a long Inventory of potential and real love interests from a women from age 5 to effectively the present. Fiction is intermixed with non-Fiction - a great piece of Lion hunting and another about the body farms (Forensic Anthropology Research Facility). A bizarre story about a teenagers love life with the wax figure of FDR probably wins for oddest s ...more
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a good little book of short readings, some complete, some excerpts. The various included bits were selected by 826 National, a group of high school and college students who meet once a week to discuss what they've read (pretty much everything they can get their hands on) and to select the stories that would be included in this book. There is short fiction, nonfiction, poems, and even a couple graphic novel excerpts. Something for everyone! Give it a shot - I know you'll find something y ...more
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good-books
This book is really good because the stories in here are all stories that I doubt I ever would have read otherwise. It's a good way to see what else is out there.
We didn't read all of the stories in this book, just a selection for class discussions, but each one was interesting in its own way and I'm happy to have read them. None of them felt like a waste of time.
But the stories in here were also mostly odd, like very strange, but, at the same time, it felt right.

I will probably read the rest
Dec 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Though I didn't finish every piece, I really enjoyed this. A good sampling of different genres. I checked out the two graphic novels excerpted from the library and was glad to have been introduced to the works.

Favorite pieces:
- Wells Tower, "Who Wants To Shoot an Elephant"
- Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, Sarah Should, "780 Days of Solitude"
- Ammi Keller, "Isaac Cameron Hill"
- Claudia Rankine, "You are in the Dark, in the Car..."
- Joan Wickersham, "An Inventory"
Dec 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Having read this for many years, there are many things I miss in the way this collection has come together. I still miss the front section. I miss the foreword from an author chosen by these young editors. And now I think I just miss Dave Eggers hand in this project. Still, a fun read with a whole lot more nonfiction than fiction this year. I used to read this collection to meet new authors. This year I met new journalists.
Tiffany Kopcak
Every time I see this book in a shop, I want to buy another copy (I already have two-one for home and one for my classroom). First, the writing is fresh and thoughtful. Then, the topics are varied and rich. Though these selections were chosen by teenagers, they have mass appeal. I have read this collection cover to cover and pulled 85% out to share with friends, families, and students. Truly, one of the best anthologies I've ever encountered. ...more
Rachel Bhattacharyya
Aug 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a varied assortment of literature that has been selected by two groups of high school students under the guidance of Adam Johnson, guest editor. The concept of these Best American books is wonderful, and the commitment made by these young readers is exceptional. It is difficult to say which of the selections is my favorite - maybe Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant?, or possibly Sky Burial, a nonfiction story about a body farm near Austin, TX.
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Some real gems in this collection. Check out Sky Burial, by Alex Mar, for something unique and different. Here's a passage:

"Behind this double barrier, accessed by key card, sixteen acres of land have been secured for a special purpose: at this place, settled in the grasses or tucked under clusters of oak trees, about seventy recently dead humans have been laid out in cages, naked, to decompose."
Stephen Dorneman
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There's plenty to love in this year's eclectic anthology, as selected by the high school students of 826 National. Award-winning short stories, a touching excerpt from a graphic novel about pro-wrestler Andre the Giant, the story of a 'body farm' where pathologists study human decay, a big-game elephant hunt attended by an anti-hunting reporter, and many stories, tales, and poems jostle for your attention in this deliberately unruly book. Recommended. ...more
South Buncombe Library
4 stars and good for people who may or may not know they're interested in lion hunting, body farms, graphic novels about wrestling, surfing, Atlantic Ocean surviving, inventories of lovers or oral histories of farm workers. Really, this is just good for most people who have a general interest in the world around them. -Sarah ...more
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Best American series has pulled together another fantastic collection of works from some very talented authors. One of my favorites of this collection was "What the Ocean Eats," by Kawai Strong Washburn. The story moved with heart pounding rhythm, powerful in its imagery and sound. This is a great selection to carry with you because of the length of each work. ...more
Paul Manytravels
Feb 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: anthology
The high school students at 826 National always do a wonderful job of compiling terrific readings for this annual collection. The 2015 collection is every bit as wonderful as the ones which preceded it and contain something for every reader. Not every story appealed to me, but all were excellently written and worthy selections for this annual anthology which I look forward to reading every year.
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physical-shelf
A great collection of stories, comics, poems and longforms, as always (though I still miss that compilation of lists and flash fiction and miscellaneous stuff that used to precede the longer pieces).

My favorite pieces were "Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant?" "The Contestant," "Wear Areas," "An Inventory," "An Oral History of Neftali Cuello," "Sky Burial," and "Fear Itself."
Victor Carson
I liked the concept of a group of high school students selecting stories and magazine articles for a compendium but in truth the selections did not hold my interest. Certain topics, such as drug use, adolescent sexuality, and teenage slang are foreign to most adults, I hope, but too much shallow thinking and writing wore me out. I stopped reading at the 70% mark.
Rebecca Schwarz
Mar 28, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting anthology. Not sure if I liked the mix of nonfiction and fiction, at least in a book length anthology, but that's neither here nor there. Since the series is title "Nonrequired Reading" I think I was expecting more pieces from lesser known publications. That said, it was a strong selection of interesting pieces on a variety of topics. Most of the nonfiction were long reads. ...more
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I always enjoy these compilations. This one leaned a little too depressing overall for me (or maybe my current mood). But some very good non-fiction and fiction. I think there was only one piece I really disliked.
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
I didn't finish two of the selections, but I didn't even have to pretend to feel guilty because it's all nonrequired. I feel like I'm a little bit smarter and more interesting now that I've finished this collection. ...more
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Adam Johnson was born in South Dakota and raised in Arizona. He earned a BA in Journalism from Arizona State University in 1992; a MFA from the writing program at McNeese State University, in 1996; and a PhD in English from Florida State University in 2000. Johnson is currently a San Francisco writer and associate professor in creative writing at Stanford University.

He founded the Stanford Graphi

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