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The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008
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The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,258 ratings  ·  147 reviews
"This great volume highlights the very best of this year's fiction, nonfiction, alternative comics, screenplays, blogs, and more" (OK!). Compiled by Dave Eggers and students of his San Francisco writing center, it is thoroughly "entertaining and thought-provoking reading" (Library Journal).
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 8th 2008 by Mariner Books
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3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,258 ratings  ·  147 reviews

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Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
This is by far the weakest collection I've read since '05. Honestly, the best part was the throwaway "best of" craziness in the first third of the collection. I found the nonfiction tedious and "trying too hard" (including the Saunders piece . . though I did read it until the end . . . President Clinton makes me feel like a lazy ass) I found the fiction so-so at best. The comics were good. To be sure, "A Brutal Sweetness" by Abby Nance (it was mentioned in the back as a notable) was better than ...more
Oct 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: read-in-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 - believe
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthologies
I love the Non-Required Reading series. If you want to spend several hours learning about random things you have never heard of, but that are completely fascinating, this book is for you. The 2008 edition features lists of Kurt Vonnegut Quotes, Ron Paul Facts, and Things This Guy on the Internet Will Sell You, as well as fiction about birthday cakes, large sums of money, and Bigfoot, and non-fiction about modern-day pirates, Bill Clinton, and the relationships between black people and Jews. And ...more
Jordan Eusebio
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
previously read in 2010
Jan 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Another great collection of essays, short stories, odds and ends in creative writing.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Best American collections are, year in and year out, reliably good, and this one is no exception. But that's all it is: good. It's fine. But, in comparison to the series' heights, it underwhelms. This volume seems to lean much more heavily on non-fiction than in past years, and it's pretty uneven. Some of the pieces are, if not entirely uninteresting, at least not worth their excessive lengths. At least the fawning profile of Bill Clinton (and his foundation) was written by George Saunders and w ...more
Francis Jarman
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
A comparatively weak collection, with a few competent stories and features, but mostly contributions where you sense the writer is trying too hard, or recycling something from their last Creative Writing course. Especially annoying: the ego-tripping high school consultant editors! Why are they showcased with cutesie texts and photos, while the contributors just get a standard mini-biography (text only)? I picked this up for 4 € at a fleamarket bookstall, which is OK; if I'd paid the cover price ...more
Patrick McCoy
May 30, 2012 rated it liked it
The Best American Non-Required Reading series is a series of books that I have enjoyed mostly due to the large number of new voices and mix of fiction and nonfiction. Somehow I overlooked the 2008 edition with an introduction by Judy Blume, so I sought it out. I really don’t get much out of section I that is an indulgent and arbitrary list of things like “Best American Facebook Groups.” However, there was one worthwhile piece that I enjoyed as much as anything else in this volume, Jake Swearinge ...more
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
I've enjoyed earlier editions of this series, especially because they've introduced me to writers and artists I'd never hear of otherwise, I think. But for some reason this particular edition really bugged me.

The introduction featuring an interview with Judy Blume is completely ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, I ADORE JUDY BLUME (and have met AND been hugged by her, so there) fiercely, which is why I found the "interview" kind of insulting. I think it's because it was written by overachieving Sa
Tiny Pants
Dec 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
Oh gosh -- it says something about the quality of this collection that I finished reading it sometime in April (May? I don't even remember) and just never bothered to update my "currently reading" or review it. This was just a slog. I know, I keep reading BANRR, I keep complaining about it, but this may really be the one that puts the final nail in the coffin for me.

While basically all of these except the first one (where Eggers had someone editing HIM) are relatively crap and read like collect
Mar 18, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: really bored people, people on public transit, people stuck in the hospital
Shelves: read-in-2009
i just picked this up at the library as airplane reading. & then i failed to read it one the airplane because i got all involved in a copy of "real simple" magazine instead (<3). the "best american" series is usually pretty good. they collect together a sampling of what they consider to be the best of the best of what was published that year, & they're usually pretty on point. the non-required series is helmed by dave eggers, who i could really live without, but he gets a crew of high ...more
Dec 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
again, like BANR 2007, the selections were too similar, in style, mood, and subject, to selections in previous anthologies. it's good that BANR can be reliable in providing selections that appeal to a certain reader, but there is such a thing as being TOO reliable. at this point, i want to be surprised. i want to read something unlike anything i've ever read before, that will astound me and leave me breathless. the last few BANR's i have read have not done that. with that aside, i have nothing b ...more
Jun 30, 2011 rated it liked it
This was my first shot at The Best American Nonrequired Reading series. And it was almost my last.

Starts out cute enough, like something for the edgy 15-22-year-old (well, if it gets them reading something other than Harry Potter, I'm fine with it). I Got through the first fifty pages relatively quickly. Then I stumbled somewhere around the third or forth story; I even put the book down for a couple weeks because the writing everywhere was proficient, yes, but drab, also. But the stories did ge
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Of the 27 entries in this collection, there are two stellar, worth-while pieces. The best is "Neptune's Navy," an essay from the New Yorker (available here: that profiles the extraordinary figure of Paul Watson, a renegade environmentalist who leads volunteer crews aboard pirate ships on missions to sink whaling boats in international waters. He is a lunatic but also inspiring. Particularly interesting is Watson's relationship to the law. He exploits leg ...more
Sep 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: oct-dec-08
I will admit, so far I'm a little disappointed compared to last year's volume (which pretty much blew my mind). The front section is much smaller than last year's, which is a shame - it's usually the funniest section.

This year's front section doesn't fall down, exactly...(Best American Police Blotter Items from Kensington, California is an EXCELLENT start to the book, Best American Facebook Groups is the kind of content I was expecting and looking forward to, Best American Diary of the Living De
Dec 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tidbits
The beauty of an anthology of this caliber is that you're bound to find something in it you absolutely love. And, anything you don't love you can just skp. I highly recommend this book, although there was actually more I liked in the 2007 edition.
Highlights from this year include "Are You There, God? It's Me and the Zombies," (a hilarious piece of short fiction about...well, zombies), "The Best American Facebook Groups" (so funny), "The White Train" (I learned about mate...also, about the horren
Mar 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Eggers fans, contemporary short fic fans
While not as strong as BANR 07, it was a good effort. I remember picking up BANR 07 and being blown away by the stories, all pretty good. From Allison Bechdel's Fun Home to Conan O'Brien. My favorite stories were from Miranda July, Nam Le and Mattox Roersh. Even the intro was super damn funny.
BANR 08 was a little off the mark. Sure it had some good stories. A lot of mediocre ones too. The Majorie Celona story was good. Patrick Tobin's story made me laugh out loud, and the "where we must be" sto
Jennifer Arnold
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Another good Best American collection (though, for this title, I did like 2007's collection more). The best bits:

(1) "Neptune's Navy:" After catching a few episodes of Whale Wars, I had many, many questions (the money? the getting kicked out of Greenpeace? the poetry?). This piece explained a lot...and, while the dude may be crazy, he's got a serious point about what we're doing to our oceans (most powerful description: the equivalent of how we treat the ocean is if we hunted for deer by plowing
Aug 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009, compilations
This book is pretty unmemorable, bar the last few stories: "Cake" by Patrick Tobin, "Where We Must Be" by Laura van den Berg, and "Pearls Before Breakfast" by Gene Weingarten aka what happens when you take a world-renowned violinist, dress him up in street clothes, and plunk him down in the middle of a D.C. metro as an ordinary street musician.

I agree with other reviews about the injustice done to Judy Blume; at the very least, I would have expected more of a contribution from her, be it the for
Mar 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
I disagree with a lot of the reviews of this edition. I thought 2008 was by far the best of these anthologies.

The pieces are organized in such a way that each story naturally connects to the next. Many of them were politically relevant, and all of them did something I hadn't seen before. I was sad when the thing was finished.

The ones I remember best are about a recycling train in Argentina and another about a guerrilla environmentalist sailor who intentionally crashes into whaling ships. There
Jan 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
The yearly anthology of writing compiled by a team of San Francisco high school students and edited by Dave Eggers. Unfortunately, for me, this edition was the least satisfying I've read. There were a couple of stories I had to push myself to finish, which meant I ended up reading the whole collection over the course of a year or so.

That said, as one might expect in an anthology like this -- and as I, myself, have come to expect from this series in particular -- there were definitely some brigh
Aviva Altmann
Apr 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is awesome. It has short stories, magazine articles, and clippings from random things (including police blotters and facebook) that either make you laugh out loud or tear up. My favorite pieces include:

1) Best Facebook Groups
2) Police Blotter from Kensington, California
3) Article following Bill Clinton through trip to Africa and how his foundation gives to different global AIDS causes
4) The story of the Sea Shepherd, a crazy Greenpeace founder who hunts whalers (not whales, the people
Feb 10, 2009 rated it liked it
It's so hard to put a rating on some of these anthologies, as the quality of the writing can vary quite a bit. I was surprised at how much fun it was to read, but as I look back over the table of contents, a few of the selections really stand out. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed a short story of Stephen King's. "Ayana", originally published in the Paris Review, was a captivating story about a man who witnesses what he feels was a miracle, and who becomes a miracle worker of sorts in a few ...more
Feb 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Even though this book is short stories and articles taken from magazines, etc. I enjoyed it a lot (I'm not a short story fan). The excerpts of graphic novels (cartoons to us laymen) I found sort of inexplicable, not remarkable drawing, the words utterly not compelling to me, why are they here? Can't say. My two favorites maybe were Bill Clinton--Public Citizen which follows Clinton on a tour of Africa where his NGO does a lot of work, The Dreamer Did Not Exist, sort of "autobiographical fiction" ...more
Feb 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
i love the BANR series and happily read the new edition every winter. i am getting a little annoyed with the precious "front section" (just as editor dave eggers himself can be precious and annoying) - "best american last sentences of books published in 2007" (seven pages), "best american ron paul facts" (even though the best chuck norris facts, which this list is an imitation of, was published a few years ago in a BANR volume), "best american new band names," etc. i did enjoy the introduction b ...more
Dec 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
An eclectic collection of magazine pieces, a list of the strangest Facebook groups, and my current favorite, the Kensington Police Blotter. I was shaking from laughing so hard.

Update: This book reminds me of Eggers' "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius." Great ideas, great introduction, and then wah wah wah. I had my favorite pieces: "Cake," which had some heart, unlike many of the other pieces, the previously mentioned pieces (the Kensington Police Blotter is a scream), and a blog by some
Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
In theory, an anthology would be a perfect read for me right now.
My mind keeps wandering (my daughter is 4 months old, so my attention span is very short unless it's something to do with her) so reading a whole novel might take me months.
I thought, why not?
I might find my future favorite author in there, I might even start loving comics, which I have never gotten into, even though I once had a nerdy boyfriend who tried to teach me the difference between graphic novels and plain comics. I neve
Stephanie H
Dec 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I had always heard amazing things about Egger's Non-required series, but I felt most of the pieces in this anthology fell flat. Aside from the throw away section at the beginning of the book, a majority of the longer stories had uninteresting topics and even more uninspired prose. The only worthwhile stories were Saunders piece on Bill Clinton, Tobin's story "Cake" and Weingarten's piece of Joshua Bell and the recognition of beauty in public spaces.

Although this was my first non-required reading
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: series
I just don't think it's that good. The only things that have struck me so far have been the essay about Argentina's White Train and Paul Watson's mission to save marine life. The fiction is forgettable because it doesn't provoke dialogue or even thought like the two previously-mentioned pieces do.

My recommendation if you are looking for serials similar to The Best American is Pushcart. The work they showcase is original and cerebral in a way that this never seems to achieve. Section I of Nonrequ
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've read the 2007 & now 2008 editions. I like this one best. There are some stories that really got to me, a few quotes that will stick with me for a while. And some stories that I skipped because they were tedious, seemed immature or poorly written. I chalk that up to the collection having been curated by high school-aged students, but I wonder if I would think the same if I didn't know anything about the editors. For the most part, the shorts in here are great. No matter your age, you're ...more
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Dave Eggers is the author of ten books, including most recently Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, The Circle and A Hologram for the King, which was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award. He is the founder of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing company based in San Francisco that produces books, a quarterly journal of new writing (McSweeney’s Quarterly ...more