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The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2002

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  980 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Since its inception in 1915, the Best American series has become the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction. For each volume, a series editor reads pieces from hundreds of periodicals, then selects between fifty and a hundred outstanding works. That selection is pared down to the twenty or so very best pieces by a guest editor who is ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 15th 2002 by Mariner Books
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Feb 04, 2008 rated it liked it
I skipped around between the stories, which happens when reading anthologies I suppose, but other editions have showed better variety in story structure and subject matter.
Dec 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
The Best American Nonrequired Reading series has long been a collection which can be expected to deliver some off-the-beaten path writing. This particularly volume, 2002, was the inaugural volume, and as such, it was different from later additions. It was interesting for me to see how the series had developed, so I burned through this edition.

First, Michael Cart, esteemed author of books for younger adult readers, was the series editor, and Dave Eggers and his fleet of teenager readers was the l
Julie G
I'm a huge fan of the Best American Series, and have been collecting the Best American Short Stories and Best American Non-required Reading books for several years. Somehow, though, I've neglected to read large portions of my collection. So one of my goals this year is to read one book from either collection each month. I decided to start with the first edition of Non-Required Reading, from 2002. This series, edited by Dave Eggers, is intended for what would now be considered a Young Adult audie ...more
Mar 08, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult, misc
Another thrift store find that I picked up on half price day, so it cost me less than a dollar. Good score!

I like the Best American Series, so I scooped this up without even reading the back. Turns out the writing in this book was selected "...for readers under twenty-five...from mainstream and alternative American Periodicals." It includes "...fiction, essays, satire, journalism--and much more." (I'm not exactly sure what the "much more" consists of.)

None of the included pieces offers any conte
In this BANR from 2002 so many essays, and even some fiction, were dated, yet still held up. The anthology had some incredible stories and the usual duds - five that I DNF. My overall favorite piece was an essay about a small-town basketball coach called “Higher Education” by Gary Smith.

My other favorites:
- Toil and Temptation - A timely essay about the experiences of two bothers who immigrated from Mexico, by Michael Kamber.
- Speed Demons - A interesting, and again relevant, essay about drug
Sep 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Typically engaging, though I was a bit confused by the series editor's statement about how the material was drawn from publications "that publish material either for of interest to readers ages fifteen to twenty-five." Y'mean, like Esquire & the New Yorker & Sports Illustrated & the Atlantic Monthly & Time & the NY Times, those bastions of YA journalism?

Either way, some memorable stuff. I loved Rodney Rothman's "My Fake Job" (fabricated sections be damned, it's great fiction), Heidi Jon Schmidt
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
For being the very first book in this series, it was pretty bad. I think it's because some of the news stories are dated (but still informative), the Onion articles are from back when jokes were easier to write, and a lot of the fiction tries hard to appeal to "the youth". I was just finishing high school and starting college in 2002, and I could see how maybe I would have liked these when I was younger and didn't have my own sense of what I liked in art and writing. It was just a struggle to ge ...more
Feb 24, 2010 rated it liked it
While the mix of fiction and nonfiction could be a little jarring, this was a mostly pleasing collection. I don’t understand why it’s being marketed to “readers under 25”—really, anyone could enjoy the Nonrequired series.

The only two entries I disliked were “Blood Poison,” which just left a bad taste in my mouth, and “The Freshman,” a convoluted teenage diary/livejournal/blog/something. (By the way, now I know why people say Dave Eggers is full of himself. He has only a brief essay which serves
Jan 12, 2008 rated it liked it
This one was good, better than 2003, but not as good as 2005. If I recall correctly. The cover is ugly. Once again, I initially didn't know this was a series for high-school age folks, and so I was dismayed at the number of straightforward, navel-gazing "coming of age" stories, the kind that first-time authors write when they want to do something emotionally affecting (you know what I mean?). If you want more varied styles and a broader array of experiences, pick up a McSweeney's.
Sep 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
The other years have been more entertaining with their selected pieces. In any case, I still enjoyed some of this one. The following are the stories I most enjoyed in order of appearance:
"Snacks" by Sam Lipsyte
"Stop that Girl" by Elizabeth McKenzie
"My Fake Job" by Rodney Rothman
"Forth Angry Mouse" by David Schickler
"Why McDonalds Fries Taste So Good" by Eric Schlosser
"Blood Poison" by Heidi Jon Schmidt
Kyle Brandon Smith
Jun 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: anthology
This first collection of "The Best American Nonrequired Reading" feels condescending. It's a feeling that I never felt from later collections, but something ever present in this debut. I can only assume it comes from the "stories for the under-25 crowd" blurb on the back cover. The entire collection felt like shitty drivel until the last three stories: Gary Smith, Adrian Tomine, and Zoe Trope all crafted breathtaking stories.
Jan 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
Most of the serious, nonfiction stuff were good, but the supposedly funny ones weren't. The good outweighed the bad though, and the diversity won me over because at least there was something completely different after every article, and my short attention span was happy.

I'm all for reading the more current collections and check for progress. The only other version I have is 2011, and I hate skipping all those years in between.
Feb 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
My favorite story in this collection is called "Over the River and Through the Woods" or something close to that. I remember thinking it was one of the best short stories I'd read.

The other fascinating short piece is "Why McDonald's French Fries Taste So Good," which I'd highly recommend reading.
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't remember if I had read 2002 yet, so when I found it on Amazon for $.01 with $1.99 shipping I went for it. It is one of my favorites so far, and I'm still not sure if I've read it before or not. In reading the introduction I realized that this series is for young adults (15-25 year olds). I like to think that makes me hip, reading what the young kids do and all.
Mar 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Borrowed this book for the flight back to LA. Although it aims itself at an audience 25 years old and under, I enjoyed it a lot. My favorite piece was Dave Eggers's own, coyly snuck into the introduction, which seemed a little shifty since he has magazine and books of his own, but nonetheless fun to read.
I used it for my reflective writing course and the students really liked the Onion articles and the Eggers intro. So much so that they wanted the conclusion of the first one since I of course forgot to include the last page.

Like all essay collections, there are ones that I like and ones am ennhh about. The Onion ones were pretty good.
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
I found the articles more toward the beginning of the book to be uninteresting. I guess it was a lot of cultural stuff. I liked the graphic novel excerpt as well as part of a "play" by a high schooler. It's been a while since I read this, and I'm going off of notes I left myself, so pardon me if I'm vague.
Sarah B.
Apr 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Like most collections, this one is a bit uneven, but still excellent for when your attention is going to be broken frequently. I thought this one was leaning harder on humour than the other ones in this series. Some of the pieces don't age well (both pieces from The Onion should have been left in their own year), but "Journal of a New COBRA Recruit" was timeless and excellent.
Jan 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Some of these stories I five-star loved, while others were underwhelming. I love the concept and method by which these stories are picked, however. Students under 25 years old in San Francisco choose their favorites and, based on the popularity of the votes, they end up in these compilations. I will seek out other editions of these anthologies. A great concept and some great stories.
Deborah LaRoche
May 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
I usually don't like short stories b/c if I get really into the story, it ends before I'm ready for it to end. With the exception of one or two in this collection, though, the opposite was true. I was mostly glad they were over. Nothing terribly compelling here--maybe 2002 was just a tough year for short story authors.
Kate McCarthy
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Some books just don’t hold up too well over time. Maybe this collection never did. But, it helped me check off the final category I needed in the 2018 Read Harder Challenge while fulfilling my 2018 New Year’s resolution to read books from my shelf and pass them on. I may just pass on the following edition of the series that I also somehow have had on my self over a decade.
Nov 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Nice sample; and reminder of the fact that I'm only 5 years behind cutting edge literature. Overall i think I'd be interested in reading Kissing in Manhattan by David Schickler, Notes to a Potential Lover by Jenny Bitner and am now hooked on Gary Smith as a sports writer.
Eli Warner
Mar 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
this volume was pretty much the one that hooked me. found a copy at the library with a different cover and thought it was one i hadn't read, only to find my own copy sitting on the shelf at home. but the stories immediately came back when i thumbed through it. a classic, really.
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Okay, I haven't read this whole compilation. I've maybe read more than half of the stories. My five star rating is hinged entirely on the introduction/story by Dave Eggers. It is quite simply one of the best short stories I have ever read.
Nov 16, 2008 rated it liked it
some fun selections in here, along with some inane ones ("don't kill the freshman," for example. i just can't sympathize with the ramblings of a 14-year-old). eggers' intro felt very self-indulgent. i wished the nonfiction pieces could've been longer.
Mar 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
If this was the best, it left alot to be desired. I only thought a few of the articles were any good. Maybe four or five at the most. If I saw these articles in the magazines I probably would not have read them. Not my kind of book.
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, read-in-2008
I've made several stories in here required reading. Perhaps that defeats the entire purpose, but I enjoy the irony... and besides, there are some good pieces in here. My students particularly enjoyed the essay "Why McDonald's Fries Taste So Good."
Jo Ann
Jan 01, 2011 rated it liked it
I read this book on the plane to and from Minneapolis, as all the books I'd started were hardback and too heavy for travel. I really enjoyed some of the short stories, but I'm not really a "short story" fan, so on the whole, I'm giving it a 3.
Anh Le
Jun 19, 2011 rated it liked it
As is true with all kinds of collections, this book has the good and the bad. Perhaps two or three will stick for a while--one of them is certainly "My fake job," a satirical look into the purposelessness and expendability in corporation offices.
Elizabeth Lyon
Oct 23, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a mixed bag- some brilliant, some so-so pieces of short fiction and non-fiction. All pieces were published in 2002, and are targeted toward 15-25 year olds (though I'd advise that they be pretty mature 15 year olds.) Edited by the ever interesting Dave Eggers.
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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

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