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The Best American Short Stories 2009

(The Best American Short Stories)

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,093 ratings  ·  117 reviews
Edited by critically acclaimed, best-selling author Alice Sebold, the stories in this year's collection serve as a provacative literary "antenna for what is going on in the world" (Chicago Tribune). The collection boasts great variety from "famous to first-timers, sifted from major magazines and little reviews, grand and little worlds" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), ensuring y ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 8th 2009 by Mariner Books
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3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,093 ratings  ·  117 reviews

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Mar 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, short-stories
Strongest BASS in quite a while! I was absolutely knocked out by Steve De Jarnatt's amazing "Rubiaux Rising," which could make a short story reader out of any skeptic. Other standouts for me: stories by Richard Powers, Annie Proulx, Ethan Rutherford and Joseph Epstein. Wow, genius! Two stories on modern China (by Greenfeld and Li) also fascinated me.

Hey! Somebody consult the legal department! There are no Alice Munro stories here. She lands three on the extended list, but it's hard to believe no
Chad Bearden
Oct 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
As with all the 'Best American' anthologies, the enjoyment you're likely to take away varies from story to story, but most of the stories are above-average to great. The 2009 edition is no different, with a lot of really nice work, and only one dud (in my opinion).

The one misfire was Steve de Jarnatt's Rubiaux Rising, which was just a bit beat-you-over-the-head for my taste. War veteran stories can work. Hurricane Katrina stories can work. But when your story is about a war veteran amputee locke
Bojan Tunguz
Oct 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
"The Best American Short Stories" is, as they proudly like to point out on the cover, "best, first and best selling" collection of short stories published in the US over the preceding year. The second of these claims is of course entirely subjective, but there is no doubt that this series is one of the most respected and widely used anthologies of contemporary American short fiction. These anthologies give a snapshot of current trends in fiction writing, and are, for better or worse, representat ...more
Billie Pritchett
Sep 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories, bass
I'm a glutton for punishment with this book series, which I think is in no wise a reflection of its title, or if it is the state of American fiction is only mildly interesting from year to year. Nevertheless, I probably won't stop reading the series. As for this volume, the first story is "The Idiot President," which is also the name of the play a troupe of Peruvian actors perform throughout Peru in the story. The second story "Yurt" is sort of about the semi-private love lives of elementary sch ...more
Mark Gabriel
Nov 11, 2009 rated it liked it
As with every year, an underwhelming anthology save for a few gems (I continue to feel as if there is just way too much stories out there for too many journals/mags; I'm of the school of writing less, but writing better). Maybe I'm just bitter because my picks didn't make the cut, but whatever. Highly recommend the Makkai piece, which was just wonderfully wrought. "The Anniversary Trip" manages so much with so little; reminds me just how soft subtle stories can really work. "Sagittarius" was pre ...more
Mary Stella
Jan 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Generally, this year's stories dealt with tragedy, injustice, and reaching brick walls. Each story seemed to hinge on a difficult decision, urging the main characters to test their moral limits. Many of the stories verged on missing a conclusion - though, that is the era we're in. Many stories, many lives are lead without resolution - this is a time of clif-hangers and uncertainty. This collection reflected that well. While my rating of this book is rather neutral (mostly due to several bland or ...more
Sep 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: stories, 2010
On finishing this, I realized why I am always slow to pick up every year's BA - they're exhausting (also why I am terrified of my phone-book sized Pushcart collections). This edition has the usual hits-and-misses, and I deducted a star for a) Sebold's obnoxious introduction about awards and her acquiescing in guest editing, and b) all the stories that really stood out were writers I expected to stand out (McCorkle, Moffett, Proulx) and there were only a few who I wanted to read more of (Bynum, d ...more
Dec 31, 2009 rated it liked it
Not one of the stronger collections, I didn't think. Some years I devour every single story without thinking about anything else. This year, not so much. I am working on my skills of just stopping reading something when I'm not enjoying it, and I probably did that with five or six of the stories in here. And then I had read a bunch in the New Yorker already, so there were probably only a handful of new stories that I really enjoyed in this on.

On a sidenote, can someone explain to me why it seems
Nov 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
There were many stories that I really loved, and make me want to go find other things by those writers; and then there are some duds. There's something for everyone though, and overall I enjoyed it more than not. Sagittarius (Greg Hrbek), Them Old Cowboy Songs (Annie Proulx), The Briefcase (Rebecca Makkai), The Anniversary Trip (Victoria Lancelotta), and Ostracon (Alex Rose) were among my favorites.

Now I'm thinking back and remembering that I liked a lot more of the stories than I am giving cre
May 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best BASS in recent years. My favorites from this excellent collection are Alice Fulton's "A Shadow Table" and Annie Proulx's "Them Old Cowboy Songs." With so many fine stories being written these days, I don't envy Alice Seybold having to select twenty. Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's "Yurt" is also a standout.
Oct 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
I really dug Alice Fulton's short story The Shadow Table. Annie Proulx did not fail to deliver an inhabitable universe that is not my own with her apt detail and voice. Kudos to Greg Hrbek for a very brave story. Hurricanes Anonymous by Adam Johnson also gets a tip of the hat. These stories stood out, though I did enjoy most of them. It is interesting to see the events, the politics, and the fears of our contemporary situation getting played out in fiction as happens in these annual compilations ...more
Jul 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Maybe I just wasn't in the mood, but I found this collection kind of...dull. Nothing really lept out at me as something bold or new or unexpected, with that little frission of finding something amazing, which was disappointing since I expect more from Sebold. On the other hand, I think she should have selected the essay collection, not the fiction collection, as I find her a much stronger nonfiction writer, but nobody asked me! Oh well.
Aug 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
Yurt by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum
Rubiaux Rising by Steve de Jarnatt
A Shadow Table by Alice Fulton
Sagittarius by Greg Hrbek
Hurricanes Anonymous by Adam Johnson
The Anniversary Trip by Victoria Lancelotta
The Briefcase by Rebecca Makkai
Modulation by Richard Powers
Into The Gorge by Ron Rash
Daniel Clausen
Aug 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
I finished about five of the short stories before I had to turn it back into the library. For a "Best of" series the short stories were very uneven. For those of you looking for great short stories, you might want to consider "The Year's Best SF" instead. Some of the stories in that series will knock your socks off.
Dec 21, 2010 rated it liked it
This collection was odd, but I think I only say so because of my personal preference for subtlety and lack of description in stories. The only story I completely disliked in the collection was Epstein's "Beyond the Pale" (due to an excess of summary and lack of character) and my favorite was Rose's "Ostracon."
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I especially like short stories for the opportunity to discover new (to me) authors, to sample a bit of their work, and this collection was no exception.  While I didn’t like all 20 stories in The Best American Short Stories 2009, I liked many more than I disliked.  For the purposes of this review, I’ll highlight nine of my favorites and several authors well worth watching. 

Steve De Jarnatt’s “Rubiaux Rising,” about a drug-addicted veteran trapped in an attic during Hurricane Katrina, remains m
Tiny Pants
Dec 31, 2009 rated it liked it
I was teetering between two stars ("it was ok") and three stars ("I liked it") on this one, and in the end went with three stars because you know what, I did like it. As much as I've complained about this series in recent years, this was a stronger entry than they've had in a while. Which quite frankly I found surprising, since I wasn't expecting Alice Sebold to be the greatest editor. Does she even write short fiction? And in spite of the success of The Lovely Bones, I've never felt like her ot ...more
Amy Armstrong
Jun 07, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
So not my thing, and maybe I'm in a ridiculously picky mood, but I wasn't impressed by anything I read in here. I got kind of excited as I moved toward the end of the collection and spotted stories by Jill McCorkle and Annie Proulx. I was also impressed by Alex Rose's writing in his story, "Ostracon" from Ploughshares, but none of the stories grabbed me the way stories from other collections have.

As I read through this collection, I started wondering, Have I been corrupted by reading all that YA
Oct 07, 2009 rated it liked it
A struggling South American actor who never manages to leave his
country as he planned; a public teacher reckoning with her late
20s; an Iraq veteran trapped in Hurricane Katrina; and an
aging John D. Rockefeller are just some of the characters who
populate this commanding volume. Many of the stories in this year’s
collection focus on questions of shifting communities: “The Farms,”
for example, chronicles one rainy afternoon when a girl who finds
herself quietly confronting questions of economic class
Timons Esaias
Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Okay, yeah, I'm behind in my Best American reading. It took me seven years to get to this one, but (as usual) I greatly enjoyed the excellent writing. (My writing instructor demon makes me point out two grimaces in the anthology, which is fairly good for literary/mainstream; and two phony past tense examples, both by the same author.)

Ahem. The stories had the usual wide range, with a refreshingly low incidence of cancer stories. Two of them were historical-figure-POV exercises (John D. Rockefell
Mar 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
It's taken me a while to decide how to rate this book because I wasn't sure whether to rate the compilation choices (that is, Alice Sebold's preferences), rate the compilation holistically (try to somehow synthesize my various reactions), or rate the compilation based on my favorites. I've chosen the latter option, and taken off a star for the stories I didn't care for. There are many 5-star worthy stories in this year's edition, and I most highly recommend Rebecca Makkai's "The Briefcase," Anni ...more
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always look forward to this Christmas gift from my son, and the joy of taking time out at the end of the year to read it. As Alice tells us, in these hard times, when publishing houses are folding right and left (because of the economy crash in 1998, as well as reader's changing habits) "highlighting good fiction is more important now than it has ever been." Indeed, as one reads these stories, one can only admire the creativity and skill of the authors, and their dedication in becoming good fi ...more
E.D. Martin
Jul 21, 2011 rated it liked it
I'll preface this with two things. One, all of the stories in this collection were extremely well-written. Language, grammar, story consistency, character development - there's a reason that these are the best of the year. Two, I love literary fiction. The more it makes you think, the better.

That said, some of these stories I loved, and some I hated. Some moved me, and some I'll never think of again. I realize that the stories are subject to the opinion of the editor, but I would've left about h
Brandon James
Apr 10, 2014 rated it liked it
The collection started with a great introduction by Alice Sebold that really made me want to dig into the stories. I was hoping her introduction and humor had set the tone for the stories chosen for this volume, but it did not. Unfortunately, most of the stories fell flat.

There were a handful of standouts.

Namwali Serpell - Muzungu
Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum - Yurt
Ethan Rutherford - The Peripatetic Coffin

A couple of the stories dealt with Katrina and the aftermath. Adam Johnson's Hurricanes Anonymous l
Feb 27, 2010 rated it did not like it
all the stories are 2 to 4 stars, i guess, but as a collection: what? this is the state of the short story? what happened to the third person? when did all short stories get dragged to the time-filling, but mind-numbing, middle-place of witty quotidian half-insights?

where's the innovation? the imagination?

i feel like i'm back in freshmen year attending seminar after seminar on diversity, but... the collection seems to be okay with diversity resting largely with authors' names and world-region of
Trae Stratton
Nov 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf, fiction
This collection has 20 stories in it. After suffering through six mind numbingly sad tales I skimmed another two and finally tossed it in the recycle bin. As I recall, this book was the required reading for a writer's workshop I took around when it was published. Were it not for that I am certain I would never have brought it home. This week I pulled it off my to read shelf where it's been sitting for years to read on a trip. What a mistake that was. Yes it is well written. Yes there are some st ...more
Nov 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
These are the best American short stories? All I'll say is that reading this collection has made me seriously doubt the short story medium. There were three or four that I liked a lot, or maybe even loved. Reading other reviews of this books reminds me of some of the highlights, although there were many stories I didn't even finish or seemed very heavy handed on topical issues (Katrina, China).

I can't help but think that people read these anthologies, because they are interested in the writing
Jun 05, 2015 rated it liked it
It feels a bit more rangy than some of the previous collections, and many of the stories were more memorable, which isn't always the case with these anthologies, at least for me. But you're always going to get a mixed bag with the 'Best American', so a reader's mileage will vary. Every year some subset of famously anthologized authors are included in this collection, and more often than not I'm left scratching my head at the reasons behind their selection; the 2009 edition seemed more free of th ...more
Dec 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
As usual with the Best American Series, not everything contained within these pages knocked my socks off. Many of the stories were good enough, and were well enough written, but weren't anything to write home about. I only skiped over one of the stories (the one by the only Pulitzer Prize winner that I know of in the collection). There were a few gems, though, such as Greg Hrbek's "Sagittarius," Adam Johnson's "Hurricanes Anonymous," and Yiyun Li's "A Man Like Him." The collection is worth readi ...more
Jennifer Collins
Just a mediocre collection. All of the stories are well written, but they blend together...few of them take risks, and fewer of them are really interesting or striking. By far, the best of the stories are "The Briefcase" by Rebecca Makkai and "Magic Words" by Jill McCorkle. The most interesting and unique is "Modulation" by Richard Powers.

Overall, though, this isn't a collection I'd recommend. I've read some "Best Of" in this series where every other story begs me to search out more work by the
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Alice Sebold is the author of three #1 bestselling books, including Lucky, and the novels The Lovely Bones and The Almost Moon. Her work has been translated into more than fifty languages and has appeared in The New York Times and The Guardian, among other publications. She is a member of the National Leadership Council for (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). She lives in Califo ...more

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