The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011

Author: Dave Eggers (series editor), Guillermo del Toro (introduction)

Type: Fiction, non-fiction, short stories, essays, comics, poetry, humor (anthology)

Published: 2011

I read it: December 2012

best 2011

What makes it immensely readable:

The ever-entertaining front section, including portions of a fax by Don Delillo, an essay on musician M.I.A., the nouns, verbs, and adjectives used to describe the Gulf Oil Spill, selections from Mark Twain‘s autobiography, a list of ominous American city names (Hell, Michigan; Meat Camp, North Carolina; Satans Kingdom, Vermont).

The eye-opening non-fiction on socio-political craziness:

  • “An Oral History of Adama Bah” by Adama Bah
  • “What Killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones?” by Charlie LeDuff
  • “For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question” by Mac McClelland
  • “The Suicide Catcher” by Michael Paterniti

Less urgent but equally intriguing essays:

  • “Art of the Steal” by Joshuah Bearman
  • “Mid-Life Cowboy” by James Spring
  • “Le Paris!” by Sloane Crosley

A pragmatic, inspirational talk:

  • “Solitude and Leadership” by William Deresiewicz

Fine fiction:

  • “Pleiades” by Anjali Sachdeva
  • “Weber’s Head” by J. Robert Lennon
  • Even one by Joyce Carol Oates, that boring old biddy

And most of those I did not mention still stand out. One sore spot worth mentioning is the silly intro by Guillermo del Toro. This guy seems to need some skepticism in his life. But seriously, read this collection every year.

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