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The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007 Paperback – October 10, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"[T]he most grown-up young adult fiction excerpts ever compiled." --Allegra Muzzillo, Black Book

About the Author

DAVE EGGERS is the editor of McSweeney’s and a cofounder of 826 National, a network of nonprofit writing and tutoring centers for youth, located in seven cities across the United States. He is the author of four books, including What Is the What and How We Are Hungry.


Product Details

  • Series: Best American (Book 2007)
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618902813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618902811
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #703,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I've really enjoyed Best American Non-Required in the past and looked forward to this year's edition. The last few years the series has contained some of the best reading I've come across. But this year's edition is off. While the stories and articles in these books have always been chosen by high school students in Dave Egger's writing programme, the content has always been relevant for a general audience and chosen from a broad range of journals. But the 2007 edition is plainly something that would only appeal to high school students. It's full of banal lists, graphic comics, stories with lines like "The car gleamed throughout the day and into the night as we drank beer purchased from stores that let teenage drivers of gleaming cars buy beer. We drank more beer at each stop, in each new neighborhood:..." This isn't good writing. There are a few good stories in here, but even the stories I liked contained elements which clearly appeal to high school students. "How To Tell Stories to Children" is good, but its central character is coming of age and therefore relateable to the committe that chose it. It's a great story made less appealing by the stories it was collected with.

"What Is Your Dangerous Idea" was a great book, full of bite-sized, provocative essays. Unfortunately Best American Non-Required 2007 copied a dozen or more of these essays for it's pages, filling up about a fifth of the book. I'd like to make some comments about kids in high school padding assignments, but that seems mean. My point is, why buy a book full of another book? If "What is Your Dangerous Idea" was good enough to fill up a sizeable portion of Best American, why not just buy "What is Your Dangerous Idea"? The whole point of being an editor is that you choose the best.
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Format: Paperback
I love anthologies for a couple of reasons: the stories or articles are easily read in a short sitting and no matter how it was edited I usually find a couple of pieces I like. Today I'm writing about one that sets a whole new standard. The Best American Nonrequired Reading of 2007, edited by Dave Eggers produced not just a couple of passable stories, but an entire volume of the most thought-provoking powerful writing I've ever encountered.

The premise is simple - San Francisco high school students scour through literary magazines, independent publications, and on-line journals for articles, stories, vignettes, and memoirs that they consider the best. They share their findings with each other and with their editor, Dave Eggers, until they've parsed it down to a few pieces to publish in this NonRequired Reading volume.

Who would've thought that high schools students would have the ability to spot stories to move me emotionally. Me, a jaded forty-one year old man who heaps cynicism on top of his morning cereal the way some spoon out blueberries, or sugar. But they did. Story after article after first-hand account all pulled emotions from me and sat stewing in my mind for days afterward. There wasn't a bad one in the bunch.

The first section is assorted lists and memes, which I consider filler. It was fun I suppose, but the heart of the book lies in Section Two.

The best of it all was from my all-time favorite essayist, Scott Carrier. He weaves an account of his time in Burma before the crackdown. When reading it I was struck by the obvious - how could we have been surprised?

After that brilliance the next story that caused me to ponder for days after reading was by Lee Klein.
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Format: Paperback
Sufjan Stevens tells amusingly of his Rudolf Steiner childhood in the introduction. By third grade Stevens was attending public school and couldn't read. A teacher explained how we are surrounded by words.

Goth is dying, most bands are industrial, an informant tells Jonathan Ames in his piece entitled 'Middle-American Gothic'. The graphic story by Alison Bechdel concerning a father's intentional or accidental death is engrossing. D. Winston Brown, in 'Ghost Children', opines that time can transform violence.

Burma, the size of Texas, called Myanmar, is a place of absolute government control. Scott Carrier, 'Rock the Junta', claims he lied on his visa application to get into the country. Incipient consumerism, a condition he has encountered in other parts of the world, confronts him as he goes in quest of political truths. Foucault described the effects of surveillance. The Burmese poeple, it is asserted, suffer from surveillance.

In the main, women are empathizers and men are synthesizers, (from 'What is Your Dangerous Idea?'). Query--will human beings understand the universe, ever? Reasonably considered, scientific knowledge may be pursued only for its practical applications. In 1900 most inventions involved physical reality. In 2005 they revolve upon virtual entertainment. Today a technological elite owns the country's intellectual property.

Stephen Elliott, 'Where I Slept', had been a known drug user and eighth grade drinker. At least two characters in this collection wear sleeping masks. In 'How to Tell Stories to Children' two of the characters determine that they have forty minutes before the perishables perish and so they have time for tea.

Lee Klein, in 'All Aboard the Bloated Boat' compares Barry Bonds to Jimi Hendrix.
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The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007
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