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The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009 Paperback – October 8, 2009
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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.
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Top customer reviews
This year I really liked "Diary of a fire lookout" by Connors. It starts out alot like Kerouac's "Desolation Angels" but you'd better read to the end. It's a heartbreaker. Connor runs across a baby deer with no mom.
Jonathan Franzen's piece about David Foster Wallace is appropriate and piercing. It's ok to miss someone and still be bitter for what they've taken away even if you understand why.
Missisipi drift is great. It's a modern day Huck Finn in a way but boy has the world changed. For that reason this is a must read story.
The comics are great too. If you think they're wasted pages I'm sorry, for me they're a nice break while still showcasing a poignant subject.
All of these stories are relevant and the subjects are recognizable but they are chosen to be a little off the beaten path. If you've ever been to amazon looking for something unique, you've read your books and every thing on the new release page looks dull then buy this one right now, you're going to read it at least twice.
This collection is hard to sum up in a single sentence - one might think of it as an edgier - and more entertaining - version of the "Best American Essays". But a far better collection, because Eggers (and this year's guest editor, Marjane Satrapi) are savvy enough to cast a far broader net. So, for instance, in addition to standbys like "best craigslist ads", "best police blotter items", "best kids' letters to Obama", "best book titles published in 2008 (Baboon Metaphysics? Excrement in the late Middle Ages? anyone?), "best poem titles of 2008" (A Plea for the Cessation of Fruit Metaphors, I need more Cowbell, What your Dad's Underpants have to do with Space Travel, If my Life were a Radio, lately I would Prefer another Station, Why not Oysters?...), there are such fine contributions as Phillip Connors's "Diary of a Fire Lookout", Anne Gisleson's "Your exhausted Heart" (about the Saturn Bar in new Orleans), Denis Johnson's "Boomtown Iraq", Jonathan Franzen's tribute to David Foster Wallace, excellent pieces by Rivka Galchen, Rebekah Bliss, Eula Biss, and Susan Breen.
This partial list doesn't include the three or four charming picture essays, nor the five or six other equally good pieces by authors like Nick Flynn, David Grann and Amelia Kahaney.
I can do no better than to paraphrase what I wrote about the 2008 volume - this is writing that informs me about stuff that I would otherwise not encounter, brilliantly executed by authors whose worldview extends - praise the Lord - beyond their own navels. Like a bunch of exotically flavored Dove bars - unfamiliar at first, but reliably delicious. Material that takes you outside of your comfort zone, in the best possible way.
4.5 stars, which I think deserve to be rounded up to 5, because the percentage of dross in this collection is very low indeed. As always, if you find yourself in the bookstore, faced with the entire gamut of the "Best American XXX 2009" series, and you have only $14 to spend, there's no question about it - this is the one you should pick. (Or you could order it here on Amazon, of course)
I don't know what it is we have against Dave Eggers anyway. With this series alone, he has surely exonerated himself from any residual blame that might result from the youthful indiscretion that was - well, you know the one I'm talking about. That staggering book ...
For starters, the best of craigslist ads had me laughing out loud (at work of all places).
The first story that really caught my eye though was, The Diary of a Fire Lookout. When he keeps score between the fire lookouts and the "machines" it really opens your eyes to how wasteful we can be. The story offers a different perspective on the wilderness that makes you want to drop everything, move to a secluded cabin in the woods, and stay isolated for a month. Just for the experience.
I really liked this book because there are some pieces that you will remember months down the road. From How to Work a Locker Room, to Mississippi Drift, and The Outlaw Bride. These stories stood out because they illustrated lifestyles and a profession that you would not normally think about.
Overall, this collection allowed me to see certain situations from a different point of view. And that's what I consider good writing.