So I picked up a paper copy of the 2011 BAS Nonrequired Reading. I've read maybe a fourth of it so far......a few of the stories are unremarkable, but the whole purchase is redeemed by a piece called "The Deep" written by Anthony Doerr. My God, I think it is the best short story I have ever read. I keep re-reading it, chasing the high it gave me, and the re-readings do not disappoint.
I had never heard of Antony Doerr, so I am grateful for the exposure to his work. He has a couple of award-winning short story collections The Shell Collector n Memory Wall. I hope to read more of him soon.
If you have a favorite anthology of short stories, please let me know. One of my all time favs i Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules. I have read a Pushcart Prize collection and an O. Henry here and there...
Neal Gaiman also has a good story in the 2011 Nonrequired Reading.
I finished reading this book a few days ago and now I regret writing a premature review, because the bulk of this book is superb stuff!
I wrongly assumed this book consists solely of short stories, as there are several essays also included. My favorite essay is Mac McClelland's, "For Us Surrender is Out of the Question." McClelland, a human rights reporter for Mother Jones magazine, traveled to Mae Sot, Thailand to volunteer to teach English to a group of Karen (pronounced "kuh-REN') activists in Thailand who risk their lives bringing to light the atrocities committed in the military dictatorship of Burma.
Adama Bah has an essay originally published in Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice documenting her arrest and detention by the FBI in 2005 when was 16 years old. She had been attending an Islamic boarding school in Buffalo, New York and was back in Manhattan with her family for Ramadan break when a dozen armed FBI agents came to their East Harlem apartment and arrested her and her father. She spent six weeks in detention and then lived under partial house arrest for three years with an ankle bracelet and a court-issued gag order that prohibited her from speaking about her case. She was suspected of "signing up to be a suicide bomber" simply because she had joined a women's study group for converts and people new to Islam at a mosque in Buffalo.
William Deresiewicz has a piece that was actually a speech he delivered to a plebe class at the US Military Academy at West Point. I almost skipped this piece because I'm not really into military things, but I decided to read it due to an interview I read about a year ago with anti-war activist and West Point graduate Paul Chappell, in which Chappell revealed that he was exposed to Noam Chomsky's writings at West Point.
Deresiewicz, taught English at Yale and has written for The Nation and is a contributing editor at the New Republic. He speaks about the necessity for solitude in order to learn to think for oneself and find oneself. He compares steady exposure to facebook, twitter and other forms of media as "continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people's thoughts" which prevent one from hearing their own thoughts. He draws from Joesph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness and encourages his listeners to read books as a form of solitude, adding that a book has two advantages over a tweet: the person who wrote the book thought about it more carefully than a tweet is thought about and the book is the result of the author's solitude, the author's attempt to "think for himself."
Charlie LeDuff has a piece on the decline of Detroit.
Joyce Carol Oates has a story about a cosmetic surgeon's harrowing encounter with female patients who are swept up in a cultish desire for trepanation as a spiritual procedure.
Sloane Crosly has a humorous story about visiting a friend in Paris.
James Spring's "Mid-Life Cowboy" originally aired on This American Life is his true story of his spontaneous journey to Baja Mexico to work as an independent bounty hunter.
James Strum, a comic artist, has a wonderful comic about a Jewish rug-makers day at an old country market.
Overall, this is a worthwhile read, pretty stellar in places, too.