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The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004 (The Best American Series) (2004)

by Dave Eggers (Editor)

Other authors: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Contributor), Daniel Alarcón (Contributor), David Benioff (Contributor), Christopher Buckley (Contributor), Dave Eggers (Foreword)21 more, Ben Ehrenreich (Contributor), Eve Englezos (Contributor), Jon Gertner (Contributor), Michael Hall (Contributor), Sammy Harkham (Contributor), John Haskell (Contributor), Kaui Hart Hemmings (Contributor), Thom Jones (Contributor), Tom Kealey (Contributor), Robert Kelly (Contributor), David Mamet (Contributor), Viggo Mortensen (Introduction), Joshua Moutray (Contributor), Gina Ochsner (Contributor), Lance Olsen (Contributor), Julie Orringer (Contributor), Michael Paterniti (Contributor), Paula W. Peterson (Contributor), Cheryl Printup (Contributor), David Sedaris (Contributor), Michelle Tea (Contributor)

Series: The Best American Nonrequired Reading (2004), Best American (2004)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
725626,369 (3.75)4
It's hard to imagine that it was just a year ago that we were finishing up last year's Best American Nonrequired Reading! Then again, doing last year's collection last year, as opposed to this year, seems to have been the right way to go. We took a gamble on that decision, and it paid off. Like last year, our Best American mailbag is full of letters, written in crayon and blood and begging to be answered. Let us begin. What is this collection again? You told me last year, but I spaced. -- Dominique, Santa Monica, CA Thank you for your question, Dominique, which I am happy to answer in much the same fashion as I did last year, when you first asked. The purpose of this book is to collect good work of any kind -- fiction, humor, essays, comics, journalism -- in one place, for the English-reading consumer. The first edition of the book could also be used as a low-frequency ham radio, but this feature has been discontinued. Who are these "826 All-Stars" who are credited with co-editing this book? -- Dan and Becky, Newport, RI The 826 All-Stars is a moniker for a student committee, stalwart and true, that sifts through virtually everything published in the United States in a given year and from this morass -- did we say morass? We meant to say bounty -- finds the best twenty-five or so writings that work together and don't include references to bestiality or John Ashcroft or both. The student committee goes by these names: Alexei Wajchman, Kevin Feeney, Alison Cagle, Jeremy Ashkenas, Juliet Linderman, Adrienne Mahar, Antal Polony, Francesca Root-Dodson, Sabrina Ramos, and Jennifer Florin. They are all high school students from the San Franciso Bay area. What sorts of things were eligible? Work from any periodicals at all? -- Dorsetta Cable, Pacifica, CA It's nice to hear from you, Dorsetta. The answer to your question is yes, as long as these periodicals are American and not about stereos of zombies or poetry. We always make a very concerted effort to include work from lesser-known magazines and quarterlies and Web sites, and we did find some great things in some small-circulation publications -- we did a better job of including such work this year than ever before. You should be very proud of your daughter. Why is Viggo Mortensen writing an introduction to this book? You would think he would have better things to do. Was this part of some kind of work-release program or what? -- Lucy Hackett, Medfield, MA This collection's mission, if there is one -- and there isn't -- is to bring new writing to new audiences. We hope that people will pick up this book after seeing the name or names of a few writers they like and then become exposed to other good people who write. Viggo has been associated with 826 Valencia for some time, having helped us with fund-raising and such. He is also a noted poet and artist, and thus the perfect ambassador for this collection, bringing, we hope, new people to some great contemporary writing. We can only hope that this introduction-writing business takes off for him, given how lucrative it is and how much glory attends it.… (more)
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» See also 4 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
A mixed bag. The highlights are the Introduction by Viggo Mortensen, Secret Names by David Mamet and Sixteen Jackies by Lance Olsen. I've read other books / audiobooks in the Best American series and this was the one I engaged with the least. But I'm still glad I read it. ( )
  graffiti.living | Oct 22, 2017 |
The first volume in this series I really liked; the second, less so; the third, even less. Not sure how many more I'll attempt, to be honest. Christopher Buckley's "We Have a Pope!" was fun, but other than that this one didn't have anything much worth noting, alas. ( )
  JBD1 | Sep 17, 2016 |
This edition of The Best American Nonrequired Reading is very heavy on short fiction. Now, that is not really a good thing. The draw of this collection is the eclectic nature of its contents – essays, short stories, comics, weird things. So, when one of these collections doesn’t have a broad range, there is a good chance it will suffer in comparison to others in the collection.

And, yes, this would be a better collection with more variety. That being said, it is still (as I’ve come to expect) a very, very, very good collection. Starting with the unusual, Sammy Harkham’s comic (whatever you want to call it) is an incredibly haunting set of drawings about a couple where the husband eventually succumbs to the lure of the sea. David Sedaris is represented with “Full House”, a typically excellent essay which, this time, explores just one of the many problems that occur when you are growing up gay (this time, at a slumber party.) Jon Gertner has a fascinating essay (“The Futile Pursuit of Happiness”) that explores studies going on related to what we think will make us happy versus the actual affect these things have on our happiness.

And so to the stories. Why is it that authors (and editors) are so enamored with the supposed profundity in stories related to death or coming of age. Of course they are earth-shattering moments. But wouldn’t it really take more skill to write a profound story without using these crutches? And, just as this collection is a little short on variety when it comes to essays, etc.; there is a similar shortage of variety in topics for the short stories. (I lost track of how many death or coming of age stories I read here.) All that is to say that, in spite of such a handicap, the stories were still very good. There are good examples of each type of story. Daniel Alarcon’s “City of Clowns” is a strange tale of a man coming to grips with the death of his farther (a man who abandoned him and his mother) and the acceptance the mother has for the other woman, while exploring the role of “clowns” in his native Lima. Paula W. Peterson’s “Big Brother”, about an HIV positive mother’s evolving relationship with her son’s big brother, falls in the “other” category.

And, you know what, now that I think of it, none of the coming of age stories really resonated with me. Instead, I’ll just recommend the best story in the collection – Lance Olsen’s “Sixteen Jackies” about the alternate realities that existed for Jackie Kennedy.

One more time – you cannot go wrong if you pick up one of the Best American Nonrequired Reading collection ( )
  figre | Jun 27, 2010 |
The non-fiction was really good, the fiction was kind of hip Oprah book club
  Kaethe | May 22, 2008 |
Maybe it's because I've grown more discerning in my tastes in books, or that I've simply been reading too much so all books are starting to sound the same, but I'm finding myself disappointed by books more often than not. However, no matter how many books I read each year, I know that there will be at least one I love, and it's the America's Best Nonrequired Reading for that year.

This is the third year that the book has been published, and the third time I've bought it. They're edited by Dave Eggers, which may add to their appeal and quality, and are the best selections of reading anywhere. On top of that, they generally encompass all genres: Non-fiction, fiction, and have even as of late included some graphical stories, as well as authors from the well-known to the virtually unheard of.

I love this series to pieces and think everyone should run out and buy all of them right this instant. But I suppose that would take a little bit of integrity out of the title "Nonrequired," wouldn't it? ( )
  twomoredays | Oct 27, 2007 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eggers, DaveEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adichie, Chimamanda NgoziContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alarcón, DanielContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benioff, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Buckley, ChristopherContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eggers, DaveForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ehrenreich, BenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Englezos, EveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gertner, JonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hall, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harkham, SammyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Haskell, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hemmings, Kaui HartContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, ThomContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kealey, TomContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kelly, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mamet, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mortensen, ViggoIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Moutray, JoshuaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ochsner, GinaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Olsen, LanceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Orringer, JulieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Paterniti, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Peterson, Paula W.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Printup, CherylContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sedaris, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tea, MichelleContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed

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This LT work is for copies of The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004 only. Please do not combine it with copies from other years, or with copies that cannot be distinguished by year. There are separate LT works for each year's edition. Thank you.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

It's hard to imagine that it was just a year ago that we were finishing up last year's Best American Nonrequired Reading! Then again, doing last year's collection last year, as opposed to this year, seems to have been the right way to go. We took a gamble on that decision, and it paid off. Like last year, our Best American mailbag is full of letters, written in crayon and blood and begging to be answered. Let us begin. What is this collection again? You told me last year, but I spaced. -- Dominique, Santa Monica, CA Thank you for your question, Dominique, which I am happy to answer in much the same fashion as I did last year, when you first asked. The purpose of this book is to collect good work of any kind -- fiction, humor, essays, comics, journalism -- in one place, for the English-reading consumer. The first edition of the book could also be used as a low-frequency ham radio, but this feature has been discontinued. Who are these "826 All-Stars" who are credited with co-editing this book? -- Dan and Becky, Newport, RI The 826 All-Stars is a moniker for a student committee, stalwart and true, that sifts through virtually everything published in the United States in a given year and from this morass -- did we say morass? We meant to say bounty -- finds the best twenty-five or so writings that work together and don't include references to bestiality or John Ashcroft or both. The student committee goes by these names: Alexei Wajchman, Kevin Feeney, Alison Cagle, Jeremy Ashkenas, Juliet Linderman, Adrienne Mahar, Antal Polony, Francesca Root-Dodson, Sabrina Ramos, and Jennifer Florin. They are all high school students from the San Franciso Bay area. What sorts of things were eligible? Work from any periodicals at all? -- Dorsetta Cable, Pacifica, CA It's nice to hear from you, Dorsetta. The answer to your question is yes, as long as these periodicals are American and not about stereos of zombies or poetry. We always make a very concerted effort to include work from lesser-known magazines and quarterlies and Web sites, and we did find some great things in some small-circulation publications -- we did a better job of including such work this year than ever before. You should be very proud of your daughter. Why is Viggo Mortensen writing an introduction to this book? You would think he would have better things to do. Was this part of some kind of work-release program or what? -- Lucy Hackett, Medfield, MA This collection's mission, if there is one -- and there isn't -- is to bring new writing to new audiences. We hope that people will pick up this book after seeing the name or names of a few writers they like and then become exposed to other good people who write. Viggo has been associated with 826 Valencia for some time, having helped us with fund-raising and such. He is also a noted poet and artist, and thus the perfect ambassador for this collection, bringing, we hope, new people to some great contemporary writing. We can only hope that this introduction-writing business takes off for him, given how lucrative it is and how much glory attends it.

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