The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

Edited by Rachel Kushner. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $14.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-544-81211-6
This eclectic compilation, guest-edited by novelist Kushner (The Flamethrowers), is selected by high school students in the San Francisco Bay Area and Ann Arbor, Mich., from a variety of national publications (e.g., the New Yorker, the New York Times) and literary journals (e.g., Granta, the Iowa Review). The offerings include nonfiction, short stories, a book review, poetry, and even narrative cartoons. These are clearly very discerning high school students: the majority of the choices are first-rate, though some of the poems are obscure and Marilynne Robinson's "An Interview with President Obama" is superficial. The pieces generally try to engage the reader quickly, with first sentences that are either punchy ("In the fourth week of drought... the elephant keeled over dead," from "The Miracle at Little Fork" by Rebecca Makai) or intentionally vague ("At first all the mothers were going into town," from "Shadehill" by Mark Hitz). Sometimes that opacity is intriguing, but the fiction pieces do start to show similarities, with the recurring theme of characters on the fringes of society dealing with extreme circumstances. Some of the selections will not be to everyone's taste ("Brown vs. Ferguson," from the discussion group behind the theoretical journal Endnotes, is timely but dry), but there are many engaging, beautifully written choices that will surprise and delight. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/12/2016
Release date: 10/04/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 416 pages - 978-0-544-57929-3
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