, . . Houghton Mifflin, $27.50 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-618-04932-5

Gould, who completed this volume shortly before his recent death, was tempted to build a collection solely of September 11 pieces, but he pulled back from the idea, saying, "We simply cannot allow evil madmen to define history in this way." Certainly, he found a place for several fine essays on the terrible events of that day, and all of the essays in this collection share a certain gravitas. Adam Mayblum narrates his long, treacherous descent from the 87th floor of 1 World Trade Center. "Word on the Street," by Richard Price and Anne Hudson-Price, provides slices of post–September 11 conversation in taxicabs, Madison Square Garden and other New York locales. Gould has included several confessional pieces as well, with an emphasis on medical writing. Barbara Ehrenreich questions the effect of "relentless brightsiding" among breast cancer survivors; and Danielle Ofri, a young physician at Bellevue Hospital, comes to terms with her devastating misdiagnosis of a patient. Among the more academic pieces, Mario Vargas Llosa eloquently argues that literature is "one of the most primary and necessary undertakings of the mind," and Louis Menand looks at the history of American higher education since WWII. In the aftermath of September 11, the essay has reemerged as a vital and necessary part of our national conversation. This collection represents a beautiful range of voices, from the scholarly to the gut-wrenchingly personal, ultimately forming a perfectly satisfying whole. (Oct. 15)

Forecast;With its September 11 pieces, this year's volume may be more relevant and in demand than usual. Houghton plans a $100,000 "Best American" marketing campaign, including floor display for this and other series titles.