Each year, Mariner Books publishes the Best American Series of anthologies, which rounds up short works published during the prior year in a handful of genres and subject areas. The books, edited by an expert in each field, are great primers for their respective spaces: if you want to know which essay writers to keep an eye on, for instance, who better to trust than Vivian Gornick, who edited this year's Best American Essays volume? These new entries in the series will hit shelves next week.

The Best American Essays 2023

Edited by Vivian Gornick. Mariner, $18.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-328884-3
In this solid entry in the long-running anthology series, editor Gornick (Taking a Long Look) brings together pieces that share the “strong, clear sound of a narrating voice that, in and of itself, is the organizing principle behind the essay.” Reflecting Gornick’s background as a memoirist and critic, the selections largely consist of personal narratives and cultural commentary. In the former camp, standouts include Eric Borsuk’s “Bidders of the Din,” which traces the author’s efforts to find “purpose” and “redemption” by writing a memoir during his seven-year stint in federal prison for stealing rare manuscripts from a university library, and Merrill Joan Gerber’s masterful “Revelation at the Food Bank,” about the indignities of aging and the small resentments that accumulated over her 62 years of marriage to her husband. In the latter category, Kathryn Schulz’s discerning analysis of James Salten’s novel Bambi studies how the Disney adaptation softened the original’s vision of life as a brutal dog-eat-dog competition for survival, and Phillip Lopate’s critique of the haughty intellectuals represented in a 1960 Partisan Review issue lambasts the snobbish tone of such writers as Lionel Abel, Leslie Fiedler, and Richard Wollheim. It’s an eclectic, accomplished collection rich in variety and talent. (Oct.)

The Best American Food Writing 2023

Edited by Mark Bittman. Mariner, $18.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-332252-3
Journalist Bittman (Animal, Vegetable, Junk) serves up an excellent anthology of essays, memoir, and reportage that frames food as “a lens through which we can view just about everything humans do.” In “The Double Life of New York’s Black Oyster King,” Briona Lamback profiles Thomas Downing, the 19th-century restaurateur who elevated shellfish from casual street food to fine-dining fare with his swanky “oyster houses” that served New York’s elite—and hid in their basements enslaved people fleeing the South via the Underground Railroad. Curtis Chin’s “Detroit’s Chinatown and Gayborhood Felt Like Two Separate Worlds, Then They Collided” captures a moment in which the two marginalized communities forge a tenuous bond over off-menu Chinese dishes. The collection’s best pieces are some of its most challenging. In “Effortless Anonymity,” Lyndsay C. Green, the Detroit Free Press’s first Black restaurant critic, relates the uncanny experience of “being invisible when crossing the threshold of a dining space,” as she encountered chefs she’d met multiple times who failed to recognize her in their restaurants. Kate Siber’s harrowing, razor-sharp “You Don’t Look Anorexic” examines how those with an “atypical” version of the eating disorder (i.e., in larger bodies) navigate a recovery system that often discriminates against them. Taken as a whole, the volume moves beyond food’s sensory pleasures to investigate it as a cultural vessel, a symbol of inequality, and more. It’s a standout addition to the series. (Oct.)

The Best American Mystery and Suspense 2023

Edited by Lisa Unger. Mariner, $18.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-331581-5
Though this impressive 20-story anthology features solid contributions from heavy hitters including Walter Mosley and S.A. Cosby, its most memorable entries are from relative newcomers who honor genre traditions while playfully pushing the envelope. Jacqueline Freimor’s “Foreword,” for example, utilizes the introduction to a novel by fictional author Edbert Reid to tell a twisty crime story. Footnotes cite literary studies of Reid’s work and dole out key nuggets of biographical information—including the fact that he was murdered—that artfully unveil the mystery bit by bit. Adam Meyer’s chilling “Mr. Filbert’s Classroom” toys with reader expectations after a school shooting leaves parents and children traumatized and a local sheriff begins to have doubts about the ostensibly heroic intervention that stopped the slaughter. Another standout is Annie Reed’s “The Blood-Red Leaves of Autumn,” a whodunit set on a space station that’s been orbiting Earth for decades waiting for “the world’s politicians and mega-corporations and religious zealots” to reverse catastrophic climate change. Reed delivers on the story’s clever premise with propulsive pacing and a surprise-filled plot. This rich tapestry of promising genre talent bodes well for the future of crime fiction. (Oct.)

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2023

Edited by Carl Zimmer. Mariner, $18.99 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-329321-2
New York Times columnist Zimmer (Life’s Edge) brings together 20 captivating pieces of science journalism that find reason for hope amid despair. One among several essays focusing on Covid-19, Elizabeth Svoboda’s “An Invisible Epidemic” discusses the guilt suffered by healthcare workers who feel they provided inadequate care for Covid patients as hospitals became overwhelmed. On the flip side, Maryn McKenna highlights a rare feel-good pandemic story, describing in “When COVID Came for Provincetown” how adherence to public health guidance and contact tracing curbed a July 2021 Covid wave in the Cape Cod town. Climate change also looms large among the entries, with Douglas Fox reporting in “The Coming Collapse” that the melting of Antarctica’s Thwaites Ice Shelf is likely more imminent than previously thought, putting “the homes of at least twenty million US people” at risk of falling below sea level. More uplifting essays describe the efforts of scientists working to save such endangered species as California’s marbled murrelets, the Poweshiek skipperling butterflies of the Midwest, and yellow-legged frogs in the Sierra Nevada. The contributors showcase science journalism’s capacity to educate while entertaining, and the timely bent of the selections gives the collection a sense of urgency, as in Annie Lowrey’s poignant reflection on suffering medical complications during her two pregnancies and the choices women and their doctors face in post-Roe America. Readers will be enthralled. (Oct.)