The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014

Edited by Daniel Handler

Best American Non Required Reading Review

LA PAZ, Bolivia—Police say 24 people were killed in a tragic accident Monday when a bus plunged from a narrow mountain road.

Not everything sad is tragic. Evaluate on case-by-case basis.
More Bolivia context please.

LA PAZ, Bolivia—Police say 47 people were killed Tuesday when a bus plunged from a narrow mountain road. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America.

Tragic fine for 47 dead. Just fyi.
-From AP Style by Dan Keane

This excerpt from the very tongue-in-cheek story AP Style tells the story of an Associated Press reporter stationed in Bolivia through the memos he exchanges with his editor in Mexico City. You should really pick up the whole collection for this story alone. It’s quirky, funny, and a little bit sad, and it’s one of those stories you can’t read without wishing you had written it. The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014 is full of that type of thing–stories that are excellently, creatively crafted and brimming with emotion and thought.

This book is a prime example of just how much I love Daniel Handler (AKA Lemony Snicket) and the lengths to which I trust his literary recommendations. I was vaguely familiar with The Best American series, but I picked up the 2014 edition of Nonrequired Reading without even glancing at the contents simply because Daniel Handler’s name was on the front. The only thing he wrote was the intro! But it was enough for me. Good thing too, because everyone, myself included, really needs to read more short stories. The tightness with which the author must write and the speed with which you become intimately attached to a short story’s character create an experience that differs completely from that of reading a novel. And the intensity of a short story often makes them stick in the mind more. Though let’s get something straight right off the bat. This is a collection of both fiction and non-fiction. There are stories, essays, articles, plays, podcasts, and excerpts from graphic novels. This book is a collection of incredible variety and talent.

From Anders Nilsen’s hilarious graphic novel excerpt, Rage of Poseidon, to Rachel Swirsky’s sobering If You Were A Dinosaur My Love, each of these tells a story from strange new perspectives. Many of them deal with big issues our world is confronting today like the refugee crisis, conflict in the Middle East, and racism disguised as progress. These stories may be nonrequired reading, but more often than not they give voices to the underrepresented and powerless. They’re beautiful and important, and I dare you to finish this collection without felling like you’ve been changed (even a little bit) as a person.

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