Monday, March 4, 2013

Interesting Reads

We have a lot of books sitting here at home; I was always a heavy reader, and since Ed and I got together, he's become more of a reader himself. Yet a few months ago I realized I had acquired stacks of books, some of which I bought or were given to me years ago, that I haven't read; so I've been slowly working my way through them. "Slowly" is the operative word; some of them I get through more quickly than others, depending on time or interest or the depth of the subject matter (some books are just have lighter subject matter than others).

A number of years ago, for either Christmas or a birthday, ex-boyfriend Chris gave me a copy of one of The Best American Nonrequired Reading books, a collection of short fiction and nonfiction published annually since 2002. I wasn't entirely sure of it, but it turned out to be one of the best books I've ever gotten. I wish I remembered in which particular book he gave me - I believe it was the most recent year published at the time, but I simply don't remember how long ago this was. In the meantime I've bought each year's version, and I find them to be consistently excellent. Some of pieces are more interesting than others, as it always the case, but I don't feel compelled to read a work if it just doesn't appeal, although most of them do. In the intervening years, the collections have included items such as "Best American Fax," "Best American Lawsuits" (always good for a laugh; some of them are ridiculous), "Best American WiFi Names," and "Best American Poems Written in Response to Arizona State Bill 1070," as well as longer (comparatively speaking) works of fiction and nonfiction. Each year a new person of interest introduces the work; in past years, introductions have been written by Stephen King, David Sedaris, and Judy Blume. I started with the 2002 edition, and I recently started the 2011 edition; the 2012 edition is the most recent. They're light, fun reads, and since most of the works are short (although some run 30-50 pages long), they're good reading during a busy day if I need a short break.

(The particular Best American series happens to be edited by Dave Eggers, who wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; founded McSweeney's (which publishes some really amazing books and magazines, including one of my absolute favorites, Lucky Peach, which is, of course, all about food writing); and co-founded 826National, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center that started in San Francisco as 826Valencia, and now has centers in Boston; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; Michigan; New York City; and Seattle. Each has a unique storefront - the center in New York, which is actually in Brooklyn, is the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.)

Come to think of it, Chris might have given me an a book from The Best American Short Stories series. I do love short stories; they're my favorite genre, simply because the stories need to grab you right away, and leave you with the punchline. I haven't started on this series yet, which also begin in 2002; the 2012 edition is the most recent.

There are other variants of the series, each with a different editor, that I might check out when I've got my library a bit more under control: The Best American Science and Nature Writing, The Best American Essays, and The Best American Travel Writing are particularly appealing.

Perhaps an upcoming blog post will list all the books that are on my "to read after the Best American series." In the meantime, I've been reading magazines as well; we have subscriptions to Smithsonian, National Geographic, Scientific American MindScientific American, Lucky Peach (I don't let Ed get his mitts on this one), and, on my Kindle, I've been reading The New Yorker (the only weekly I'm reading) and the BBC History Magazine.

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