When the Best American books make their annual appearance each fall, it’s normally Best American Science and Nature Writing that pulls us in. The guest editor (this year: physicist Brian Greene) has inevitably spoken at Monterey, and the writers always include a stable of TED favorites. The titles in this ever-expanding franchise offer something for everyone: There’s Travel Writing, Essays, Short Stories … Good choices, all.
But the big winner this year is Best American Non-Required Reading, edited five years running by Dave Eggars and truly coming into its own. The eclectic collection is wonderfully curated, incorporating stories, essays, blog entries, answers to the EDGE question, transcripts from The Daily Show, excerpts from graphic novels, and, er, the Iraqi constitution. The volume also — brilliantly — includes mini offerings, such as Best American New Band Names (“Arctic Monkeys” “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness”), Best American First Sentences of Novels (“We are never very far from those we hate.” “I can explain everything.”), and Best American Fake News Headlines (“Philandering String Theorist Can Explain Everything” “Rest of U2 Perfectly Fine with Africans Starving”).
But the single Best American Reason to Buy this Book just may be the utterly charming introduction by Simpsons creator (and longtime TEDizen) Matt Groening. It’s a love letter to reading, really, and it made us love him even more.