"This collection: it's a strange and potent mix of stuff, always frank, never shrinking, all over the world and back a collection we're proud of. I hope you find something here that removes your head and flies away, or gets inside you and lights you up." Dave Eggers, from the introduction
Introducing The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2002 (Houghton Mifflin Company; publication date: October 15, 2002), a selection of the best literature from mainstream and alternative American periodicals the first collection of its kind aimed at readers under twenty-five.
Our inaugural editors are Dave Eggers, author of the phenomenal bestseller A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, editor of McSweeney's, and founder of 826 Valencia/Youth Speaks, a San Francisco writing lab for city youth dedicated to helping young authors and poets reach their potential, and Michael Cart, a nationally recognized expert in young adult literature and reviewer for major national media. With the help of high school students and teachers from 826 Valencia, our editors combed through all kinds of magazines, zines, and journals in search of the best writing of the year. The selections they chose range from investigative journalism to young, coming-of-age, multicultural fiction to satire to alternative comics.
This genre-busting collection includes Eric Schlosser's article "Why McDonald's Fries Taste So Good," from The Atlantic Monthly; Sara Corbett's piece "Lost Boys," about two teenage brothers from the Sudan trying to adjust to life in the Midwest, from the New York Times Upfront; Elizabeth McKenzie's "Stop That Girl," about an awful family, from ZYZZYVA; a hilarious essay by David Sedaris about a life-altering run-in with the popular kid in school, from Esquire; Adrian Tomine's alternative comic "Bomb Scare," from Optic Nerve # 8; and, of course, a few priceless pieces from magazines like McSweeney's ("Journal of a New COBRA Recruit"), Modern Humorist ("'Jiving' with Your Teen"), and the Onion (including "Marilyn Manson Now Going Door to Door Trying to Shock People"). And that's just to name a few.
"The word reading," Michael Cart considers in his foreword, "by itself . . . describes one of the most pleasurable, stimulating, rewarding, exciting, even joyful acts we human beings are capable of. Yet put one single adjective required in front of it and you suck all the joy out of the process, turning it into drudgery." With the Best American Nonrequired Reading series, we hope to give the twenty-five-and-under crowd a little relief from assigned reading, to encourage already avid readers to explore new styles and sources of current and innovative fiction and nonfiction, and to appeal to those who have found little of interest on the printed page. There is something for everyone in this fresh and invigorating new collection.
Dave Eggers, author of the phenomenal bestseller A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, author of the forthcoming You Shall Know Our Velocity, and editor of McSweeney's, is our inaugural guest editor. He is the founder of 826 Valencia, a San Francisco writing lab for city youth.
Michael Cart, a nationally recognized expert in young adult literature, is the author of My Father's Scar, a 1997 ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, and Love and Sex: Ten Stories of Truth, among many other books. A reviewer for major national media, Cart has served on numerous awards committees, including the National Book Award committee.