Earlier this year, I discovered the Best American Series. Every year a new book is published for each category by collecting the best short stories or essays of a topic. This post will detail my favorites from each collection that I read. This is a long post and has many suggestions that are linked online if I could find it. I have also created imaginary book covers for the story pieces that have been and will be posted over time on my Deviantart page.
In February, I started with the Best American Mystery Stories of 2015. It featured a variety of authors from an acclaimed British writer to newly published authors. Here are my top 5 Favorites from the collection of mysteries.
1.The Adventure of the Laughing Fisherman by Jeffrey Deaver
Starting in the most peculiar manner, the story grips the reader with its inventive storytelling style. Additionally ever since I started watching Sherlock, I have gained a new love of observational and intellectual crime-solving. When I realized that elements of the story was inspired by Sir Doyle’s own characters, I enjoyed the short story even more. I also found that after rereading the story there was such obvious foreshadowing that I missed.
2. Rosalee Carrasco by Tomiko M. Breland
A masterful told story about modern day bullying is represented in Rosalee Carrasco. The format was unique because each character told apart of the story and each one was expertly developed. Each character has clear flaws which makes them realistic to the reader. The use of repetition and having an omniscient presence made it a cohesive work.Though I would not consider this story a traditional mystery it still has some elements such as a victim and a perpetrator.
3. The Home of Craigmillnar by Joyce Carol Oates
The most impactful in light of modern political controversy as it addresses the church’s main scandal of abuse. It also tackles the idea of taking justice into one’s own hands instead of the law’s courts I enjoyed the wild way plot details were revealed and loved how the story came full circle. Kind of a spoiler but I was definitely surprised by the twist ending because I did not expect the short story to shock me.
Next, I read the Best American Essays of 2015 because I had not really explored essays much outside of school or some news articles. I liked the mix of story like pieces to more speech performance essays.
1. This Old Man by Roger Angell
“Yes, we’re invisible. Honored, respected, even loved, but not quite worth listening to any more. You’ve had your turn, pops; now it’s ours.” (Angell, 16)
I found the piece a humorous take on growing old. I loved the references to things that served a dual purpose of relating something to the reader and dating the writer. Personally I thought it was helpful to a person who like me thinks about life events and death a lot. I am not morbid but I often think about the future so it was quite informative. Additionally the quote made me smile due to how true it is. People need to realize that important lesson as they grow older -coming from a young one :).
2. A Message to the Twenty-First Century by Isaiah Berlin
“And in the end the passionate idealists forget the omelet and just go on breaking eggs.” (Berlin, 34)
The piece was created to be read in the absence of the author to receive a honorary degree which can be seen in the diction and complex message. As a history lover I fancied the references as it allowed to get a deeper connection to the text. Though it is kind of related to This Old Man, I find it fresh and powerful. Overall, a pretty philosophical piece that perfectly penetrated my perceptions.
3. Difference Makers by Meghan Daum
“But if there’s anything Matthew taught me, it’s that having certainty about your life is a great luxury.” (Daum, 87)
I really resonated with this piece because I often think about life events that are so far off in my life like children similar to the death mentioned above. There is a deep application for how she worked constantly to help future generations because she did not have her own kids which I find inspiring. I believe it is a piece to read for all the people who say that they hate children because it will open their perspectives and I also feel hating children is weird. I understand if you do not want your own but you can not say that statement because it is ageist. For example that is like if I said I hated old people (obviously I don’t that would be ridiculous) because I am stereotyping an age and thus is unfair. Anyways the story is realistic in that it contains the tops and pits of her story and so it makes it more interesting.
Then I read the Best American Short Stories of 2015. I found it even more enjoyable then the mystery collection due to the variety of topics and styles.
1. Moving On by Diane Cook
A futuristic story that had a new take on love, relationships, and society. Especially nowadays, dystopian stories have been a craze but this piece strays from the norm and does not focus on the world that the character is existing. It rather focuses on the emotion of the main character who is a woman who has lost her husband and is moved to a single women shelter. The plot smoothly weaved past events with the present. I enjoyed the sweet nature of the women’s actions and thought-provoking ideas that are touched on.
2. Jack, July by Victor Lodato
To start off I would like to display a couple of quotes to demonstrate how creative the literary devices are in this piece:
“Weeks? Again, the word proved thin, suspect.” (Lodato, 157)
“His words, stay with me, had seemed to the boy vaguely futuristic, a beam of light from a spaceship.” (Lodato, 159)
I just love the imaginative words used throughout the story. I absolutely appreciated how the style of writing complemented the plot. It is told in a choppy and inconsistent way which reflects the conditions of drugs present in the story. There was a feeling that time dragged in even though it was only presenting a day in the character’s life which connects perfectly with how being a meth user impairs time perception. Lodato excellently created the mood of the story and made me feel invested in the main character which is a drugged youth.
3. Mr.Voice by Jess Walter
A lovely tale that describes a young girl’s life affected by her mother’s marriage. The language really made the characters come to life. Also the way information was conveyed was unique as seen in the quote, “I remember their wedding more clearly than I remember either of my own: Mother wore a light-purple mini dress, and she put me in a dress that matched it- in hindsight, perhaps not something a nine-year-old should wear.” That one quote gives the reader a variety of info from how the narrator had been divorced and remarried, how her mother was one to break social tradition, and how impact the event was. The father figure represented in Mr Voice is inspirational in his actions and his behavior which is great in a world of writings which portrays father figures as bad or absent.
Finally I read the Non required Reading of 2015. I loved the variety of pieces and seemed relevant to my taste as it was chosen by young people. This book is the one I would recommend to read in full length. Also since I loved this one so much I read the 2013 version which featured special distinguished pieces in the front which showed some random creative selections.
1. Fear Itself by Katie Coyle
Coyle’s story is the funniest story of the whole collection and is unique with its historical and fantasy elements. The plot itself sounds ridiculous when explained; the story follows a girl who encounters a wax Franklin Delano Roosevelt and subsequently falls in love. The concept and execution was wonderful. Additionally, the main trio of friends were introduced and described in an interesting format through a game they played in which they would receive a label from an overall theme like for example first ladies. I would also say that the ending of “Fear Itself” is also the best.
2. Dynamite by Anders Carlson-Wee
The only poem of the bunch it spoke of a child play that progressed into savage war. The horror genre of poetry often features supernatural or other magical elements while this piece was more demented violence.
3. Contestant by Daniel Alarcón
An interesting piece about how a crazy reality show led to an awful crime. “Contestant” is a nonfiction that expresses the huge social and culture impact created by the Peruvian version of the show called The Moment of Truth. It kind of reads like fiction because of the insane plot details in addition to the uncertainty of the ending.
4. The High Road by Bryan Stevenson
A very moving piece of sliver linings and positive outlook in an utterly bleak situation. It tells the tale of a man visiting a prisoner to reveal his legal prison. The short piece is very powerful and especially reminds me to be grateful.
5. Our Neighbor’s House by Emily Caroll
An expertly colored comic which mirrors Red Riding Hood’s a little bit. I find it beautiful to look at especially because of the red contrasting to the black. It jumped out at me in the book as it was the only graphic story.
I would totally recommend any of these stories to check out and overall a book from the Best American Series. If you have any short stories that I can check out I would love it.