Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Best American Series

As previously mention in this blog, I am an armchair scientist, very, very armchair. But each year I can’t wait for The Best American Science Writing to be released. Before I get into the merits of this year’s collection, let me, as Ricky Ricardo of the old I Love Lucy TV show used to say, “esplane” a couple of things.

First, although I l-o-v-e to read, I read very few magazines (Discover, Time, Vanity Fair). In 1989, when The Austin American-Statesman did a lengthy human interest story on me (go figure), the free-lance writer who did the story asked me what magazines I read. My reply was “none.” Since magazine writing was her “bag” she was understandable stunned and asked why, to which I replied, “Too many seductive advertisements reminding me of what I don't have, but really don’t need.”  Anyway, long story short, The Best American is a series of books that comes out each year featuring the best magazine writing in a number of genres. They always have a guest editor (some hot author in the genre) who makes the final decision about what articles are included in the collection, writes the introduction, and justifies the selections.

Some of The Best American collections are topical, i.e., The Best American Science Writing, The Best American Travel Writing, Best American Sports, Mystery, Medical, etc. Some are general, i.e., The Best American Short Stories, Nonrequired Reading, Essays, Poetry, etc., but almost without exception, they are collections of amazing to pretty damn good writing, and mind-boggling to who-gives-a damn topics. And the bonus is that even if you’re not particularly interested in the topic, the articles are typically no more than 5-20 pages long, so you’re in and out pretty quickly, and/or can easily skip forward to something more beguiling. They’re also all in paperback and therefore, not prohibitively expensive.

My Best American Series collection goes back to around 1995, and I have to say that some of my most delectable reading memories originate back to these books. In December I bought the following Best American Series books: Science, Sports, Travel, Crime Reporting, Nature, Mystery, Magazine, and Medical, have finished Science, am about half-way through Sports, and about one-third through Travel. Each morning at 5:30-ish I read (when I’m not blogging), often doing “eeny meeny miny mo” to decide which book to get into.

So, The Best American Science Writing of 2009 had a lot of gripping stories and a few that I struggled through and that’s about all I’m going to say about it actually. I doubt I'll review any of The Best American Series books because the fact is that they are simply always good – it’s the “best of” for a reason, what more can I say. But I did want to talk about the series in the hopes of getting you to give them a try.

So there you have it. Check out The Best American Series. You won’t be sorry.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this--had no idea these existed. Looks really interesting.