Be the best-read with every literary genre’s cream of the crop for 2019


Compiled by Brian Lampkin

It’s good to be reminded each October that the best of America can still be a thrilling, intellectually stimulating, fact-filled engagement with our most intriguing, diverse and serious ideas. On October 1, Houghton-Mifflin again brings us its finely edited collection of “Best Of” books in all genres. They’re priced to move at $15.99, and each book contains about 20 essays that have been culled from thousands of entries. The editors themselves constitute a best of American letters: Jonathan Lethem, Anthony Doerr, Rebecca Solnit and Samin Nosrat, among many others. These books are the best way to catch up on what mattered in 2019.

The Best American Short Stories 2019, edited by Anthony Doerr. Pulitzer Prize–winning author Doerr (All the Light We Cannot See) brings his “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) to selecting The Best American Short Stories 2019. Doerr and the series editor, Heidi Pitlor, culled from The New Yorker end of the literary world, but also from the small presses that give underground life to the mainstream.

The Best American Essays 2019, edited by Rebecca Solnit. Writer, historian, and activist Solnit is the author of twenty books on feminism, western and indigenous history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering and walking, hope and disaster, including the books Men Explain Things to Me and Hope in the Dark; a trilogy of atlases of American cities; The Faraway Nearby; A Paradise Built in Hell The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster; A Field Guide to Getting Lost; Wanderlust: A History of Walking; and River of Shadows, Edward Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (for which she received a Guggenheim, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism, and the Lannan Literary Award). A columnist at Harper’s and a regular contributor to the Guardian, she knows a thing or two about writing essays.

The Best American Mystery Stories 2019, edited by Jonathan Lethem. One of my favorite American novelists, Lethem’s most recent book, The Feral Detective, understands that the urge to disappear is strong — especially in times ruled by The Beast. But Lethem also knows there are consequences — especially as imagined utopian communities turn dark themselves. Can’t wait to see his choices in the Mystery genre.
The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2019, edited by Edan Lepucki. Over the past year, fifteen Bay Area high school students have gathered each week in the basement of an independent publishing house (826 National) to pore over online and print literary journals, magazines, books, plays and graphic novels. They read things they couldn’t shake and engaged in deep conversations about how good writing brings people together, no matter what else is happening around the world. With the help of New York Times best-selling author Edan Lepucki they have compiled The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2019.

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019, edited by John Joseph Adama and Carmen Maria Machado. The stories selected by guest editor Machado for this acclaimed annual anthology reflect her commitment to exploring the boundaries between literary and genre fiction, asking “what sort of pleasures does this story bring me” instead of “what category is this?” Among the many and varied pleasures of the collection are stories that share Machado’s love of formal experimentation . . . this brilliant and beautiful collection is a must-read for those looking to enjoy the fullest range of narrative pleasure. Machado was in Greensboro for the inaugural Greensboro Bound Literary Festival in 2018.

The Best American Travel Writing 2019, edited by Alexandra Fuller. Fuller is the author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and Scribbling the Cat. She was born in England and grew up in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia.

The Best American Sports Writing 2019, edited by Charles Pierce. Pierce is a sportswriter, political blogger, and author of four books, including Moving the Chains: Tom Brady and the Pursuit of Everything. He has written for a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times, Esquire, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s Grantland.

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2019, edited by Sy Montgomery. Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus is one of my favorite nature books. Montgomery selects the year’s top science and nature writing from writers who balance research with humanity, and, in the process, uncovers riveting stories of discovery across the disciplines.

The Best American Food Writing 2019, edited by Samin Nosrat. Nosrat, author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, is the hottest chef in the business. She has been called “a go-to resource for matching the correct techniques with the best ingredients” by The New York Times, and “the next Julia Child” by NPR’s All Things Considered.

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.  OH

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