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The Best American Short Stories of the Century

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Since the series' inception in 1915, the annual volumes of The Best American Short Stories have launched literary careers, showcased the most compelling stories of each year, and confirmed for all time the significance of the short story in our national literature. Now THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF THE CENTURY brings together the best of the best - fifty-five extraord Since the series' inception in 1915, the annual volumes of The Best American Short Stories have launched literary careers, showcased the most compelling stories of each year, and confirmed for all time the significance of the short story in our national literature. Now THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF THE CENTURY brings together the best of the best - fifty-five extraordinary stories that represent a century's worth of unsurpassed accomplishments in this quintessentially American literary genre. Here are the stories that have endured the test of time: masterworks by such writers as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Saroyan, Flannery O'Connor, John Cheever, Eudora Welty, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Carver, Cynthia Ozick, and scores of others. These are the writers who have shaped and defined the landscape of the American short story, who have unflinchingly explored all aspects of the human condition, and whose works will continue to speak to us as we enter the next century. Their artistry is represented splendidly in these pages. THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES series has also always been known for making literary discoveries, and discovery proved to be an essential part of selecting the stories for this volume too. Collections from years past yielded a rich harvest of surprises, stories that may have been forgotten but still retain their relevance and luster. The result is a volume that not only gathers some of the most significant stories of our century between two covers but resurrects a handful of lost literary gems as well. Of all the great writers whose work has appeared in the series, only John Updike's contributions have spanned five consecutive decades, from his first appearance, in 1959. Updike worked with coeditor Katrina Kenison to choose stories from each decade that meet his own high standards of literary quality.


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Since the series' inception in 1915, the annual volumes of The Best American Short Stories have launched literary careers, showcased the most compelling stories of each year, and confirmed for all time the significance of the short story in our national literature. Now THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF THE CENTURY brings together the best of the best - fifty-five extraord Since the series' inception in 1915, the annual volumes of The Best American Short Stories have launched literary careers, showcased the most compelling stories of each year, and confirmed for all time the significance of the short story in our national literature. Now THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF THE CENTURY brings together the best of the best - fifty-five extraordinary stories that represent a century's worth of unsurpassed accomplishments in this quintessentially American literary genre. Here are the stories that have endured the test of time: masterworks by such writers as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Saroyan, Flannery O'Connor, John Cheever, Eudora Welty, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Carver, Cynthia Ozick, and scores of others. These are the writers who have shaped and defined the landscape of the American short story, who have unflinchingly explored all aspects of the human condition, and whose works will continue to speak to us as we enter the next century. Their artistry is represented splendidly in these pages. THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES series has also always been known for making literary discoveries, and discovery proved to be an essential part of selecting the stories for this volume too. Collections from years past yielded a rich harvest of surprises, stories that may have been forgotten but still retain their relevance and luster. The result is a volume that not only gathers some of the most significant stories of our century between two covers but resurrects a handful of lost literary gems as well. Of all the great writers whose work has appeared in the series, only John Updike's contributions have spanned five consecutive decades, from his first appearance, in 1959. Updike worked with coeditor Katrina Kenison to choose stories from each decade that meet his own high standards of literary quality.

30 review for The Best American Short Stories of the Century

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    The title is a misnomer. Not that there aren't some wonderful stories here, but they were never really chosen because they're the best American short stories of the 20th century. Rather, these are Updike's 56 picks out of the 2,000 stories originally chosen in the 84 volumes of a yearly anthology published from 1915 through 1999. If a story was never published in Best American Stories they weren't available to be selected. Updike couldn't select "Paul's Case" by Willa Cather, "Are These Actual Miles?" The title is a misnomer. Not that there aren't some wonderful stories here, but they were never really chosen because they're the best American short stories of the 20th century. Rather, these are Updike's 56 picks out of the 2,000 stories originally chosen in the 84 volumes of a yearly anthology published from 1915 through 1999. If a story was never published in Best American Stories they weren't available to be selected. Updike couldn't select "Paul's Case" by Willa Cather, "Are These Actual Miles?" by Raymond Carver, "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell, "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Hills Like White Elephants" or "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" by Ernest Hemingway, "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes, "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" by Stephen King, "To Build a Fire" by Jack London, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor, "Gift of the Magi" or "The Ransom of Red Chief" by O'Henry, "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" by Katherine Anne Porter, "Brokeback Mountain" by Annie Proulx, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" by J.D. Salinger, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber, "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" or "The War Prayer" by Mark Twain, "A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty or Updike's own "A&P." That means a lot of American short stories of the 20th century that are often anthologized won't be found here--arguably none of the really famous ones are found here, even though a lot of familiar names such as Hemingway and Faulkner are included. There were so many of my favorite short stories that were part of the anthologies that could have been selected though listed at the back of the book: "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin, "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver, "Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Snows of Kilimanjaro" by Ernest Hemingway, "Haircut" by Ring Lardner, "The Magic Barrel" by Bernard Malamud, "Shiloh" by Bobbie Ann Mason, "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" by Carson McCullers, "People Like That Are the Only People Here" by Lorrie Moore, "Everything that Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'Connor, "My Friend Flicka" by Mary O'Hara, "A Telephone Call" by Dorothy Parker, "Act of Faith" by Irwin Shaw, "The Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck, "The Catbird Seat" by James Thurber or Tillie Olson's "I Stand Here Ironing." And, sadly, though I can't say I'm surprised, no short stories by the well-known science fiction authors who I truly believe wrote some of the best short fiction of the 20th century--and some of them did make it into the yearly anthologies. Yet Updike didn't choose any such story--so no Ray Bradbury, Judith Merril, Harlan Ellison, Ursula Le Guin or Theodore Sturgeon. Almost nothing that could be called a genre story, no love stories, little humor or anything that's upbeat and I can't say any story had a great twist. Nor were there any horror stories--and given that the American short story got its foundation from stories such as Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," the horror tales of Edgar Allan Poe and stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne such as "Young Goodman Brown" and "The Minister's Black Veil" that's a crime. In the end, especially reading one story after the other, I felt the collection too often came across as bland and predictable. So, if you're thinking of getting a one-volume collection of the canonical American short stories of the past century, or the best or the most entertaining and memorable that could make you a fan of the form, this isn't the book. But if you want a collection of 56 strong short stories of literary fiction of the kind you find in The New Yorker, well, almost all of the stories included are well worth reading with little moments to savor and writing techniques to learn from. About the only time I thought "My God, what was Updike thinking?" was his inclusion of Richard Wright's ode to the Communist Party, "Bright and Morning Star" (1939), a crude propaganda piece. There were certainly stories herein I thought as memorable and impressive as the stories not included I listed above. My top ten: “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell (1917) - both great psychological study and whodunnit--one of the few that could be seen as a "genre" story. "Here We Are" by Dorothy Parker (1931) - featured winning humor and was all the more appreciated because there was so little of that in the book. "Death of a Favorite" by J.F. Powers (1951) - probably the closest thing to speculative fiction in the book, it was a humor piece from a cat's point of view. I probably liked it more than it deserved simply because it was so different than the usual formula literary fiction. "The Ledge" by Lawrence Sargent Hall (1960) - horrifying and sad but beautifully written. "Defender of the Faith" by Philip Roth (1960) - Great characters--it redeemed Roth after my introduction to him through his execrable The Plot Against America. This was one of the few stories in the anthology that surprised me, that didn't head where I was expecting after reading the first paragraph. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates (1967) - I'd tried novels by the author but had never found her to my liking, so I was surprised to find this a standout. The protagonist Connie is too-stupid-to-live--but I have to admit this is one of the most memorable stories in the book, and probably the most often anthologized. "The Key" by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1970) - starts depressing and sad but ends humane and warm. "A City of Churches" by Donald Barthelme (1973) - weird but certainly striking and unusual. “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien (1987) - lyrically written war story. One of the few in the anthology I had read before. "In the Gloaming" by Alice Elliott Dark (1994) - ripped my heart out and moved me close to tears.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    An incredibly un-putdown-able selection of the best short fiction writing of the 20th century. It’s rare I consider short story collections page turners, but there was just one masterful read after another. Of course, there were a couple of clunkers, but I loved over 90% of the stories and considering this collection is a door stopper, that’s pretty good!! Bravo John Updike (RIP) for a superb job editing this anthology. It can’t be easy choosing 56 stories to call the “best” spanning 100 years.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ollie

    It can't be easy to choose the best American short stories of the 20th Century. Even if you have over 700 pages to fill (like this collection) classic stories are bound to be left out. Although there are plenty of good stories here from canonical writers, I had a few problems with this anthology. First of all, some of the stories were not very good, and I can't help feeling that they were chosen because they fit some kind of needed token representation. It's a crime that Shirley Jackson's "The L It can't be easy to choose the best American short stories of the 20th Century. Even if you have over 700 pages to fill (like this collection) classic stories are bound to be left out. Although there are plenty of good stories here from canonical writers, I had a few problems with this anthology. First of all, some of the stories were not very good, and I can't help feeling that they were chosen because they fit some kind of needed token representation. It's a crime that Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is not in this collection (surely one of the best American short stories ever written?); and if we are going to talk quotas, why not include a Science-fiction story? Towards the end, there's a story by Alice Munro, which is kinda funny when you consider that she's the quintessential Canadian writer who has, by the way, never lived in America. And here's a question for you: if somebody asked you to choose the best short stories of the century, would you include one of your own?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Many of my favorite authors were in here, Ernest hemingway, William Faulkner, Joyce carol Oates, Richard Wright, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, Robert Penn Warren and many more I plan on reading in the future. This was a wonderful collection of short stories from crime, love, illness, death, racism, and humor.

  5. 4 out of 5

    John Wiswell

    Updike's The Best American Short Stories of the Century underrepresents humor and "genre" fiction, and for every drop of optimism there is a bucket of pessimism - so, it's a typical literary fiction collection. These are not the best-told stories, nor the most interesting stories. Those Updike selects are chosen for their literary value, their intellectual depth and understanding of more delicate elements of the craft, like religious allusions or flexible voice. Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, E Updike's The Best American Short Stories of the Century underrepresents humor and "genre" fiction, and for every drop of optimism there is a bucket of pessimism - so, it's a typical literary fiction collection. These are not the best-told stories, nor the most interesting stories. Those Updike selects are chosen for their literary value, their intellectual depth and understanding of more delicate elements of the craft, like religious allusions or flexible voice. Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eudora Welty, Tim O'Brien, Flannery O'Connor, Vladimir Nabokov, Richard Wright, Dorothy Parker, E.B. White, William Faulkner, Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Joyce Carol Oates and, of course, John Updike are represented, along with dozens more literary luminaries. You're not supposed to agree with Updike's selections (I would have chosen other Wright, Welty and O'Connor stories), but this is a great resource for beginners who want to understand the American literary short story, or who are looking for new writers to explore. Anyone who recognizes every name on the Table of Contents, though, is overqualified and shouldn't pick this up - you probably own, have read, or will disagree with the addition of each story that's in in here.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hafeez Lakhani

    OK I know it's cliche to rate this five stars but for the record I normally don't rate BASS and BAE that well.. BUT here I got a chance to read writer's I've long heard so much about but hadn't really read - like Joyce Carol Oates (ridonculous, time-less story in here, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, about a pretty girl who gets lots of attention but it eventually gets her in a jam), and F. Scott Fitzgerald, because really I'd long been in the camp who'd read Gatsby and nothing else o OK I know it's cliche to rate this five stars but for the record I normally don't rate BASS and BAE that well.. BUT here I got a chance to read writer's I've long heard so much about but hadn't really read - like Joyce Carol Oates (ridonculous, time-less story in here, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, about a pretty girl who gets lots of attention but it eventually gets her in a jam), and F. Scott Fitzgerald, because really I'd long been in the camp who'd read Gatsby and nothing else of his. His story Crazy Sunday was so good I stopped after each page and re-read, to lengthen my time with it. Also nice to get a small dose of a few masters who I of course respect but couldn't sit through a whole novel with - like Nabokov, Saul Bellow, Hemingway. Also amazing samplings of Roth, Updike, Lorrie Moore, and other gems. If there's any flaw it's that Updike doesn't give any props to ethnographic rock stars who started to come alive in the 90s like Junot Diaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edwidge Danticat - but surely they'll get their cred in the next century's tome.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    This is a truly amazing collection! My mom and I each had a copy and read it at roughly the same time. (My mom, of course, finished first!) I eagerly await each yearly edition of the Best American Short Stories, so this volume was a special treat for me. One of the things that surprised me about this book was just how 'American' it is. John Updike notes in his introduction that he tried not just to choose stories written in America, but stories that truly tell us something ABOUT America. I think This is a truly amazing collection! My mom and I each had a copy and read it at roughly the same time. (My mom, of course, finished first!) I eagerly await each yearly edition of the Best American Short Stories, so this volume was a special treat for me. One of the things that surprised me about this book was just how 'American' it is. John Updike notes in his introduction that he tried not just to choose stories written in America, but stories that truly tell us something ABOUT America. I think that he succeeded completely. Each of these stories moves you down the path of American history via a window into a small corner of the 'American' experience. This book is not only full of powerful, diverse stories but also provieds a good introduction to many well known authors. Whether you plow through it like I did, or read a story here and there, this is a book you should have on your shelf.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nick Black

    This ought have been called the "Best American Short Stories About New York WASPs, Jewish Males and the Dark South." From Flannery O' Connor we get "Greenleaf", a questionable and surely non-representative selection; from Hemingway "The Killers", probably among the lesser third from The Snows of Kilmanjaro. Also, I'm pretty sure Alice Munro is Canadian, yet John O' Hara finds no place here (both are semi-explained in Updike's introduction--the former hailing from "Anglophone Canada" (how does this fit into This ought have been called the "Best American Short Stories About New York WASPs, Jewish Males and the Dark South." From Flannery O' Connor we get "Greenleaf", a questionable and surely non-representative selection; from Hemingway "The Killers", probably among the lesser third from The Snows of Kilmanjaro. Also, I'm pretty sure Alice Munro is Canadian, yet John O' Hara finds no place here (both are semi-explained in Updike's introduction--the former hailing from "Anglophone Canada" (how does this fit into either a pan-continental or nationalist reading of the term "American"?), the latter never having qualified for a yearly Best Of (in which case the book ought have been titled "Best of a Century of The Best of American Short Stories" but Updike, one presumes, has no more love for recursive titles than the next man, and thus we Press On)). Bah!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    What I learned from this book... Edward O'Brien, who started the annual Best American Short Stories, saw the virtue in our diversity as a nation being represented so well in a distinctly American literature. So from the intro I learned that the short story form is an American genre (think Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, etc) and it has been mostly dismissed by the rest of the literary world for lacking "sophistication and technique". The introductions are given by the year's guest editor and What I learned from this book... Edward O'Brien, who started the annual Best American Short Stories, saw the virtue in our diversity as a nation being represented so well in a distinctly American literature. So from the intro I learned that the short story form is an American genre (think Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, etc) and it has been mostly dismissed by the rest of the literary world for lacking "sophistication and technique". The introductions are given by the year's guest editor and this one is John Updike. Choosing from 200, he picked 56 stories that he felt best mirror the realities of American life. I never (ever) thought of short stories as a news medium, another thing I learned. I liked that Updike took each decade and reminded the reader to keep in mind what was going on in society and the world because these influences do bleed through. So, many stories that I wanted to dismiss as just stupid or self indulgent, now I thought more about understanding. My favorites: Willa Cather's Double Birthday (1929) Death of a Favorite, JF Powers (1951) Defender of the Faith, Philip Roth (1960) Roses, Rhododendron by Alice Adams (1976) Alice Munro's Meneseteung (1989) and In the Gloaming from 1994 by Alice Elliott Dark From the 1915 to 1999 stories here that I liked least I guess are the ones that are more extreme in language, violence and creepiness. Updike wrote in the intro, "The American experience, story after story insisted, has been brutal and hard." Ugh - 1923's Blood-Burning Moon by Jean Toomer & 1994's Public Library by Carolyn Ferrell are proofs to this point.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    This book has been my occasional bedtime reading material since the middle of September (OK, there was a while when I wasn’t reading before going to sleep). The Best American Short Story volumes have been publishing the best American short stories for each year since 1915; and this volume contains the editors’ opinion of the best fifty-five stories, from “Zelig” by Benjamin Rosenblatt in 1915 to “The Half-Skinned Steer” by Annie Proulx in 1998. Some of these stories I have encountered before in vario This book has been my occasional bedtime reading material since the middle of September (OK, there was a while when I wasn’t reading before going to sleep). The Best American Short Story volumes have been publishing the best American short stories for each year since 1915; and this volume contains the editors’ opinion of the best fifty-five stories, from “Zelig” by Benjamin Rosenblatt in 1915 to “The Half-Skinned Steer” by Annie Proulx in 1998. Some of these stories I have encountered before in various anthologies, but many stories I had never read before; and I think this is a very good book to have by one’s nightstand, as these are stories that you not only remember, but think about for days afterwards. I can only review a short=story volume by noting the stories that I especially liked; and in chronological order, those stories would include “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell (1917), “Here We Are” by Dorothy Parker (1931), “Bright and Morning Star” by Richard Wright (1939), “The Farmer’s Children” by Elizabeth Bishop (1949), “The Ledge” by Lawrence Sargent Hall (1960), “A City of Churches” by Donald Barthelme (1973), “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien (1987), “I Want To Live!” by Thom Jones (1993), and “Proper Library” by Carolyn Ferrell (1994). I can attest, having read each of the fifty-five stories in this volume, that I feel like I have done something of value by reading this book; and I am glad that I came to possess this volume, at what time I know not, but it was a happy impulse when and where I purchased it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    I would be hard-pressed to say anything negative about a collection of short stories selected by John Updike. This collection of stories are character and era-defining, stunning classics of American short story literature. With pieces from classic American authors like Faulkner, O'Brian, and Lardner, it does not disappoint. I was excited to read and reread each story to pick up differnt details and subtlities; each author had his/her own way of expressing the period sentiment. My opinion of this I would be hard-pressed to say anything negative about a collection of short stories selected by John Updike. This collection of stories are character and era-defining, stunning classics of American short story literature. With pieces from classic American authors like Faulkner, O'Brian, and Lardner, it does not disappoint. I was excited to read and reread each story to pick up differnt details and subtlities; each author had his/her own way of expressing the period sentiment. My opinion of this anthology is that it's an excellent and exciting collection of period literature. An excellent snapshot of our nation at the time the stories were written. Of all the stories written, my favourite was Updike's "Gesturing". Strong and vivid writing technique, and a nice modern approach to the family system.

  12. 4 out of 5

    James Edwards

    Technically all the stories were written perfectly. However, I was disappointed that the majority of them were depressing. In addition, it seemed as if some of the authors were more interested in writing techniques than creating characters or stories that drew you in. This is unfortunate because there's not much room in a short story for development of plot or character depth. I was surprised I didn't care for some stories written by big names, while others I was relieved that they came through Technically all the stories were written perfectly. However, I was disappointed that the majority of them were depressing. In addition, it seemed as if some of the authors were more interested in writing techniques than creating characters or stories that drew you in. This is unfortunate because there's not much room in a short story for development of plot or character depth. I was surprised I didn't care for some stories written by big names, while others I was relieved that they came through for me by writing something that drew me in. Willa Cather & Tennessee Williams were two that I enjoyed. I was thankfully rewarded with also liking an author I had not read before: Alice Adams. I liked her short story so much I'm going to look up her other works & read those. So, with that, there was some good that came out of reading this large collection.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    First you should know I've always loved short stories. The really great ones seem to have all the richness and plot and feeling of a novel, but wrapped up in a few short pages. So it's a challenging genre to do well, sort of like the famous apology from Blaise Pascal for writing a long letter because he "lacked the time to make it short." This book is specifically American stories published in the 20th century, and you can imagine the process they must have gone through to narrow down the list. First you should know I've always loved short stories. The really great ones seem to have all the richness and plot and feeling of a novel, but wrapped up in a few short pages. So it's a challenging genre to do well, sort of like the famous apology from Blaise Pascal for writing a long letter because he "lacked the time to make it short." This book is specifically American stories published in the 20th century, and you can imagine the process they must have gone through to narrow down the list. I can't resist listing a few that I enjoyed most: "Little Selves" by Mary Lerner "Wild Plums" by Grace Stone Coates "My Dead Brother Comes to America" by Alexander Godin "In the Gloaming" by Alice Elliott Dark They're not all happy stories, and some will rip your heart out. But they're all poignant and impactful and beautiful. Sort of like life I guess.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shan

    Short stories! What could be better reading material for someone with a head cold, mild general malaise, and the attention span of a five-year-old? There actually is an answer to this question, and it's "comic books." But I'm fresh out, so Updike's favorites will have to tide me over.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    Some of these stories were amazing, and others were amazingly depressing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vincent

    Yes, I finished the last four stories of this fifty-six story volume during the week that little Nico decided to arrive in this world. I found it useful to have this book at the hospital as I read outloud a few of the stories I most appreciated to Jessica and Nico during labor (yes, there are some calmer moments before the dilation and the "big push"). I noted about 20 stories for a re-read due to story construction, writing technique, or overall likability of the story, which of course, is trul Yes, I finished the last four stories of this fifty-six story volume during the week that little Nico decided to arrive in this world. I found it useful to have this book at the hospital as I read outloud a few of the stories I most appreciated to Jessica and Nico during labor (yes, there are some calmer moments before the dilation and the "big push"). I noted about 20 stories for a re-read due to story construction, writing technique, or overall likability of the story, which of course, is truly subjective. This is a definite read if you favor the short story in these ever time consuming days, or if you have a short attention span. Many notable authors are enshrined in this volume - Fitzgerald, Nabakov, Hemingway, Cather, Richard Wright, E. B. White, Sherwood Anderson, Tennessee Williams, Cheever, Flannery O'Connor, Phillip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Saul Bellow, John Updike (of course, he led the editing staff), Raymond Carver, Tim O'Brien, as well as many lesser knowns and unknowns, who you may never find if not for an edition like this. Hard to pinpoint my favorite story, but if I were forced for an answer I would recommend: "That in Aleppo Once . . ." by Vladimir Nabokov But this list of notable selections would also be in the running for my top story nominee: "Defender of the Failth" by Phillip Roth "Memeseteung" by Alice Munro "The Way We Live Now" by Susan Sontag "The Other Woman" by Sherwood Anderson "Roses, Rhododendron" by Alice Adams "The Ledge" by Lawrence Sargent Hall "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien "Crazy Sunday" by F. Scott Fitzgerald Enjoy!!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Realini

    The Best American Short Stories of The Century These wonderful short stories have helped me re-discover the magic of a fabulous if short story. After finishing them I have started reading short tales…again. They are different in subject and manner but they share something: Their outstanding value. From the very famous Scott F. Fitzgerald lo the lesser known (at least for this reviewer) Raymond Carver, the authors have made me a happier man, and, from what Aristotle says- tha The Best American Short Stories of The Century These wonderful short stories have helped me re-discover the magic of a fabulous if short story. After finishing them I have started reading short tales…again. They are different in subject and manner but they share something: Their outstanding value. From the very famous Scott F. Fitzgerald lo the lesser known (at least for this reviewer) Raymond Carver, the authors have made me a happier man, and, from what Aristotle says- that’s the whole point in life, the meaning of it all. Crazy Sunday was about Hollywood, a strange affair and alcoholism. Also about the effects of alcohol is Where I’m Calling From. The German Refugee has another subject, treated however with the same talent, delicacy and profound human knowledge. Those tales that impressed me most have been reviewed separately. Such is the case for a very short story called Wild Plums. Here We Are made me think of my own marriage and was a lot of fun, even when the lead roles quarreled. Both The Christmas Gift and The Second Tree From the Left are very touching, heart-felt stories, which cause some sadness and no lesser joy of reading marvelous writers. A City of Churches is about bigotry and is told with humor and a light pen. I empathized with the young woman and laughed at the zealot. The Things They Carry is about Vietnam and, surprisingly has a funny side to it, apart from the grave, tragic message that war is horrible. All together, this a great book and I wish you read it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ryan McShane

    Echoing other reviews - this collection of short stories is not even close to meeting its title's promise. But, there were some solid stories in here (as well as some very plain ones). My favorite kind of short story usually includes twists at the end (RE: Roald Dahl). However, what this collection lacked in excitement it made up for in its broad overview of humanity. It was rich in its viewpoints, and included a story about a janitor learning about people from their trash, a story ab Echoing other reviews - this collection of short stories is not even close to meeting its title's promise. But, there were some solid stories in here (as well as some very plain ones). My favorite kind of short story usually includes twists at the end (RE: Roald Dahl). However, what this collection lacked in excitement it made up for in its broad overview of humanity. It was rich in its viewpoints, and included a story about a janitor learning about people from their trash, a story about dying people, a story about a man confused about his love interests, a mother conflicted about her tyrant of a boy, a story about a co-philandering married couple, a story about a homeless murderer, a story about a just-married couple wracked by jealousy and distrust, a story about a white girl unlearning her father's racism, a story about a deathly poor mother of an infant, a brain surgery patient recalling her life during the surgery, a story about an intelligent but underachieving gay black boy living in a poor neighborhood, and so on.  My favorite short stories from this collection were (in no particular order): • How to Win (Rosellen Brown), • The Other Woman (Sherwood Anderson), • The German Refugee (Bernard Malamud), and • The Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien).  I would have given four or five stars to these four stories, but there were some real two-star stinkers and a lot of three-star blah fests. 

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ginny Thurston

    My husband loves John Updike, so it is interesting to see what he chose as the best short stories. They were fairly evenly spread through the decades and included all the greats like Faulkner, Hemingway, Nabokov, Cather,Saroyan, E.B. White, Tennessee Williams,Flannery O'Connor, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, and, of course, Updike himself. I had taught several of these in AP English...my favorite being "The Things They Carried " by Tim O'Brien. There are plenty of obscure writers, as well.I rem My husband loves John Updike, so it is interesting to see what he chose as the best short stories. They were fairly evenly spread through the decades and included all the greats like Faulkner, Hemingway, Nabokov, Cather,Saroyan, E.B. White, Tennessee Williams,Flannery O'Connor, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, and, of course, Updike himself. I had taught several of these in AP English...my favorite being "The Things They Carried " by Tim O'Brien. There are plenty of obscure writers, as well.I remember my AP students asking me why all of the literature was so tragic and full of angst...and I must admit I empathized with them while reading this marathon of stories. I really appreciated the few light stories that really made me laugh...especially "The Golden Honeymoon" by Ring Lardner and "Here We Are" by Dorothy Parker. The story that resonated with me and left me crying was "In the Gloaming" by Alice Elliott Dark. I did miss Jhumpa Lahiri, but I am not sure if she qualifies as American, or maybe she is more 21st Century. Regardless, she is my favorite short story writer...she never leaves me depressed and hating life...which I felt too often in this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Murphy

    Not sure about the best, but most of them are pretty bloody good, though there is a bit too strong a focus, for my taste, on the grim: indeed, upon the Grim Reaper. One thing I did not expect was to enjoy "big names", especially the earlier ones, so much. I also noticed that few of the later stories are at all experimental in style or language. A fine addition to anyone's bookshelf.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bet

    A wonderful collection. We really lost a jewel when Updike died.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lori Walsh

    So many good stories in here!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Linda Canup

    If you only read one of these stories, read "I Want to Live!" By Thom Jones.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Just not a fan of short stories, but I did catch an interesting one or two.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Billie Pritchett

    Here's why you should read The Best American Short Stories of the Century: it's a good-faith attempt to offer up the best American stories of the twentieth century. All fifty-five (55?! what a number) of these stories were curated from the previous volumes of The Best American Short Stories series. Glass half empty, of course some stories were missed. Glass half full, imagine what it took for just one of these stories to make it into this set of fifty-five. As John Updike explains in his introduction, to arriv Here's why you should read The Best American Short Stories of the Century: it's a good-faith attempt to offer up the best American stories of the twentieth century. All fifty-five (55?! what a number) of these stories were curated from the previous volumes of The Best American Short Stories series. Glass half empty, of course some stories were missed. Glass half full, imagine what it took for just one of these stories to make it into this set of fifty-five. As John Updike explains in his introduction, to arrive in this book, a story first had to make it into a major magazine or journal among the hundreds of thousands of stories that are submitted every year. Then the year after it was published, the story had to be selected as one of twenty best to make it into The Best American Short Stories series. There are two-thousand stories total published in the series, and so the story, in moving down through all the filters, was further narrowed down to one in about two hundred. And then after that it had to be selected as one of fifty-five. How can the stories that are selected not be good? If you don't think the stories are good, you at least have to reckon with the selection. You'll find some usual suspects in this book: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner. Then there are the classic figures we ought to know beyond basic high-school literacy. Knowing these folks would be like knowing a little about fine wine: Katherine Anne Porter, Richard Wright, E.B. White. And we have some of the contemporary or semi-contemporary heavy-hitters like Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Cynthia Ozick, Raymond Carver, Tim O'Brien, Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore. You may find yourself questioning some of the stories that made it in here. I did, and I'm someone who reads more short stories than your average person, and I'd call myself semi-literate among people who read short stories quote-unquote seriously. Some of this of course amount to taste. I, for instance, have never been moved by Donald Barthelme, and yet his "A City of Churches" makes it in here. Some stories, I downright didn't like at all, like Thom Jones' "I Want to Live!" Yet I'm glad I read some other stories, because they surprised me. I would have figured that Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" were in here, and yet the editors choose O'Connor's "Greenleaf," which I don't know that I'd read before and which I think is fantastic. Plus I discovered a lot of writers I wasn't familiar with but who I think are great. I absolutely loved Martha Gellhorn's "Miami-New York" (it's got a slow start but really takes off). I was moved by Bernard Malamud's "The German Refugee," probably the best story in the collection. I felt great empathy for the old woman in Isaac Bashevis Singer's "The Key." Gellhorn, Malamud, and Singer were all new to me, as was Dorothy Parker, but after all this, at some point I plan to read more of their work. Anyway, this is all just to say I really liked this collection's selections, and even when I didn't, it was fun to form my own opinions.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anup Sinha

    If you are into short stories, this is a Godsend. Simple as that, just read the title. I have purchased and read the annual Best American Short Stories anthologies for most of the last 20 years and have only been disappointed with a few of them, when they just did a poor job picking their guest editor. This, of course, covers from 1915-1999 and it was really neat to read such legendary writers from way before my time. I didn’t love all 56 stories, but I’d say I got somethin If you are into short stories, this is a Godsend. Simple as that, just read the title. I have purchased and read the annual Best American Short Stories anthologies for most of the last 20 years and have only been disappointed with a few of them, when they just did a poor job picking their guest editor. This, of course, covers from 1915-1999 and it was really neat to read such legendary writers from way before my time. I didn’t love all 56 stories, but I’d say I got something out of all of them and I liked the vast majority.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    A good anthology but where was O. Henry, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, and Max Steele?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Strong Extraordinary Dreams

    One word: twee. A collection of white people (mostly) pottering about (mostly) and then, to REALLY mix things up a bit, a couple of stories about (horror of horrors) social an economic stress. Phew, that was intense. A complete lack of imagination by the editor: these are no one's best short stories.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I can't believe I read the whole thing, basically. What a journey. I highly recommend doing what I did, and just kind of leaving this book lying around for a month or two but actually reading *every* story, in order, to experience the Progress of the American Century. (Ahem.) Highlights include: *Famous authors! Wheee!! All the cool kids are here, from Hemingway & Faulkner to Cather & Fitzgerald. You got your Welty, your Porter, your Roth, plus your Houston/Proulx/McPherson/Carver/Beatti I can't believe I read the whole thing, basically. What a journey. I highly recommend doing what I did, and just kind of leaving this book lying around for a month or two but actually reading *every* story, in order, to experience the Progress of the American Century. (Ahem.) Highlights include: *Famous authors! Wheee!! All the cool kids are here, from Hemingway & Faulkner to Cather & Fitzgerald. You got your Welty, your Porter, your Roth, plus your Houston/Proulx/McPherson/Carver/Beattie...you name it. *Tracing the arc of the U.S. century's history: immigrants, war, wives, war again, Jews, husbands, a little more war, experimenting, psychodrama. *Asking yourself: When will the use of the n-word stop? I recommend placing a bet before you commence reading as to which year's story will be the last to include this deplorable term (admittedly, usually in Southern-set dialogue, often spoken by black characters and written by black authors)? You might be surprised by the answers. *The age-old loose definition of "short" when it comes to short stories, although I don't think 32 pages can be considered a short story by anyone's definition... I know some people hate reading short stories. But it is really interesting to go read a bunch of them, particularly gathered like this as they are, after maybe not having read this many short stories since high school, or ever. p.s. I just realized I should tell you my favorites! Hands down, my #1 is Susan Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers." Wow. Also enjoyed immensely: "Theft" by Katharine Anne Porter "The Golden Honeymoon" by Ring Lardner "The Key" by Isaac Bashevis Singer "The Farmer's Children" by Elizabeth Bishop And there were other good ones by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eudora Welty, Mary Lerner, etc. If you just want the weird ones, go for Donald Barthelme, Lorrie Moore, E.B. White, and Mary Ladd Gavell.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kerri

    So hard to review a collection as a whole when it's made up entirely of conspicuously individual parts and third party opinion...some stories get 5 stars easily, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, is one such example...also possibly, Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver. Others sit comfortably in the 3 star range, like The German Refugee by Bernard Malamud, The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick, I Want to Live by Thom Jones, Birthmates by Gish Jen, Here We Are by Dorothy Parker, and Wild So hard to review a collection as a whole when it's made up entirely of conspicuously individual parts and third party opinion...some stories get 5 stars easily, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, is one such example...also possibly, Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver. Others sit comfortably in the 3 star range, like The German Refugee by Bernard Malamud, The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick, I Want to Live by Thom Jones, Birthmates by Gish Jen, Here We Are by Dorothy Parker, and Wild Plums by Grace Stone Coates. Then there are the selections that inspire much head scratching and possibly so few stars as to pull the whole rating system off kilter. The Best Girlfriend You Never Had by Pam Houston, You're Ugly Too by Lorrie Moore, The Other Woman by Sherwood Anderson (which kills me because in general I like his writing, Winesburg, Ohio and Dark Laughter, are both on my shelf), Theft by Catherine Ann Porter, The Interior Castle by Jean Stafford, and How to Win by Rosellen Brown. It's not that they're bad stories, clearly (hmmn...erm...the use of "clearly" may be argued here), but not BEST OF THE CENTURY good. I've had a love hate relationship with literary fiction and while some manage to move you with story even as nothing happens plotwise, like Tim O'Brien and Raymond Carver...Others are vacuous in their sense of nothing happening, like most of the stories in the head scratching category. I don't need something to happen, but I think as fair trade for a reader's investment of time, that we deserve to feel a story has purpose, has intent... the possibility of revelation should be within the lines you give to us, otherwise if your story lacks purpose, why should we bother to read it? If it means nothing, then reading it is an exercise in futility and we may as well watch some reality tv.

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