Ten years ago, Dave Eggers published the inaugural volume of his Best American Nonrequired Reading series, which has since attracted a devoted following of outside-the-box readers of all ages. It’s hard to believe the series that anthologized so many of our favorite pieces is already celebrating its tenth anniversary this month, but hey, time flies when you’re reading. Once again, Eggers and his team of student volunteers have outdone themselves, bringing together a compilation of irreverent lists, timely journalism, top short fiction, and graphic pieces representing the best of the year, kicking off with a love letter to the art of reading by Ray Bradbury, completed just weeks before his passing.
To celebrate ten years of the beloved anthology, we picked ten additional “nonrequired” reading selections that stood out to us in 2011 and beyond, all available for you to read online. While we didn’t envy Eggers and his team the task of choosing their twenty best, we embraced their idiosyncratic spirit by choosing the pieces that excited us most. This is in no way a comprehensive list, so be sure to share your favorite pieces that didn’t appear on any college syllabi or required reading lists in our comments section, and then check out The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012 when it hits bookstores this Tuesday.
“The Sound of All Girls Screaming” by Shani Boianjiu (Vice)
Shani Boianjiu’s novel The People of Forever Are Not Afraid has been one of the most explosive debuts in recent memory, but we first fell in love with the young Israeli talent after her first short story ran in Vice (now included as a chapter in the novel). “The army wanted our blood,” Boianjiu writes. “Two liters, but you got strawberry Kool-Aid and white bread while the needle was inside you.” An unforgettable story set in an IDF boot camp, “The Sound of All Girls Screaming” introduced us to a new and distinctive literary voice.