The Best American Nonrequired Reading of 2014

Sara Pisak, Opinion Editor

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As the world has recently celebrated the close of another year, The Best American Nonrequired Reading of 2014 is the perfect way for a book-worm to commemorate the transition into a new year of literature. The unique aspect, which The Best American Nonrequired Reading of 2014 offers, is all the works included have been hand-selected by several high school students residing in San Francisco, California. The students worked under the careful eye of the project editor, famed author Daniel Handler. Handler is more recognizable by this pseudonym, children’s author’s Lemony Snicket.

These students spent their academic year scouring the ends of prominent literary sources to find the best creative works that may have gone unnoticed by the American public. The result of their hard work is the recently published dense compilation, The Best American Nonrequired Reading of 2014. The text includes every genre of creative work a reader could image. Poetry, Essays, Short Stories and even Graphic Novels grace the pages of the 2014 anthology. The varying genres mean this text has something for every reader.

The students who diligently worked to select these works should be proud of the creative works they selected. These students did not shy away from opting for more controversial subject matter. A reader may expect the works included to reflect teenage angst but instead a reader will discover themes ripped from today’s headlines. Some of the compositions include a protest novel, an essay from a conflict ravaged area and a satirical view of educational shortcomings. These students did not balk; choosing works that spoke to them individually, while employing a high use of literary devices.

Another positive attribute of this anthology is that a portion of the proceeds are donated to the organization, “ScholarMatch.” An excerpt in the concluding pages of the compilation informs the reader that ScholarMatch “is a nonprofit organization that aims to make college possible by connecting under-resourced students with donors.” By purchasing this book, a reader is able to provide funds and resources to students in financial need, most of whom are first generation college students.

A personal wish for this text, is an organizational structure. Whether the book’s organizational structure, is by subject matter, genre or author, I believe this structure would make the anthology easier to read. At times transitioning from one work to another can be slightly confusing, as the works follow no natural pattern. Without structure it seems that the poetry can be viewed as a place holder. Although I enjoyed most of the works included, as is common with an anthology, not every work included will be viewed as a favorite. A structure to the text might help to create an easier flow from one work to another as well as make some of the more outstanding works a fixture within the book itself.

In the end, this anthology was not what I expected, which is an amazing attribute. The students should be proud of the quality product they produced. They definitely are straying from the norm in their selections. Their atypical selections will either lead to praise from the literary community or turn off some readers entirely. I look forward to perusing some of the series’ additional publications such as “The Best American Nonrequired Comics” or “The Best American Nonrequired Travel Writing.”

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