Any short-story aficionado would be instantly drawn to a collection featuring writers of the caliber of Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor as editors, and 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30), a hefty centennial celebration of the longtime Best American Short Stories series, presents an unparalleled cross-section of work written over the past century and gathered from throughout the country—and there’s a gorgeous cover, to boot. You’ll get a kick out of Moore’s characteristic wry humor and acerbic wisdom in her introduction. And for those of you who loved The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike, fear not: Moore and Pitlor have not repeated earlier selections. These stories are arranged chronologically, and every decade comes with a brief introduction that reacquaints readers with the stories’ wider socio-cultural significance and grounds them firmly in their historical moment. The commentary draws our attention, too, to the rise and fall of the literary journals that fostered many of the writers represented here and provided first homes for the works we reprint, reread, and revere today. This collection is a must-have for short story lovers and aspiring writers. Here, you’ll find the masters.
Humorist Andy Borowitz has compiled a raucous array of writing in The 50 Funniest American Writers: An Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to the Onion (Library of America, $27.95). An asterisk in the title reminds readers that this selection is “according to Andy Borowitz.” In any case, he has assembled work by some unquestionably funny folks. Pieces by contemporary wits such as George Saunders, Wanda Sykes, and David Sedaris are present, but the editor has also picked samples from writers who aren’t read much anymore, people like Peter DeVries, George Ade, and Anita Loos. Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman, S.J. Perelman, H.L. Mencken, and James Thurber are here (this is the Library of America, after all), making it a literary anthology that will be cherished by everyone in the household.
I FOUND THIS FUNNY (McSweeney’s, $25) is an anthology of stories, skits, essays, poetry, and cartoons that manages to be laugh-out-loud hilarious, depressing, and enlightening all at the same time. Writer/director Judd Apatow, of Freaks and Geeks and Knocked Up fame, does a fantastic job as the editor of a collection that includes Raymond Carver, Conan O’Brien, David Sedaris, Flannery O’Connor, Adam Sandler, Jon Stewart, and many more. Apatow doesn’t feel the need to stick to stories that are obviously funny. He also chooses writing that is strange or heartbreaking, non-fiction and fiction. The variety of this collection makes it a constantly surprising reading experience. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Apatow’s work, but also to anyone who likes well-told strories, sharp insight, and a good laugh.