Friday, November 28, 2014

The Best American (and Non-American) Anthology Case is Packed Full of New Editions.

Over the years, the folks at Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) have provided us with some nice displays for Best American Short Stories. But we always wanted to sneak in books from other publishers in the assortment, so we got to the point where it made sense to create our own.

I may have already mentioned here that we had re-purposed a display to this effect, but that last year, when we had a big author event, it broke in the moving. I bought a replacement from Clear Solutions, customized it by only having plastic racks on one side, and it seems to be just right. I do wish each shelf was a little bigger, such that it could hold three copies of a book instead of two, but I guess that's what overstock is for.

The new edition of Best American Short Stories 2014 is edited by Jennifer Egan, but folks who know how this works understand that she does the final pick, but the stories are first culled by series editor Heidi Pitlor. This still gives the guest editor a lot of leeway, so for example, the Stephen King volume definitely played more with genre mash-up. This edition includes selections from some usual suspects (Ann Beattie, T.C. Boyle), a few personal heroes (Peter Cameron, Charles Baxter) and many folks you probably haven't heard of before (Nicole Mackin, Molly McNett).  Here's a thumbs-up review from Arielle Landau in the New York Daily News.

The HMH lineup covers Essays, Mystery, Sports, Comics, Science and Nature, the Dave-Eggers-driven Nonrequired Reading (which this year is guest-edited by Lemony Snicket), and the relatively recent Infographics. Best American Travel Writing 2014 this year is guest-edited by Paul Theroux and features work from Sean Wilsey, Michael Paterniti, and Gary Shteyngart.

Among the titles published by other sources are Food Writing (not American), Magazine Writing, Business Writing, Poetry, European Fiction, Mathematics (really?) and Short Plays, though this one is usually several years behind. I really don't quite understand the magazine writing one, since isn't all of the nonfiction collections predominantly from either print or online magazines or journals? But this display sure does the job--our location went from consistently selling 2 copies of Magazine Writing (looking at years 2006, 2007, 2008) to 8-10 copies (looking at 2011 to 2013). The European Fiction from Dalkey Archive for some reason dates the volume as 2015. While we're well aware that most of this writing is actually from 2013, 2014 seems appropriate while 2015 seems to be pushing it.

The O. Henry Prize collection, as well as the Pushcart Prize anthology (also labeled 2015), imply the "best" from their prize status. We put them on the display as well. And then there are several science fiction, fantasy, and horror collections battling it out for supremacy. I will list Gardner Dozois's Years Best Science Fiction just to have something in the genre. May I note to both Dozois and Pushcart that more is not always better. I think 650-700 page collections are intimidating and might dilute the idea of "best." I'm thinking something in the range of 300-400 pages might not just be cheaper and easier to produce, but might sell better as well.

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