If you can,as I must, set aside the meaningless superlative ‘best, then you will welcome this season of anthologies that affix “BEST” to their annual offerings.Houghton Mifflin (now additionally Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) has been in the best annual anthology game for almost 100 years, first publishing a story annual in 1915. It was the solitary title under that rubric until the 1980’s when an annual essay collection was added, under the guidance of Robert Atwan. I can’t remember when they went crazy but as you can see below they have certainly expanded the product line (at one time there was also a recipe annual as well as one for religious writing Personally, I still wonder why there is no novella anthology).
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, known as HMH, since there is a contemporary mandate (or inclination?) to abbreviate everything (and then some)in recent years has added a guest editor in addition to a series editor (Heidi Pitlor)who reads approximately 400-500 entries to its annuals. Despite the seemingly fragile status of short fiction (in the eyes of publishers) HMH’s American Short Story Annual still reigns supreme. For the 2013 annual the inimitable Elizabeth Strout oversees the final 20 odd selections that make the cut from series editor Heidi Pitlor’s incredibly long list. You will find stories by a stellar cast of literary masters such as
As well as some up and comers
The B–t American Essays 2013 by Robert Atwan and Cheryl Strayed
The B–t American Science and Nature Writing 2013 by Siddhartha Mukherjee and Tim Folger
The B–t American Nonrequired Reading 2013 Paperback by Dave Eggers
The B–t American Comics 2013 by Jeff Smith, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden
The B–t American Mystery Stories 2013 by Lisa Scottoline and Otto Penzler
The B–t American Sports Writing 2013 by Glenn Stout and J. R. Moehringer
The B–t American Infographics 2013 by Gareth Cook and David Byrne (Introduction)
The B–t American Travel Writing 2013 by Jason Wilson and Elizabeth Gilbert
Apparently one publishing house has not cornered the market on superlatively entitled anthologies. There is B–t American Magazine Writing 2013 Edited by Sid Holt for The American Society of Magazine Editors (Columbia University Press)which is a useful and hefty (500 plusd pages)collection of reportage and essay that includes Pamela Colloff, Dexter Filkins, Chris Jones, Charles C. Mann and Roger Angell and much more.
A few years ago (2010?) Dalkey Archive had the brilliant idea to spotlight European short fiction collected under the direction of the well-regarded Alexandr Hemon. For some reason that escapes me B–t European Fiction 2014 Preface by Drago Jancar (DAlkey Archive) is already available. With a plethora of mostly (of course) unfamiliar names (which is the point. You can find the line up here
I leave it to you to figure out why the early champion of literary annuals disregarded poetry but thankfully one did thus we have The B–t American Poetry 2013by David Lehman (Scribner). This year’s lineup features John Ashbery, Louise Gluck, James Tate, and Richard Wilbur, Sherman Alexie, Nin Andrews, Anna Maria Hong, Timothy Donnelly, Mary Ruefle, and Major Jackson.
Being a once and eternal Chicagoan and a sports zombie (how else to explain my hatred for football though I still watch the games?), I naturally gravitated to this special compendium,From Black Sox to Three-Peats: A Century of Chicago’s B–t Sportswriting from the “Tribune,” “Sun-Times,” and Other Newspapers edited by Ron Rapoport(University of Chicago Press). I especially liked the section entitled “Any Team Can have a Bad Century.” You can find the rest of the contents here.
No respectable assemblage of annuals can be, well uh, respectable with out noting two more yearly anthologies.The O Henry Prize which originated in 1919 included a publication which exists to this day The O. Henry Prize Stories 2013: edited by Laura Furman (Anchor) and juried by Lauren Groff Edith Pearlman, Jim Shepard includes short fiction by Donald Antrim, Andrea Barrett, Ann Beattie, Deborah Eisenberg, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Kelly Link, Alice Munro, and Lily Tuck and a dozen other pieces.
The Pushcart Prize was initiated in 1976 to recognize poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot published the wonderful small journals that populate the literary landscape The Pushcart Prize XXXVII: B–t of the Small Presses (2013 Edition)edited Bill Henderson (Pushcart) .
Currently reading The Orenda by Joseph Boyden (Knopf)