When ‘Best’ was Best

16 Sep
Fifty Best American Short Stories edited by Martha Foley

Fifty Best American Short Stories edited by Martha Foley

Back in 1915 when publisher Houghton Mifflin issued the first Best American Short Stories,the superlative ‘best’ was not yet a shopworn descriptor. HoughtonMifflin Harcourt has continued publishing that yearly anthology for the past hundred years. Along the way Best Essays and a number of other rubrics have come*(and some gone).

Three years ago The Best American Infographics was introduced by series editor Pulitzer Prize Awardee Gareth Cook. For this year’s edition Cook teams with “Brain Pickings” creator Maria Popova to produce The Best American Infographics 2015

The Best American Infographics 2015 by Maria Popova, Gareth Cook

The Best American Infographics 2015 by Maria Popova, Gareth Cook

As information architecture has become a vital element of new technologies annual does fulfill a real need. And doubly interesting is including Ms Popova whose web site Brain Pickings is one of the freshest and original resources in all of webworld.

Here’s a quick take on Maria Popova

And here’s a recent article

So what exactly is it that she does? Ms. Popova says she views her job as “helping people become interested in things they didn’t know they were interested in, until they are.” One entry might discuss how to find your true passion, with links to a talk by Alain de Botton, a book by the cartoonist Hugh MacLeod and a commencement address by Steve Jobs; another, how she asked an artist friend to illustrate thoughts on love from Susan Sontag’s diaries. Recently she recounted an aging Helen Keller’s visit to Martha Graham’s studio.

Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at the Museum of Modern Art and a friend of Ms. Popova’s, said a good curator was someone whose own taste had somehow become the taste of millions. “What Maria has is the DNA of millions of people,” Ms. Antonelli said. “She somehow tunes in to what would make other people dream, or inspire them in a way that is quite unique.”

And if you haven’t had enough Popova here’s a conversation with Rachel Sussman at the school of Visual Arts

*The Best American Comics 2015
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015
The Best American Short Stories 2015
The Best American Travel Writing 2015
The Best American Mystery Stories 2015
The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015
The Best American Essays 2015
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015
The Best American Mystery Stories 2015
The Best American Sports Writing 2015

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One Response to “When ‘Best’ was Best”

  1. hdinin September 16, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

    The guest editors for the first two volumes in the Best American Infographics series were, for me, far more interesting than the choice of Ms. Popova, whose selection suggests that in three short years this particular line in the HMHCo brand, already shows signs of insularity, incest, solipsism, and possibly ingrown toenail. The first two were, in 2013, very creatively indeed, David Byrne, and in 2014, an obvious choice, Nate Silver.

    I would have picked Sam Wang (you can look him up, cf: Princeton roots), Silver’s only serious rival, and, in fact, a far more accurate prognosticator of where things would end up in the 2012 national elections, over Silver. But that’s just me.

    A far better, and more accomplished, informed, and more tasteful choice than Ms. Popova would have been the residing genius at a website called “Information is Beautiful,” which has an eponymous URL: http://informationisbeautiful.net. Unlike Ms. Popova, Mr. David McCandless, based in London, is not desperate to grind it out, which is the curse of far too many blog authors…

    But, as usual, what the fuck do I know? Right Iz?

    smooches and hugs…

    From: ourmaninboston
    Reply-To: ourmaninboston
    Date: Wednesday 2015 September 16 at 1:15 PM
    To: Howard Dinin
    Subject: [New post] When ‘Best’ was Best

    robertbirnbaum posted: ” Back in 1915 when publisher Houghton Mifflin issued the first Best American Short Stories,the superlative ‘best’ was not yet a shopworn descriptor. HoughtonMifflin Harcourt has continued publishing that yearly anthology for the past hundred years”

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