About The Best American Nonrequired Reading Committee

Our selection committee consists of a handful of high school students. One
contingent is in the Bay Area and a second is in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
These students help Dave Eggers edit The Best American Nonrequired Reading.
Daniel Gumbiner is the book's managing editor; Henry W. Leung and Jia Tolentino
are the assistant managing editors facilitating the committee in Michigan.

This collection, published by Houghton-Mifflin, compiles the country's best
fiction, journalism, essays, comics, and humor every year, and introduces
a large readership to dozens of new writers and publications.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading committee comprising
students from dozens of different high schools meets nearly every week of the
year to read, debate, and compile this offbeat but vital anthology.

Want to say something to us? Contact the BANR committee at
nonrequired@gmail.com. We'll read everything you send us.

Meeting 11/3/09 (San Francisco)

[Transcribed discussion of “Held by the Taliban,” by David Rohde, published in the New York Times.

David Rohde is a New York Times journalist. He, his driver, and his interpreter were captured by the Taliban in late 2008 while Rohde was working on a story about Afghanistan. He was held for seven months and ten days before escaping one night by tossing a rope over a wall. This story is his account of what happened, from capture to escape. It was published in five installments in the New York Times.]

Joseph: I loved it. It flows so well. I’ve read similar pieces before, but nothing quite matched this. It gave you such a three-dimensional perspective. You felt for him, but it wasn’t just good guys versus bad guys. He actually ended up having a good relationship with his captors. And the story was so suspenseful!

Gina: The details were amazing. Like the way the Taliban guards gave him a Hannah Montana blanket… that’s such a great detail. It shows the paradox here. They hate America but they have all these American goods.

Dee: I liked the suspensefulness, too. The writing is simple, and then every so often, a detail jumps out. It’s a really good balance. This line was my favorite, from right after he’s captured: “I glanced at the bleak landscape outside — reddish soil and black boulders as far as the eye could see — and feared we would be dead within minutes.”

Joseph: Yeah, it’s suspenseful, but the writer’s not trying to sell you anything. He’s not trying to make you feel one way or another. He’s just telling the story. It’s not flowery.

Anita: I think he did that intentionally. The less flowery a nonfiction piece is, the more you’ll trust the writer. If it were flowery you would start doubting he was telling the truth. This way it’s just the story, with no embellishment.

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