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: 2/26/08

...a transcribed discussion of "Pearls for Breakfast," by Gene Weingarten from washingtonpost.com...

Eli: It's kinda cool and interesting. Famous violinist plays in a subway and nobody stops to listen.

Terence: If I were walking in a subway, I wouldn't have stopped. My mind would have been elsewhere.

Nina: Nobody's chillin' in the subway.

Josh: Yeah, nobody goes to the subway to listen to music.

Terence [sarcastically]: "Let's go see who's playing!"

Sophia: I like reading studies like this. What I thought was interesting was the violinist's perspective. He was probably hurt that nobody was paying a lot of money to see him.

Sayra: I felt sorry for the musician.

Katie: The subway is just not a good place to [be a famous violinist].

{Here Dave explains all the reasons he loves this article. Many students agree. Then we hit a tangent.}

Josh: My friend and I play ukulele together, and we play downtown [in San Francisco]. There is a career to be had in professional ukulele-ing. If you time it right and pick the right place to play...we did it during peak holiday shopping down by the trolley cars...we got the tourists. No tie-dye was necessary.

Arianna: When we were [touring] in Japan, our musical group [Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble] made, like, thirty or forty bucks in front of our hotel, just playing music.

Josh: I made, like, forty dollars sitting in front of Virgin Megastore, on the corner.

Sophia: That's like how much the guy [in the article] made. I don't know why people give pennies.

Josh: People just have pennies in their pockets, and they want to feel like they're giving something rather than nothing.

Tanea: I felt like the author was voicing this silent love of this person [Joshua Bell].

Sophia: He compares him to Donny Osmond.

Katie: Isn't he dead?

[Group]: No!!!

Katie: Oh, I'm thinking of the wrong person.

...a transcribed discussion of "Diary of the Living Dead or: Are You There God? It's Me. Also, a Bunch of Zombies," by Jake Swearingen, from Pindeldyboz...

Terence: I just thought this was awesome.

Sayra: The way he takes his anger out on everything is funny.

Josh: This piece reminded me of this commercial where they fight office supplies.

Terence: I was able to see the whole thing...I was able to play [the scene] in my head.

Sophia: It's like Shaun of the Dead meets The Office.

{So, Josh, list off some zombie movies.}

Josh: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, and Diary of the Dead just came out in theaters.

Carmen: Fast zombies are not as scary as the slow ones.

{Spoiler alert below.}

Katie: Here's the twist in the story...[the narrator] wants to be a zombie. He's the real jerk.

Nina: Why do narrators always have to be nice? I wrote a short story for my English class, and the narrator wasn't likable, and my teacher made me change it. It's like when you go to a party, and you think you're going to be bored, and then you are.

Josh: You expect [the protagonist's] actions to reflect your actions and your attitudes, and when they don't, it creates tension for the readers.

Nina: You know what I would do if I was an author? For every book review, I'd write letters to the reviewers who are wrong.

Arianna: There was this really good interview that The New Yorker did with the guy who wrote The Homecoming [a two-act play written by 2005 Nobel Laureate in Literature Harold Pinter]; [Pinter] said we expect art to confirm what we already believe, and we walk out the same as when we came in.

{Doesn't anyone want to be surprised anymore?}

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