Gift Guide

The Best American Short Stories 2010

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Edited by the award-winning, best-selling author Richard Russo, this year’s collection boasts a satisfying “chorus of twenty stories that are by turns playful, ironic, somber, and meditative” (Wall Street Journal). With the masterful Russo picking the best of the best, America’s oldest and best-selling story anthology is sure to be of “enduring quality” (Chicago Tribune) this year.

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Edited by the award-winning, best-selling author Richard Russo, this year’s collection boasts a satisfying “chorus of twenty stories that are by turns playful, ironic, somber, and meditative” (Wall Street Journal). With the masterful Russo picking the best of the best, America’s oldest and best-selling story anthology is sure to be of “enduring quality” (Chicago Tribune) this year.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Russo (Empire Falls) and Pitlor (The Birthdays) deliver an exceptional group of carefully crafted stories focusing on family, loss, self-discovery, aging, love, and friendship. Danielle Evans's "Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go," covers the war-torn life of Georgie, an army vet struggling to maintain his sanity after witnessing brutality and devastation in Iraq, while Wells Tower's "Raw Water," showcases this young writer's remarkable gift for description: "She was sixteen or so, with a face like a left-handed sketch." Some welcome usual suspects appear (Jennifer Egan, Charles Baxter, Jim Shepard) alongside notable newcomers Téa Obreht and Karen Russell, leaving ample room for lesser knowns like Maggie Shipstead ("The Cowboy Tango") to show what makes their writing unique: "Where's your dad?" "Wyoming." "What's he do?" "Chickens." Russo likens selecting 20 from the roughly 250 submitted stories to "literary waterboarding" and evokes a metaphor from one of his favorite picks of the collection: stories are like jars of bees, and "we choose the tales that sting us good, leaving us surprised and sore... wide awake and alive."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews

Even by the consistently high standards of the venerable annual, this one's a treat.

Since the year's guest editor has the final selection, this volume reflects the penchant of novelist Russo for storytelling rather than postmodern experimentation or self-conscious wordplay. Offering a dictum from Isaac Bashevis Singer in the introduction that the purpose of literature is "to entertain and to instruct"—in that order—Russo has compiled a collection of consistently entertaining fiction that engages itself with this world (rather than conjuring its own world or reducing the world of fiction to words). "There are no triumphs of style over substance, and the language, while often beautiful and sometimes absolutely electric, is always in the service of narrative," he writes. Yet the 20 stories are a varied lot, from lesser-knowns such as Maggie Shipstead (whose "The Cowboy Tango" suggests a narrative kinship with Annie Proulx) and Wayne Harrison (whose "Least Resistance" finds a young man caught in a romantic triangle with the wife of his mechanic boss and mentor) to mainstays including Charles Baxter and Jill McCorkle. It's hard to resist a story that begins, "He wasn't even a good lion tamer, not before you showed up" ("My Last Attempt To Explain to You What Happened with the Lion Tamer," Brendan Mathews) or, "The day after Arty Groys and his wife retired to Florida, she was killed in a head-on collision with a man fleeing the state..." ("The Valetudinarian," Joshua Ferris). Though the foreword by series editor Pitlor admits, "It is indisputable that American literary journals are in danger," with even the few of the newsstand magazines that publish fiction publishing less of it, the stories themselves seem as vital as ever.

Any reader will likely discover a new favorite writer here, or more.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547055329
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/5/2010
  • Series: Best American Short Stories Series
  • Pages: 421
  • Sales rank: 305,107
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

RICHARD RUSSO is the author of seven novels, a collection of short stories, and numerous screenplays. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls in 2002.

HEIDI PITLOR is a former senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and has been the series editor for The Best American Short Stories since 2007. She is the author of The Birthdays and a forthcoming novel titled The Daylight Marriage.


Prizewinning author Richard Russo is regarded by many critics as the best writer about small-town America since Sherwood Anderson and Sinclair Lewis. "He doesn't over-sentimentalize [small towns]," said Maureen Corrigan, the book critic for NPR's "Fresh Air." Nor does he belittle the dreams and hardships of his working-class characters. "I come from a blue-collar family myself and I think he gets the class interactions; he just really nails class in his novels," said Corrigan.

When Russo left his own native small town in upstate New York, it was with hopes of becoming a college professor. But during his graduate studies, he began to have second thoughts about the academic life. While finishing up his doctorate, he took a creative writing class; and a new career path opened in front of him.

Russo's first novel set the tone for much of his later work. The story of an ailing industrial town and the interwoven lives of its inhabitants, Mohawk won critical praise for its witty, engaging style. In subsequent books, he has brought us a dazzling cast of characters, mostly working-class men and women who are struggling with the problems of everyday life (poor health, unemployment, mounting bills, failed marriages) in dilapidated, claustrophobic burghs that have -- like their denizens -- seen better days. In 2001, Russo received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, a brilliant, tragicomic set-piece that explores past and present relationships in a once-thriving Maine town whose textile mill and shirt factory have gone bust.

Russo's vision of America would be bleak, except for the wit and optimism he infuses into his stories. Even when his characters are less than lovable, they are funny, rueful, and unfailingly human. "There's a version of myself that I still see in a kind of alternative universe and it's some small town in upstate New York or someplace like that," Russo said in an interview. That ability to envision himself in the bars and diners of small-town America has served him well. "After the last sentence is read, the reader continues to see Russo's tender, messed-up people coming out of doorways, lurching through life," said the fiction writer Annie Proulx. "And keeps on seeing them because they are as real as we are."

Good To Know

In 1994, Russo's book Nobody's Fool was made into a movie starring Paul Newman and Bruce Willis. Newman also starred in the 1998 movie Twilight, for which Russo wrote the screenplay. Russo now divides his time between writing fiction and writing for the movies.

When he wrote his first books, Russo was employed full-time as a college teacher, and would stop at the local diner between classes to work on his novels. After the success of Nobody's Fool (the book and the movie), he was able to quit teaching -- but he still likes to write in spots such as the Camden Deli. It's "a less lonely way to write," he told USA Today. "I'm less self-conscious when it's not so quiet."

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    1. Hometown:
      Gloversville, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 15, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Johnstown, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Arizona, 1967; Ph.D., University of Arizona, 1979; M.F.A., University of Arizona, 1980

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2013


    I purchased this book for a short stories class that I am taking. I have read only two selections from the book and have enjoyed them. There seems to be a nice variety of stories in this book. If you like short stories, I would recommend this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    Great stories

    These are great short stories.

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