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What We’re Reading: The Best American series adds up, I’m trying for the complete set

To be exact, I’ve been reading it for 35 years, since high school, when I found a copy of the “Best American Short Stories” 1986 (edited by Raymond Carver) for a quarter at a yard sale. I don’t know why I bought it; that copy was years old, and even in 1988, who needed the best writing from two years earlier? Still, it was cheap and full of the kinds of writers I wanted to claim I had read (Tobias Wolff, Alice Munro). If you don’t know, the Best American series arrives annually and vacuums up great writing — from magazines, newspapers, literary journals — into categories: “Best American Essays,” “Best American Travel Writing,” “Best American Mystery and Suspense,” etc.; each genre gets its own volume, though (misleadingly) reflects the best of the previous year, not the year on the cover. “Best American Short Stories,” the longest-running, was first published in 1915.

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