The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010 edited by Dave Eggers with an introduction by David Sedaris is one of the better collections. I still think the first section is usually unnecessary with silly lists, the second section is what I come back for--the inventive short stories and excellent journalism that I may have missed. I realized with Sherman Alexie's compelling "War Dances," that I need to keep up with him since I haven't read anything since The Business of Fancydancing. There were also great stories like "The Encirclement" by Tamas Dobozy about a tortured man who disrupts lecture by a history professor about the Siege of Budapest in WWII, "Man of Steel" by Bryan Furuness about an adolescent trying to come to terms with his mother's abandonment of him and his father, "Gentleman, Start Your Engines" by Andrew Sean Greer about a gay couple's unlikely wedding anniversary spent at a NASCAR race, and Etagar Keret's modern fable "What of This Goldfish, Would You Wish."
There are fabulous pieces of nonfiction in the collection as well. The most fascinating piece for me was Rana Dasgupta's look at money and how it is changing New Dehli in "Capital Gains." The piece opens with the discussion of a the drunk driving case of a son of a wealthy and well-connected business man that tries to get his son off drunk driving and manslaughter charges after he has killed six people. Dasgupta sees this as endemic of a cultures that worships wealth and has mutated traditional values. He identifies several interesting cultural observations, for example he interviews a crusading journalist who explains: "Hinduism is very pliable. it rationalizes inequality: if that guy is poor it's because he deserves it from his previous lives, and it's not for me to sort out his accounts. Hinduism allows these guys to think what they get is due to them, and they have absolutely no guilt about it." Elsewhere he states that, "Delhi is a city of traumas...Delhi was destroyed by the British in 1857. It was destroyed again by Partition in 1947. It was torn apart by the anti-Sikh rampages in 1984. Each of these moments destroyed the culture of the city, and that is the greatest trauma of all." Later he talks with a prominent psychologist who discusses the Rama complex: "in the epic poem Ramayana, Rama gives up the throne that is rightfully his and submits himself to enormous suffering in order to conform to the will of his father. Indian men don't wish to kill their fathers, they wish to become them..." Some the other standout pieces include Evan Ratliff's piece for Wired, "Vanish," where he undergoes an experiment to see if someone can disappear in the internet age, and the compelling "Seven Months, Ten Days in Captivity" by David Rohde who chronicles his kidnapping at the hands of the Taliban in Pakistan. There's also a great piece by GQ regular and fiction writer George Saunders, "Tent City, U.S.A." It is an entertaining story and nonscientific study of life among the homeless in Fresno, California.