I had to buy this book for a journalism class I took two years ago. I do not remember reading any of it for the class. It sat in my Kindle alongside a handful of other academic textbooks just waiting for me to either delete or read them, with the fates heavily favoring the latter. Fortunately, I decided to undertake this great project of re-literacy and once Bradbury told me to read an essay a night the book became important.
I found many of the essays presented here to be distasteful. It is important to recognize that this is a personal reaction that speaks only to a mostly political response on my behalf and does not reflect the quality of writing. For sure, these are all well written essays. I would have harsh words for any editor that dared title a book Best anything and include substandard prose. But too many of these works read like expanded tweets: heavily laden with political agenda and reactionary stances to topics like global warming, the pandemic, and feminism. I read them all with as open a mind as I was able to muster, and I believe the only thing I learned was that it is possible to write thousands of words that will find their way into a Best anthology on the merit of little more than a strident opinion and a handful of sources.
I have become much more selective of my nightly essay reading. I now look to ones with historical precedent. I do not think it is enough to trust an editor’s opinion on what the Best constitutes. It is far better, and more valuable to a reader’s brain, to trust the passage of time.