Asherman, I,too, have read Best American Short Stories of the Cetntury. I thought it gave me a good sense of where the short story had gone over the span of a hundred years. It also made me aware of writers with whom I was unfamiliar.
Am currently reading five other books of short stories:
Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor
Complete Short Stories of Graham Green
Selected Short Stories of D.H. Lawrence
Collected Stories of Saul Bellow
Selected Stories of Andre Dubus
Also recently read two biographies:
Faulkner by Parinni (or however he spells it)
Melville by Delbanco--this is a very good read. The sections on Moby Dick and mid-nineteenth century New York are excellent.
A couple of months ago I finally finished Enimies, a Love Story by I. B. Singer. Great book, although very sad. Right now, I'm also trying to get through Humboldt's Gift, which I really like. Especially the second half.
Has anyone read Sister Carrie by Dreiser? I'm thinking of reading it after Humboldt's Gift.
If you're really eager to dig into turn of the century realism, Sister Carrie is like a prototype. But remember--tedious detail. It's a "novel of manners," but with an atypical ending for the genre, which I thought was cool.
Dreiser's philosophical interjections are so dated, sometimes stuffy, but more often than not, comical and endearing.
In a word, I'd say, store up some patience before opening it.
It will be a contrast to the Modern's you're reading now.