BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS (Ace Books, Science Fiction, 1980) by Spider Robinson.
Here is why this book is so exceptional.
Spider Robinson picked his favorite short stories from each of his favorite authors - not the most popular or the ones with the most awards, just the best according to him, the ones he really loved.
He then wrote an introduction for each one of these stories, explaining, in his refreshing style, who the writer is, why he picked this particular story and how did the author reacted to his choice. Yes - and that's how this book develops a parallel anthology - he also contacted each of the authors and asked each one of them to pick one of their favorite stories by someone else and write an introduction for it.
When asked to handle this project by Jim Baen, Ace's science fiction editor, Spider Robinson recalls, in the foreword, how he "was drooling" at the idea and said "My favorite stories plus my favorite writers' favorite stories ? Christ, that sounds like the best of all possible worlds." "Yeah," (said Baen) "that's my working title."
This book is a gem. It starts with Larry Niven's "Inconstant Moon" and follows with Niven's choice "Spud and Cochise" by Oliver La Farge - an unforgettable "western that blooms into fantasy, compelling awe, laughter and belief."
The next one is "Need" by Theodore Sturgeon - my own favorite - and Sturgeon then picked "Hop-Friend" by Terry Carr. Following that, we have The Duel Scene from William Goldman's "The Princess Bride" and Goldman picked Robert Sheckley's "Seventh Victim". The next one is Dean Ing's "Portions Of This Program..." who then chose "They Bite" by Anthony Boucher.
Spider Robinson's last pick is an exquisitely touching story by Robert A. Heinlein (his introduction is a wonderful read in itself), "The Man Who Traveled in Elephants" which recreates magically a Fellini-like atmosphere combined with the All American, mid century charm of Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life". Not only is this story surprisingly unHeinlein but Heinlein's own pick is another surprise, a sweetly naive and religious story by Anatole France "Our Lady's Juggler" very aptly translated by Spider Robinson himself (who was turned off by the two translations which were available at the time).
This anthology is not really an anthology as we know it. Spider Robinson's world - past and present - is revealed throughout and we also get a glimpse into the worlds of his favorite writers as they candidly recall their reactions to their favorite stories. It is, in the best sense of the word, a Collection, one which touches the heart and caresses the mind. In that sense and so many others, it is Unique.