You may have noticed: instead of posting about books, I’ve been redesigning The Millions. I would love to hear any comments or suggestions. Also, check out the new feature: New York Times book headlines, just below the Ask a Book Question area.
I do this every summer don’t I? If you haven’t noticed, posting has become a bit sparse at The Millions, and I expect it to be more sparse as the summer wears on. We’re leaving Chicago soon, and we’ll be heading to temporary digs in Washington, DC, before finding a permanent place to live (the final destination is as yet undetermined though we’ve narrowed it down somewhat.) So, essentially, I’ll have a lot of stuff going on and so blogging will take a back seat. And anyway, it being summer, I’d guess that most folks will be enjoying themselves outdoors and on the road rather than in front of the computer. So, look for just a couple of posts a week give or take until the fall months roll around, and maybe by then I’ll be unveiling some changes at The Millions. Or perhaps it’ll stay the same.In the meantime, here’s a small cache of links for your purusal.An old link, but new to me. Slate commisions pulp covers for classic novels. (via BoingBoing)The Book Critics Circle blog decries litbloggers linking to Amazon. (My response is in the comments.) The Literary Saloon weighs in as well. (via Scott)Alan Cheuse presents his “summer reads” at NPR and shares some background on the selections at the Happy Booker.
The Millions notched its fourth anniversary this weekend, and I’m very pleased that the site is still going strong and more popular than ever. As much as I’d like to take full credit for this, much of it should go to my contributors who really stepped it up last year and who since the redesign at the beginning of this year have, in a few short months, really taken the site to another level.I should also thank the readers of The Millions whose participation in the comments and whose emails to me help make working on the site a tremendously fulfilling endeavor. In fact, just peeking at the site’s stats and seeing how many regular readers we have makes me feel very grateful to know that so many readers appreciate what we’re doing here.And what is it that we’re doing here? As ever, The Millions and its fellow book blogs continue to evolve. One of the most interesting developments over the last year is how several bloggers have become regular fixtures in newspaper book sections across the country. Some of these folks were critics before they were bloggers, but some, like Ed, began down that path with their blogs. Even as blogs have been increasingly accepted as legitimate voices contributing to the greater literary discourse, there are still those who question their value and accuse them of cliquishness and worse. Hopefully, though, book blogs will continue to matter enough to enough people that they will continue to be targeted by such attacks. I’d rather The Millions be criticized than irrelevant.The Millions, of course, has never been particularly controversial. Fomenting arguments has never been a big part of the site’s mission, as much fun as it to sometimes get involved in those battles. The mission of this blog is to act much like your favorite independent bookstore might. As I’ve written before, “one should be able to walk into [a good] bookstore and be able to grasp, based upon which books are on display and based upon conversations with staff and fellow customers, what matters at that moment both in the wider world and in the neighborhood.” I hope that when people “walk into” The Millions they get that same feeling from those of us who write the posts and from their fellow readers who leave comments.Deeper than that, at the very core of The Millions, is that we should seek out good books to read and pass them along to like-minded friends. As I wrote nearly four years ago when I decided that the site needed a manifesto to give the then bumbling proto-Millions some shape, “this isn’t about compulsory reading; this is about making sure that whatever you read will serve a purpose for you and that, as often as possible, this purpose is to bring you the curious sort of joy that only a book can.” There’s more there too.All of which is to say, I hope The Millions still feels relevant and worthwhile amid the millions of blogs that crowd the Internet. To me, our mission is still worth pursuing. Thanks again to all of you for another great year. Let’s have another.Previously: An Historic Day; The Millions Turns Two; Thanks for Three Years from The Millions.
Tonight’s installment of the Pacific Standard Fiction Series here in Brooklyn features two top-flight novelists: Joseph O’Neill, author of Netherland, and Hari Kunzru, author of My Revolutions and The Impressionist. Books will be for sale on-site, and drink specials will be chosen by dartboard. The reading starts at 7 p.m. at Pacific Standard, between Bergen and St. Mark’s. Hope to see you there!Bonus links: James Wood reviews of O’Neill and Kunzru in The New Yorker.
The Millions is six years old today. We’re another year deeper, and as in past years it seems an appropriate moment for reflection.Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the shape and format of what we do here. The Millions is ostensibly a blog, a publishing format that seems to have had a brief heyday around 2005. Prior to that, blogging was maligned as some sort of barely human form of discourse, the rantings of madmen and -women or the laughably amateur efforts of the idle or obsessive.Gradually, the form matured, and was adopted and institutionalized in many corners. For The Millions, maturing meant bringing on regular contributors and working with publishers and publicists to wrangle interviews with and essays by notable writers. It also meant thinking of ourselves as a legitimate (even “mainstream”) publication.But now, suddenly, blogging is feeling a little old-fashioned. First Facebook, then Twitter and Tumblr, have fetishized brevity and broadcasting, leaving blogs looking ponderous and even insular by comparison.There is, no doubt, huge value in these tools. Facebook and Twitter offer connectivity, though with built-in limitations to communication. And add Tumblr to the mix and you have three incredible tools for filtering, or, as it is sometimes better better termed, curation.In the vast wildness of the internet, we rely on curators. Some people are very good at it. There are also algorithmic curation tools and community-driven curation tools, though their output tends to be robotic in the case of the former and reflective of a form of self-reinforcing mass peer pressure in the latter. Meanwhile, through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and more prosaic means like email and chat, our friends and “friends” curate for us, shooting links our way to make us laugh or think.We do some curation here too. Over the last year we’ve regimented our “Curiosities” posts, with all of our regulars providing links, making for a curious weekly mix of goodies from around the web.But much more of our energy is devoted to something else: generating original reviews and essays, some quite short and others very long. Increasingly, it seems, this sets The Millions apart. It dictates that, though there are nine of us, we rarely publish more than one or two items a day. It also means that we tend to have a lot invested in each item we post. We invest time in each piece you see here, but each also bears the promise of The Millions’ survival and future growth – the more that people care about what we write, the more The Millions grows. And, of course, the opposite holds true as well.This isn’t meant to be rant of any kind. I wanted to bring it up because I value the work that the contributors here do and because I appreciate that all of you out there read it and all the professional and amateur curators who link to it. That is a big part of what makes running The Millions worthwhile.In thinking about all this, I spent some time skimming through The Millions archives of the last year, and while these aren’t the longest or most popular or even necessarily the “best” things we’ve run all year, they are, I think, a worthy sample of what The Millions is all about:This year, Garth cracked wise about novel titles. Garth and Kevin reviewed one of the most talked about books of the year, and later, the book’s author made an appearance. We had visits from other illustrious guests, as well. Andrew reviewed a quirky book and wrote about music. And Emily asked, “Why So Serious Batman?” Edan did many a great interview. Garth tried to make sense of tragedy. We did group posts and covered notable literary events and generally offered our own twist on things.Thanks for another great year, Millions readers. We continue to value your intelligence, curiosity, and feedback.
If you’re arriving here because of my appearance on Midmorning, welcome! By way of a little background, I started The Millions in early 2003 when I was a bookseller at an independent bookstore in Los Angeles. I’ve since moved on from there, but the blog has stuck around. We now have several contributors besides me, and we write daily about books and other cultural topics.Regarding the topic of today’s show, you can read some additional thoughts of ours in these posts.Bandaids for Broken Book SectionsThe Era of the Trusted Fellow ReaderAuthority, an Anniversary, and Book ReviewingWe also suggest that you take a look at our Book Review Index, which includes all the reviews ever penned for The Millions by both our regular contributors and our many, many guests. The reviews range from our longest considerations, to our briefest squibs, to appreciations and ruminations. And don’t miss our Year in Reading, our end-of-the-year series for which we asked dozens of well-known writers and bloggers to tell us about the best book they read all year.Finally, if you like what you see here, please bookmark the site or subscribe to our RSS feed. Thanks!Update: A link to listen to the segment should be up at the MPR site soon (I went on around minute 35). If you heard the segment, let us know what you thought. Leave a comment below.