Though Garth made his first appearance yesterday with his post about the Illustrated Pynchon, I’d like to formally welcome him aboard. I’ve known Garth for a long time – at least a dozen years, I think – and we’ve always talked about books, so I’m glad he decided to join us. He’ll have other reviews and dispatches up soon. Let the hazing commence.
You may have noticed that a few days ago I added another newsfeed to the sidebar. This one provides book headlines from the Christian Science Monitor. I'm pretty excited about this because the Monitor happens to be one of my favorite newspapers. The paper's interesting history sets it apart from most dailies. Despite its name, the Monitor is not a religious paper. It was founded by Mary Baker Eddy, a devotee of the Christian Science religion, in 1908, but it was not meant to be a religious organ. Eddy was a prominent Boston citizen, and she had been getting a lot of grief from Joseph Pulitzer and his newspaper the New York World. She created the paper because she was convinced that newspapers should do more than attack people. She wanted her paper "to injure no man, but to bless all mankind." The result is consistently excellent journalism with a great international focus and a deeper insight into the news than most daily papers provide. Have a look at the paper here.Tomorrow is one of the biggest literary days of the year: the announcement of the winner of this year's Nobel Prize for Literature. Speculation abounds.
Today we're unveiling an exciting new feature at The Millions. Over the last seven-plus years, we have written about thousands of books. Knowing that people like to dig through the archives to read about the books we've covered, we've tried to create ways to make that easier, but until now our efforts had proven unwieldy to use and to manage. So, in an effort to solve this problem once and for all, we've spent several months putting together a new section that we are proud to show off today: The Millions Books and Reviews. That main page is an exercise in serendipity. Hit refresh and ten new random books will appear that have been mentioned on the site at some point in our history. Click on any one of those covers and learn more -- or hit refresh again. If you are looking for something more specific, browse by author using the alphabetical navigation at the top of the page. From those pages you'll be able to click through to any book and view The Millions' coverage of that book. You may notice that in some cases we have more than one listing for a book -- this is because over the years we may have linked to more than one edition of the book (paperback and hardcover, most commonly). We hope you find this new feature useful. Before I let you go check it out, I just wanted to thank our many readers who have supported the site. This support has allowed us to continue to innovate with features like this new section and hopefully provide a great experience for readers looking for book coverage online.
I'd like to welcome another new contributor to The Millions. I worked with Patrick Brown at the book store in Los Angeles for a couple of years, and when I moved to Chicago, he moved to Iowa. Above this post, please enjoy the first of what I hope will be many contributions from Patrick.
The Millions was started on this day seven years, four urls, and umpteen layouts ago. Though it is now unrecognizable to anyone who hasn't visited since nudging their Internet Explorer 6 over to that long gone blogspot address, the core mission that I developed in that first year for this project largely remains unchanged. In those early months, when I was nearly broke and working at a bookstore, before I was married and went to grad school, and before I had much notion that this site would be anything at all (let alone what it is today), I wrote what would probably be the closest we've ever come to a manifesto (going against my subsequent preference to let The Millions' larger purpose be self-evident). The nut: "Given that you and I will only be able to read a finite number of books in our lifetime, then we should try, as much as possible, to devote ourselves to reading only the ones that are worth reading, while bearing in mind that for every vapid, uninspiring book we read, we are bumping from our lifetime reading list a book that might give us a profound sort of joy." I've probably not lived up to that lofty goal in the years since, but it's a nice sentiment to aspire to. Funnily enough, at the end of that piece I wrote something that nearly seven years later is like a time capsule from an internet stone age: "Anybody know of any decent book blogs or websites about books?... I haven’t been able to find any besides Arts & Letters Daily and the various newspaper book sections, of course." Granted, this could be partially chalked up to my being an online neophyte at the time, but by any measure the last seven years have been a period of proliferating discourse about books and arts. And though the gloom in many corners of the publishing and media industries is sometimes warranted, I maintain that there's never been a better time to be reader in terms of access to books and communities of fellow readers. While this is a big day for The Millions, it's nowhere near as big as August 16, 2009 was. That was the day that we relaunched The Millions in this new incarnation and the site, almost overnight, grew up and became something different (and thankfully our loyal long-term readers came along for the ride, in no small measure because our designer Sean Tice understood what The Millions was all about when he embarked on the design.) In future years, we may point to that date as when The Millions really came into being, everything up until then being a long period of gestation for the site you see today. I wouldn't have expected this, but two things happened right away after the redesign. First, the more magazine-like look unconsciously pushed us farther in the direction of focusing on standalone, long-form content. With the Curiosities section offering the perfect repository for interesting links and one-off observations, our writers set themselves to the task of putting out essays and reviews that (in my biased opinion) are with few peers in the world of cultural coverage. The Millions has never been shy about posting longer (if not always weightier) pieces, but this year the site seemed to find its calling as a regularly updated font of such things. Second, pitches from writers all over the world began flowing into my inbox. It was as though the redesign was also a huge "writers wanted" sign. The Millions has long had a tradition of publishing terrific guest contributions, but since the redesign especially we have posted many dozens of thoughtful pieces by both talented "beginners" and established pros. A look at our "About" page reveals The Millions as a place where precocious college students (and younger) can be published alongside National Book Award winners. I don't know what this means, necessarily, but it makes me happy. With the redesign, the securing of our domain name just prior to that, and our ongoing commitment to paying our regular writers, this year also represented the first year of significant investment back into The Millions. Without caveat, this was made possible by the generous patronage of our readers and we sincerely hope that you'll continue to lend your support going forward. Click here to find out how. Finally, because anniversaries are a nice moment to look back, I'll leave you with some of my favorite things from The Millions over the last year. Garth updated his "Walking Tour of New York’s Independent Bookstores" and we joined readers in taking the tour. Fun was had by all. We hope to do something like this again one day. Garth and I put together a three-parter on the future of book coverage online (starting here). We named our favorite reference books. We learned about finding Indie opportunity on the Kindle, the overseas frenzy over Haruki Murakami's forthcoming opus, and what goes into getting your book cover designed. We tallied up the prizewinners and wrote an open letter to Kanye West. We asked, what's your "just one book?" We tried to determine the best book of the millennium (so far) and our readers helped. Edan ogled author photos, Emily M. worked the double shift, and Emily W. prized apert Twilight. We had our Year in Reading. I interviewed a book pirate and Anne interviewed John Banville. Kevin reflected on his parents' bookshelves, Andrew his grandfather's papers, and Edan her own. Lydia reviewed Pamuk and won a prize. And Patrick, once and for all, devised a unified theory of reality TV. Look for more in year 8. Thanks for reading The Millions. Birthdays Past: An Historic Day; The Millions Turns Two; Thanks for Three Years from The Millions, Four Years of The Millions, Anniversary: The Millions Turns 6.