As you’ve probably noticed from the new byline attached to the review of Richard Ford’s The Lay of the Land that I posted earlier today, we’ve been joined by a new contributor at The Millions. Noah is an old friend of mine whose book reviews have appeared in a handful of publications, and I’m glad to have him aboard.
Over the years, Millions contributors and guests have penned many book reviews for the site. However, this wealth of content has long been buried in the archives.And so, in the spirit of starting off the new year on the right foot, we’ve created The Millions Book Review Index, which lists every review, squib, appreciation, and consideration we’ve ever run here alphabetically by author. As we add new reviews to the site, they will appear in the index as well, so we encourage you to bookmark the page for easy access. We hope you find the index useful. Stay tuned for another great year at The Millions.
The Millions is excited to be a founding member of a new ad venture called The Staff Recommends, John Warner and Andrew Womack, both of whom are associated with The Morning News and its wonderful Tournament of Books are behind the effort. The Staff Recommends is unique in that it only features books that “pass muster” with Warner, the venture’s editor and ombudsman. The first selection can be seen at the end of our “Recent Articles” section on The Millions front page and also in the sidebar on article pages. Enjoy!
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.
Late last year, we tried something new: we asked Millions readers for support. The response has been very positive and it’s a thrill to see that so many of you value what we’re doing here. We are grateful that many readers have decided to contribute to The Millions since November.
A very special thank-you goes to our two Sponsors at the $500-per-year level. Our Sponsors have the opportunity to dedicate their support to anything or anyone they wish, and we’ve created an acknowledgment area on the membership page.
The amount we’ve raised so far provides us with some helpful breathing room as we look to become less reliant upon the internet giants who, as sources of revenue, tend to control the destinies of places like The Millions. It also helps The Millions produce the big features that are highly valued by readers: Year in Reading and our Most Anticipated list.
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.
I’ve added the book news feed from the Baltimore Sun to the Book News via RSS feature. I’d like to keep the list of sources as up to date as possible, so if you spot any other book news feeds, send them my way.Here’s the original Book News via RSS post with the complete list of sources.
It’s Thanksgiving and we are expecting many guests, so don’t expect much blogging. There will be some more “best of the year” type posts as the lists are published in various places. I’m thinking about compiling a master list to see which books appear on the most lists as I did last year… we’ll see. In the meantime, some of you may recall my invitation a few weeks back to anyone who would like to contribute to The Millions. And now I am able to happily introduce our first regular guest contributor. Andrew Saikali is an editor in the Globe and Mail newsroom in Toronto and a long-time reader of The Millions. When not listening to Bob Dylan or The Walkmen, he can be found reading. Welcome, Andrew! Stay tuned for his first post, arriving shortly. There are a few other folks in the pipeline right now (you know who you are). And if anyone else would like to contribute to The Millions, drop me line.