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.
After about three days of tinkering, cutting and pasting, and banging my head against the wall, I'm happy to announce that The Millions has a new address, a location on the internet from which I'm hoping it will not move.Before I go any further let me ask you to please update your bookmarks to www.themillionsblog.com. I've set it up so that visitors to the old blog will be redirected to the new blog automatically, but that will only be in place for a limited time. If you read The Millions via its RSS feed, that has changed as well: this is the new feed.Now, why did I do this? Well, the previous address, my Realistic Records address, was meant to be temporary. I moved my young blog there to get it off of Blogspot. At the time I knew very little about registering domains and FTPing and things like that, so I just had my friend Derek set me up on the domain he had bought for our little record label project. Well, the record label project is ancient history, I was tired of my blog's unwieldy address, and I figured it made sense for The Millions to be on a domain that was owned by me and not someone else.Some housekeeping issues. In moving the site, I took the opportunity to change a few things, including switching commenting systems. I think the new setup will be better for conversation on the site, but unfortunately all the old comments are gone. I wanted to save them but there wasn't any way. Also, the site search will not work for a while until the new site is indexed in Google. Finally, please let me know if you are encountering any difficulties viewing the new site or if you find any broken links. You can email me here.Thanks!
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.
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.
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.
I just got off the phone with Liane Hansen of NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday. The show asked me to be a part of their Summer Reading series, which asks a guest each week what they've been reading, what they'll read next, and what they'd read if they had all the time in the world. Hopefully, I don't sound too nervous (it was my first time on the radio - a little nerve-wracking). But if you want to tune in, it'll be on midway through the show's second hour tomorrow. The segment will be posted on their website as well, so I'll post a link here after it airs.Update: You can now listen to the segment online if you missed it on the radio.