Tonight’s installment of the Pacific Standard Fiction series in Brooklyn is a special “NYFA night,” featuring three 2008 fiction fellows of the New York Foundation for the Arts. They are: National Book Award-nominee Christine Schutt, author of All Souls; Guggenheim honoree Paul LaFarge, author of Haussmann, or The Distinction; and me. Drink specials will benefit our sponsor, Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, and we suggest a donation of one gently used book. The event is free, and if you are, too, it would be great to see you. (For directions, see Time Out.)
Millions headquarters moved last weekend. We only went a few blocks, so it was far less trying than some of our past efforts (though being first time homeowners has brought its own set of challenges.) Long time readers of The Millions may demarcate the “chapters” of the blog by the various moves I have made over the last four and a half years. There was Los Angeles to DC, DC to Chicago, Chicago to DC, and DC to Philly. After almost a year in Philly, I’m happy to say that we’re enjoying it. We’ve got friends in walking distance, friendly neighbors, and then there’s the food. Right now, we live about two blocks up from the north end of the Italian Market, a many blocks long stretch of meat and cheese shops, butchers, spice shops, and other purveyors of goodness. On the sidewalks, hawkers sell produce from stalls. The atmosphere is gritty and raucous most days. There’s lots of other things to like in Philly too – the usual urban lifestyle perks, good restaurants, art, and music.Meanwhile, inside the house, the books are still in boxes, but they’ll soon be out (all of them!) ensconced on new bookshelves conceived of and constructed by Mrs. Millions and her dad. There’s a lot to do here in Philly, but the books should make for good company on the days we stay home.Housekeeping Note: Publishers, if you’ve got me on a mailing list and need my new address, email me and I’ll get it to you.
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.
First, the answer to the question you want answered: When will you publish your second-half preview? The answer: tomorrow! By this time tomorrow, you will be diving into our unparalleled preview encompassing dozens of the most hotly anticipated titles coming in the next six months.
The preview is a big effort with many people spending many hours to make it happen. And that’s also true of The Millions as a whole.
The Millions has been around for more than 14 years and has never made a living for anyone, but it has thrived. For a while there, it seemed to thrive almost against all odds. Even as economic realities closed in on other online magazines, The Millions had stayed a couple of steps ahead.
Last fall, however, we saw that these realities might soon catch up with us, as we became concerned that The Millions was becoming increasingly reliant on fewer and fewer revenue streams. Like everyone else, we saw that we were at the mercy of the usual suspects: Amazon, Google, Facebook. One small change from any of these giants could send The Millions hurtling to oblivion.
So we decided that we had to try something new: to protect our future, we invited our readers to supports us. Many did, and we are deeply grateful, but we know that many more have not.
Since we wrote in November 2016, the revenue situation has become that much trickier, as changes to the programs we rely on have further eroded the revenue picture and we have scrambled to make up the shortfall. The more we can get our readers to contribute, the more stable our footing will be.
It’s a very quick and simple process and we have a number of tiers that should be manageable for any budget. The three main tiers are annual recurring donations. There is also a monthly option.
And please note that we have a Sponsor tier on our Support page that allows for contributions at a higher level. This tier is for corporations and institutions as well as for individuals in the books and publishing ecosystem who are thriving. We rely on their support especially.
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.
This Thursday, December 6, Gallery Bar on the Lower East Side will host an opening for A Field Guide to the North American Family: The Exhibition. Co-curated by Mark Batty Publisher and the Humble Arts Foundation, this month-long exhibition will showcase prints of the photographs I selected to illustrate my book. Here’s your chance to see the works of brilliant photographers like Jon Gitelson, Tema Stauffer, and Matt Nighswander in person – and even to take one home, if you’re inclined to purchase.Just as importantly, the opening, which runs from 7 to 12 p.m., should be a rocking party. Wine is free from 7 to 8, and drink specials run all night. I’ll be signing books and getting my social chops back in shape for the holiday season. Hope to see some of you there! For more information, see the Gallery Bar website.Then, on Sunday, it’s back on the Lower East Side. I’ll be reading at Bluestockings Bookstore with Alex Rose, trail-blazing author of The Musical Illusionist, the second release from Akashic’s Hotel St. George Press. I hear that Mr. Rose has a multimedia extravaganza planned to coincide with his reading, so I’ve been hard at work on my own visual aids. The reading’s at 7, and again, it would be great to see some Millions readers in the crowd.