Before we get too far into 2012, let’s take a look at what was keeping readers interested on The Millions in 2011. To start, we’ll divide the most popular posts on The Millions into two categories, beginning with the 20 most popular pieces published on the site in 2011:
1. Our star-studded Year in Reading, with 72 participants naming 214 books, was a big hit across the internet.
3. The Stockholm Syndrome Theory of Long Novels: Mark O’Connell articulated how big books can entrap us and hold us hostage. “It’s reading that has at least as much to do with our own sense of achievement in having read the thing as it does with a sense of the author’s achievement in having written it.”
4. The Year of Wonders: Alex Shakar’s harrowing tale of all-too-brief publishing success. “It was midday on a Monday in early August of the year 2000 and the bidding on my first novel had reached six figures, then paused for people to track down more cash. I was 32. I’d never made over $12,000 in a year.”
5. Reasons Not to Self-Publish in 2011-2012: A List: Self-publishing was one of 2011’s big industry trends, but Edan Lepucki gave us eight reasons why she won’t be self-publishing… at least not any time soon.
6. Judging Books by Their Covers: U.S. Vs. U.K.: This unscientific look at book covers had readers taking sides in a trans-Atlantic design debate.
7. Mad, Mad World: Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test: Ronson’s investigation was one of the hottest nonfiction books of the year. Janet Potter was a fan; she also took the test. Spoiler alert: she’s not a psychopath, but her cat might be.
8. Exclusive: The First Lines of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84: Murakami’s massive tome was one of the most anticipated of the year. We had the first lines a couple months in advance.
9. On Bad Reviews: It’s the question no author wants to contemplate. What do you do when you get a bad review? Emily St. John Mandel chronicles some authors behaving badly and admits, “it’s extraordinarily difficult to respond to a bad review with grace.”
10. 12 Holiday Gifts That Writers Will Actually Use: Hannah Gerson’s list of gifts for writers includes only one book and exactly zero blank journals.
11. Making Room for Readers: Steve Himmer’s thoughtful piece is a plea to make books accessible to all who are curious about reading. “It’s a mistake to rarify reading and put books out of reach.”
12. Shutting the Drawer: What Happens When a Book Doesn’t Sell?: Edan contemplates how (or even if!) to accept “the death of her first true darling.”
13. Why Are So Many Literary Writers Shifting into Genre?: We see the literary mash-ups everywhere now. Is genre writing becoming ever more tempting for literary types? Kim Wright tries to find out.
14. The Story Problem: 10 Thoughts on Academia’s Novel Crisis: Cathy Day wonders whether proliferating MFA programs that fetishize short fiction are doing a disservice to aspiring novel writers everywhere.
15. What We Call What Women Write: Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer but an off-hand remark that followed had many accusing her of bashing “chick lit” and other female writers. Deena Drewis explained why all the invective was misdirected.
16. Saving Salinger: A pair of J.D. Salinger short stories have never been published in the nearly sixty years since Salinger wrote them. Princeton’s Firestone Library now protects the only known copies. Kristpher Jansma harbored thoughts of liberation as he embarked on a pilgrimage to read them.
17. A Critic’s Notebook: On Meeting Ayn Rand’s Editor at Antioch College: Gary Percesepe once met Ayn Rand’s editor, who memorably remarked that Rand wrote the best children’s literature in America.
18. Six Egyptian Writers You Don’t Know But You Should: With the world focusing on Tarhir Square in 2011, Pauls Toutonghi, an author of Egyptian descent, offered up a list of essential reading.
19. The E-Reader of Sand: The Kindle and the Inner Conflict Between Consumer and Booklover: Mark tackles the e-reader conundrum. “It occurred to me that Borges would have been thrilled and horrified in equal measure by the Kindle. In fact, in a weird way, he sort of invented it.”
20. On the Desire to Be Well-Read: A Review of The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction: Timothy Aubry finds that Alan Jacobs’s book “is designed for me, for people who are as interested in ‘having read’ books as they are in reading books.”
There are also a number of older pieces that Millions readers return to again and again. This list of top “evergreens” comprises pieces that went up before 2011 but continued to interest readers over the last year.
1. The Best of the Millennium (So Far): Our late-2009 series invited a distinguished panel of writers and thinkers to nominate the best books of the decade. The ensuing list stoked controversy and interest that has lingered. The write-ups of the “winner” and runners-up have also remained popular. We also invited our readers to compile a “best of the decade” list. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the readers’ list seemed to receive a warmer reception.
2. A Year in Reading 2010: 2010’s series stayed popular in 2011.
3. Hard to Pronounce Literary Names Redux: the Definitive Edition: Five years on, our “definitive” literary pronunciation guide is still a favorite The Millions. There must be a lot of people name-dropping Goethe out there. The initial, aborted attempt remains popular as well.
4. Confessions of a Book Pirate: Our interview with someone actually “pirating” ebooks put a face on a nebulous trend and generated huge interest among readers, the publishing industry, and the media.
5. Our 2010 preview stayed popular in 2011.
6. The Magisterial Goal: We’ve seen an abiding interest in James Kaelan’s paean to verbally inventive soccer announcer Ray Hudson.
7. The Best Sports Journalism Ever (According to Bill Simmons): Another sports favorite! Sports fans love this collection of links to some of the best sports writing of all time.
9. Food Fight: Anthony Bourdain Slams Rachael Ray: This rare dalliance for The Millions into celebrity gossip suggests an enduring interest in the bad blood between these two food (and publishing) superstars.
10. Deckle Edge in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: A musing on a quirky design element of modern books had us exploring the history of these objects and contemplating their future.
Where did all these readers come from? Google (and Facebook and Twitter and StumbleUpon and Reddit) sent quite a few of course, but many Millions readers came from other sites too. These were the top 10 sites to send us traffic in 2011: