The Best of The Millions: 2013

December 23, 2013 | 1 book mentioned 5 min read

The Millions is going to be very quiet this week, a great opportunity for readers to catch up on some of the most notable pieces from the site during the year. 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 2013:

1. Our pair of Most Anticipated posts were popular among readers looking for something new to read. Our 2014 book preview is coming soon.

2. The Weird 1969 New Wave Sci-Fi Novel that Correctly Predicted the Current Day: Ted Gioia profiled John Brunner’s uncanny novel Stand on Zanzibar, which included, way back in 1969, a President Obomi and visionary ideas like satellite TV and the mainstreaming of gay lifestyles.

3. The Greatest American Novel? 9 Experts Share Their Opinions: Kevin Hartnett convened a panel of experts to offer their answers on a high-stakes literary question, What is the Great American Novel? The answers he received are thought-provoking, enlightening, and, of course, controversial.

4. Judging Books by Their Covers 2013: U.S. Vs. U.K.: This unscientific look at book covers had readers taking sides in a trans-Atlantic design debate.

5. Modern Life is Rubbish: Tao Lin’s Taipei: Perhaps no book polarized readers in 2013 like Lin’s Taipei. Lydia Kiesling wasn’t a fan. Her review — which opens, “When I began to read Taipei on my morning commute, I wondered if I had been lobotomized in the night” — reverberated across the literary landscape like few reviews published in 2013.

6. Judging Luhrmann’s Gatsby: Five English Scholars Weigh In: For literary types, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby was the film event of the year, and while reviews were mixed, a panel of literature professors convened by Kevin Hartnett was, perhaps surprisingly, charmed by Luhrmann’s effort.

7. 5 Series You Probably Missed as a Kid (But Should Read as an Adult): Noting the joy of coming to a transporting literary experience with no preconceived notions, Celeste Ng alerted readers to five YA series that she believes will have grown-up readers turning pages well past bedtime.

8. Amazon Announces Purchase of English™: Book behemoth Amazon continued its conquest of the planet in 2013, so the early April announcement — as relayed by Michael Bourne — that Bezos and company had acquired the entirety of the English language didn’t come as a complete surprise.

9. Our star-studded Year in Reading was a big hit across the internet.

10. The Ultimate List: 25 Gifts That Writers Will Actually Use: For the picky writers in your life, Hannah Gerson delivered an array of ideas that will keep the creative juices flowing.

11. So That If I Died It Mattered: Poet Jon Sands’s powerful piece had readers calling their moms to say “I love you.” Here’s just a tiny bit of this remarkable essay: “When asked to explain my choices, I’ve said, ‘Art is how you explain what it feels like to be alive in the 21st century. I am an emotional historian.’ But that’s really my answer to, ‘Why should we all make art?’ My why is more personal.”

12. Ten Books to Read Now That HBO’s Girls Is Back: Much loved and much fretted about, Girls remained a flash point in 2013, and Claire Miye Stanford did a great job highlighting the literary progenitors and contemporaries of the girls of Girls.

13. Tumblr Index: Your Guide to Artistic and Literary Tumblrs, Part III: Nick Moran continued in his tireless effort to introduce us to the rich array of literary Tumblrs.

14. A Breaking Bad (and Beyond) Reading List: No television show was more talked about in 2013 than Breaking Bad. Lauren Eggert-Crowe offered up a great list of books to get readers through their post-finale withdrawal.

15. Too Many Heavens: On Travelogues to the Great Beyond: “Heaven and back” memoirs have been publishing gold in recent years. Rhys Southan binged on heaven travelogues and found that the great beyond is in the eye of the beholder.

16. My Happy, Hopeful News: Novelist Emma Straub’s deeply personal essay about birth, life and hope struck a chord.

17. Call Me Twitterer: Literary Twitter’s First Tweets: Twitter has become an unlikely playground for many literary luminaries, but their first steps on that platform were awkward more often than not.

18. My New Year’s Resolution: Read Fewer Books: Michael Bourne’s unlikely resolution invited us to slow down and savor what we read.

19. The Problem With Summer Reading: It’s the scourge of students, the bane of parents. High school teacher Carolyn Ross explains why compulsory summer reading is all wrong.

20. A Forgotten Bestseller: The Saga of John Williams’s Stoner: The little book that could, Stoner, continued to win over new readers here and abroad in 2013. Claire Cameron dug up the unlikely story behind the publishing sensation.

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 2013 but continued to find new readers.

1. A Beginner’s Guide to Alice Munro: Readers cheered when the Nobel committee named Alice Munro our newest literary laureate. Ben Dolnick’s 2012 guide proved invaluable for readers looking to get acquainted, or re-acquainted, with her work.

2. Dickens’s Best Novel? Six Experts Share Their Opinions: Kevin Hartnett polled the experts to discover the best on offer from the prolific 19th century master.

3. Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? 8 Experts on Who’s Greater: Readers also returned to Kevin Hartnett’s Russian lit throwdown, for which he asked eight scholars and avid lay readers to present their cases for Tolstoy or Dostoevsky as the king of Russian literature.

4. Hard to Pronounce Literary Names Redux: the Definitive Edition: Seven years on, our “definitive” literary pronunciation guide is still a favorite at The Millions. There must be a lot of people name-dropping Goethe out there.

5. Crime Pays: Jo Nesbø Talks about Killing Harry Hole and the Best Job in the World: The Scandinavian crime novel remains a favorite genre, and Robert Birnbaum’s illuminating interview with one of its foremost practitioners attracted new readers in 2013.

6. A Year in Reading 2012: 2012’s series stayed popular in 2013.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Dashboard? More Like Bookshelf: Your Guide to Literary Tumblrs: The initial installment (and the second installment) of Nick Moran’s list remained popular with readers looking to get acquainted with literary Tumblr.

10. Ask the Writing Teacher: The MFA Debate: Writers pondering “To MFA or not to MFA” keep finding Edan Lepucki’s thoughtful advice from her popular Ask the Writing Teacher column.

Where did all these readers come from? Google (and Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr 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 2013:

1. Flavorwire
2. io9
3. HuffPo
4. Arts & Letters Daily
5. The Paris Review
6. The Daily Beast
7. The Rumpus
8. Andrew Sullivan
9. The New Yorker
10. MetaFilter

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.

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