The Best of The Millions: 2015

December 28, 2015 | 3 books mentioned 5 min read

As the year winds down, it’s a great opportunity for readers to catch up on some of the most notable pieces from The Millions 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 2015:

1. Our pair of Most Anticipated posts were popular among readers looking for something new to read. Our 2016 book preview is coming soon.

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

3. Our own Nick Ripatrazone wrote, “Lent is the most literary season of the liturgical year. The Lenten narrative is marked by violence, suffering, anticipation, and finally, joy. Here is a literary reader for Lent: 40 stories, poems, essays, and books for the 40 days of this season.” Many readers followed along; bookmark this for 2016.

4. It’s hard enough to write a book, but then they expect you to come up with a title. Our own Janet Potter came up with a sure-fire, never-fail strategy to title your next masterpiece and the one after that too.

5. Pansexual Free-for-All: My Time As A Writer of Kindle Erotica: It’s a brave new world for writers on the make. Matthew Morgan tried his hand in the weird, wild world of self-published erotica and in the process introduced us to “shape-shifter sex creatures that could be anything from dolphins to bears to whales” and other oddities.

6. The Art of the Chapter: Jonathan Russell Clark authored a series of essays for us exploring each element that makes up a book from the epigraph to the final sentence. His piece on chapters dove deep into the choices authors make in how they divide up their books.

7. Scenes From Our Unproduced Screenplay: ‘Strunk & White: Grammar Police’: “It’s ‘whom,’ motherfucker.” Juliana Gray and Erica Dawson penned a screenplay for grammar lovers.

8. Get to Work: On the Best Advice Writers Ever Received: An illuminating round-up from Sarah Anne Johnson. “I recently spoke with a range of authors who shared the best piece of writing advice they ever received. Some answers were brief and memorizable, some were longer and drew me into the author’s world and creative process.”

9. The Audacity of Prose: Booker Prize shortlister Chigozie Obioma penned a forceful and convincing defense of the idea that when it comes to writing, “more is more.”

10. To Fall in Love with a Reader, Do This: From our own Hannah Gersen, “Several months ago, The New York Times published an essay about a 36-question interview devised to make strangers fall in love. The questions presented here are designed with a more modest goal: to have an interesting conversation about books.”

11. The Writer I Was: Six Authors Look Back on Their First Novels: Meredith Turits invited six authors to look back on their first novels, and they gave us a delightful mixture of nostalgia, awe and confusion.

12. How Will I Live? Fame, Money, Day Jobs, and Fiction Writing.: Gina Fattore wondered if the wrong “day job” can erase the career of a would-be successful novelist before it even starts.

13. It’s Not You, It’s Us: Apartment Hunting in Brooklyn: In maybe the funniest piece we ran all year, David Staller tries to find an affordable apartment in Brooklyn without getting murdered, or worse.

14. The Admiral in the Library: The Millions Interviews James Stavridis: The Millions ran dozens of interviews with leading literary lights in 2015. Who would have guessed that our most popular sit-down was to be with a remarkably well read and introspective retired admiral. Marcia DeSanctis was our intrepid interviewer for this fascinating conversation.

15. Father’s Day Books for Dads Who Actually Read: Our own Michael Bourne guides you past the neckties to find the book that will delight your literary pop.

16. Dispatches From the Content Factory: On the Rise and Fall of the New Creative Class: All those tech unicorns need writers – sometimes a lot of them. Irene Keliher gave us a chilling firsthand account of the tech economy’s creative underclass.

17. The Joy of Crewnecks: Marie Kondo’s ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’: Marie Kondo’s call to clear out your closets became something of a cultural phenomenon this year. Janet Potter clued us in early.

18. The Millions 2015 Gift Guide for Readers, Writers and the People Who Love Them: I bet you had no idea that a squirrel in underpants is the perfect gift for the literary critic in your life.

19: Judging Books by Their Covers 2015: US Vs. Netherlands: Our own Claire Cameron pointed out some very cool book covers happening in the Netherlands.

20: A Future for Books Online: Tumblr’s Reblog Book Club: Our own Elizabeth Minkel introduced us to a vibrant community of readers congregating on tumblr.

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 2015 but continued to find new readers.

1. The Starting Six: On the Remarkable Glory Days of Iowa Girls Basketball: Lawrence Tabak’s piece on the basketball variant that was once an Iowa obsession.

2. Read Me! Please!: Book Titles Rewritten to Get More Clicks: Ah clickbait, those snippets of twisted English pumped full of hyperbole and lacking in specificity, a concoction designed to wring maximum clicks from readers. Our own Janet Potter and Nick Moran pondered how some literary classics might have employed this same strategy. The results are hilarious… and terrifying.

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

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Shakespeare’s Greatest Play? 5 Experts Share Their Opinions: Yet another of Hartnett’s roundtables asked five experts to name the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays.

7. 55 Thoughts for English Teachers: “All of a sudden, I have been teaching public school English for a decade.” Our own Nick Ripatrazone with some powerful reflections on teaching high school English.

8. We Cast The Goldfinch Movie so Hollywood Doesn’t Have To: Word of a film adaptation gave us all the excuse we needed to keep talking about Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Our own Janet Potter and Edan Lepucki saved everyone a lot of trouble and went ahead and put together a cast for the movie.

9. A Year in Reading 2014: 2014’s series stayed popular in 2015.

10. How To Introduce an Author: We’ve all seen them – awkward, long-winded, irrelevant – bad author introductions mar readings every day in this great country of ours. For three years now, would be emcees have been turning to Janet Potter’s guide on how to not screw up the reading before it even starts.

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 2015:

1. Flavorwire
2. MetaFilter
3. The Paris Review
4. Go Fug Yourself
5. LitHub
6. Complete Review
7. 3QuarksDaily
8. The Rumpus
9. Electric Literature
10. Longreads

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