As the year winds down, it’s a great opportunity for readers to catch up on some of the most-read pieces from The Millions during the year. 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 2017.
2. Dragons Are for White Kids with Money: On the Friction of Geekdom and Race: Daniel Jose Ruiz wrote “You’d think that when I found geekdom, I’d be welcomed in with open arms, but my ethnic identifiers have often caused friction.” His exploration spurred a great deal of conversation on and off the site.
3. A Bookseller’s Elegy: In a politically charged year, Douglas Koziol wrote about his struggle to sell books that go against what he believes.
4. Against Readability: Ben Roth wondered, why are books so frequently bestowed with the faintest of praise? “Given the tenor of our times, it is perhaps readable books that we need least.”
5. I feel a project coming on: Our own Hannah Gersen gave us ten (10!) ways to organize our bookshelves. I’m trying to move beyond “in piles, all over the place.”
6. Staring into the Soundless Dark: On the Trouble Lurking in Poets’ Bedrooms: Andrew Kay writes “Whatever the nature of their sleep hang-ups, their poems have furnished these writers with spaces in which to record their nocturnal trials.”
7. Only partway done as I compile this list, our star-studded Year in Reading has been a big hit across the internet.
8. At the Firing Squad: The Radical Works of a Young Dostoevsky: “At 28, Fyodor Dostoevsky was about to die,” begins Matthew James Seidel’s riveting account of Dostoevsky’s emergence as a great writer.
9. Have you found yourself dabbling in “crossover” lit. Do you ever peek your eyes over top that collection of short stories and spy lustily at your neighbor’s sci-fi? Ian Simpson provided the genre-curious with a guide to breaking out of the literary rut.
10. The book vs. ebook debate is surely long over, no? They will co-exist forever. James McWilliams is therefore free to rhapsodize about being comforted, ensconced and tempted by (physical) books.
11. This was a treat: Catherine Baab-Muguira investigated how much Edgar Allan Poe earned from his writing. Was his haul commensurate with his contributions to the canon? Also note: “You never enter the same Poe whirlpool twice.”
12. We were thrilled to exclusively announce the Best Translated Book Awards this year. The longlists piqued many readers’ interest.
13. Everyone loves a good deep dive into smart TV. See: Gilmore Girls: The End of Good Faith by Kevin Frazier.
14. “The Education of Henry Adams is an extraordinary book, maddening, alternately fascinating and tedious, just as often mordantly and unexpectedly funny, one that seems both ragingly pertinent to and impossibly distant from our own time.” – Michael Lindgren on Henry Adams.
15. The economics of the literary world can be frustrating and opaque. M.R. Branwen cleared up some lingering questions, including the biggest of all: “Why Literary Journals Don’t Pay.”
16. Brevity Is the Soul of It: In Praise of Short Books by Kyle Chayka: What it says on the tin.
17. The Afterlife of F. Scott Fitzgerald: Joe Gioia delivers a fascinating theory of Fitzgerald’s posthumous rise to fame, which may have been orchestrated by the author himself.
18. Our most popular interview of the year: Steve Paulson sat down with Teju Cole.
20. Our own Nick Ripatrazone proposed a rule: “Don’t Talk About Your Book Until It’s Published.”
Next we’ll look at a number of older pieces that Millions readers return to again and again. This list of top “evergreens” comprises pieces that went up before 2017 but continued to find new readers.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. How To Introduce an Author: We’ve all seen them — awkward, long-winded, irrelevant. Bad author introductions mar readings every day across the land. For five 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.
4. 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.
5. Readers of Laurent Binet’s HHhH have been turning up to read the story of the section he excised from the novel as well as the missing pages themselves, which we published exclusively.
6. 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 and we republished it in 2017; bookmark this for 2018.
7. 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 at 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.
8. 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 the gay community.
10. The World’s Longest Novel: Ben Dooley’s long-ago profile of this work of record-breaking performance art continues to fascinate.