The Millions Top Ten: March 2021

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We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for March.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
3 months

2.
2.

White Ivy
5 months

3.
3.

Fake Accounts
2 months

4.


Klara and the Sun
1 month

5.
8.

The Copenhagen Trilogy
3 months

6.
6.

Detransition, Baby

3 months

7.
4.

The Silence
6 months

8.
5.

Dune: Book 1
5 months

9.
9.

No One Is Talking About This
2 months

10.
7.

What Are You Going Through
6 months

Let’s get right to it: basically nothing changed this month. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun jumped into the space that Pete Beatty’s Cuyahoga left open. Two books reversed positions: Tove Ditlevsen’s The Copenhagen Trilogy swapped eighth position for fifth, which had previously been held by Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Otherwise? Less movement than the Ever Given.

That’s OK, though. Especially in a year when few of us have moved much more than that. This might be the inhalation before the stretch, the huff before the sprint. If the Top Ten is the country at large, then the pairs of five- and six-month books on it—books poised to hit our Hall of Fame soon, opening spots as they do—are dormant cicadas, ready to transform the late spring and summer into something wholly different from what we have now. That’s soon.

Or perhaps a comparison more apt would be this: if the March Top Ten is all of us, huddled and yearning to breathe (mask) free, then ramping up vaccination rates are going to free things up sooner than later, and movement will only follow.

Respite is coming. Will reading? See you next month to check in.

This month’s near misses included: Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology, Outlawed, Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping, and A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself. See Also: Last month’s list.

Bonus Links:
A Year in Reading: Sigrid Nunez
Bird Brain: Lauren Oyler, Patricia Lockwood, and the Literature of Twitter
The Novel Still Exists: The Millions Interviews Don DeLillo
A Year in Reading: Lauren Oyler
George Saunders and the Question of Greatness
Kazuo Ishiguro and the Inescapable Perils of the Internet
Panel Mania: ‘Dune: The Graphic Novel’

The Millions Top Ten: February 2021

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We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for February.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
2 months

2.
2.

White Ivy
4 months

3.


Fake Accounts
1 month

4.
5.

The Silence
5 months

5.
3.

Dune: Book 1
4 months

6.
8.

Detransition, Baby

2 months

7.
6.

What Are You Going Through
5 months

8.
9.

The Copenhagen Trilogy
2 months

9.


No One Is Talking About This
1 month

10.
7.

Cuyahoga
5 months

“We suddenly have two novels, released within a week of each other, that brazenly, with swagger and open ambition, take on the voice of the bird app [Twitter], and thus of our scrambled times,” wrote Michael Lindgren in his piece last week on new novels from Patricia Lockwood and Lauren Oyler.  “Due to the caprices of the publishing schedule, [both are now] permanently frozen in a lit-world pas de deux for all eternity.”

Both are now members of our Top Ten as well.

The third spot on this month’s list belongs to Oyler’s Fake Accounts, while Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This holds ninth position. (In Lindgren’s review, he’d have swapped the order.)

Their entrée onto our list was made possible by the ascension of Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half to our site’s Hall of Fame, as well as another book dropping out from last month’s list. Meanwhile, the eight other books from January’s rankings alternated position, but mostly remained where they were. (Dune dropped a few slots, perhaps because at 704 pages, it simply weighs too much.)

Looking ahead, we expect significant changes to our list in May and June, as fully half of the books listed this month have been listed for four or five months apiece. That means five spots are on track to open up right as we enter what could be the most anticipated summer in North American history. You might think a populace emerging from a year of plague-based precautions would favor friskier activities than reading—but then again a generational cicada swarm may make the outdoors less appealing. In that case we’ll all be indoors again—reading, reading, reading, vaccinated and free.

This month’s near misses included: Outlawed, Vesper Flights, A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself and Life Among the Terranauts. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: January 2021

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We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for January.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.


A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
1 month

2.
1.

White Ivy
3 months

3.
6.

Dune: Book 1
3 months

4.
5.

The Vanishing Half
6 months

5.
4.

The Silence
4 months

6.
5.

What Are You Going Through

4 months

7.
7.

Cuyahoga
4 months

8.


Detransition, Baby
1 month

9.


The Copenhagen Trilogy
1 month

10.


The Office of Historical Corrections
1 month

We’re witnessing history, folks. With the ascension of Utopia Avenue, this month David Mitchell sends his fifth book to our site’s Hall of Fame. More than a decade ago, Cloud Atlas marked Mitchell’s first appearance, and since then he’s returned with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, The Bone Clocks, and Slade House. That kind of sustained success is unique on this site; Mitchell’s our version of Tom Brady.

Of course there are other Millions mainstays, one of which tops this month’s list. George Saunders (three previous Hall of Fame appearances) leads the first Top Ten of 2021 with A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, which our own Adam O’Fallon Price called a “delightful book of criticism and craft pair[ing] short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, with seven essays on how short fiction works and why it remains a vital art form for asking the big questions about life.”

Meanwhile two other newcomers joined our list.

After spending some time among past lists’ “near misses,” Danielle Evans’s The Office of Historical Corrections moves into 10th position this month. The novella and stories was mentioned six(!) times in our Year in Reading series, getting shout outs in the write-ups by Sejal Shah, Jean Chen Ho, Megan Giddings, Chris Gonzalez, Nadia Owusu and Margot Livesey.

Then, Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby debuted in 8th position thanks at least in part to Emily St. John Mandel’s blurb in our Great First-Half 2021 Book Preview, in which she characterized it as being about “a trio of New Yorkers—Reese, a trans woman; Ames, a man who used to live as a woman but decided to return to living as a man, and in so doing broke Reese’s heart; Katrina, Ames’s lover and boss—grapple with the decision of how and whether to raise a baby together.”

Next month at least one new spot should open up, but more shakeups are always possible. See you soon.

This month’s near misses included: Outlawed and The Dangers of Smoking in Bed. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: December 2020

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We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for December.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

White Ivy
2 months

2.
3.

Utopia Avenue
6 months

3.
2.

The Silence
3 months

4.
8.

What Are You Going Through
3 months

5.
5.

The Vanishing Half
5 months

6.
9.

Dune: Book 1

2 months

7.
4.

Cuyahoga
3 months

8.


Vesper Flights
1 month

9.
10.

All My Mother’s Lovers
2 months

10.


22 Minutes of Unconditional Love
1 month

For the second month in a row, Susie Yang’s White Ivy tops our list. In the Great Second-Half 2020 Book Preview, Lydia Kiesling called Yang’s debut a “novel about race, class, growing up, and getting by,” and shared a lovely blurb from Lucy Tan. Going back even earlier: in her entry for our 2018 Year in Reading series, Tan wrote that Yang’s book was “a novel remarkable in both scope and substance.” Millions readers were enticed.

Fast forward six months and we’ve now published our Great First-Half 2021 Book Preview, stuffed with 152 titles publishing between now and next summer. (Has there ever been a more anticipated summer than our next?) We’ll likely see books from our Preview make the Top Ten starting next month.
Meanwhile, we big adieu to Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors and Ottessa Moshfegh’s Death in Her Hands, which both graduated to our site’s Hall of Fame. It’s Moshfegh’s third time in our Hall; she’d previously reached with both Homesick for Another World and My Year of Rest and Relaxation.
For Strong Washburn, though, the route to the Hall of Fame was less direct. Sharks published on March 3, roughly two weeks before California issued its first stay-at-home order related to the pandemic—a move followed by many other jurisdictions across the country soon afterwards. The book hung around the “Near Misses” section of our lists at first, but popped up once or twice before really establishing itself in the past four months. In other words, the book’s been with our list since our way of life really changed, and it’s easy read the timing of its ascendance to the Hall as the demarcation of a new age. I wrote above that next summer is anticipated. I think we all sense better days ahead.

This month’s near misses included: The Office of Historical Corrections, Drinking French: The Iconic Cocktails, Apéritifs, and Café Traditions of France, with 160 Recipes, The Cold Millions, Missionaries and Just Like You. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: November 2020

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We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for November.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.


White Ivy
1 month

2.
6.

The Silence
2 months

3.
2.

Utopia Avenue
5 months

4.
7.

Cuyahoga
2 months

5.
3.

The Vanishing Half
4 months

6.
4.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors

6 months

7.
5.

Death in Her Hands
6 months

8.
9.

What Are You Going Through
2 months

9.


Dune: Book 1
1 month

10.
10.

All My Mother’s Lovers
5 months

It’s a bit striking that Millions writers have not tackled White Ivy in full, the most purchased book of the past month. They have also not written about The Silence (at least not wholly about it). Evidently these are books that sell without our imprimatur. They top this month’s list.

I’ve had a hard time tracking down reviews of the books in this month’s Top Ten. Here’s where I’d usually insert a quote about a book I’d just highlighted. Here’s where I’d throw in a pithy line to make you want more.

Here is where I’d tell you that we’d covered a few of these hotly anticipated titles in our Great Book Preview. I’d share some lines from their blurbs to pique your interest.

Then I’d throw in a paragraph here about some other aspects of the list, like whether a newcomer has joined its ranks. I’d write a line about whether a book ascended to the Hall of Fame. This is all pretty straightforward.

But for the most part this month’s list is similar to last month’s, so we can dispense with the custom until next time. For now, here we are, the month the vaccine’s been authorized. Let’s check in after a couple weeks when we’re close to getting our shots, when Year in Reading has concluded, and when more spots open up.

This month’s near misses included: Vesper Flights, Disappearing Earth, Just Like You, and Summer. See Also: Last month’s list.

A Year in Reading: Nick Moran

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Let’s start with milk. I saw it everywhere. Last winter and a decade late, I read J.M. Ledgard’s Submergence. I paused to open my phone’s Notes app, and add to something: my list of book details that deserve more context, or perhaps books of their own. This tidbit was early on. It described the fine construction of a hotel, whose “ceiling beams had been soaked in milk for a year to harden them.” Beg your pardon. The story moved past this line quickly; this detail was inconsequential.
Milk piqued my interest because at the time my daughter was five months old. When people notice one blue car on the road, they see every blue car on the road. When I opened my fridge every few hours, I primed myself for distraction.
Still this doesn’t explain the amount of milk I saw, and what I saw it doing. I read John Fante’s Ask the Dust, a classic about wanting the satisfaction of creation without the agony of creating, and a character repaid a loan in milk. (“I can’t give you any hard cash, kid. But I’ll see that you get all the milk you need.”) In the end, the protagonist walks alone into the desert with a bottle of the stuff.
Next I read Bohumil Hrabal’s Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age, a jewel of a novel in which a shoemaker, or “an engineer of human feet,” holds court at a bar or a brothel with a breathless soliloquy. He regales those poor women with a cursed detail: “When I went to Doctor Karafiát for my tapeworm, he put me on a diet and prescribed milk baths.” It’s not that I saw milk everywhere. It’s what I saw it doing. Anyway, what’s milk do to ceiling beams that it doesn’t do to men?

We proceed with pasteurized particulars. I read Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, which wraps up when Dr. Montague’s wife demands glass after glass of milk. I read Thomas Tryon’s sterling psychological horror The Other, the best book I read all year, and underlined a scene about someone blanketing a bowl of crackers and dried beef with sugar. “‘That’s the way Father used to do,’ [another character] asserted, reaching for the milk pitcher.” I read Jess Williard’s blessed poem in DIAGRAM  about “the dreaming, milk-breathed boy I once was.” Hrabal came back to me with Too Loud a Solitude, which condensed milk into so tight a space that it… Nevermind. In Too Loud…, a character learns that his mother is dying, so he drinks milk to ease his mind. Someone drinks milk for two days and gets drunk off the stuff. Paul Celan gave Hrabal a run for his milk money. In Breathturn into Timestead, Pierre Joris’s translation of Celan’s later poetry, the poet uses the words “milk-close” and “milksister.” In Memory Rose into Threshold Speech, Joris’s translation of the earlier work, Celan goes deep into “black milk.”
Milk spilled. I saw it on screen. Baltimore has an honest to god video rental store. After they reopened four months into the pandemic, I rented Bigger Than Life, and watched a man melt down over a pitcher of milk. I rented Nights of Cabiria and one character said, “What she needs is brandy.” Another replied, “What she needs is milk.” I watched Barton Fink and the guy who sipped milk before brown liquor reminded me of the investigator and his Pepto Bismol in Cape Fear.
When I think about the year, I think about milk. It was constant. It’s been company. But when I interrogate the thought I see also how the pandemic dilated time, how what felt like years ago feels like yesterday but was actually last March, when time broke. For nine months I’ve worked remote for my day job, pulling 12 hour days across two shifts—one loosely 9-5, the other loosely 8-11. I’ve done so from my windowless basement. I wake, I parent, I feed, I cook, I work, I shop, I cook, I parent, I partner, I work, I read, I sleep, I repeat the steps and shower if I remember. I have done countless dishes and laundry; I have poured preposterous amounts of milk. Time has passed but it hasn’t always felt that way. In the basement, there are no windows. Events have passed without me and it’s felt awful each time. I am indefensibly fortunate to be in the position I’m in but I am incandescently angry at the policymakers who hold the keys to making things better, and I am boundlessly sad for the people who have it worse as a result of legislators’ inaction. I am, as of this writing, hopeful about the future. I am also, as of this writing, astounded that my daughter is now 16 months old, and another year has passed.
In that year I read a lot, somehow. That’s the thing about the dilation of time, and about incremental progress. Ten pages each day in the pandemic, when each day feels the same, feels like nothing in real time. But over enough time, it adds up to a novel or fifty.
Looking at my list tonight, time accordions. Moments I couldn’t remember expand until I live them again. There I am in the sun, recognizing the YouTube video referenced in Kimberly Quiogue Andrew’s A Brief History of Fruit. There I am in the shade, gasping at something in Christian Wiman’s Survival is a Style. Before tonight, if you came up to me in person and asked for the five best books I read this year, I’d tell you to step back six feet, and I’d struggle. Armed with my actual Goodreads list, however, it all returns. So I did read Justin Torres’s We the Animals on the bus to work. So I did read Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine on the bus back home. So that season really did pass, and it really did feel differently from now. Time was not always a milky blur. This is why we take pictures.
It turns out I read Blood on the Forge on my porch this year, and underlined the line about how “sometimes corn whisky could wash the lump out a guy’s throat and make his fears things to be handled with his fists.” I did that while my new neighbor Dave was moving in. It turns out I read Black Wings Has My Angel, the second best book I read this year, and I double underlined the line of the pandemic: “Most of living is waiting to live.”
I read Emily Nemens’ The Cactus League and learned what “teddies” are in her fantastic chapter about baseball players’ wives. I can’t remember where I did that, though. I read Black Candies: The Eighties, an anthology of horror stories, and treasured Ryan Hicks’s story about INXS, Aaron Burch’s with the ants, and Meghan Phillips’s version of “Bloody Mary” told from Mary’s perspective. (Now I remember why INXS is on my Spotify year-end list.) This was around the time I read Paige Lewis’s terrific collection Space Struck, which I know because I used one of her lines (“Oh, we are boring and superstitious / in my city. We believe tides are caused by millions of oysters / gasping in unison.”) for an Instagram picture I posted from my local oyster bar on March 7th, the last night I went out before the lockdown.
Dorothy Hughes’s In a Lonely Place set the tone for a noir kick I began but will never end. Anna Weiner’s Uncanny Valley satisfied my curiosity about what it’s like in Silicon Valley, so I don’t need anything more. I cherished Danez Smith’s Homie and Billy-Ray Belcourt’s This Wound Is a World when I read them back-to-back predawn before anyone else in the house was awake. This is when things got hazy. I read Kinky Friedman’s Elvis, Jesus, and Coca-Cola because a friend recommended it, and I’m glad he did. I read Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here because the internet recommended it, and I’m glad it did.
The first book I read under lockdown was Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors because as soon as I learned we wouldn’t be leaving our houses, I was like, “I need to leave my house.” Transporting to Hawaii felt urgent. Next I read Mark O’Connell’s Notes from an Apocalypse because as soon as it hit me that we really wouldn’t be leaving our houses, I was like, “the world’s ending.” It turns out that it is, but not for that reason. The third book I read under lockdown was Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season, which hypnotized me until I snapped out of it all. What a treasure, that book. I cannot wait for her next one.
During the busiest period of my professional life, I read Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle. I needed to escape the absurdity of my days into something equally absurd but in a different way. I read Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s Oceanic because I needed to calm down. I read every page of Frank Herbert’s Dune because the movie was coming out and I needed something on the other end of the pandemic to look forward to—the movie, which was soon after pushed back due to the pandemic. That’s a lesson.
In the summer, we went to the beach, and I read Patrick White’s Riders in the Chariot, the most mind-bending book I’ve read in years. It’s a 650-page novel that somehow feels bigger than it is, and it was exactly what I needed on the Delaware coast. I followed it with John Muir’s A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf, which was slight but satisfying. I followed that with The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry, which was enormous and satisfying.
At some point I began a second document in my phone’s Notes app. This time instead of logging details in need of expansion, I logged lines I wanted to read in bars I couldn’t visit. Jamaal May had a good one in Hum: “A swallow of whiskey won’t drown my questions. / Another shot won’t take me out of my head.” William Attaway had a good one in Blood…: “Mat had been drinking. There was the look about him of a man traveling on whisky instead of muscle.” This sentiment was more or less echoed by Patrick White in Riders…: “Stauffer was slightly drunk. It made him look like a man of action, or at least an amateur of sabotage.” And then there’s sam sax’s line in “New God of an Antique War”: “you can’t drink a glass / without becoming / something else.”
I miss bars, as you might have guessed. Early in the pandemic, I got a slight kick out of going to the liquor store every two weeks for a curbside pick-up. I called ahead to place orders and an associate dutifully jotted them down. I had an actual “tab” for the first time in my life. Each call, I felt like Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. Then, on each visit to the store, I felt like I was readying my wagon for a continental journey. When I bought so much beer that it set off the passenger side “fasten seatbelt” alarm on the drive home, I felt like Robert Grainier in Train Dreams, loading up on provisions so I could winter in my cabin. Which, yeah.
All of this faded. The yearning doubled back. I miss the anonymity and escape of reading in a place that isn’t the same place I live. I miss sitting among strangers, together but apart. (As opposed to our pandemic present, where we’re each on our own, together.) When I read Joy Williams’s Taking Care, I logged in my Notes app the most Florida Man description of all time: someone named “Johnny Dakota” is “into heroin and intangible property.” I want nothing more than to be sitting in a dimly lit dive, sizing up a would-be Dakotas among the regulars. I think often of the great line in Jesus’ Son: “What I wouldn’t give to have us sitting in a bar again at 9:00 a.m. telling lies to one another, far from God.” For now we settle for Frank Stanford’s pandemic-approved alternative at the start of What About This: “We’re sitting on the porch, / Drinking and spitting, lying.”
Months ago I began John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World, and it broke time again. I’m comforted whenever I open it. On a geologic scale, last March was yesterday or it might as well be tomorrow—the span matters so little. There’s a lesson there, too. Let’s promise to get together once we’re vaccinated. Milk or bourbon, we’ll lie about the time in between and what we remember, or when. It’ll be beautiful, I’m sure.

More from A Year in Reading 2020

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The Millions Top Ten: October 2020

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We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for October.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

Tell It Slant
6 months

2.
4.

Utopia Avenue
4 months

3.
6.

The Vanishing Half
3 months

4.
3.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors

5 months

5.
2.

Death in Her Hands
5 months

6.


The Silence

1 month

7.


Cuyahoga
1 month

8.
5.

All My Mother’s Lovers
4 months

9.


What Are You Going Through
1 month

10.
7.

22 Minutes of Unconditional Love
2 months

Three books dropped out of the rankings this month, opening slots for three newcomers. A hearty Millions welcome is owed to Don DeLillo’s The Silence, Pete Beatty’s Cuyahoga, and Sigrid Nunez’s What Are You Going Through—each of which was featured in our Great Second-Half Book Preview—coming in at the sixth, seventh, and ninth spots, respectively, on this month’s list.

DeLillo and Nunez are no strangers to this list, of course. Both Zero K (2016) and The Friend (2019) are in our site’s Hall of Fame.

In a recent piece for our site, in which Nick Ripatrazone sketched out DeLillo’s “liturgy of language,” he described the novel as “an overcast book—a night book,” and he classified the author as “the laureate of [an] unsettling truth”: “[that] the end will take us all by surprise, but that there will be an end is not surprising.” I’m thinking of that line a lot as I write this, on the fourth day of presidential vote counting.

Elsewhere on the list some titles swapped places: Utopia Avenue rose, Death in Her Hands dropped. But these moves are minor. The bigger moves are yet to come.

This month’s near misses included: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents and Sisters. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: September 2020

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We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for September.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
8.

Tell It Slant
5 months

2.
3.

Death in Her Hands
4 months

3.
5.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors
4 months

4.
4.

Utopia Avenue

3 months

5.
6.

All My Mother’s Lovers
3 months

6.
10.

The Vanishing Half

2 months

7.


22 Minutes of Unconditional Love
1 month

8.


Disappearing Earth
1 month

9.
7.

Summer
2 months

10.


Vesper Flights
1 month

It’s always a celebration when books alight to our site’s Hall of Fame, but when those books are written by our own staffers it’s a special occasion indeed. This month, Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel becomes the longtime Millions writer’s second novel to reach the Hall. (Station Eleven ascended in April 2015.) Congratulations, Emily! Her book is joined in the Hall by fellow September 2020 inductee N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became. This is Jemisin’s first book to reach the Hall, but it’s also the first installment of a trilogy, so we’ll see how things go.

With two spots opened up—and then a third because A Luminous Republic dropped off of this month’s list—we welcome three newcomers: Daphne Merkin’s 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love, Helen Macdonald’s Vesper Flights, and Julia Phillips’s Disappearing Earth. The first two titles appeared in our Great Second-Half 2020 Book Preview while Phillips’s debut graced our First-Half Book Preview from 2019, well before it became a finalist for that year’s National Book Award.

Of this trio, Macdonald’s likely most familiar to Millions readers, not least of all due to the way H Is for Hawk, her 2015 memoir, was celebrated on this site. But Vesper Flights ushers forth its own delights as well, as Daniel Lefferts wrote in his profile of Macdonald last June. “What unifies the essays in Vesper Flights is her ardor for nature, her extensive knowledge of it, and her fear for its destruction,” Lefferts wrote. “With a naturalist’s command of technical vocabulary and a poet’s eye for simile, she can sound like a former scholar who’s broken free of the constraints of academe—which is, in essence, what she is.”

Next month we may see further shakeups, as the titles on the top half of the list approach the ends of their runs, and other newcomers are sure to pop in.

This month’s near misses included: How to Be an Antiracist, The Mirror & the Light, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, and Fleishman Is in Trouble. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: August 2020

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We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for August.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

The Glass Hotel
6 months

2.
2.

The City We Became
6 months

3.
5.

Death in Her Hands
3 months

4.
8.

Utopia Avenue

2 months

5.
6.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors
3 months

6.
9.

All My Mother’s Lovers

4 months

7.


Summer
1 month

8.
3.

Tell It Slant
4 months

9.


A Luminous Republic
1 month

10.


The Vanishing Half
1 month

My friends, I’m not sure if you’re like me.

I mean, I see that you’re buying Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors, with it rising to our list’s fifth spot, perhaps on the strength of my past recommendations, but I’m still not sure if you’re really like me.

Instead you’re yourselves. That’s great. That’s grand. That’s what I want. Let’s talk about the books you’re reading.

This month you’ve pushed two books into our Hall of Fame: The Resisters by Gish Jen and Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu. At the same time, you’ve bumped a couple books out of our Top Ten, freeing space for new entries: Summer by Ali Smith, A Luminous Republic by Andrés Barba, and The Vanishing by Brit Bennett.

For a grounding on Smith’s quartet, let’s revisit Jean Huets’s “Things Fall Apart” piece for The Millions:
I’m looking forward to spring. I don’t like the cold. Where I live, the snow comes down these days as sleet and the dust on my ice skates thickens every year. But I’m also looking forward to Spring because I love Autumn and Winter.
For the other two, let’s resolve to read widely. Let’s check in next month, TBR lists ablaze, pitches aplenty, and let’s discuss. We should have a few newcomers to talk about by then, too.

This month’s near misses included: The Mirror & the Light, 22 Minutes of Unconditional LoveFleishman Is in Trouble, and Disappearing Earth. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: July 2020

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We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for July.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

The Glass Hotel
5 months

2.
2.

The City We Became
5 months

3.
6.

Tell It Slant
3 months

4.
4.

Interior Chinatown

6 months

5.
9.

Death in Her Hands
2 months

6.
10.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors

2 months

7.
5.

The Resisters
6 months

8.


Utopia Avenue
1 month

9.
7.

All My Mother’s Lovers
3 months

10.


How to Be an Antiracist
1 month

Well, well, well. If it isn’t Millions readers taking my advice. Last month, I ended the write-up by highlighting Kawai Strong Washburn’s novel about a Hawaiian family (and so much more), and this month the book shoots up four spots in our list. For those of you still on the fence, here’s another Sharks in the Time of Saviors teaser: its opening chapter—part sex scene, part ghost processional—is still the strongest opener I’ve read in 2020.

The other news this month is that Kevin Barry’s Night Boat to Tangier capped off six consecutive months on our list by setting off for the site’s Hall of Fame. In an interview last summer, our own Bill Morris asked Barry about his creative inspirations, and also why he describe a barkeep as “stoned-looking as a fucking koala” in an earlier book. Anyway, the paperback edition of Night Boat released a couple weeks ago.

Night Boat’s move to the Hall of Fame freed up one spot on the list, while Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror & the Light dropped out of the running this month, so there were two new spots to fill. Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist took one of them, after spending some time in the “near misses” section of these posts.

Meanwhile, the eighth spot on the list belongs to David Mitchell, whose new novel, Utopia Avenue, came out last month. Mitchell has long been a Millions audience favorite, having made the Hall of Fame four times since 2010—so if past is prologue we’ll be seeing his name in these posts for five months to come.

This month’s near misses included: A Luminous RepublicFleishman Is in Trouble, Disappearing Earth, and The Lost Book of Adana Moreau. See Also: Last month’s list.