The Millions Top Ten: October 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 October.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
10.

The House on Vesper Sands
4 months

2.
1.

The Great Mistake
5 months

3.
5.

Bewilderment
2 months

4.
6.

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
3 months

5.
2.

Beautiful World, Where Are You
2 months

6.
3.

The Magician

2 months

7.


Crossroads
1 month

8.
9.

Subdivision
6 months

9.


A Calling for Charlie Barnes
1 month

10.
4.

The Book of Form and Emptiness
2 months

Can lists… listen? For months I’ve exclaimed our Top Ten’s consistency. The titles and their order have resisted change. Newcomers are as sporadic as they are welcome.

Well, no more. Like the goo in Ghostbusters 2, which animates in proportion to how much it’s heckled, our Top Ten converted months of my jibes into total metamorphosis. First place this month belongs to Paraic O’Donnell’s The House on Vesper Sands, which last month held… last. Down is up, which means up is also down. Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness moved from fourth to 10th. In between, two of last month’s top-three books—Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World… and Colm Tóibín’s The Magician—shifted into the middle this month.

If not my digs, then what shuffled the deck? If I possessed such unknowable answers, I’d be doing something else.

Some things held steady, though. Millions readers were so lathered up by Ed Simon’s piece about Ludwig Wittgenstein’s work that Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus rocketed onto our list, and three months later it’s not just hanging on; it’s climbing. Likewise, Millions readers welcomed Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel Crossroads onto this month’s list, which is fitting since Franzen’s made it to our site’s Hall of Fame three times. There’s comfort in stability, is there not?

Lastly, Joshua Ferris’s A Calling for Charlies Barnes entered our list in ninth position this month, after hovering in the “Near Misses” for a time. On our site last August, David Aaron wrote that “if this is not quite Ferris’s silliest work, it feels like his most personal.” Evidently, Millions readers were intrigued.

This month’s near misses included: Harlem Shuffle, Craft in the Real World, and Fierce Little Thing. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: September 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 September.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
3.

The Great Mistake
4 months

2.


Beautiful World, Where Are You
1 month

3.


The Magician
1 month

4.


The Book of Form and Emptiness
1 month

5.


Bewilderment
1 month

6.
5.

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

2 months

7.


Matrix
1 month

8.


Cloud Cuckoo Land
1 month

9.
4.

Subdivision
5 months

10.
10.

The House on Vesper Sands
3 months

Hall of Famers alone do not explain why newcomers make up 60 percent of this month’s list. Only two spots opened because Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun and Tove Ditlevsen’s The Copenhagen Trilogy ascended to our site’s hallowed hall—Ishiguro’s second entry and Ditlevsen’s first.

Six newcomers may be a record for our site. Certainly it is since the start of 2020. We’ve averaged 2.45 new books each month over that span, only once welcoming four.

To reshape the list with six, then, means something else is happening. No doubt the popularity of these new books’ authors has something to do with it. Sally Rooney is in second position, Colm Tóibín holds third, Lauren Groff claims sixth, and this is not to make slouches out of Ruth Ozeki, Richard Powers, and Anthony Doerr, either.

Perhaps it’s seasonal. As the leaves drop through crisp air, do wallets open to purchase new books? Evidently so, and The Millions was on it. All six newcomers were on our Great Second-Half 2021 Book Preview.

Will next month’s list bring as much change to our list? Unlikely, but there’s only one way to find out.

This month’s near misses included: A Calling for Charlie Barnes, The Morning Star, Harlem Shuffle, Nightbitch, and Intimacies. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: August 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 August.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

Klara and the Sun
6 months

2.
3.

The Copenhagen Trilogy
6 months

3.
4.

The Great Mistake
3 months

4.
5.

Subdivision
4 months

5.


Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
1 month

6.
6.

Outlawed

5 months

7.


The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
1 month

8.


Ghost Forest
1 month

9.
7.

Women and Other Monsters
4 months

10.
9.

The House on Vesper Sands
2 months

Our own Ed Simon wrote that “the idiosyncratic contours” of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s mind were on full display in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. The work, “scribbl[ed] away as incendiary explosions echoed across the Polish countryside and mustard gas wafted over fields of corpses,” Simon continues, “is less the greatest philosophical work of the 20th century than it is one of the most immaculate volumes of modernist poetry written in the past hundred years.”

It’s also the newest addition to our site’s Top Ten, because if there’s one thing Millions readers evidently love, it’s “one of the oddest books in the history of logic.” This month, the fifth spot belongs to all of you.

Elsewhere on our list, we opened three spots because Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts graduated to our Hall of Fame while Matthew Salesses’s Craft in the Real World and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Committed both dropped out.

After Wittgenstein, those spots are presently occupied by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois and Pik-Shuen Fung’s Ghost Forest. The two novels, published in August and July, respectively, were featured in our Great Second-Half 2021 Book Preview, where Jianan Qian wrote previews for both.

Writing of Love Songs, Qian wrote:
In her ambitious fiction debut, the 2020 National Book Award-nominated poet meditates on African-American history from the colonial slave trade to our current, turbulent age.
…and of Ghost Forest:
This is a fascinating epic of a Chinese-Canadian family, heartbreaking, daring, and relieving.
Solid picks, both. Stay tuned next month to see at least two newcomers, and to find out whether Wittgenstein endures.

This month’s near misses included: Nightbitch, Something New Under the Sun, and Intimacies. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: July 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 July.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
2.

Klara and the Sun
5 months

2.
3.

Fake Accounts
6 months

3.
4.

The Copenhagen Trilogy
5 months

4.
8.

The Great Mistake
2 months

5.
10.

Subdivision
3 months

6.
7.

Outlawed

4 months

7.
9.

Women and Other Monsters
3 months

8.


Craft and the Real World
2 months

9.


The House on Vesper Sands
1 month

10.


The Committed
1 month

Three books head to our Hall of Fame this month, and several books swapped places. Basically, our Top Ten did the Cha-Cha Slide. (“Slide to the left / slide to the right / criss-cross!”)

Before we welcome the new additions, let’s take it back now, y’all. After six months of strong showings, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, No One Is Talking About This, and Detransition, Baby have each graduated. It’s the first time for Patricia Lockwood and Torrey Peters, but it’s the fourth book George Saunders has sent to our Hall: Tenth of December made it in ’13, Fox 8 in ’14, and Lincoln in the Bardo in ’17. (“Everybody clap your hands!”)

The new books on this month’s list are The Committed, The House on Vesper Sands, and Craft and the Real World—the latter returning after a one-month absence. In a piece for our site early this year, Neelanjana Banerjee called Craft and the Real World “a blueprint for a way forward to build better writing programs, and thus a new kind of writer and teacher who can imagine beyond a structure that often hurt them and left them in need of repair.”

Among the near misses this month are Rachel Yoder’s Nightbitch and Dana Spiotta’s Whereabouts. The Millions interviewed both authors last month, and you can read those here, and here, respectively.

That’s all for now, so cha cha real smooth until next month.

This month’s near misses included: Nightbitch, Whereabouts, Vernon Subutex, Great Circle and Wayward. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: June 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 June.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
6 months

2.
2.

Klara and the Sun
4 months

3.
3.

Fake Accounts
5 months

4.
4.

The Copenhagen Trilogy
4 months

5.
5.

No One Is Talking About This
6 months

6.
6.

Detransition, Baby

6 months

7.
7.

Outlawed
3 months

8.


The Great Mistake
1 month

9.
9.

Women and Other Monsters
2 months

10.
8.

Subdivision
2 months

Johnathan Lee’s The Great Mistake appears on this month’s list. Published in the middle of June, it should be familiar to Millions readers who caught its mention in our First-Half 2021 Book Preview. At the time, Il’ja Rákoš noted that Lee’s novel had drawn early comparisons to both Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams and John Williams’s Stoner. That bodes well, since those two novels are in our site’s Hall of Fame. Five more write-ups like this, and Lee’s will join them.

Elsewhere on this month’s list, May’s top seven remain June’s. May’s eighth book became June’s tenth. Even the near misses held steady. All this points to one place: Millions readers are ready for that Second-Half Preview to drop.

Well, stay tuned this week…

This month’s near misses included: The House on Vesper Sands, The Committed, Vernon Subutex, Selected Stories, 1968-1994, and Whereabouts. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: May 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 May.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
5 months

2.
4.

Klara and the Sun
3 months

3.
3.

Fake Accounts
4 months

4.
5.

The Copenhagen Trilogy
3 months

5.
6.

No One Is Talking About This
4 months

6.
8.

Detransition, Baby

5 months

7.
10.

Outlawed
2 months

8.


Subdivision
1 month

9.


Women and Other Monsters
1 month

10.


Craft in the Real World
1 month

Three titles from last month’s “near misses” crack this month’s Top Ten: Subdivision by J. Robert Lennon, Women and Other Monsters by Jess Zimmerman, and Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses. The novel, essays, and book on craft occupy the eighth, ninth, and 10th positions, respectively. Although each one was deftly highlighted in our Great First-Half 2021 Book Preview last January—(Stay tuned for the Second-Half Preview soon!)—Salesses’s “stunning conflagration” is the only one so far to have been properly reviewed on our site.

“I wish I had it with me for the past twenty plus years of navigating writing workshops, both as student and teacher,” wrote Neelanjana Banerjee. “It is a blueprint for a way forward to build better writing programs, and thus a new kind of writer and teacher who can imagine beyond a structure that often hurt them and left them in need of repair.”

The newcomers’ spaces were opened by the ascension of Susie Yang’s White Ivy, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Pete Beatty’s Cuyahoga to our site’s Hall of Fame. On some shelves, freeing up 1,344 pages and replacing them with 736 pages might look strange, but here on our cyberspace shelf we think it looks swell indeed.

Meanwhile, enough of you talked about Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This that it moved from ninth position to fifth in the span of three months. Where will it go next? You’ll have to check back in July to find out.

This month’s near misses included: The Committed, Vernon Subutex, Selected Stories, 1968-1994, A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself and Life Among the Terranauts. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: April 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 April.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
4 months

2.
2.

White Ivy
6 months

3.
3.

Fake Accounts
3 months

4.
4.

Klara and the Sun
2 months

5.
5.

The Copenhagen Trilogy
4 months

6.
9.

No One Is Talking About This

3 months

7.
8.

Dune: Book 1
6 months

8.
6.

Detransition, Baby
4 months

9.


Cuyahoga
6 months

10.


Outlawed
1 month

Inertia is the pejorative name for consistency, if you ask me. There’s value in dependability. You lean back into your haunches until your muscles go limp, and briefly you float on trust alone until a chair stops your fall. You depend on that chair. You knew it would be there because that’s where it’s always been.

Our list this month is consistent. Its top five are unchanged. Last month’s list was consistent. Its top three were unchanged. My monthly dispatches about the Millions Top Ten are… well, you get the idea.

Remember, predictability is relative. This time last year, few would have predicted we’d be where we are today: fully immunized against the plague, and ready to greet normality. Big picture, 2020 was unpredictable like that. But zoom in and take each month’s inventory, and the days look alike. Maybe they blur. Maybe 2020 felt like one, unending day; one, unending routine. Small picture, 2020 felt predictable.

Which is to say that when you check in next month, when three of the books on this month’s list graduate to our site’s Hall of Fame, and when we welcome (at least!) three new titles in their places, you’ll recall that in fact there’s only one constant, and it’s change.

This month’s near misses included: Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology, Subdivision, The Committed, Selected Stories, 1968-1994, and Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping. See Also: Last month’s list.

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.