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
4 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.

The Millions Top Ten: June 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 June.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

The Glass Hotel
4 months

2.
2.

The City We Became
4 months

3.
4.

Night Boat to Tangier
6 months

4.
5.

Interior Chinatown

5 months

5.
7.

The Resisters
5 months

6.
6.

Tell It Slant

2 months

7.
9.

All My Mother’s Lovers
2 months

8.


Death in Her Hands
1 month

9.
8.

The Mirror & the Light
4 months

10.


Sharks in the Time of Saviors
1 month

As expected, Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror capped off a solid six months on our list with ascension into our site’s Hall of Fame. This freed up one spot on our list, but another was opened by Madeleine L’Engle’s The Moment of Tenderness moving from the 10th position last month to off the list entirely now. What has 2020 been if not divided?

Filling those spots are Ottessa Moshfegh, whose latest novel, Death in Her Hands ,debuts in the eighth position, and Kawai Strong Washburn, whose Sharks in the Time of Saviors moves up from last month’s “Near Misses” into the varsity line-up of the Top Ten.

In our Great First-Half 2020 Book Preview, published last January, which feels approximately seven decades ago, our own Il’ja Rákoš described Moshfegh’s latest as an “atmospheric, darkly comic tale of a pathologically lonely widow and the thrills lurking in her sylvan retreat.” Now that we’ve all basically been homebound, that sounds relatable—although that “sylvan” descriptor might be aspirational for most.

Washburn’s rise meanwhile could, if I were to toot my own horn, be ascribed to the way I wrote about his novel in the May edition of our Millions member newsletter:
I’ve worked 18-hour days nonstop since February because of my day job at a certain university with a very popular pandemic tracking map, so I’ve had precious few opportunities to read books. I also have a nine-month-old, so ditto. But people are right when they say life finds a way, and in pre-dawn hours while standing at the kitchen counter, or late night as I linger a moment or two longer than I should in my workspace, I’ve snatched bleary-eyed bits of Kawai Strong Washburn’s debut novel, Sharks in the Time of Saviors, and its viscerally rendered Hawaiian setting, interwoven with themes of new and old traditions, has been exactly the jolt I’ve needed. I’m not done yet but when I do finish, when the world settles, when the pandemic subsides, I’ll be thinking about it still.
Now that I’ve finished it, I can confirm: I’ve thought about this book almost daily since then. Now that we’re in July, I can also confirm: the virus is still here. Wear a mask.

Among the near misses we must highlight Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, which has become ubiquitous on reading lists the past few months. Although the circumstances of the book’s growing popularity are tragic, the fact that a book is newly popular makes it no less essential, and that new readers are interested in it should be celebrated—even if many of them are coming to it later than one would like, and even if the act of reading a book (or any number of books) alone will not make right what is wrong. Still, we ought to see the good where it is: this is a start for many people, even if it is overdue. Let’s all get to work.

This month’s near misses included: Disappearing Earth, A Luminous Republic, How to Be an Antiracist, and Fleishman Is in Trouble. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: May 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 May.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

The Glass Hotel
3 months

2.
3.

The City We Became
3 months

3.
5.

Trick Mirror
6 months

4.
4.

Night Boat to Tangier

5 months

5.
9.

Interior Chinatown
4 months

6.


Tell It Slant

1 month

7.
6.

The Resisters
4 months

8.
7.

The Mirror & the Light
3 months

9.


All My Mother’s Lovers
1 month

10.


The Moment of Tenderness
1 month

Rejoice, Millions faithful! Our own Adam O’Fallon Price has reached our site’s Hall of Fame thanks to six strong monthly showings for The Hotel Neversink. O’Fallon Price is now the fifth Millions staffer to reach the Hall—he joins site founder C. Max Magee (The Late American Novel), along with Mark O’Connell (Epic Fail), Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven), and Garth Risk Hallberg (City on Fire). It also looks like St. John Mandel may become the first Millions staffer to reach the Hall twice, as she notches yet another month atop our Top Ten with her latest novel, The Glass Hotel.

At the same time, Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is in Trouble and Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous both dropped out of the running this month, continuing the on-again, off-again trend they’ve maintained for a couple months.

Combined, these departures made way for three arrivals.

Tell It Slant, a ubiquitous craft mainstay, which had most recently been referenced on our site in a 2018 piece by Vivian Wagner, burst up to the sixth position on our list after a month or two among our “near misses.” Likewise, The Moment of Tenderness moved from the same group into our 10th spot. Then, All My Mother’s Lovers, which was featured recently in a Tuesday New Release Day post, made it into the ninth position.

See y’all next month as Jia Tolentino jettisons into our Hall of Fame, and who knows what else happens.

This month’s near misses included: A Luminous Republic, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, and Sharks in the Time of Saviors. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: April 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 April.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
5.

The Glass Hotel
2 months

2.
3.

The Hotel Neversink
6 months

3.
9.

The City We Became
2 months

4.
6.

Night Boat to Tangier

4 months

5.
4.

Trick Mirror
5 months

6.
8.

The Resisters

3 months

7.
7.

The Mirror & the Light
2 months

8.


On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
3 months

9.
10.

Interior Chinatown
3 months

10.


Fleishman Is in Trouble
2 months

Two Millions staffers top this month’s list, while a third narrowly missed out on inclusion. Perhaps this achievement amidst a global pandemic is what Charles Dickens meant by “the best of times…the worst of times.”

Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel rose to first place this month; the book “explores what Mandel calls ‘the kingdom of money,'” wrote Adam O’Fallon Price in our March Book Preview. Meanwhile Price’s novel The Hotel Neversink rose to second place on this month’s list. Mandel didn’t preview Neversink for our March Book Preview, even though that would have been a nice bit of symmetry, but Bill Morris did call it a “rambunctious, ambitious, decades- and generations-jumping tale” in our Great Book Preview, and that’s probably better. Regardless, the facts are irrefutable: Millions readers love Millions staffers who write books with “Hotel” in their titles.

Elsewhere, two books rejoin the list after spending some time off of it. Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous rejoined for the first time since February, and Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is in Trouble came back after debuting that same month. Their spots were opened up when The Topeka School and Ducks, Newburyport graduated to our Hall of Fame—a first-time distinction for both Ben Lerner and Lucy Ellmann.

Next month we look poised to open up at least one spot for a newcomer, and there’s only one place where you can find out which book it will be.

This month’s near misses included: The Moment of Tenderness, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, Sharks in the Time of Saviors, Tell It Slant, and Longing for an Absent God: Faith and Doubt in American Fiction. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: March 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 March.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

The Topeka School
6 months

2.
2.

Ducks, Newburyport
6 months

3.
4.

The Hotel Neversink
5 months

4.
3.

Trick Mirror

4 months

5.


The Glass Hotel
1 month

6.
7.

Night Boat to Tangier

3 months

7.


The Mirror & the Light
1 month

8.
5.

The Resisters
2 months

9.


The City We Became
1 month

10.
9.

Interior Chinatown
2 months

This month J. Robert Lennon’s Pieces for the Left Hand leaves us for the Hall of Fame, and it’s easy to be jealous. As the pandemic rages, exposing the failures of our health systems and laying bare the craven selfishness of many leaders and neighbors alike, it’s easy to wish you, too, were leaving everything behind, bound instead of the bliss of an Internet culture site’s Valhalla. On another, less dramatic level it’s easy as well to be jealous of people who are simply in positions to buy and enjoy books at a time like this, a time unlike any other. It’s been said by others in better language than mine, but the point remains: in dark and lonely times, remember the arts you turn toward.

In that spirit, we find reasons for joy. This is a banner month for Millions staffers, as a full fifth of the books on this month’s list was authored by our staffers. Emily St. John Mandel’s latest novel, The Glass Hotel, debuts in the fifth spot, and that’s the kind of strong showing in a pandemic you’d expect from the author of Station Eleven. Meanwhile Adam O’Fallon Price’s The Hotel Neversink has been a mainstay on the list for a while, but this month it edged ahead of Jia Tolentino’s acclaimed collection Trick Mirror, which is the publishing equivalent of a song from your favorite hometown band overtaking a pop star’s summer single on the Billboard list.

Elsewhere on the list, The Mirror & the Light, Hilary Mantel’s finale to the Wolf Hall series, enters in seventh position, and The City We Became, the first installment of N.K. Jemisin’s Great Cities trilogy, enters in ninth. In our Great First-Half 2020 Book Preview, Lydia Kiesling called the release of Mantel’s latest “one of the literary events of the young millennium,” and Jacqueline Krass said she “can’t wait” for Jemisin’s. In an interview for our site, John Maher asked Mantel, “What one fundamental aspect of history do you wish readers, or the culture at large, knew that you now know after years of researching the period you’ve fictionalized?”

“The past has to be respected and valued for its own sake,” she replied. “It is not a rehearsal for the present, and its people are not us in a primitive form.”

In the days ahead, remember that corollary: we didn’t rehearse what we’re going through now.

This month’s near misses included: The Testaments, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, and Tell It Slant. See Also: Last month’s list.