Cardinal Numbers

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The Millions Top Ten: July 2011

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 Pale King
5 months

2.
2.

The Enemy
3 months

3.
3.

The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books
6 months

4.
5.

Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric
4 months

5.
6.

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry
3 months

6.
8.

The Hunger Games
5 months

7.
9.

A Moment in the Sun
2 months

8.


Leaves of Grass
1 month

9.
10.

Otherwise Known as the Human Condition
2 months

10.


A Dance with Dragons
1 month

David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King is still in the top spot, and the rest of our top three are unchanged as well. New to our list is Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which was the subject of a moving appreciation by Michael on the 4th of July. Meanwhile, Game of Thrones mania has hit our top ten, as George R.R. Martin’s latest, A Dance with Dragons, lands in the tenth spot. Janet recently reviewed the epic series of books for us.
And graduating to our Hall of Fame are a pair of breakout hits from summer 2010, The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman and Skippy Dies by Paul Murray.
Near Misses: Cardinal Numbers, The Magicians, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, Swamplandia!, and How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One. See Also: Last month’s list

The Millions Top Ten: May 2011

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 Pale King
3 months

2.
2.

The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books
4 months

3.
3.

The Imperfectionists
5 months

4.


The Enemy
1 month

5.
4.

Atlas of Remote Islands
6 months

6.
9.

Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric
2 months

7.
5.

Skippy Dies
5 months

8.


The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry
1 month

9.
7.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
6 months

10.


The Hunger Games

3 months

David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King retains our top spot, but that’s not where the real action was this month. In May, a pair of new titles debuted and a third returned to our list after previously slipping off. The biggest news story of May was the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces, and that event was the catalyst for the first appearance of a “Kindle Single” (or any e-book original, for that matter) on our list. Clearly, many readers wanted Christopher Hitchens’ take on this event, and Amazon managed to lock down the 17-page essay he produced. The Enemy would have appeared as a magazine piece not too long ago and would likely have therefore been pretty ephemeral. It will be interesting to see if this essay’s status as a Kindle Single affords it any staying power.
Also debuting was The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, which our staffer Janet Potter reviewed this month. Returning to our list after a one-month hiatus is YA bestseller The Hunger Games, whose return was perhaps spurred by headlines surrounding the casting of the upcoming film version of the book. The other big mover was Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric, climbing three spots. As I wrote last month, Only Millions readers would make a book of rhetoric a bestseller.
Departing from our list were The Finkler Question, Cardinal Numbers, and Unfamiliar Fishes. Finkler’s Booker glory has faded; Cardinal Numbers was touted in these pages by Sam Lipsyte, but that was back in December; and Unfamiliar Fishes, with its somewhat obscure topic, lost some steam after the book’s initial publicity push waned.
Other Near Misses: A Moment in the Sun, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

See Also: Last month’s list

The Millions Top Ten: March 2011

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.


The Pale King
1 month

2.
8.

The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books
2 months

3.
1.

The Imperfectionists
3 months

4.
2.

Atlas of Remote Islands
4 months

5.
3.

Skippy Dies
3 months

6.
5.

Cardinal Numbers
4 months

7.
6.

The Finkler Question
5 months

8.
7.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
4 months

9.
10.

The Hunger Games
2 months

10.


Unfamiliar Fishes
1 month

I knew it would end up atop our list, just not this month. David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King debuts in the top spot, based only on those early pre-orders shipping from Amazon. Our other debut is Sarah Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes, reviewed here on The Millions last week. Thanks to the generous interest of many Millions readers, the book I co-edited The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books vaults to the second spot on our March list (I hope everyone’s enjoying it!). Graduating to our Hall of Fame is one of last summer’s big books, Emma Donoghue’s Room, and getting bumped from the list after a brief stay is the Mark Twain Autobiography. Other Near Misses: Lord of Misrule, How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One, Just Kids, and Woman in White.

See Also: Last month’s list

The Millions Top Ten: February 2011

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.
3.

The Imperfectionists
2 months

2.
4.

Atlas of Remote Islands
3 months

3.
8.

Skippy Dies
2 months

4.
5.

Room
6 months

5.
7.

Cardinal Numbers
3 months

6.
10.

The Finkler Question
4 months

7.
9.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
3 months

8.


The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books
1 month

9.


Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1
1 month

10.


The Hunger Games
1 month

Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists surges to the top of our list, followed by Judith Schalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands, and Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies. Meanwhile, the bottom of our list includes three very diverse debuts. The Late American Novel, co-edited by yours truly, is only just now "officially" out but it has been shipping from Amazon for a few weeks now. (To everyone out there who’s picked up the book, thanks for all your support.) Also, new on the list is the Mark Twain Autobiography that has gotten so much attention over the last few months. A few commentators, notably Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker, deflated the hype somewhat, but there is undoubtedly an enormous amount of interest in this literary legend. Finally, all the excitement around YA sensation The Hunger Games has landed the first book in the popular series on our list. Those three debuts took the spots left open by a trio of new Hall of Fame inductees, three books you could argue were the biggest literary reads of last summer, Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, and, of course, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.

Near Misses: How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One, Postcards from Penguin: One Hundred Book Covers in One Box, To the End of the Land, Just Kids , and Woman in White.

See Also: Last month’s list

The Millions Top Ten: January 2011

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.
2.

A Visit from the Goon Squad
6 months

2.
1.

Freedom
6 months

3.


The Imperfectionists
1 month

4.
4.

Atlas of Remote Islands
2 months

5.
3.

Room
5 months

6.
6.

Super Sad True Love Story
6 months

7.
8.

Cardinal Numbers
2 months

8.


Skippy Dies
1 month

9.
10.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
2 months

10.
9.

The Finkler Question
3 months

Goon Squad! In the last month on our list before they graduate to the Hall of Fame, Jennifer Egan’s underdog A Visit from the Goon Squad toppled Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom for our top spot. Egan’s book started with a lot of buzz last summer, and that buzz grew deafening over the course of 2010 (and into 2011) as it became the book to read among discerning fans of contemporary literature. Meanwhile, after months knocking on the door, Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists (not coincidentally just out in paperback) rockets onto our list with a debut appearance in third spot. Our other debut is another book that’s been much discussed around here, Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies. Rachman participated in our Year in Reading this year, as did Murray. Those two debuts took the spots vacated by our latest Hall of Fame inductees, a pair of summer reads that stayed hot as the weather got cold, Justin Cronin’s vampire tale The Passage and Tana French’s thriller Faithful Place. Near Misses: The Autobiography of Mark Twain, The Hunger Games, Postcards from Penguin: One Hundred Book Covers in One Box, Just Kids , and Woman in White. See Also: Last month’s list

The Millions Top Ten: December 2010

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.

Freedom
5 months

2.
3.

A Visit from the Goon Squad
5 months

3.
6. (tie)

Room
4 months

4.


Atlas of Remote Islands

1 month

5.
6. (tie)

Faithful Place
6 months

6.
4.

Super Sad True Love Story
5 months

7.
8.

The Passage
6 months

8.


Cardinal Numbers
1 month

9.
9.

The Finkler Question
2 months

10.


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
1 month

During the month of December, The Millions was flooded with book recommendations thanks to our Year in Reading series. Many of these recommendations piqued the interest of our readers, and a pair of hidden gems were intriguing enough to make it into our Top Ten. One was Anthony Doerr’s effusive praise for Judith Schalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands, and the other was Sam Lipsyte’s unearthing of the late and little known Hob Broun and his Gordon Lish-edited book Cardinal Numbers. A third debut in December was Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, her hotly anticipated follow up to Seabiscuit that was noted with an “AAAH!” in December by Sam Anderson.

December also graduated a pair of books to our Hall of Fame, the second such honor for each of the authors. Joining Cloud Atlas as an all-time Millions favorite is David Mitchell’s newest, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Meanwhile, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is a second inductee from the late Stieg Larsson’s global sensation, the Millennium Trilogy

Finally, it’s worth noting that after many months of skewing male, our list has acheived gender parity, with four of the top five books penned by female writers. Don’t be surprised if Jennifer Egan’s breakout hit A Visit from the Goon Squad eclipses Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom next month for our top spot. Near Misses: Skippy Dies, The Imperfectionists, The Hunger Games, The Autobiography of Mark Twain , and Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence. See Also: Last month’s list

A Year in Reading: Sam Lipsyte

This year I re-read the short story collection Cardinal Numbers by Hob Broun. Broun died in 1987 at the age of 37. This collection and his novel Inner Tube, edited by Gordon Lish, remain touchstones for me. These stories play with form and genre while also delivering us to deeply felt and often devastating places. Broun wrote with real wit and heart. Favorite pieces (and titles) in Cardinal Numbers include, “Ruby Dawn, Private Duty Nurse,” “Ice Water,” “High Speed Linear Main Street,” and “Fryed Cutlets.” Here’s the opener of “No Smoking”: “Joan was having a birthday the way other people have flu. She’d turned thirty-seven five days ago, but those forlorn and morbid symptoms still hung on. The ferries tripled on Friday and everyone already on the island took deep breaths. She passed the scone shop and the book nook and toggery. She passed Ramona’s sidewalk tables, where trust-fund carpenters sat with their imported ale. They wore jaunty little hats. They discussed timber prices and dilemmas of wiring. The dogs at their feet were stuporously pictorial.”
           
Then there is Broun’s beautiful story “Rosella, in Stages,” which follows a woman’s life from her toddler days at the turn of the last century to her senility and death eight decades later, all in six brief sections over six pages. Broun had some noteworthy difficulty writing this book and much of Inner Tube: he was paralyzed from the neck down after a surgical procedure. He wrote by puffing into a plastic tube attached to a computer. Every word was hard-won.

More from a Year in Reading 2010

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

The good stuff: The Millions’ Notable articles

The motherlode: The Millions’ Books and Reviews

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