I’ve spent more time outside of New York this year than any other year since I moved here a decade ago, so I’ve been thinking less about what I’m reading, and more about where I’m reading things. I wonder if the constant change in location adds to why, when I look through the things I’ve read this year, I notice that the books I read for pleasure — not for work or research — are more varied than usual.
Susan Steinberg’s collection Spectacle arrived as a galley before 2013 started, though I only opened it after the new year. It was an excellent way to start off a year that promised more than a few wonderful short story collections, including Spectacle, Adrian Van Young’s The Man Who Noticed Everything, and especially Laura van den Berg’s superb The Isle of Youth.
I picked up Max Beerbohm’s Selected Prose in a Provincetown used bookshop, and started reading it that night. After reading two great books this year on Dandyism — one put out by Yale Press and another co-authored by a dear friend of mine, I Am Dandy — my interest in Beerbohm’s work was piqued, and although I’ve been told that reading his novel, Zuleika Dobson, should be very high up on my list, I couldn’t help but be delighted by his stories and essays that called to mind S.J. Perelman, P.G. Wodehouse, and even Fran Lebowitz at some points.
Both James Wood and Wayne Koestenbaum continue to be in leagues of their own, something that was hammered home while reading Koestenbaum’s My 1980s & Other Essays, as well as Wood’s The Fun Stuff. I was chomping at the bit to read James Wolcott’s Critical Mass, and probably won’t stop talking about Michelle Orange’s This is Running for Your Life. I’d just like to put it out there that somebody should give Orange a whole bunch of money to just sit around and write essays. I’d appreciate that very much.
I read Sean Doyle’s zine The Day Walt Disney Died on an airplane, totally ignoring the weird looks the passenger to my right kept shooting at me for whatever reason. Sooner or later somebody is going to tell Doyle to write an entire book, and that person will be doing a big mitzvah for all of us. I also wasn’t shocked to find that the Gigantic crew put out another great issue this year. The fifth issue, read on a train bound for Connecticut, upon my return, had me combing through my personal archives for stellar old issues. The editors (who are friends of mine) have consistently had their fingers planted squarely on the pulse of what’s good in literature and design.
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Anthony Domestico, who studied under James Wood at Harvard, turns in a review of the critic’s latest non-fiction collection, The Fun Stuff. Aside from penning an astute review of the book, Domestico draws from his firsthand experience with Wood to pepper his write-up with details such as this: “While puzzling over a complex passage, he would vigorously rub the top of his head, as if hoping to coax interpretive brilliance from his bald spot like a genie from a lamp.” (Bonus: our own Lydia Kiesling takes a look at Wood’s latest for Bullet Media.)
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.
A Naked Singularity
This Is How You Lose Her
Both Flesh and Not
A Hologram for the King
The Patrick Melrose Novels
With our November list, A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava is enjoying the final month of its miracle run at the top before graduating to our Hall of Fame next month (don’t miss Garth Hallberg’s profile of De La Pava before it goes). A Naked Singularity will join Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, as the Booker winner, which has just been inducted Mantel’s first Thomas Cromwell book, Wolf Hall, is now also a Hall of Famer.
Moving up to number two on the list, Junot Díaz’s This Is How You Lose Her (our review) continues its climb, surpassing D.T. Max’s biography Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace. Wallace looms large on our list as his posthumously published collection of essays Both Flesh and Not debuts at number seven. The book is the third by Wallace (after Infinite Jest and The Pale King) to appear on a Millions Top Ten list. The new Paris Review anthology is another big mover, hopping two spots in its second month on the list. We’ve got an interview with one of the editors.
Near Misses: The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays, The Fifty Year Sword, The Round House, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. See Also: Last month’s list.
Even as much of the Eastern U.S. is lashed by a massive storm, we have new books this week, skewing mostly to non-fiction, including Kurt Vonnegut’s collected letters, Richard Russo’s memoir Elsewhere, James Wood’s collection of essays The Fun Stuff, and Peter Carlin’s authorized biography of Bruce Springsteen. On the fiction side is Emma Donoghue’s Astray.