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.
Norwegian by Night
The Underground Railroad
The North Water
Homesick for Another World
Here I Am
New year, same frontrunner: Norwegian by Night, no doubt propelled atop our list on the strength of Richard Russo’s recommendation, begins the year in first position. On its heels, The Sellout, The Underground Railroad, The Trespasser, and Moonglow jostle around. Swing Time drops out of our rankings, which was perhaps a result of Kaila Philo’s underwhelmed review for our site:
Ultimately, while Swing Time makes admirable artistic choices — who doesn’t love a nonlinear narrative? — the main issue I take with this novel has to do with how these choices don’t mesh well to create the relevant masterpiece it could have been. The whole does not amount to the sum of its parts, in other words.
Ascending to our Hall of Fame, meanwhile, is Ninety-Nine Stories of God, the latest collection from Joy Williams, praised by our own Nick Ripatrazone (who provides a scant fifty reasons) here.
All of this action freed up spots for two newcomers on this month’s list, both of which were featured on our book previews: Ottessa Moshfegh’s Homesick for Another World (2017 Book Preview) and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing (2016 Book Preview).
In Moshfegh’s case, the timing is logical. The book was previewed, it came out this past month, and y’all promptly bought it. But what explains Gyasi’s debut on our list almost a full year after we first previewed it, and half a year since it first published? Well, it recently won the John Leonard Prize for best debut novel. So there you go.
This month’s near misses included: The Nix, Pond, Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, and The Lyrics: 1961-2012. See Also: Last month’s list.
For years, Bob Dylan has been considered a longshot contender for the Nobel Prize. Nobel watchers have not taken the possibility of a Dylan win seriously, not because he isn’t a legendary talent, but because giving him the prize would be so out of character for a committee that has so often used the Nobel to bring a regional master to a global audience. A case can and certainly will be made that Dylan is as deserving as any other for something as arbitrary as a literary prize, but there is some disappointment in not bringing a lesser known talent to worldwide acclaim, let alone one whose primary medium is books.
That said, as far as rock memoirs go, Dylan’s Chronicles is considered perhaps the best of the genre. The book is meant to be the first in a trilogy but there has been little in the way of firm news as to when the second and third volumes might appear. In 2012, Dylan told Rolling Stone, “Let’s hope [it happens].” Certainly, however, the committee did not have Chronicles in mind when it gave Dylan the prize. A new edition of Dylan’s collected lyrics is set to be released within the next month.
In 2009, in these pages, Andrew Saikali made a strong case.
Whole books have been written, whole careers launched, with discussion of the lyrics of Bob Dylan. But reading Bob Dylan and listening to Bob Dylan are two completely different experiences. And it’s his melodies, vocal phrasing and musical arrangements that lift these masterful words off the page, animating them, haunting them, imbuing them with mystery.
In 2010, Jim Santel explored the suddenly popular rock memoir genre, setting aside Chronicles as an exception “among the most persistently disappointing of literary subgenres.”
In 2011, Buzz Poole reflected on Dylan’s 70th birthday: “Lurking in everything Dylan has ever done, for better or worse, is the myth of America, its chameleon-like quality to be everything to everybody its greatest asset, permitting openness, not for the sake of change but because of its necessity.”