The Pioneer Detectives: Did a distant spacecraft prove Einstein and Newton wrong?

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The Millions Top Ten: January 2014

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.
1.

The Goldfinch
4 months

2.
2.

Selected Stories
4 months

3.
3.

The Flamethrowers
4 months

4.
4.

The Luminaries
4 months

5.
6.

The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose
4 months

6.
7.

Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment
2 months

7.
8.

Bleeding Edge
5 months

8.
9.

The Lowland
4 months

9.
10.

The Interestings
5 months

10.


Just Kids
1 month

 

Two books graduated to our Hall of Fame in January. We’re very proud to bestow the honor on our ebook original The Pioneer Detectives by Konstantin Kakaes. The book, which debuted in July 2013, is an ambitious work of page-turning reportage, the kind of journalism we all crave but that can often be hard to find. Filled with brilliant insights into how scientific discoveries are made and expertly edited by our own Garth Hallberg, The Pioneer Detectives is a bargain at $2.99. We hope you’ll pick it up if you haven’t already. Pioneer is joined in the Hall of Fame by another ebook orginal, George Saunders’s $0.99 short story Fox 8, which returned to our Top 10 for a seventh month in January after missing the list in December and therefore qualifies for the Hall.

Other than that, the list is positively gridlocked with several books staying put, including Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch atop the list. Our lone debut is unexepected: Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids. The National Book award-winning title has been popular among our readers for quite a while and was a “Near Miss” for several months on our list as recently as March 2011. The book likely got a boost thanks to Garth’s mention in his Year in Reading in December.

Incidentally, this also means that with the exception of Thomas Pynchon and the group-authored Draw it With Your Eyes Closed, our list is made up entirely of books by women.

Near Misses: The Circle, Eleanor & Park, The Son, Night Film, and Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: December 2013

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.
6.

The Goldfinch
3 months

2.
1.

Selected Stories
3 months

3.
2.

The Flamethrowers
3 months

4.
5.

The Luminaries
3 months

5.
3.

The Pioneer Detectives
6 months

6.
7.

The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose
3 months

7.


Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment
1 month

8.
9.

Bleeding Edge
4 months

9.
10.

The Lowland
3 months

10.


The Interestings
4 months

 

To start the new year, we’ve made some minor changes to how we calculate our list. Basically, we’ve added a slight penalty for lower-priced books because we were finding that spikes in sales of cheaper short-format books (e.g. "Kindle Singles") and aggressive promotional pricing of ebooks was skewing the list a bit. The change had no dramatic impact on the December list other than that it knocked George Saunders’s $0.99 short story Fox 8 out of our top 10.
The rest of the big changes were driven by our 2013 Year in Reading. Some books that were already popular with our readers got a lot of love in the series, including Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch which surged into the top spot after three contributors named the book as a favorite read of 2013. Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings was also a popular name in the series, and that helped return the book to the Top Ten after a few months off the list. Rachel Kushner was the runaway favorite in our series for The Flamethrowers, though the book dropped a spot to number three.
Our lone debut is a very unusual title. Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment is a slim collection, the result of several art teachers being asked to contribute the best art assignments they’ve ever heard of. Hannah Gersen included the book in her list of offbeat gifts for writers last month.
Finally, the contentious Taipei by Tao Lin graduates to our Hall of Fame. The book was the subject of a famously negative review here that perhaps not so paradoxically seemed to get a lot of people interested in the book.
Near Misses: The Circle, Night Film, Eleanor & Park, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, and MaddAddam. See Also: Last month’s list.

A 2013 Cheat Sheet for All You New Kindle (And Other Ereader) Owners

With each new holiday season the reach of ereaders expands, as a new crop of Kindles, Nooks and iPads are fired up. The first thing to do is download a few books.

Just a few years after ebooks and ereaders first emerged as futuristic curiosity, they are fully mainstream now. Even among the avid, book-worshiping, old-school readers that frequent The Millions, ebooks are very popular. Looking at the statistics that Amazon provides us, 45% of all the books bought by Millions readers at Amazon after clicking on our links this year were Kindle ebooks. Last year it was 33% and the year before it was 25%, so the trend continues unabated.

So, for all those readers unwrapping shiny new devices, here are some links to get you going.

For starters, The Millions published a pair of very highly regarded and very affordable ebook originals in 2013. If you are new to the ereader game, we hope you’ll pick up these titles:

Epic Fail: Bad Art, Viral Fame, and the History of the Worst Thing Ever by Mark O’Connell ($1.99)

The Pioneer Detectives: Did a distant spacecraft prove Einstein and Newton wrong? by Konstantin Kakaes ($2.99)

They are also available on Apple and other platforms.

Here are some of the most popular ebooks purchased by Millions readers in 2013 (which you’ll see are very similar to our Hall of Fame and most recent top-ten which take into account books in all formats). Publishers appear to still be having luck pricing ebooks pricing above the magic $9.99 number that has been a focus for many in the industry (all prices as of this writing).

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt ($7.50)
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner ($10.99)
Selected Stories by Alice Munro ($10.74)
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton ($8.59)
Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon ($10.99)
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri ($9.99)
Tenth of December by George Saunders ($8.99)
Fox 8 by George Saunders ($0.99)
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer ($8.99)
Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda ($11.04)
MaddAdam by Margaret Atwood ($1.99)

Other potentially useful ebook links:

Editors’ Picks
Best of 2012
Top 100 Paid and Free
Kindle Singles

And in this fractured ebook landscape, you’ve also got your NookBooks, Google ebooks, Apple ibooks, and the IndieBound ereader app that lets you buy ebooks from your favorite indie bookstore. Finally, don’t forget Project Gutenberg, the original purveyor of free ebooks (mostly out-of-copyright classics) available for years.

Happy Reading!

The Millions Top Ten: November 2013

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.
1.

Selected Stories
2 months

2.
2.

The Flamethrowers
2 months

3.
3.

The Pioneer Detectives
5 months

4.
4.

Taipei
6 months

5.
5.

The Luminaries
2 months

6.
8.

The Goldfinch
2 months

7.
6.

The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose
2 months

8.
7.

Fox 8
5 months

9.
9.

Bleeding Edge
3 months

10.


The Lowland
2 months

 

There wasn’t much action on our list November as the top 5 stayed unchanged. Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch was the big mover, jumping from the eighth spot to the sixth.
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson graduates to our illustrious Hall of Fame after a six-month run on the list that was initially spurred by the book’s Pulitzer win earlier this year. That departure makes room for the return of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland
Near Misses: Night Film, Visitation Street, The Interestings, MaddAddam and Dear Life. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: October 2013

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.


Selected Stories
1 month

2.


The Flamethrowers
1 month

3.
1.

The Pioneer Detectives
4 months

4.
2.

Taipei
5 months

5.


The Luminaries
1 month

6.


The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose
1 month

7.
3.

Fox 8
4 months

8.


The Goldfinch
1 month

9.
5.

Bleeding Edge
2 months

10.
4.

The Orphan Master’s Son
6 months

 

In October, we were in the thick of book prize season, and the announcements sent readers running to new books, resulting in a big shake-up on our list, led by new Nobel Laureate Alice Munro. Within minutes of the announcement, readers were finding our “Beginner’s Guide to Alice Munro“, penned by Ben Dolnick, author of Shelf-Love, an ebook original about Munro. Dolnick called Munro’s Selected Stories “the Munro book to read if you’re only willing to read one” and he singled out The Beggar Maid as “the Munro book to read if you’re only willing to read one but don’t like the idea of reading a literary greatest hits album.” Many readers took his advice and the former landed atop our list, while the latter ended up in the sixth spot.

Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers continued to win fans (here at The Millions, for example; we also interviewed her), but it was the book’s landing on the National Book Award shortlist that rocketed it to the second spot on our list.

There was also the Booker Prize. Fresh off a rave review here at The Millions, Eleanor Catton took home the Booker, and her big novel landed at #5 on our list.

And the last of our several debuts is Donna Tartt’s long-awaited The Goldfinch. No surprise there.

All these new books bumped five names from our list, collected here as this month’s Near Misses: Night Film, The Lowland, The Interestings, Visitation Street and MaddAddam. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: September 2013

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.
2.

The Pioneer Detectives
3 months

2.
1.

Taipei
4 months

3.
7.

Fox 8
3 months

4.
5.

The Orphan Master’s Son
4 months

5.


Bleeding Edge
1 month

6.
10.

Night Film
2 months

7.
8.

Visitation Street
3 months

8.
9.

The Interestings
3 months

9.


MaddAddam
1 month

10.


The Lowland
1 month

This month our second ebook original The Pioneer Detectives moves into the top spot as the book continues to garner very positive reviews from readers. We hope you’ll pick it up if you haven’t already.

Meanwhile, our list sees a big shake up as three books graduate to our Hall of Fame:

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: Ben Fountain’s book won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award. Fountain appeared in our Year in Reading, and Edan Lepucki interviewed him in these pages last June.

Stand on Zanzibar: Ted Gioia penned a very popular piece about the remarkably prescient predictions contained within John Brunner’s book and readers ran to check it out.

The Middlesteins: Author Jami Attenberg made an appearance in our Year in Reading in December.

These graduates make room for three heavy-hitting debuts, all of which appeared in our big second-half preview: Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon, MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (don’t miss Atwood’s appearance in our Year in Reading; we haven’t quite tracked down Pynchon yet for this), and The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Near Misses: Vampires in the Lemon Grove, The Flamethrowers, Life After Life, They Don’t Dance Much and Telex from Cuba. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: July 2013

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.
3.

Taipei
2 months

2.
4.

Stand on Zanzibar
5 months

3.
5.

The Middlesteins
5 months

4.
7.

The Orphan Master’s Son
3 months

5.
8.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
5 months

6.


The Interestings
1 month

7.
9.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove
4 months

8.


Visitation Street
1 month

9.


The Pioneer Detectives
1 month

10.


Fox 8
1 month

 

Big changes on our list this month as four titles graduate to our illustrious Hall of Fame. Let’s run through new Hall of Famers quickly:

Epic Fail: Bad Art, Viral Fame, and the History of the Worst Thing Ever: As many of our readers are already aware, staff writer Mark O’Connell’s shorter-format ebook was The Millions’ first foray into ebook publishing. We have been thrilled by the great reader response. And, if you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, why not mark its graduation to the Hall of Fame by checking out this special, little book (for only $1.99!)

Tenth of December: 2013 opened with the book world agog over George Saunders’ newest collection. He famously graced the cover of the New York Times Magazine under the banner “Greatest Human Ever in the History of Ever” (or something like that) and the book figured very prominently in our first-half preview. Unsurprisingly, all the hype helped drive a lot of sales. It also led our own Elizabeth Minkel to reflect on Saunders and the question of greatness in a thoughtful essay.

Building Stories: Chris Ware has reached the point in his career (legions of fans, museum shows) where he can do whatever he wants. And what he wanted to do was produce a “book” the likes of which we hadn’t seen before, a box of scattered narratives to be delved into any which way the reader wanted, all shot through with Ware’s signature style and melancholy. Ware appeared in our Year in Reading last year with an unlikely selection. Mark O’Connell called Building Stories “a rare gift.”

Arcadia: Lauren Groff is another Millions favorite, though it took a bit longer for her book, first released in March 2012, to make our list. Our own Edan Lepucki interviewed Groff soon after the book’s release, and Groff later participated in our Year in Reading, discussing her “year of savage, brilliant, and vastly underrated female writers.”

That leaves room, then, for four debuts on this month’s list:

The Interestings: Though Meg Wolitzer is already a well-known, bestselling author, her big novel seems to be on the slow burn trajectory to breakout status, with the word-of-mouth wave (at least in the part of the world that I frequent), building month by month. That word of mouth was perhaps helped along the way by Edan Lepucki’s rollicking review, in which, among other things, she posited what it means for a “big literary book” to be written by someone other than a “big literary man.”

Visitation Street: Ivy Pochoda’s new thriller featured prominently in our latest preview and carries the imprimatur of Dennis Lehane. That seems to have been enough to land the book on our list.

The Pioneer Detectives: As one Millions Original graduates from our list, another arrives. The Pioneer Detectives, which debuted in the second half of July, is an ambitious work of page-turning reportage, the kind of journalism we all crave but that can often be hard to find. Filled with brilliant insights into how scientific discoveries are made and expertly edited by our own Garth Hallberg, The Pioneer Detectives is a bargain at $2.99. We hope you’ll pick it up.

Fox 8: And as one George Saunders work graduates from our list, another arrives. This one is an uncollected story, sold as an e-single.

Meanwhile, Tao Lin’s Taipei easily slides into our top spot. For more on the book’s unlikely success in our Top Ten, don’t miss my commentary for last month’s list.

Near Misses: They Don’t Dance Much, Speedboat, My Struggle: Book 1, The Flamethrowers and Life After Life. See Also: Last month’s list.

Announcing the Second Ebook Original from The Millions: ‘The Pioneer Detectives’

The Millions Originals project continues today with a brand new ebook, The Pioneer Detectives by Konstantin Kakaes. The book is an exciting departure for The Millions, moving beyond the purely cultural realm with a work of long-form narrative journalism that explores an outer space mystery and tackles questions of how something becomes a scientific truth. Kakaes is a Bernard L. Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation, writing about science and technology, and is the former Mexico City bureau chief for The Economist. His work has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, and The Washington Post and appears frequently in Slate. Before becoming a journalist, he studied physics at Harvard University.

Dino, as I came to know him over the year I spent working with him on the book, started with a long-standing question in the world of astrophysics that, when he began his project, was nearing a resolution after decades of sometimes contentious study and debate in the scientific community. The question was this: Why was Pioneer 10, the first man-made object to journey through the asteroid belt and study Jupiter — a spacecraft now many millions of miles from earth — so far from where scientists’ calculations said it was supposed to be? The answer had the potential to upend the theories of Einstein and Newton and to make or break the careers of the scientists exploring it. Dino visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, interviewed the scientists pursuing what came to be known as “The Pioneer Anomaly,” and did extensive archival research. The result is a scientific police procedural, tracking the steps of those who sought to unravel this high-stakes enigma. His thrilling account follows the story from the Anomaly’s initial discovery, through decades of tireless investigation, to its ultimate conclusion. The Pioneer Detectives is a definitive account not just of the Pioneer Anomaly but of how scientific knowledge gets made and unmade, with scientists sometimes putting their livelihoods on the line in pursuit of cosmic truth.

The book was expertly shepherded along the way by its editor, long-time Millions staff writer and editor Garth Risk Hallberg. We hope you enjoy the result and continue to support The Millions Originals project.

The book is available right now for $2.99 on Amazon.com via its Kindle Singles store, and we are in the process of making it available via iTunes and other ebookstores.

Kakaes has a piece in Slate today that, while not an excerpt of The Pioneer Detectives, is connected to the topics covered in the book. You can also see a video of him discussing the new book.

Please join us for Pioneer Detectives events in Washington, DC on July 17th (this event is now full) and in NYC on July 22nd.

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