The Sense of an Ending

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The Millions Top Ten: April 2012

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.
2.

Pulphead
5 months

2.
4.

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
5 months

3.
5.

The Book of Disquiet
5 months

4.
6.

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World
5 months

5.
9.

New American Haggadah
2 months

6.
10.

Train Dreams
3 months

7.


The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
1 month

8.


Binocular Vision
1 month

9.


Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language
1 month

10.


How to Sharpen Pencils
1 month

Last fall, the book world was abuzz with three new novels, the long-awaited books 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami and The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, as well as Chad Harbach’s highly touted debut The Art of Fielding. Meanwhile, Millions favorite Helen DeWitt was emerging from a long, frustrating hiatus with Lightning Rods. Now all four are graduating to our Hall of Fame after long runs on our list.

This means we have a new number one: John Jermiah Sullivan’s collection of essays Pulphead, which was discussed in glowing terms by our staffer Bill Morris in January. The graduates also open up room for four new books on our list.

A Pulitzer win has propelled Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern into our Top Ten (fiction finalist Train Dreams by Denis Johnson has already been on our list for a few months). Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision is another recent award winner making our list for the first time. Don’t miss our interview with her from last month.

In January, author Reif Larsen penned an engrossing exploration of the infographic for us. The essay has remained popular, and a book he focused on, Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language, has now landed on our Top Ten. And then in the final spot is David Rees’ pencil sharpening manual How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening. Our funny, probing interview with Rees from last month is a must read.

Near Misses: Leaving the Atocha Station, The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother’s Milk, 11/22/63, The Sense of an Ending, and The Great Frustration. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: March 2012

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.
2.

1Q84
6 months

2.
3.

Pulphead
4 months

3.
4.

The Marriage Plot
6 months

4.
6.

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
4 months

5.
7.

The Book of Disquiet
4 months

6.
5.

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World
4 months

7.
8.

The Art of Fielding
6 months

8.
9.

Lightning Rods
6 months

9.


New American Haggadah
1 month

10.
10.

Train Dreams
2 months

Ann Patchett’s Kindle Single The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life has graduated to our Hall of Fame, and Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 slides back into the top spot.

Debuting on our list is Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander’s New American Haggadah, just in time for Passover. We reviewed the new take on an ancient religous text last month. Next month should see a lot of movement on our list as we’re likely to see four books graduate to the Hall of Fame, meaning we’ll see four new titles debut.

Near Misses: Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language, The Sense of an Ending, Leaving the Atocha Station, The Great Frustration, and The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother’s Milk. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: February 2012

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.
2.

The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life
6 months

2.
1.

1Q84
5 months

3.
4.

Pulphead
3 months

4.
3.

The Marriage Plot
5 months

5.
8.

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World
3 months

6.
6.

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
3 months

7.
9.

The Book of Disquiet
3 months

8.
5.

The Art of Fielding
5 months

9.
10.

Lightning Rods
5 months

10.


Train Dreams
1 month

Ann Patchett’s Kindle Single The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life lands atop our list, unseating Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, and another Kindle Single, Tom Rachman’s short-story ebook The Bathtub Spy, graduates to our Hall of Fame. (Rachman’s book The Imperfectionists is already a Hall of Famer.)

Debuting on our list is Denis Johnson’s novella Train Dreams, which won mentions from Adam Ross, David Bezmozgis, and Dan Kois in 2011’s Year in Reading series.

John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead was a big mover again this month, and Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World also jumped a few spots.

Near Misses: The Great Frustration, The Sense of an Ending, Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language, 11/22/63, and The Sisters Brothers. See Also: Last month’s list.

Judging Books by Their Covers: U.S. Vs. U.K.

Like we did last year, we thought it might be fun to compare the U.S. and U.K. book cover designs of this year’s Morning News Tournament of Books contenders. Book cover design never seems to garner much discussion in the literary world, but, as readers, we are undoubtedly swayed by the little billboard that is the cover of every book we read. Even in the age of the Kindle, we are clicking through the images as we impulsively download this book or that one. I’ve always found it especially interesting that the U.K. and U.S. covers often differ from one another, suggesting that certain layouts and imagery will better appeal to readers on one side of the Atlantic rather than the other. These differences are especially striking when we look at the covers side by side. The American covers are on the left, and clicking through takes you to a page where you can get a larger image. Your equally inexpert analysis is encouraged in the comments.


The American cover is especially striking, with the bird and skeleton looking like something out of an old illustrated encyclopedia. And the wide black band suggests something important is hidden within. The British version feels generic, with the beach-front watercolor looking like a perhaps slightly more menacing version of the art you’d have hanging in your room at a seaside motel.

 
 

The Millions Top Ten: January 2012

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.

1Q84
4 months

2.
2.

The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life
5 months

3.
3.

The Marriage Plot
4 months

4.
6.

Pulphead
2 months

5.
4.

The Art of Fielding
4 months

6.
8.

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
2 months

7.
5.

The Bathtub Spy
6 months

8.
7.

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World
2 months

9.
10.

The Book of Disquiet
2 months

10.
9.

Lightning Rods
4 months

It was a quieter month for our list, with no new titles breaking in and 1Q84 still enthroned at #1. The big movers on the list were John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead, which received a glowing write-up from our staffer Bill, and Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, which Jonathan Safran Foer called a book that changed his life. With an array of hotly anticipated titles coming in February, we’ll see if any newcomers can break in next time around.

Near Misses: Train Dreams, The Sense of an Ending, Leaves of Grass, The Great Frustration, and A Moment in the Sun. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: December 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 December.

This
Month
Last
Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

1Q84
3 months

2.
3.

The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life
4 months

3.
2.

The Marriage Plot
3 months

4.
5.

The Art of Fielding
4 months

5.
4.

The Bathtub Spy
5 months

6.


Pulphead
1 month

7.


The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World
1 month

8.


The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
1 month

9.
6.

Lightning Rods
4 months

10.


The Book of Disquiet
1 month

While the top of our final list for 2011 included the same familiar names and 1Q84 still enthroned at #1, our year-end coverage helped push four eclictic new titles onto the lower half of our list. John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead was one of the most talked about books of 2011 and our own Bill and Garth offered glowing comments on the book in our Year in Reading. Jonathan Safran Foer touted Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows as a book that changed his life. (Our own Emily Mandel also wrote a fascinating essay inspired by the book over a year ago.) Colum McCann said of Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet, “It was like opening Joyce’s back door and finding another genius there in the garden.” Finally, Hannah Gerson came up with “12 Holiday Gifts That Writers Will Actually Use” but only one of them was a book,
The Gift by Lewis Hyde.
With all these new books showing up on our list, four titles got knocked off: Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending, John Sayles’s A Moment in the Sun, and Whitman’s Leaves of Grass
Other Near Misses: Train Dreams and The Great Frustration See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: November 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 November.

This
Month
Last
Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

1Q84
2 months

2.
3.

The Marriage Plot
2 months

3.
7.

The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life
3 months

4.
4.

The Bathtub Spy
4 months

5.
5.

The Art of Fielding
3 months

6.
10.

Lightning Rods
3 months

7.
6.

Leaves of Grass
5 months

8.
9.

A Moment in the Sun
6 months

9.


The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
1 month

10.


The Sense of an Ending
1 month

Haruki Murakami returned to our top spot this month with 1Q84 (read our review here), while Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot (read our review here) crept up to the second spot. Meanwhile, Ann Patchett’s Kindle Single The Getaway Car jumped into our third spot and Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods was also making a strong move higher.

Another Kindle Single, Christopher Hitchens’ timely The Enemy, and Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test graduate to our Hall of Fame. Don’t miss Janet’s review of the latter.
Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern appears on our list shortly after winning the National Book Award, while the Booker Prize win propels Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending onto our list.
Near Misses: How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, 11/22/1963, The Sisters Brothers, Salvage the Bones, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition See Also: Last month’s list.

The Notables: 2011

This year’s New York Times Notable Books of the Year list is out. At 100 titles, the list is more of a catalog of the noteworthy than a distinction. Sticking with the fiction exclusively, it appears that we touched upon a few of these books as well:

The Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo (Most Anticipated)The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (The Gay Question: Death in Venice, By Nightfall, and The Art of Fielding)The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (2011 National Book Award Finalists Announced)The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje (The Sea and the Mirror: Reflections and Refractions from a Voyage by Ship in Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table)Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy (William Kennedy’s Long Dry Spell Ends with Chango’s Beads and Two-Toned Shoes)11/22/63 by Stephen King (Most Anticipated)The Free World by David Bezmozgis (The Price of the Dream: David Bezmozgis’s The Free World, The Millions Interview: David Bezmozgis)Ghost Lights by Lydia Millet (Most Anticipated)Gryphon by Charles Baxter (Most Anticipated)House of Holes by Nicholson Baker (Ham Steaks and Manstarch: Nicholson Baker Returns to the Sex Beat)The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta (Most Anticipated)The London Train by Tessa Hadley (Most Anticipated)Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks (Porn, Lies, and Videotape: On Russell Banks’ Lost Memory of Skin)The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Write ‘The Marriage Plot’, Wanting it Bad: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides)A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles (Robert Birnbaum in Conversation with John Sayles)My New American Life by Francine Prose (Albania the Beautiful: Francine Prose’s My New American Life)1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (A Novelist Unmoored from Himself: Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, Reading 1Q84: The Case for Fiction in a Busy Life)The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (The Burden of Meaningfulness: David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King)Parallel Stories by Peter Nadas (Most Anticipated)Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman (Most Anticipated)The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (The Favorite Takes Home the Booker)Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta (Rock ‘n Roll Malaise: Dana Spiotta’s Stone Arabia)The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst (The Impermanence of Memory: Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child, The Millions Interview: Alan Hollinghurst Answers his Critics)Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (The Millions Interview: Karen Russell)Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson (The Millions Interview: Eleanor Henderson)The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (The Stories We Tell Ourselves: Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife)The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips (Most Anticipated)Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (Most Anticipated)

The Millions Top Ten: October 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 October.

This
Month
Last
Month

Title
On List

1.


1Q84
1 month

2.
1.

The Enemy
6 months

3.


The Marriage Plot
1 month

4.
4.

The Bathtub Spy
3 months

5.
3.

The Art of Fielding
2 months

6.
5.

Leaves of Grass
4 months

7.
9.

The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life
2 months

8.
6.

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

9.
7.

A Moment in the Sun
5 months

10.


Lightning Rods
1 month

The literary battle royale of 2011 played out and Haruki Murakami emerged the winner with 1Q84 (read our review here) debuting atop our October list. Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot (read our review here), meanwhile, debuted a bit farther down the list, but still put up an impressive showing. These two weren’t the only novels to make a splash in October, though. As Garth wrote in his review, “in a just world, Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods would be greeted with the same frenzy of publicity that attended Freedom last year, or The Marriage Plot just this month.”

The Murakami debut bumps Christopher Hitchens’The Enemy from the top spot, while Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric, that perhaps unlikely favorite of Millions readers graduates to our Hall of Fame. Don’t miss the review that started it all.
Falling off our list is Geoff Dyer’s Otherwise Known as the Human Condition (our review). This is the second of Dyer’s books (Out of Sheer Rage) to spend time on our list but fail to make our Hall of Fame. Also slipping from our list was Christopher Boucher’s debut novel How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive (our review).Other Near Misses: The Missing of the Somme, The Sisters Brothers, and The Sense of an Ending. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Favorite Takes Home the Booker

Julian Barnes, a four-time shortlister, has finally won the Booker Prize for The Sense of an Ending. It was only the second time in eight years that the favorite with the bettors has won (Wolf Hall was the other).

We called Barnes’s book one of our Most Anticipated for the second half of 2011:

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: Three-time Man Booker shortlister Julian Barnes has written a new novel, the first since Arthur & George was published in 2005. According to Barnes’ website, The Sense of an Ending is a middle-aged man’s retroactive search for truth about his time as a member of “sex-hungry and book-hungry” adolescent crew, one of whose members meets an untimely end. The title–certainly a nod to Frank Kermode’s classic work of literary theory–suggests that Barnes, true to fashion, will apply the theories of literature to private life, hopefully with the same panache of his earlier novels.

U.S. publisher Knopf was smart to move the publication date up to October 5th. The book was originally slated to come out in the U.S. in January 2012.

Tuesday New Release Day: Lewis, Saramago, DeWitt, Ondaatje, Enright, Hoffman, Harrison, Barnes, Adria, Hawkins

Michael Lewis’s last book made our Hall of Fame. Now he’s back with a new book that widens his focus to the financial dramas around the world with Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World. Also out this week, Jose Saramago’s posthumously published Cain, Helen DeWitt’s long-awaited Lightning Rods, Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table (reviewed here), Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz, Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers, Jim Harrison’s The Great Leader, and Booker shortlisted The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Also out: From the master of “molecular gastronomy,” The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria and, as noted in our recent piece “What Ever Happened to the New Atheism?The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins.

Two Debut Novelists on the 2011 Booker Shortlist

Well-known, established writer (and now four-time shortlister) Julian Barnes is likely the early favorite on the 2011 Booker shortlist, while Stephen Kelman and A.D. Miller make the list with their first novels. Alan Hollinghurst is probably the biggest surprise not to make it through to the next round. The longlist was offered here with some excerpts a month ago, but since you might not have gotten around to them then, we’ll offer the same with the shortlist below.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (excerpt)
Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch (excerpt)
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (excerpt)
Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman (excerpt)
Snowdrops by A.D. Miller (Staff Pick)

Let us know if you’ve read any of these – and if you think any deserve to win.

The Booker’s Dozen: The 2011 Booker Longlist

With the unveiling of the Booker Prize longlist, the 2011 literary Prize season is officially underway. As is usually the case, the list offers a mix of exciting new names, relative unknowns and beloved standbys. The lone past winner (for The Line of Beauty) is Alan Hollinghurst, and longlisters Sebastian Barry and Julian Barnes have gotten shortlist nods in the past. At the other end of the experience specturm, four debut novelists make the list: Stephen Kelman, A.D. Miller, Yvvette Edwards, and Patrick McGuinness.

All the Booker Prize longlisters are below (with excerpts where available):

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (excerpt)
On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry (excerpt [pdf])
Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch (excerpt)
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (excerpt)
Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards
The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst (excerpt)
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman (excerpt)
The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness
Snowdrops by A.D. Miller (Staff Pick)
Far to Go by Alison Pick
The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
Derby Day by D.J. Taylor

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