The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

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The Millions Top Ten: October 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 October.

This
Month
Last
Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

A Naked Singularity
4 months

2.
2.

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
2 months

3.
5.

This Is How You Lose Her
2 months

4.
3.

NW
2 months

5.
4.

Telegraph Avenue
2 months

6.


Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story
1 month

7.
8.

Gone Girl
3 months

8.
6.

Bring Up the Bodies
6 months

9.
10.

The Patrick Melrose Novels
5 months

10.


A Hologram for the King
3 months

 

Our hurricane-delayed Top Ten for October has arrived. This month we see a new Paris Review anthology land on our list. We recently covered its creation in an interview with one of the editors. Meanwhile, Dave Eggers’A Hologram for the King returns to our list after a month off wandering in the desert.

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava remains in our top spot (don’t miss Garth Hallberg’s profile of De La Pava from June), and D.T. Max’s biography Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace holds on to the second spot (read the book’s opening paragraphs), and Junot Díaz’s This Is How You Lose Her (our review) leapfrogs other big fall books to land the third spot.

We had two books graduate to our Hall of Fame: How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees (don’t miss the hilarious, yet oddly poignant interview) and Stephen Greenblatt’s Pulitzer winner The Swerve: How the World Became Modern.

Near Misses: Shakedown, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, An Arrangement of Light, The Fifty Year Sword, and New American Haggadah. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: September 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 September.

This
Month
Last
Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

A Naked Singularity
4 months

2.
2.

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
2 months

3.


NW
1 month

4.


Telegraph Avenue
1 month

5.


This Is How You Lose Her
1 month

6.
3.

Bring Up the Bodies
5 months

7.
5.

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
6 months

8.
7.

Gone Girl
2 months

9.
4.

How to Sharpen Pencils
6 months

10.
6.

The Patrick Melrose Novels
4 months

Millions readers know: we had been looking ahead to September as a big month for books for quite some time, with new titles arriving from three of the biggest names working in literary fiction working today. We reviewed all three books and all three landed high up in our Top Ten this month with NW by Zadie Smith (our review) besting Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (our review) and This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (our review).

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava remains in our top spot (don’t miss Garth Hallberg’s profile of La Pava from June), and D.T. Max’s biography Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace holds on to the second spot (read the book’s opening paragraphs). Dropping off our list are New American Haggadah (just missing our Hall of Fame), A Hologram for the King, and Binocular Vision (read our interview with author Edith Pearlman)

Other Near Misses: An Arrangement of Light and How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: August 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 August.

This
Month
Last
Month

Title
On List

1.
2.

A Naked Singularity
3 months

2.


Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
1 month

3.
3.

Bring Up the Bodies
4 months

4.
4.

How to Sharpen Pencils
5 months

5.
6.

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
5 months

6.
5.

The Patrick Melrose Novels
3 months

7.


Gone Girl
1 month

8.
7.

New American Haggadah
6 months

9.
10.

A Hologram for the King
2 months

10.
9.

Binocular Vision
3 months

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava is our newest number one, with a ton of reader interest since De La Pava was profiled by Garth Hallberg in June. The book replaces Denis Johnson’s Pulitzer finalist Train Dreams in the top spot, as it graduates to our Hall of Fame. Our list has two debuts this month. D.T. Max’s widely anticipated biography Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace lands in the second spot (read the book’s opening paragraphs). And Gillian Flynn’s juggernaut of a novel Gone Girl is our other debut. Dropping off our list is Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language, which was brought to our readers’ attention when author Reif Larsen penned an engrossing exploration of the infographic.
Other Near Misses: Broken Harbor, How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life, Leaving the Atocha Station, Gone Girl, and The Flame Alphabet . See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: July 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 July.

This
Month
Last
Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

Train Dreams
6 months

2.
8.

A Naked Singularity
2 months

3.
2.

Bring Up the Bodies
3 months

4.
3.

How to Sharpen Pencils
4 months

5.
6.

The Patrick Melrose Novels
2 months

6.
5.

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
4 months

7.
4.

New American Haggadah
5 months

8.
7.

Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language
4 months

9.
9.

Binocular Vision
3 months

10.


A Hologram for the King
1 month

Denis Johnson’s Pulitzer finalist Train Dreams is our number one for a second month in a row, while A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava (profiled by Garth Hallberg) leaps six spots to number two, putting it in good shape to be next month’s number one when Train Dreams graduates to our Hall of Fame. Our lone debut, meanwhile, Is Dave Eggers’ A Hologram for the King. Eggers is no stranger to our lists. Zeitoun was inducted into our Hall of Fame in 2010, while The Wild Things had a brief run in the Top Ten in late 2009. The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus drops off the list after a one-month stint.
Other Near Misses: How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life, Leaving the Atocha Station, Gone Girl, and Broken Harbor. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: June 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 June.

This
Month
Last
Month

Title
On List

1.
5.

Train Dreams
5 months

2.
6.

Bring Up the Bodies
2 months

3.
7.

How to Sharpen Pencils
3 months

4.
8.

New American Haggadah
4 months

5.
9.

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
3 months

6.


The Patrick Melrose Novels
1 month

7.
10.

Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language
3 months

8.


A Naked Singularity
1 month

9.


Binocular Vision
2 months

10.


The Flame Alphabet
1 month

Four books — John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead, Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, and Lewis Hyde’s The Gift — decamp for our Hall of Fame this month. The former three were brought to the attention of our readers during our Year in Reading series in December, while the latter anchored a holiday gift guide for writers.
With all those books departing, our new number one is Denis Johnson’s Pulitzer finalist Train Dreams. It also makes room for three newcomers on the list and a returning title, Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision. The debuts are Edward St Aubyn’s The Patrick Melrose Novels (reviewed here in February), A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava (profiled by Garth Hallberg) and The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus (we reviewed the book in early January and interviewed Marcus later in the month).
Near Misses: Leaving the Atocha Station, Open City, The Great Frustration, 11/22/63, and Gods Without Men. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: May 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 May.

This
Month
Last
Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

Pulphead
6 months

2.
3.

The Book of Disquiet
6 months

3.
2.

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

4.
4.

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

5.
6.

Train Dreams
4 months

6.


Bring Up the Bodies
1 month

7.
10.

How to Sharpen Pencils
2 months

8.
5.

New American Haggadah
3 months

9.
7.

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
2 months

10.
9.

Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language
2 months

Our one debut this month is one of the most anticipated books of the year: Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, her sequel to Millions July 2010 Hall of Famer Wolf Hall. The arrival of the Thomas Cromwell juggernaut bumps Binocular Vision from our list. David Rees’ How to Sharpen Pencils is the other big mover on our list, jumping three spots. Our in depth, hilarious interview with Rees from last month is a must read.
Next month should be very interesting as we’ll see the top four books on our list move to the Hall of Fame, opening four new spots.
Near Misses: Binocular Vision, The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother’s Milk, Leaving the Atocha Station, The Great Frustration, and 11/22/63. See Also: Last month’s list.

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.

2012: The Year With No Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

A curious statement was made by this year’s Pulitzer Prize committee as, for the first time since A River Runs Through It failed to win in 1977, no award was given in the fiction category. Instead, Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams, Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!, and David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King will get to split the “tie” on their records. In the history of the Prize, there have only been nine other years without a fiction winner.

Meanwhile in the General Nonfiction category, Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern took home the top prize.

Here are this year’s Pulitzer winners and finalists with excerpts where available:

Fiction:

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson – (excerpt)
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (excerpt, The Millions interview)
The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (excerpt, previously unpublished scene)


General Nonfiction:

Winner: The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt (excerpt)
One Hundred Names For Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing by Diane Ackerman (excerpt)
Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men by Mara Hvistendahl (excerpt)


History:

Winner: Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable (excerpt, The Millions review)
Empires, Nations & Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860 by Anne F. Hyde (excerpt – PDF)
The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan (excerpt)
Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America by Richard White (excerpt)


Biography:

Winner: George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis (excerpt)

Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution by  Mary Gabriel (excerpt)
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable (excerpt, The Millions review)


Winners and finalists in other categories are available at the Pulitzer Web site.

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.

2011 National Book Award Winners Announced

The National Book Award winners for 2011 have been announced. The big prize for fiction went to Jesmyn Ward for Salvage the Bones, a novel one critic called “Katrina-drenched” and another “gritty, loamy and alive.” (excerpt)

The non-fiction award went to The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt (excerpt). The Poetry award was won by Nikky Finney for Head Off & Split. The winner in the Young People’s Literature category was Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (excerpt).

2011 National Book Award Finalists Announced

Award season is hitting its stride, and this year’s National Book Award finalists have been announced. For the second year in a row, the fiction finalists number four women versus one male author, and many of the “bigger” literary releases of the year are nowhere to be found. Also for the second year in a row, a New Yorker “20 Under 40” writer is recognized. By virtue of that, Téa Obreht may be the most well-known name of the bunch (our review). A pair of independent or university presses are represented among the fiction finalists, including Bellevue Literary Press, which made its name when Paul Harding’s Tinkers won the 2010 Pulitzer.

In nonfiction, we have the first graphic book in to be recognized in this category.

Update: There was a late addition to the YA finalists list: Chime by Franny Billingsley

Update 2: Due to a mixup by and subsequent pressure from the Foundation, Lauren Myracle has withdrawn Shine from consideration.

Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available:

Fiction:

The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak (excerpt)
The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (excerpt)
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (excerpt)
Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman (excerpt)
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (excerpt)

Nonfiction:

The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism by Deborah Baker (excerpt)
Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution by Mary Gabriel (excerpt)
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt (excerpt)
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable (our review)
Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss (excerpt)

Poetry:

Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney
The Chameleon Couch by Yusef Komunyakaa
Double Shadow by Carl Phillips
Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems: 2007-2010 by Adrienne Rich (excerpt)
Devotions by Bruce Smith

Young People’s Literature:

My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (excerpt)
Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin (excerpt)
Shine by Lauren Myracle
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt (excerpt)

Tuesday New Release Day: Ghosh, Banks, Kennedy, La Farge, Warner, Roth, Greenblatt, Orlean, Franzen

It’s a big week for new books. Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke is now out, as is Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks, Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy, Luminous Airplanes by Paul La Farge, and The Funny Man by John Warner, who recently appeared in these pages. Philip Roth’s American Trilogy is getting the Library of America treatment. (Capsule previews of all of the preceding titles are available here, incidentally). New in non-fiction is Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern and Susan Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin. And out in paperback: none other than Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.

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