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.
The Topeka School
The Hotel Neversink
The Glass Hotel
Night Boat to Tangier
The Mirror & the Light
The City We Became
This month J. Robert Lennon’s Pieces for the Left Hand leaves us for the Hall of Fame, and it’s easy to be jealous. As the pandemic rages, exposing the failures of our health systems and laying bare the craven selfishness of many leaders and neighbors alike, it’s easy to wish you, too, were leaving everything behind, bound instead of the bliss of an Internet culture site’s Valhalla. On another, less dramatic level it’s easy as well to be jealous of people who are simply in positions to buy and enjoy books at a time like this, a time unlike any other. It’s been said by others in better language than mine, but the point remains: in dark and lonely times, remember the arts you turn toward.
In that spirit, we find reasons for joy. This is a banner month for Millions staffers, as a full fifth of the books on this month’s list was authored by our staffers. Emily St. John Mandel’s latest novel, The Glass Hotel, debuts in the fifth spot, and that’s the kind of strong showing in a pandemic you’d expect from the author of Station Eleven. Meanwhile Adam O’Fallon Price’s The Hotel Neversink has been a mainstay on the list for a while, but this month it edged ahead of Jia Tolentino’s acclaimed collection Trick Mirror, which is the publishing equivalent of a song from your favorite hometown band overtaking a pop star’s summer single on the Billboard list.
Elsewhere on the list, The Mirror & the Light, Hilary Mantel’s finale to the Wolf Hall series, enters in seventh position, and The City We Became, the first installment of N.K. Jemisin’s Great Cities trilogy, enters in ninth. In our Great First-Half 2020 Book Preview, Lydia Kiesling called the release of Mantel’s latest “one of the literary events of the young millennium,” and Jacqueline Krass said she “can’t wait” for Jemisin’s. In an interview for our site, John Maher asked Mantel, “What one fundamental aspect of history do you wish readers, or the culture at large, knew that you now know after years of researching the period you’ve fictionalized?”
“The past has to be respected and valued for its own sake,” she replied. “It is not a rehearsal for the present, and its people are not us in a primitive form.”
In the days ahead, remember that corollary: we didn’t rehearse what we’re going through now.