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.
The Glass Hotel
The City We Became
Night Boat to Tangier
Tell It Slant
All My Mother’s Lovers
Death in Her Hands
The Mirror & the Light
Sharks in the Time of Saviors
As expected, Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror capped off a solid six months on our list with ascension into our site’s Hall of Fame. This freed up one spot on our list, but another was opened by Madeleine L’Engle’s The Moment of Tenderness moving from the 10th position last month to off the list entirely now. What has 2020 been if not divided?
Filling those spots are Ottessa Moshfegh, whose latest novel, Death in Her Hands ,debuts in the eighth position, and Kawai Strong Washburn, whose Sharks in the Time of Saviors moves up from last month’s “Near Misses” into the varsity line-up of the Top Ten.
In our Great First-Half 2020 Book Preview, published last January, which feels approximately seven decades ago, our own Il’ja Rákoš described Moshfegh’s latest as an “atmospheric, darkly comic tale of a pathologically lonely widow and the thrills lurking in her sylvan retreat.” Now that we’ve all basically been homebound, that sounds relatable—although that “sylvan” descriptor might be aspirational for most.
Washburn’s rise meanwhile could, if I were to toot my own horn, be ascribed to the way I wrote about his novel in the May edition of our Millions member newsletter:
I’ve worked 18-hour days nonstop since February because of my day job at a certain university with a very popular pandemic tracking map, so I’ve had precious few opportunities to read books. I also have a nine-month-old, so ditto. But people are right when they say life finds a way, and in pre-dawn hours while standing at the kitchen counter, or late night as I linger a moment or two longer than I should in my workspace, I’ve snatched bleary-eyed bits of Kawai Strong Washburn’s debut novel, Sharks in the Time of Saviors, and its viscerally rendered Hawaiian setting, interwoven with themes of new and old traditions, has been exactly the jolt I’ve needed. I’m not done yet but when I do finish, when the world settles, when the pandemic subsides, I’ll be thinking about it still.
Now that I’ve finished it, I can confirm: I’ve thought about this book almost daily since then. Now that we’re in July, I can also confirm: the virus is still here. Wear a mask.
Among the near misses we must highlight Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, which has become ubiquitous on reading lists the past few months. Although the circumstances of the book’s growing popularity are tragic, the fact that a book is newly popular makes it no less essential, and that new readers are interested in it should be celebrated—even if many of them are coming to it later than one would like, and even if the act of reading a book (or any number of books) alone will not make right what is wrong. Still, we ought to see the good where it is: this is a start for many people, even if it is overdue. Let’s all get to work.