And the Winners of the 2020 Best Translated Book Awards Are…

The 2020 Best Translated Book Awards—announced in a livestreaming event earlier this evening—were given to Daša Drndić’s EEG and Etel Adnan’s Time.

EEG, translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth and published by New Directions, won for fiction. Lebanese-American Adnan’s Time, translated from the French by Sarah Riggs and published by Nightboat, took the poetry prize.

EEG was Drndić’s last novel, and the fourth translated by Hawkesworth, who has translated nearly 40 books in an accomplished career. Drndić is the first female author to win the fiction category since Can Xue in 2015, though as translators, men and woman are equally represented throughout the years. It is the third time New Directions has taken home this award.

Of EEG, the jury says:
Dasa Drndic in her encyclopedic, panoramic novel, superbly translated by Celia Hawkesworth, calls forth the ghosts of Europe’s 20th century in a biting indictment against complacency and the comfort and convenience of forgetting. A frenzy of observations and deeply researched facts, seething with rage and urgency, it is a haunting and masterful final work. A final work that continues on like a river. It rushes, rages through time, collecting detritus and eroding the landscape, shifting and changing at every bend. It smothers and subsumes, with palpable anger as it attempts to drown the reader again and again before granting them air at the last possible moment. There may be no better descriptor for Hawkesworth’s translation of Drndić’s prose than torrential. You may struggle and try to resist, but at a certain point, you will let yourself be swept away by it. You will give in and trust that it knows which way to go. Once in that place, EEG holds and envelops like few books in memory have.
This year’s fiction jury was comprised of: Elisa Wouk Almino (writer and translator), Pierce Alquist (Transnational Literature Series, Brookline Booksmith), Hailey Dezort (marketing and events coordinator for Kaye Publicity), Louisa Ermelino (author and columnist for Publishers Weekly), Hal Hlavinka (writer and critic), Keaton Patterson (Brazos Bookstore), Christopher Phipps (bookseller), Lesley Rains (City of Asylum Bookstore), Justin Walls (bookseller)

This is the second recent major award for Sarah Riggs’s translation of Adnan’s Time, following the Griffin Poetry Prize and a nomination as a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Though this is a translation from the French, Adnan also writes in English and Arabic. A poet herself, this was Sarah Riggs’s first BTBA nomination. This marks the seventh year in a row that the poetry prize has been awarded to both a female author and translator. It is the first time Nightboat has won the BTBA.

Of Time, the jury offers:
What’s not to savor in Etal Adnan’s philosophical and precise, yet intensely moving Time, thoughtfully and beautifully translated by Sarah Riggs? Adnan does not shy away from questions of mortality…indeed, the book’s opening stanza tells us, “I say that I’m not afraid/ of dying because I haven’t/ yet had the experience/of death.” Later in the book, we learn “There are arteries,/ veins, and other channels/ that all lead to death.” Yet despite it all, we are asked to consider that “Some flowers/ wilt tombs while/ orchards begin/ to blossom.” Indeed, the poems in these six sequences bloom with the beauty the world has to offer as well as those who have created these human-made gifts through the ages: Homer, Issa, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Shostakovich. Love, death, and the greater cosmos interweave the fabric of our lives: “there are loves that grow/ like cancers. We attach ourselves/ to them like the body to its illness,/ the moon to the earth.” And even though we’re told that “time can’t be translated,” Sarah Riggs has done a masterful job rendering Adnan’s stunning truths.
This year’s poetry jury was comprised of Nancy Naomi Carlson (poet and translator), Patricia Lockwood (poet), Aditi Machado (poet and translator), Laura Marris (writer and translator), Brandon Shimoda (author)

Best Translated Book Awards Names 2020 Finalists

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The Best Translated Books Awards today named its 2020 finalists for fiction and poetry. The award, founded by Three Percent at the University of Rochester, comes with $10,000 in prizes from the Amazon Literary Partnership. The prize will be split evenly between the winning authors and translators.

Be sure to check out this year’s fiction and poetry longlists, which we announced last month. And at Three Percent, guest writers contributed arguments for why each nominee deserves to win this year’s award.

Best Translated Book Award 2020: Fiction Finalists

Animalia by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, translated from the French by Frank Wynne (France, Grove)

EEG by Daša Drndić, translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth (Croatia, New Directions)

Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman, translated from the Russian by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler (Russia, New York Review Books)

Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, translated from the Spanish by Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff (Argentina, Charco Press)

Good Will Come From the Sea by Christos Ikonomou, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (Greece, Archipelago Books)

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Japan, Pantheon)

77 by Guillermo Saccomanno, translated from the Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger (Argentina, Open Letter Books)

Beyond Babylon by Igiaba Scego, translated from the Italian by Aaron Robertson (Italy, Two Lines Press)

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Poland, Riverhead)

Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, translated from the Japanese by Geraldine Harcourt (Japan, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This year’s fiction jury is comprised of Elisa Wouk Almino, Pierce Alquist, Hailey Dezort, Louisa Ermelino, Hal Hlavinka, Keaton Patterson, Christopher Phipps, Lesley Rains, and Justin Walls.

Best Translated Book Award 2020: Poetry Finalists

Aviva-No by Shimon Adaf, translated from the Hebrew by Yael Segalovitz (Israel, Alice James Books)

Time by Etel Adnan, translated from the French by Sarah Riggs (Lebanon, Nightboat Books)

Materia Prima by Amanda Berenguer, translated from the Spanish by Gillian Brassil, Anna Deeny Morales, Mónica de la Torre, Urayoán Noel, Jeannine Marie Pitas, Kristin Dykstra, Kent Johnson, and Alex Verdolini (Uruguay, Ugly Duckling Presse)

Next Loves by Stéphane Bouquet, translated from the French by Lindsay Turner (France, Nightboat Books)

Camouflage by Lupe Gómez, translated from the Galician by Erín Moure (Spain, Circumference Books)

This year’s poetry jury is comprised of Nancy Naomi Carlson, Patricia Lockwood, Aditi Machado, Laura Marris, and Brandon Shimoda.

The winners for both the fiction and poetry awards will be announced on May 27.

The Millions Top Ten: April 2020

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.
5.

The Glass Hotel
2 months

2.
3.

The Hotel Neversink
6 months

3.
9.

The City We Became
2 months

4.
6.

Night Boat to Tangier

4 months

5.
4.

Trick Mirror
5 months

6.
8.

The Resisters

3 months

7.
7.

The Mirror & the Light
2 months

8.


On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
3 months

9.
10.

Interior Chinatown
3 months

10.


Fleishman Is in Trouble
2 months

Two Millions staffers top this month’s list, while a third narrowly missed out on inclusion. Perhaps this achievement amidst a global pandemic is what Charles Dickens meant by “the best of times…the worst of times.”

Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel rose to first place this month; the book “explores what Mandel calls ‘the kingdom of money,'” wrote Adam O’Fallon Price in our March Book Preview. Meanwhile Price’s novel The Hotel Neversink rose to second place on this month’s list. Mandel didn’t preview Neversink for our March Book Preview, even though that would have been a nice bit of symmetry, but Bill Morris did call it a “rambunctious, ambitious, decades- and generations-jumping tale” in our Great Book Preview, and that’s probably better. Regardless, the facts are irrefutable: Millions readers love Millions staffers who write books with “Hotel” in their titles.

Elsewhere, two books rejoin the list after spending some time off of it. Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous rejoined for the first time since February, and Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is in Trouble came back after debuting that same month. Their spots were opened up when The Topeka School and Ducks, Newburyport graduated to our Hall of Fame—a first-time distinction for both Ben Lerner and Lucy Ellmann.

Next month we look poised to open up at least one spot for a newcomer, and there’s only one place where you can find out which book it will be.

This month’s near misses included: The Moment of Tenderness, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, Sharks in the Time of Saviors, Tell It Slant, and Longing for an Absent God: Faith and Doubt in American Fiction. See Also: Last month’s list.

Must-Read Poetry: May 2020

Here are five notable books of poetry publishing this month. 

The World I Leave You: Asian American Poets on Faith and Spirit, edited by Leah Silvieus and Lee Herrick

An anthology that should become a mainstay of poetry classrooms. “It is always the right time for faith and the spirit. It is always the right time for poetry,” the editors write in their introduction. The anthology begins with a long poem, “The City in Which I Love You,” by Li-Young Lee, which sets the appropriate tone of wonder and seeking: “Is prayer, then, the proper attitude / for the mind that longs to be freely blown, / but which gets snagged on the barb / called world, that / tooth-ache, the actual? What prayer // would I build? And to whom?” Several excellent poems here from Matthew Olzmann, a poet both clever and soulful (one trait of a great anthology is that it sends us searching to find more work). From his “Letter to a Bridge Made of Rope”: “But this is how faith works its craft. / One foot set in front of the other, while the wind / rattles the cage of the living, and the rocks down there // cheer every wobble, and your threads keep / this braided business almost intact saying: Don’t worry. / I’ve been here a long time. You’ll make it across.” In a later poem of his, an ecumenical prayer: “Our Father, who art in / heaven and also / the centipede grass and the creek / and the engine that warbles / roadside.” The anthology includes “Grace,” a lovely elegy by Joseph O. Legaspi for his father. A carabao “pulling a wooden cart hill-high with watermelons” arrives on the narrator’s street. His father “watermelon lover, scanned the stacked pyramid, held up a dull fruit.” He gave it “a gentle knock,” his “knuckles // bounced off the bell-domed curve, he listened, eyes / closed.” The narrator “watched him then, as I always did, / man of eternal theater, of elegant fingers, this Lazarus / figment memory I call poetry, my father full of grace.” There are poems here that also sound the faithfulness of doubt, like “Vestige” by Michelle Peñaloza: “The creak of pews makes my knees ache, / my palms and fingertips kiss.” The visceral, tangible roll of rosaries connects the narrator with her mother: “I envied the faith she found.” She, though, has other devotions. “I count the day’s / miracles: the sweet butter on wheat toast, / the abundance of coffee, the predictability of doors, / opening and closing.” 

The Park by John Freeman

Freeman’s pensive volume is a fascinating consideration of the park as a place of preserved wilderness. “We / stop, in mourning, / sensing everything / we’ve lost. We call / that ceremony / a park” he writes in the prefatory poem; wildlife passes through those spaces, yet it is only humans who need to ponder the relative absence of wildness elsewhere. The park is an injunction against the neutering of civilization. As Freeman etymologically notes, “It took the overrunning of London / by its immigrant population in 1680 / to turn the word into the spot we’d / park humans, so they could stumble / around in bewilderment at how time / is translation, change is nature’s time.” As he demonstrates in “Walks in the Dark,” layers abound in these considerations of wild spaces. While a child, the narrator entered woods “stark / and bluish-green, lit / by our candles, ninety / young singing boys, / walking to the lake” while “holding our / fathers’ hands.” The woods “darker still because of those / teardrops of light.” The lake’s “black / water absolutely waveless,” the candles floating. Yet the morning after, the narrator “learned / the lake was a reservoir, / water we stole / from the trees that gave us / shade.” He followed the water to the dam “holding back the hoarded / water,” the flow “clogged / with the candles, which were / soggy and gray and not at / all like prayers.” In the end, as Freeman writes in another poem, perhaps the purpose of parks “is to temper the machine / in us.”

White Blood by Kiki Petrosino

Another ambitious volume from Petrosino. Revelation through ancestry test: a narrator wonders how genetic history routes our lives, and how we are to fully reckon with our past, known and unknown. An early section of the book is a skilled double crown sonnet that begins with acceptance—to college, but also the intellectual structure of America—that feels more conditional and tenuous with each successive line. She wonders: “Of those white kids / whose turn (some said) I took. / I took it hard.” She feels like a specimen, a test: “Since I was a living lab / I scythed, skull-clean / my crop of hair.” She “hummed in botanical Latin / the notes of my glasshouse / erudition.” Intensely aware of the economics of the campus, she thinks of her ancestors, and her admirable vulnerability contains despair: “How was I their dream, their hope? / Born too late to know them or walk / the perimeter of their graves / deep in the next country, next / planet, where I couldn’t read the land / or speak the right words in the woods.” Throughout the book, her narrator can’t escape this self-analysis, this worry, this reconsideration, as in “The Shop at Monticello”: “I’m a black body in this Commonwealth, which turned black bodies / into money. Now, I have money to spend on little trinkets to remind me / of this fact.” An intriguing collection that weaves themes of lineage and the paradox that race and identity are wielded as souvenirs: commodified souls. 

Audubon’s Sparrow by Juditha Dowd

While living in Louisville, Ky., Lucy Bakewell Audubon wrote to her cousin that her husband, John James, “is constantly at the store,” and that she wishes there was a library or bookstore nearby, because she “should often enjoy a book very much whilst I am alone.” Her correspondence is replete with similar longings. Lucy is often a biographical complement to her husband, or worse, a clarifying footnote. Yet in this poetic biography, Dowd accomplishes the complex task of affirming Lucy’s own life, while also illuminating her husband’s talents. In a September 1804 poetic epistle to her cousin, Lucy writes: “As to how he pronounces my name, you may not be surprised / to learn I now prefer it uttered by the French.” They marry several years later, but their relationship is defined by distance; if not at his general store, he is “off hunting rabbits, or sketching them, / or racing his fine horse.” Dowd also writes several monologues through John James’s voice. “Fall has unmistakably arrayed our woods,” he thinks, but “I cannot see it,” for he is “amid the bales and boxes, / flour bins and raisins, and the wooden socks.” He ends the poem: “I’m a provisioner of farmers, of travelers and families, / while something in me sighs that I am not.” Longing and sacrifice pervade this book. One of the few placid moments appears in Lucy’s December 1824 letter to her sister Eliza: “Be happy for us, Sister. Once more we sing.” Soon the couple would be separate for three years while he worked on and promoted The Birds of America, but that sentiment of hope and return carries through Dowd’s work.

So Forth by Rosanna Warren

Warren anoints the ordinary with reverent elegy. “Northeast Corridor” is a wildly accurate sketch of that route. The rider: “Catechist of gnarled oak trees, marshes, suburban marinas, / cinders, and gutted mattresses.” The view: “A dilapidated barge, half-sunk, hunches from slime. / Chain-link fences, dim factories, tumble of trash down a bank– / my country, my countryside, hurls itself away // as twilight catches in each broken window.” The bridge and play of “my country, my countryside” is one example of Warren’s sense of the tragicomic. “The horizon’s illegible. We have left / shingled houses, sidewalks, picket fences behind in a blur / back where we made the childhood promises. / We signed our names but wrote in invisible ink”: few poems capture the region with such perspicuity. She also brings such lucid vision to prosaic spaces, as with the first lines of a later poem: “The poster in the doctor’s office proposes / Eden: varicose peonies tilting / over a lapis lazuli pool. / Blossoms lush, carnal, and tipsy / as aging courtesans.” Warren is able to channel, or conjure, a sense of earnest malaise: “If it’s a god // who touches us when we lose ourselves / he’s the briefest of flashbulbs, the image cannot endure.” This melancholic, skilled sense extends to the unique final section of the collection, mostly set in the forest: “We tread on silver flakes and shadows. / Downward, ever downward, to the meadow / where the ghost lily, late summer wraith, / gapes, ash-pink, with news / of the underworld dusted on its tongue.” 

May Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)

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We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semi–annual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around). Here’s what we’re looking out for this month. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments!

Want to know about the books you might have missed? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin: Schweblin’s Little Eyes is her second novel to be translated into English (her first was the frenzied Fever Dream). In Spanish, the novel’s title is Kentukis, which is also the name for the cutesy device, described as a “creepier Furby,” that acts as a portal between lives of the owner and the person who has purchased essentially a voyeur’s right to its camera feed. Embedded within this novel of international interconnectivity are questions of the exhibitionism and voyeurism tied up in our use of technology. Expect echoes of the Wachowskis’ Sense8, except told with what has been characterized as Schweblin’s “neurotic unease.” (Anne)

Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride: A woman walks into a hotel room. Then another, and another. Hotels in Austin, Avignon, Auckland, others, and each room reflects back something of herself. Sometimes she meets a man, sometimes she fights with her memories, and sometimes she thinks about what it would mean to go home. An avid McBride fan ever since A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, I eagerly await the arrival of what’s sure to be a darkly brilliant work. (Kaulie)

Drifts by Kate Zambreno: Drifts is Zambreno’s first novel since Green Girl, and is first in a series that continues to explore and reify her obsessions with artistic ambition and the possibilities and failures of literature. Her narrator spends long days alone, corresponding with writers and taking photos of residents and strays in her neighborhood alike—with nods to the likes of Rilke, Dürer, and Chantal Ackerman, among others. “Zambreno’s books have a way of getting under your skin,” writes Paris Review staffer Rhian Sasseen, as does “her willingness to write ugly, to approach the banal and the cliché as just another tool and subvert it into works of rage and oftentimes real beauty.” (Anne)

The Narcissism of Small Differences by Michael Zadoorian: Set in his native Detroit in the grim year of 2009, Zadoorian’s new novel, The Narcissism of Small Differences, is a comedy of the compromises Joe Keen, a failed fiction writer, and Ana Urbanek, an advertising copy writer, have made over the course of their long relationship. Their compromises come in many flavors—financial, moral, professional—and as these two creative types near their dreaded 40s, they’re forced to confront the people they have become because of those compromises. Like Zadoorian’s earlier novels—The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit, The Leisure Seeker and Beautiful Music—this new novel brims with wit, passion and soul. (Bill)

The Book of V.​ by ​Anna Solomon: This novel intertwines the lives of three women across centuries: Lily, a mother in Brooklyn in 2016 who is grappling with her sexual and intellectual desires; Vivian, a political wife in Watergate-era Washington, D.C., who refuses to obey her ambitious husband; and Esther, an independent young woman in ancient Persia who is offered up as a sacrifice to please the king. Solomon, the author of Leaving Lucy Pear and The Little Bride, explores how things have both changed and stayed the same. Mary Beth Keane says it’s “searingly inventive, humane, and honest.” (Claire)

Death of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee: The capstone of Coetzee’s Jesus Trilogy, this latest novel returns to the life of the boy David, the protagonist of the first two books in the series. But this time it’s David—in perhaps the story’s sole clear analogy to the life of Christ—dying too young. And was his life, stripped of every cursory marker of identity, worth anything? Is everything, as the sages have told us, meaningless? Coetzee, via David, leaves us with better template by which to ask—if never answer—these questions. (Il’ja)

All Adults Here​ by ​Emma Straub​: I keep hearing online chatter that this is Straub’s best novel yet. When Astrid Strick witnesses an accident, a suppressed memory causes her to question the legacy of her parenting to her now-grown children. Elizabeth Strout says it’s, “totally engaging and smart book about the absolutely marvelous messiness of what makes up family.” Ann Patchett says it’s “brimming with kindness, forgiveness, humor.” Straub is a New York Times-bestselling author and co-owner of the vibrant Brooklyn bookstore Books Are Magic. (Claire)

Shiner by Amy Jo Burns: Burns’s memoir, Cinderland, powerfully evoked the post-industrial ruins, both physical and psychic, of her childhood home in Mercury, Penn. In Shiner, she returns with a book similarly rooted in geography, the story of 15-year-old Wren Bird, who lives in isolation on a West Virginia mountain with her mother and father, an itinerant preacher and snake-handler. When tragedy strikes at one of her father’s sermons, Wren is forced to discover the truth about her family and imagine a life outside of her cloistered West Virginia existence. The Millions’ own Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State, calls Shiner “a lush, gripping novel that explores love, grief, rage, and regeneration in a small Appalachian community,” and says, “I won’t forget the haunting mood, place, and characters that Burns brings to life.” (Adam P.)

Sorry for Your Trouble by Richard Ford: Pulitzer-Prize winner Ford’s latest is a short story collection that explores themes of love and loss, taking readers to his native Mississippi, as well as New Orleans and Canada. The volume includes a novella, The Run of Yourself, which depicts a New Orleans widower learning to cope without his Irish wife. (Hannah)

A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet: This new novel from the Pulitzer Prize finalist takes place at a family vacation, where 12 children break off from their parents’ revelries and find themselves in apocalyptic circumstances. Karen Russell calls Millet “A writer without limits.” (Lydia)

All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad: Critic and fiction writer Masad’s debut novel follows 27-year-old Maggie Krause, whose mother has just died in a car crash. On her return home, Maggie finds five sealed envelopes from her mother, each addressed to a man Maggie doesn’t know. Maggie sets out on a road trip to discover the truth about her mother’s hidden life, and her own difficulties with intimacy. Described by Kristen Arnett as a “queer tour de force.” (Jacqueline)

Quotients by Tracy O’Neill: National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree O’Neill’s (The Hopeful) sophomore effort follows a young couple attempting to make a seemingly conventional home together—but this story turns into a heady brew of fractured identities, aliases, big data, and what it means to live in this age of terrorism and global surveillance. Fiona Maazel (A Little More Human) describes it as “a love story rendered in galloping prose that takes you all over the map.” Looking forward to this timely and intriguing work. (Marie Myung-Ok Lee)

Index of Self-Destructive Acts by Chris Beha: Beha’s novel begins in 2009, with two prophets: a street preacher who promises an apocalyptic “Great Unveiling” and Sam Waxworth, a religious skeptic and software engineer whose “political projection system” predicted every result of the 2008 election. Now a writer, Waxworth has been assigned a piece on Frank Doyle, a legendary, infamous commentator of baseball and politics. The assignment turns out to be more than Waxworth expected, widening and revealing his own faults. Beha’s earlier work has been rightfully compared to the work of Graham Greene, and in this new novel Beha does what only Greene and a handful of other novelists have been able to accomplish: make God, belief, and doubt the stuff of serious fiction—even down to the probing dialogue of his characters. (Nick R.)

Book of the Little Axe by Lauren Francis-Sharma: Francis-Sharma’s prose shines in this epic and propulsive historical novel that is set in Trinidad and the American West, and follows the life of Rosa Rendón, who is talented, bright, and fierce. Laila Lalami writes that the novel “recreates the hybrid history of Native and African peoples during the era of American exploration and expansion,” and Peter Ho Davies says that it “adds (or better say restores) another strand to our national narrative. We’re all the richer for Book of the Little Axe.” (Zoë)

Latitudes of Longing by Shubangi Shwarup: Longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award 2020, this novel brings together characters as disparate as a geologist and a yeti. Nilanjana S. Roy writes, “Astonishing and completely original, Shubhangi Swarup’s magical novel will change the way you see people—and landscapes, forests, the oceans, snow deserts. She stirs your curiosity about the earth, takes you from sadness and heartbreak to rich, unexpected surprises, and finds hope in the cracks of broken lives.” (Lydia)

Stray by Stephanie Danler: In her debut memoir, Danler, the bestselling author of Sweetbitter (her debut novel), explores the trauma of growing up with (and eventually fleeing) her addiction-riddled, dysfunctional family—and the ways she faced her painful past in order to move into her future. Author Lisa Taddeo calls the memoir many things including “hot,” “dark,” “quiet,” “tender,” and, ultimately, “a compulsive, neck-breaking masterpiece.” (Carolyn)

Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollet: In his debut memoir, Jollet, frontman of the indie rock band Airborne Toxic Event, writes about his childhood growing up in the Church of Synanon, a commune turned dangerous cult; living with his broken and dysfunctional family post-escape; and the ways music saved him—from them and himself. Adrienne Brodeur says, “Jollett’s story serves as a potent reminder that while we cannot change the hand we’re dealt, our freedom lies in what we choose to do with those cards.” (Carolyn)

Officer Clemmons by François S. Clemmons: Clemmons’s debut memoir recounts his incredible life, which included growing up gay and Black in 1950s Alabama and Ohio; being the first African American actor to have a reoccurring role on children’s television (as Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood); and his creative and spiritual pursuits after leaving the show. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called the “uplifting memoir” a “thoroughly delightful, inspiring story will speak particularly to artists in marginalized communities.” (Carolyn)

The Anthill by Julianne Pachico: In a follow-up to 2017’s debut, The Lucky Ones, Pachico’s sophomore novel follows Lina, a 28-year-old academic, who returns to Medellin, Colombia, after 20 years away. Once there, she reunites with her childhood best friend, Mattías, who is now running a refuge for poor children called The Anthill. Then things begin to take a strange, sinister, and supernatural turn. Author Sharlene Teo says: “It’s a novel that laughs through a mouthful of blood, which scares and touches, dazzles and compels.” (Carolyn)

Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here by Nancy Wayson Dinan: Set in 2015 in a flood-ravaged central Texas, Dinan’s debut novel follows Boyd Montgomery, an 18-year-old woman who is searching for her missing friend. The devastating weather has not only made the well-known landscape unrecognizable, it’s also opened up the world to the surreal and mystical. Kirkus calls the novel “By turns magical, harshly realistic, poetic, aggravating, and enthralling.” (Carolyn)

Red Dress in Black and White by Elliot Ackerman: Full of political intrigue, extramarital affairs, and unfulfilled ambition, Ackerman’s latest novel takes place over the course of one day as Catherine, an American living in Istanbul, attempts to leave Turkey with her sons—and without her husband, Murat, an influential and connected Turkish real estate developer. (Carolyn)

Here We Are by Benjamin Taylor: With Phillip Roth’s blessing and the promise not to publish it until after his death, Taylor’s newest memoir offers an intimate portrait of Roth, one of our finest writers and his best friend. Lisa Halliday, whose debut novel, Asymmetry, features a fictionalized Roth, calls the memoir “A poignant and frequently poetic tribute to a friendship abundant with laughter, erudition, generosity, devotion, and grace.” (Carolyn)

The Millions Top Ten: March 2020

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.
1.

The Topeka School
6 months

2.
2.

Ducks, Newburyport
6 months

3.
4.

The Hotel Neversink
5 months

4.
3.

Trick Mirror

4 months

5.


The Glass Hotel
1 month

6.
7.

Night Boat to Tangier

3 months

7.


The Mirror & the Light
1 month

8.
5.

The Resisters
2 months

9.


The City We Became
1 month

10.
9.

Interior Chinatown
2 months

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.

This month’s near misses included: The Testaments, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, and Tell It Slant. See Also: Last month’s list.

Must-Read Poetry: April 2020

Here are six notable books of poetry publishing this month.

Deluge by Leila Chatti

A stunning debut. Chatti enters the Marian tradition of literature with fury, joining Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine as recent works that offer new theory and theology toward the literary Mary. In this God-teeming book, Chatti considers not only herself against Mary—the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an—but all women present and historical against the Marian figure and image. Raised Muslim by her father, her “mother’s family is deeply Catholic,” and she was drawn to the Marian identity across those two faiths, particularly what Mary says in the Qur’an, while giving birth: “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.” In Deluge, Chatti emerges from that line with a synthesis of body and spirit, secret and wish, miracle and literal body. “Truth be told,” she starts the first poem, “I like Mary a little better / when I imagine her like this, crouched / and cursing, a boy-God pushing on / her cervix (I like remembering / she had a cervix, her body ordinary / and so like mine).” In other poems, Chatti steps within Mary’s identity, imagining the visitation by Gabriel, “rude / as a dream,” and feeling regret over keeping “my tongue in my mouth.” “Perhaps I’d have been / better off,” she ends the poem, “to be wary, but I’d been waiting so long / to hear God speak—I hadn’t thought to think // of what he might tell me.” In one of several poems titled “Annunciation,” Chatti’s identity folds into Mary as they become one woman who, throughout the book, encounter men (doctors, lovers, more): “I have come to accept the story of my own / obedience.” Each line here a testimony: “You sent a man I could not / look at fully, or touch, he was a flame / which spoke, and I could not / be afraid.”

Toxicon and Arachne by Joyelle McSweeney

McSweeney is one of our most dynamic poets of theme, mood, and syntax, and this new paired collection unifies those ranges in a most powerful fashion. Toxicon examines our necropastoral, digital landscape: “What is it to survive / or lie cossetted in a coma / a bombilation of effects / a thicket of causes—”. McSweeney’s lines and concerns always intersect and interject, as in “Axis”:  “If there is an axis / let it run through my heart / and the heart of my horse // waving this lance like a lancet / toward an abscess in the breast / of the sky, gimlet-eye / into which a planet has just swum.” In ““For Alexandra Negrete,” an elegy for a murdered Mexican worker, she writes  “the sound we call static / is really full of activity / percussing / and injuring itself / and sending the message back / through the sea shell / to the ear canal.” In McSweeney’s poetry, everything surrounding us is active, alive, fervent. Our bodies spasm, jerk, contort: out-of-control, dislocated. Arachne, the second paired text, is a soul-moving song to her daughter, who died so young her spirit rises from these pages: “I who feel so obsolete / An obol and an obelisk / a baffle and a baselisk / With one daughter dead and two living.” McSweeney leaves grief open and breathing: an affirmation that grief can somehow sustain us, give us reason to persevere.


Obit by Victoria Chang

Chang is consistently a poet who resurrects mediums, her work living within surprising spaces and forms, and both exposing and surpassing the possibilities for those structures. In prose poems that channel the obituary style, Chang wonders what death might mean for the living: how lives are filled with passings and grief, and how such pain might remind us what it means to be alive. Chang has the rare poetic talent to follow the edges of dark comedy to find sentiment rather than irony. Her parents loom large here. Her father’s stroke appears in the first poem, and he returns often, as in a voicemail that is poorly documented: “The Transcription Beta could not transcribe dementia. My father really said, I’ll fold the juice, not I love you. Is language the broom or what’s being swept?” In a later poem, she brings her father to an arcade, and, “As if he were visiting his past self in prison, [he touched] the clear glass at his own likeness.” She ends the poem: “He called my dead mother over to see his score, hand waving at me. What happens when the shadow is attached to the wrong object but refuses to let go? I walked over because I wanted to believe him.” When her mother died, and Chang told her children, “the three of us hugged in a circle, burst into tears. As if the tears were already there crying on their own and we, the newly bereaved, exploded into them.” A book that might help us understand the confounding place of loss in our lives.

Rift Zone by Tess Taylor

California: pastoral, urban, suburban—home to myth and magic. Taylor’s book is geologic in concept and theme, both panoramic and particular (her lines are ripe with texture, as in: “Blackberries choke the bike path; / schoolboys squall like gulls or pigeons.”). There’s a self-awareness of identity and place that enables Taylor to write odes that double as measured reflections, as with “Berkeley in the Nineties”: “Too late for hippie heyday / & too young to be yuppies / we wandered creeksides & used bookstores.” Later: “We could say systemic racism / but couldn’t name yet how our lives were implicated.” This youthful freedom and folly is juxtaposed with another California: “In every sale, a list of ways / your home could be destroyed. / Flood, earthquake, fire.” Disruption is inevitable here, and will be watched by the redwoods that “overlook / your fragile real estate.” “Train Through Colma” wonders about the future: “But will anyone teach / the new intelligence to miss / the apricot trees // that bloomed each spring / along these tracks?” Taylor hits the fine note of how nostalgia evolves into worry and lament: “When the robots have souls, / will they feel longing? / When they feel longing, // will they write poems?”

Shrapnel Maps by Philip Metres

“Poetry’s slowness,” Metres has written, “its ruminativity, enables us to step back from the distracted and distracting present, to ground ourselves again through language in the realities of our bodies and spirits and their connections to the ecosystems in which we find ourselves.” Metres has emerged as one of the leading Catholic poet-activists. A previous book, Sand Opera, “began as a daily Lenten meditation, working with the testimonies of the tortured at Abu Ghraib, to witness to their suffering; it became an attempt to find a language that would sight (to render visible) and site (to locate in the geographical imagination) the war itself, constantly off-screen.” Shrapnel Maps exists along this continuum as a book that feels itinerant, longing for discovery, and fascinating in its conception of neighbor (close and far). “One Tree,” the first poem, arrives like an introductory parable: “They wanted to tear down the tulip tree, our neighbors, last year.” The tree shadowed their vegetable patch. “Always the same story,” the narrator observers: “one tree, not enough land or light or love.” In “A Concordance of Leaves,” the first extended sequence of the book, the narrator and his family go to Toura in the West Bank for his sister’s wedding: “sister soon you will be written / alongside your future.” She “will find another way / through rutted olive // orchards & soon new sisters / will soften your feet with oil.” “Theater of Operations,” a sequence of sonnets that consider a hypothetical suicide bombing, jar and illuminate: “My tongue wrestles with new words— // so why do I taste metal, like blood in the mouth? / Why do I feel so alive, this close to death?” A riveting, ambitious book.

Andalusian Hours: Poems from the Porch of Flannery O’Connor by Angela Alaimo O’DonnellO’Connor has a worthy medium in O’Donnell, who has been a perceptive and honest examiner of one of our finest fiction writers (Radical Ambivalence: Race in Flannery O’Connor is nicely paired and contrasted with The Province of Joy: Praying with Flannery O’Connor). In this new book, each poem is paired with a line from her letters, stories, or essays. Readers of O’Connor’s correspondence know that she was deft, sarcastic, contemplative, curious: a unique mind that was equally (and paradoxically) at home writing for diocesan publications as she was appearing in Esquire. O’Donnell brings her alive in these pieces. In “Flannery in Iowa,” O’Connor reflects on the “wishes / I brought to that little church. / The swords I laid down on that alter.” In graduate school, “Marooned and alone, I went there in search / of who I needed to become.” The classic line about the Eucharist that O’Connor quipped to Mary McCarthy—”Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it”—is dramatized here: “A country and a Catholic girl, I’d come / to the Big City to learn to write, / not to lose the only faith I’d known / and could not live without.” “Compline,” the penultimate section of the book, is melancholy and pensive, and considers O’Connor’s life cut short at 39: “These are my last days, that’s pretty clear— / though sometimes at night I still feel the call / of this life.” A necessary collection for fans of O’Connor, and a welcome introduction to those who want to understand the continuing pull of a truly original writer.

April Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)

We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semi–annual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around). Here’s what we’re looking out for this month. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments!

Want to know about the books you might have missed? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang: Zhang’s debut novel is a smart, beautiful, and intimate legend, not only of an immigrant family, but also of an expanding empire. One day, a pair of teenage siblings wake up to the sudden death of their father, a former prospector and coal miner. In the afterglow of the American gold rush, the two girls find themselves orphaned and vulnerable, and their very existence as immigrants is denied by this seemingly promising land. Carrying a stolen horse, their father’s body, and a pistol, they set off on their journey to give their father a proper burial. In their adventure, they witness the extermination of giant buffalos, encounter the ghosts of ruined nature, and discover family memories. How Much of These Hills Is Gold ambitiously examines the nation’s long neglected racialized past and, more importantly, brings those individuals to life again on the page, with their desire and anger, longing and frustration. (Jianan Qian)

Notes from an Apocalypse by Mark O’Connell: With his Wellcome-Prize winning To Be a Machine, The Millions’ own Mark O’Connell established himself as a poet laureate of human frailty, quixotism, and creativity as they manifest in the technologic age. Now, O’Connell travels across the world to tour bunkers and silos and interview all manner of people who are living as though the end of the world is upon us. Kirkus called it “A contribution to the doom-and-gloom genre that might actually cheer you up.” Long-time McConnell fans know it will be gloriously funny, incredibly alarming, empathetic, insightful, and beautifully written. (Lydia)

Mothers Before​ by ​Edan Lepucki, ed.​: Who was your mother before she became a mother? Lepucki, the New York Times-bestselling novelist of California and Woman No. 17 and indispensable contributing editor at The Millions, asks this question. She and her contributors offer answers in more than 60 essays and photographs, including work by Brit Bennett, Jennifer Egan, Jia Tolentino, Lisa See, and many others. The book builds on the popular Instagram account @mothersbefore. (Claire)

Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould: In her second novel, Gould tells the story of Laura, who comes to New York City in the early 2000s, fresh from Columbus, Ohio, with big plans to record an album and live out her dreams. Things don’t go as planned: Love (or lust) gets in the way. In this “sharply observant” (Publishers Weekly) novel by the author of Friendship, we get not only a bygone New York, but also: music, sex, motherhood, and ambition. Stephanie Danler says it’s an “intoxicating blend of music, love, and family from one of the essential writers of the internet generation.” P.S. there’s a great description of a penis. (Edan)

The Dominant Animal by Kathryn Scanlan: If there were an ancestry of influences in writing, Scanlan’s would be charted as the love child of Gary Lutz and Diane Williams. She shares their linguistic obsessions, including an “outrageous attention to sound and structure that approaches the devotional.” Scanlan’s first book was the unexpected and heralded Aug 9—Fog, which she developed from a found text, a journal written by an elderly woman, which Scanlan then edited and rearranged into its current state. Of her forthcoming book of short stories, The Dominant Animal, Gary Lutz says, “Kathryn Scanlan comes to us as an oracle when we have never before been so desperately in need.” (Anne)

Godshot by Chelsea Bieker: Bieker’s debut novel, Godshot, takes her readers to the fertile fields of California, where divinities are seemingly as much of a bumper crop as avocados, except for adolescent Lacey May there’s lots of the former and little of the latter (or any other crop for that matter). The California of Godshot is in the midst of a brutal drought, and for the cult that Lacey May lives with, the faith of the indoctrinated turns towards their leader Pastor Vern who claims that he can once again make the rain come. What Lacey May brutally learns are the depths to which men can sink, the pain that they’re willing to inflict on women, and the promise of solidarity that can be approached as she goes on a road trip to find her exiled mother. A gothic phantasmagoria, Bieker’s book explores the ways in which cultish devotion in times of ecological catastrophe can seemingly push groups of people towards a social apocalypse—a novel eerily pertinent in 2020. (Ed S.)

The Moment of Tenderness by Madeleine L’Engle: Few fantasy writers had as indelible an influence on a certain tribe of bookish, introverted, curious children during the 20th century as the great L’Engle. Her classic A Wrinkle in Time, and the series of books that she wrote about the Wallace siblings and their journeys through time and space, remain not just classics of children’s literature, but an indelible exploration of authoritarianism as well. Now, like one of her characters who is able to transcend the fourth dimension, a collection of previously unpublished work written between her time in college and the publication from her first novel is being posthumously published as The Moment of Tenderness, after its rediscovery by her granddaughter. Some stories are clear drafts of later writing, and others are completely original, but for fans of L’Engle, they allow us a window into her process of writing fantasy, which she called the “one and only language in the world that cuts across all barriers of time, place, race, and culture.” (Ed S.)

What Is Grass by Mark Doty: In the visionary 1855 poem “Song of Myself” from Walt Whitman’s prophetic collection Leaves of Grass, the good, grey poet imagines a child approaching the narrator of the verse (a variable “I” often conflated with the author) and asking “What is the Grass?” That line has been borrowed for the title of poet Mark Doty’s new reflection What Is Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life. Whitman is simultaneously the most singular and the most universal of poets, the most subjective and most objective, both “Walt” and a very “Kosmos.” It’s been said that no American poet can entirely ignore Whitman, and Doty is a reverential penitent before the greatest American poet, giving an account of how his own subjective experience intersects with that of the singer of “Song of Myself.” Both men are lovers of men; both men are New Yorkers; both men are poets. What Doty most shares with Whitman, however, is a heretic’s faith in language, both its promise and its failures. As Doty wrote of “he who’d written his book over and over, nearly ruining it, /so enchanted by what had first compelled him/ – for him the word settled nothing at all.” (Ed S.)

How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa: In poet Thammavongsa’s fiction debut, Lao immigrants and refugees write letters, experience new desires, and struggle to build lives in unfamiliar territory. Described by Publishers Weekly as “sharp and elegant,” the collection is a visceral and tender exploration of what it means to make a living. David Chariandy calls How to Pronounce Knife “a book of rarest beauty and power…one of the great story collections of our time.” (Jacqueline)

Life for Sale by Yukio Mishima: After a failed suicide attempt, salaryman Hanio Yamada places an ad in a Tokyo newspaper offering to sell his life. Soon, he is contacted by a few interested buyers: an old man who wants to punish his adulterous wife, a librarian looking for a guinea pig for a drug testing, and a son in need of a volunteer for his vampiric mother. Different from Mishima’s other works, Life for Sale is a wildly funny pulp fiction. The novel grapples with the grave topic of humanity’s instincts for self-preservation and self-destruction, but you’ll find yourself laughing through instead of agonizing over it. (Jianan Qian)

The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe: The third novel from Thorpe, The Knockout Queen follows Bunny Lambert, a beautiful, desperate 6’3″ blonde, and Michael, the boy next door who’s trying to understand his sexuality, as they become strange friends. All too soon, though, that friendship is marked by a dangerous mix of first love, brutal gossip, and violence. Our own Edan Lepucki says Thorpe’s “one-of-a-kind narrator is funny, vulnerable, brilliant, and brimming with longing, and the story he tells distills the pain and beauty of a life-changing friendship like nothing else I’ve read before. This book’s got guts and heart, and wisdom for days.” (Kaulie)

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones: A horror story about four men from the Blackfeet Nation who are being hunted for something they did in the past. Paul Tremblay calls this novel “a masterpiece. Intimate, devastating, brutal, terrifying, yet warm and heartbreaking in the best way, Stephen Graham Jones has written a horror novel about injustice and, ultimately, about hope. Not a false, sentimental hope, but the real one, the one that some of us survive and keeps the rest of us going.” (Lydia)

St. Ivo by Joanna Hershon: Hershon’s last novel, A Dual Inheritance, published seven years ago, was a riveting intergenerational saga covering decades in the lives of two families. In St. Ivo, Hershon narrows the aperture to focus on two couples over the course of a long weekend spent together upstate. “Hershon explores with moving simplicity the complexities friendships and a marriage that has frayed but not yet died,” says Publishers Weekly in an early review. (Michael)

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez: The bestselling author of In the Time of the Butterflies and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents returns with a novel focused on Antonia Vega, a recently retired English professor and writer whose husband unexpectedly dies and whose sister disappears. Soon after these losses, an undocumented and pregnant teen arrives at her door. Luis Alberto Urrea says that Afterlife is “the exact novel we need in this fraught era. A powerful testament of witness and written with audacity and authority.” (Zoë)

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles: Following up on her National Book Award finalist News of the World, Jiles returns to post-Civil War Texas with the tale of Simon Boudlin, a 23-year-old fiddle player, and Doris Mary Dillion, the indentured Irish girl he meets as the war comes to an end. The novel follows Simon and Doris as they follow their own post-war paths—and the lengths he will go to reunite with the woman he loves. Kirkus’ starred review calls Jiles a “master storyteller” and the novel “vividly evocative and steeped in American folkways.” (Carolyn)

What You Become in Flight by Ellen O’Connell Whittet: When an injury during rehearsal derails Whittet’s promising ballet career, the 19-year-old turns to writing to work through the loss of the future she’d always envisioned; the years of physical and emotional trauma she suffered (inflicted by herself and others); and the journey she took to heal herself. About the memoir, author Melissa Febos writes: “An elegant and compelling künstlerroman that begins in the body and ends on the page.” (Carolyn)

Everything Is Under Control by Phyllis Grant: Grant’s debut memoir is a pinch of personal, poetic vignettes and a dash of her favorite recipes. The chef and food writer explores her journey from being a dancer at Julliard and working in high-end kitchens in New York City, to marrying her husband and relocating to California after 9/11. Writer Dani Shapiro says, “With raw candor and discipline, Phyllis Grant peels back the layers of her innermost experience and gives us a memoir as rich and nuanced, as delicate as life itself.” (Carolyn)

Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan: Following her acclaimed debut, Harmless Like You, Buchanan’s second novel follows Mina and Oscar, a married couple who relocate to London after a foiled tragedy. Suffering from mental health issues, Mina finds comfort—and something more—in a woman named Phoebe. Kirkus’ starred review calls the novel “poetic and understated” and “complex and resonant.” (Carolyn)

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd: In her fourth novel, Kidd—the acclaimed author of The Secret Life of Bees—imagines the life of Ana, a young woman who defies her arranged marriage to marry Jesus of Nazareth. Rebellious and intellectually curious, Ana finds her purpose in recording the secret narratives of silenced women—a pursuit that puts her in danger. A starred review in Publishers Weekly called the novel “a vibrant portrait of a woman striving to preserve and celebrate women’s stories—her own and countless others.” (Carolyn)

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry: The newest novel from two-time Booker Prize finalist Barry focuses on Winona Cole, the Native American adopted daughter of John Cole and Thomas McNulty—whose lives were explored in his previous novel Days Without End. Set in Reconstruction-era Tennessee, a brutal act of violence sends Winona on a journey—toward healing and connection with her Lakota ancestors. The Guardian’s review says Barry’s “work reminds us how much we need these rare gifts of the natural storyteller, for reckoning with our past and present.” (Carolyn)

Sea Wife by Amity Gaige: In Gaige’s fourth novel, a married couple and their two young children take to the sea on a search for adventure and fulfillment. Instead, they find their marriage and lives thrown irreparably and dangerously off course. Claire Messud says, “Taut as a thriller, emotionally precise yet threaded with lyricism, Sea Wife is at once the compelling story of a family’s glorious, misbegotten seafaring adventure and an allegory for life itself.” (Carolyn)

Missed Translations by Sopan Deb: Deb, a New York Times writer and comedian, explores his immigrant roots in this debut memoir. Growing up in suburban (read: white) New Jersey, Deb yearned for a connection to his culture but was ultimately unable to find one after his parent’s marriage imploded and his father returned to India alone. As an adult, he travels to India to reunite with his father, spend time with extended family, and uncover secrets that would otherwise have stayed buried. Booklist says Deb’s writing is “breezy and witty” and that “his earnestness will sweep readers up into this charmer of a memoir.” (Carolyn)

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good: Winner of the 2018 HarperCollins/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction, Good’s debut novel is told from the alternating perspectives of Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie, and Maisie—who are survivors of a church-run residential school. As their lives intersect over the decades, the then teens (now adults) attempt to overcome the trauma inflicted on them and not only survive, but thrive, in downtown Vancouver. (Carolyn)

Best Translated Book Awards Names 2020 Longlists

In its 13th year of honoring literature in translation, the Best Translated Book Awards named its 2020 longlists for fiction and poetry.

Announced exclusively here at The Millions, the BTBA longlists feature a diverse group of authors and translators from a variety of publishers, both large and small. The 35 books on this year’s longlists represent 20 different countries and feature authors writing in 18 languages.

No previous BTBA winners were nominated this year, though readers will find familiar translators on both lists, including legends like Geraldine Harcourt; experienced veterans like Erin Mouré, Natasha Wimmer, and Jonathan Wright; and newer stars like Emma Ramadan and Aaron Robertson. The authors on this year’s lists follow suit, with nominees including Daša Drndić, Marie NDiaye, Olga Tokarczuk, Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, and Vasily Grossman.

From now until the winners are announced, Three Percent will host arguments for why each nominee deserves to win this year’s award.

Thanks to financial support from the Amazon Literary Partnership, the winning authors and translators will receive a monetary prize. The shortlists for both the fiction and poetry awards will be announced by early May.

Best Translated Book Award 2020: Fiction Longlist

The Wind that Lays Waste by Selva Almada, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews (Argentina, Graywolf)

The Book of Collateral Damage by Sinan Antoon, translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright (Iraq, Yale University Press)

Welcome to America by Linda Boström Knausgård, translated from the Swedish by Martin Aitken (Sweden, World Editions)

Animalia by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, translated from the French by Frank Wynne (France, Grove)

Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes, translated from the French by Frank Wynne (France, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Italy, Europa Editions)

EEG by Daša Drndić, translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth (Croatia, New Directions)

Space Invaders by Nona Fernández, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer (Chile Graywolf)

Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman, translated from the Russian by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler (Russia, New York Review Books)

Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, translated from the Spanish by Sara Moses and Carolina Orloff (Argentina, Charco Press)

Will and Testament by Vigdis Hjorth, translated from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund (Norway, Verso)

Good Will Come From the Sea by Christos Ikonomou, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (Greece, Archipelago Books)

Tentacle by Rita Indiana, translated from the Spanish by Achy Obejas (Dominican Republic, And Other Stories)

China Dream by Ma Jian, translated from the Chinese by Flora Drew (China, Counterpoint)

Parade by Hiromi Kawakami, translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell (Japan, Soft Skull)

Death Is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa, translated from the Arabic by Leri Price (Syria, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The Boy by Marcus Malte, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan and Tom Roberge (France, Restless Books)

The Cheffe: A Cook’s Novel by Marie NDiaye, translated from the French by Jordon Stump (France, Knopf)

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Japan, Pantheon)

A Dream Come True by Juan Carlos Onetti, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (Uruguay, Archipelago Books)

77 by Guillermo Saccomanno, translated from the Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger (Argentina, Open Letter Books)

Beyond Babylon by Igiaba Scego, translated from the Italian by Aaron Robertson (Italy, Two Lines Press)

Labyrinth by Burhan Sönmez, translated from the Turkish by Umit Hussein (Turkey, Other Press)

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Poland, Riverhead)

Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, translated from the Japanese by Geraldine Harcourt (Japan, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This year’s fiction jury is comprised of Elisa Wouk Almino, Pierce Alquist, Hailey Dezort, Louisa Ermelino, Hal Hlavinka, Keaton Patterson, Christopher Phipps, Lesley Rains, and Justin Walls.

Best Translated Book Award 2020: Poetry Longlist

Aviva-No by Shimon Adaf, translated from the Hebrew by Yael Segalovitz (Israel, Alice James Books)

Time by Etel Adnan, translated from the French by Sarah Riggs (Lebanon, Nightboat Books)

Materia Prima by Amanda Berenguer, translated from the Spanish by Gillian Brassil, Anna Deeny Morales, Mónica de la Torre, Urayoán Noel, Jeannine Marie Pitas, Kristin Dykstra, Kent Johnson, and Alex Verdolini (Uruguay, Ugly Duckling Presse)

Next Loves by Stéphane Bouquet, translated from the French by Lindsay Turner (France, Nightboat Books)

Camouflage by Lupe Gómez, translated from the Galician by Erín Moure (Spain, Circumference Books)

Book of Minutes by Gemma Gorga, translated from the Catalan by Sharon Dolin (Spain, Oberlin College Press)

The Catalan Poems by Pere Gimferrer, translated from the Catalan by Adrian Nathan West (Spain, Carcanet)

Tell Me, Kenyalang by Kulleh Grasi, translated from the Malay and Iban by Pauline Fan (Malaysia, Circumference Books)

A Drink of Red Mirror by Kim Hyesoon, translated from the Korean by Jiwon Shin, Lauren Albin, and Sue Hyon Bae (South Korea, Action Books)

The Winter Garden Photograph by Reina María Rodríguez, translate from the Spanish by Kristin Dykstra and Nancy Gates Madsen (Cuba, Ugly Duckling Presse)

This year’s poetry jury is comprised of Nancy Naomi Carlson, Patricia Lockwood, Aditi Machado, Laura Marris, and Brandon Shimoda.

For more information, visit the Best Translated Book Award site, the BTBA Facebook page, and the BTBA Twitter. And check out our coverage from 201620172018, and 2019.

The Millions Top Ten: February 2020

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.
3.

The Topeka School
5 months

2.
4.

Ducks, Newburyport
5 months

3.
7.

Trick Mirror
3 months

4.
6.

The Hotel Neversink

4 months

5.


The Resisters
1 month

6.
7.

Pieces for the Left Hand: Stories

6 months

7.
9.

Night Boat to Tangier
2 months

8.
10.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
2 months

9.


Interior Chinatown
1 month

10.


Fleishman Is in Trouble
1 month

To celebrate the ascension of Ducks, Newburyport to the second spot on this month’s Top Ten, this write-up will consist of a single sentence—in spite of the fact that Lucy Ellmann’s 1,000-page novel actually consists of eight—because, frankly, as the world of online books and culture has evolved, or more accurately contracted and rigidified, it remains the case that The Millions is a place where, although some might disagree, there is still room for playful displays of fanatical literary bombast (as, of course, evidenced by the fact that Ducks, Newburyport’s un-diagrammable heft was purchased by so many readers last month that it’s now been listed second only to Ben Lerner’s latest), and so with us agreed that this place can be fun, and funny and most of all filled with celebration, we must tip our hats to Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, and Inland by Téa Obreht, a trio of novels bound for our site’s hallowed Hall of Fame, and we must tip those very same hats—or, if you prefer, we can tip a new set of hats, because few things are more excessive and celebratory than spare hats, reserved specifically for fresh tipping—to The Resisters by Gish Jen, Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu, and Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, the trio of novels filling the vacated spaces on the list this month, which advances us from February into March, a time of new beginnings and, in the mid-Atlantic, unseasonably warm temperatures, but that’s beside the point, which is of course that these three newcomers on our list are superb, the first two of which earning praise in the most recent installment of our annual Book Preview for being “a comprehensive yet disturbing picture of how totalitarianism speeds back to the center stage of human history,” and a “wrenching, hilarious, sharp, surreal, and, above all, original [novel],” respectively, while not to be outdone is Taffy’s debut novel, Fleishman Is in Trouble, which has been discussed the most on our site—earning two spots in our Year in Reading series courtesy of Hannah Gersen and Devin Lee Booker—and was mentioned most recently just three weeks ago when Anna Sims referred to it as “a book that offers a sharp critique of the lie fueling modern feminism and is brilliantly disguised as a book about a man,” before continuing on to describe it as not just a “very funny book,” but also a “very tired book,” which is a sentiment that, by now, the writer of this piece—to say nothing of the myriad readers of this piece—can completely understand.

This month’s near misses included: A Long Petal of the Sea, The Testaments, How to Be an Antiracist, Quichotte, and The Lost Book of Adana Moreau. See Also: Last month’s list.

Bonus Links from Our Archive:
A Year in Reading: Ben Lerner
A Year in Reading: Adam O’Fallon Price
The Best Book You’ve Never Read: ‘Pieces for the Left Hand’
Shifting Anxieties: On J. Robert Lennon’s ‘See You in Paradise
You Can’t Lie in Fiction: An Interview with Kevin Barry
I’m a Stained-Glass Guy: The Millions Interviews Kevin Barry
A Year in Reading: Kevin Barry
Memory Can Be a Second Chance: Ocean Vuong’s ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’
Modern Feminism’s Big Lie: On ‘Fleishman Is in Trouble’