The Millions Top Ten: March 2021

- | 1

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.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
3 months

2.
2.

White Ivy
5 months

3.
3.

Fake Accounts
2 months

4.


Klara and the Sun
1 month

5.
8.

The Copenhagen Trilogy
3 months

6.
6.

Detransition, Baby

3 months

7.
4.

The Silence
6 months

8.
5.

Dune: Book 1
5 months

9.
9.

No One Is Talking About This
2 months

10.
7.

What Are You Going Through
6 months

Let’s get right to it: basically nothing changed this month. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun jumped into the space that Pete Beatty’s Cuyahoga left open. Two books reversed positions: Tove Ditlevsen’s The Copenhagen Trilogy swapped eighth position for fifth, which had previously been held by Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Otherwise? Less movement than the Ever Given.

That’s OK, though. Especially in a year when few of us have moved much more than that. This might be the inhalation before the stretch, the huff before the sprint. If the Top Ten is the country at large, then the pairs of five- and six-month books on it—books poised to hit our Hall of Fame soon, opening spots as they do—are dormant cicadas, ready to transform the late spring and summer into something wholly different from what we have now. That’s soon.

Or perhaps a comparison more apt would be this: if the March Top Ten is all of us, huddled and yearning to breathe (mask) free, then ramping up vaccination rates are going to free things up sooner than later, and movement will only follow.

Respite is coming. Will reading? See you next month to check in.

This month’s near misses included: Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology, Outlawed, Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping, and A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself. See Also: Last month’s list.

Bonus Links:
A Year in Reading: Sigrid Nunez
Bird Brain: Lauren Oyler, Patricia Lockwood, and the Literature of Twitter
The Novel Still Exists: The Millions Interviews Don DeLillo
A Year in Reading: Lauren Oyler
George Saunders and the Question of Greatness
Kazuo Ishiguro and the Inescapable Perils of the Internet
Panel Mania: ‘Dune: The Graphic Novel’

The Millions Top Ten: February 2021

-

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.
1.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
2 months

2.
2.

White Ivy
4 months

3.


Fake Accounts
1 month

4.
5.

The Silence
5 months

5.
3.

Dune: Book 1
4 months

6.
8.

Detransition, Baby

2 months

7.
6.

What Are You Going Through
5 months

8.
9.

The Copenhagen Trilogy
2 months

9.


No One Is Talking About This
1 month

10.
7.

Cuyahoga
5 months

“We suddenly have two novels, released within a week of each other, that brazenly, with swagger and open ambition, take on the voice of the bird app [Twitter], and thus of our scrambled times,” wrote Michael Lindgren in his piece last week on new novels from Patricia Lockwood and Lauren Oyler.  “Due to the caprices of the publishing schedule, [both are now] permanently frozen in a lit-world pas de deux for all eternity.”

Both are now members of our Top Ten as well.

The third spot on this month’s list belongs to Oyler’s Fake Accounts, while Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This holds ninth position. (In Lindgren’s review, he’d have swapped the order.)

Their entrée onto our list was made possible by the ascension of Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half to our site’s Hall of Fame, as well as another book dropping out from last month’s list. Meanwhile, the eight other books from January’s rankings alternated position, but mostly remained where they were. (Dune dropped a few slots, perhaps because at 704 pages, it simply weighs too much.)

Looking ahead, we expect significant changes to our list in May and June, as fully half of the books listed this month have been listed for four or five months apiece. That means five spots are on track to open up right as we enter what could be the most anticipated summer in North American history. You might think a populace emerging from a year of plague-based precautions would favor friskier activities than reading—but then again a generational cicada swarm may make the outdoors less appealing. In that case we’ll all be indoors again—reading, reading, reading, vaccinated and free.

This month’s near misses included: Outlawed, Vesper Flights, A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself and Life Among the Terranauts. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: January 2021

-

We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for January.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.


A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
1 month

2.
1.

White Ivy
3 months

3.
6.

Dune: Book 1
3 months

4.
5.

The Vanishing Half
6 months

5.
4.

The Silence
4 months

6.
5.

What Are You Going Through

4 months

7.
7.

Cuyahoga
4 months

8.


Detransition, Baby
1 month

9.


The Copenhagen Trilogy
1 month

10.


The Office of Historical Corrections
1 month

We’re witnessing history, folks. With the ascension of Utopia Avenue, this month David Mitchell sends his fifth book to our site’s Hall of Fame. More than a decade ago, Cloud Atlas marked Mitchell’s first appearance, and since then he’s returned with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, The Bone Clocks, and Slade House. That kind of sustained success is unique on this site; Mitchell’s our version of Tom Brady.

Of course there are other Millions mainstays, one of which tops this month’s list. George Saunders (three previous Hall of Fame appearances) leads the first Top Ten of 2021 with A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, which our own Adam O’Fallon Price called a “delightful book of criticism and craft pair[ing] short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, with seven essays on how short fiction works and why it remains a vital art form for asking the big questions about life.”

Meanwhile two other newcomers joined our list.

After spending some time among past lists’ “near misses,” Danielle Evans’s The Office of Historical Corrections moves into 10th position this month. The novella and stories was mentioned six(!) times in our Year in Reading series, getting shout outs in the write-ups by Sejal Shah, Jean Chen Ho, Megan Giddings, Chris Gonzalez, Nadia Owusu and Margot Livesey.

Then, Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby debuted in 8th position thanks at least in part to Emily St. John Mandel’s blurb in our Great First-Half 2021 Book Preview, in which she characterized it as being about “a trio of New Yorkers—Reese, a trans woman; Ames, a man who used to live as a woman but decided to return to living as a man, and in so doing broke Reese’s heart; Katrina, Ames’s lover and boss—grapple with the decision of how and whether to raise a baby together.”

Next month at least one new spot should open up, but more shakeups are always possible. See you soon.

This month’s near misses included: Outlawed and The Dangers of Smoking in Bed. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: December 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 December.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

White Ivy
2 months

2.
3.

Utopia Avenue
6 months

3.
2.

The Silence
3 months

4.
8.

What Are You Going Through
3 months

5.
5.

The Vanishing Half
5 months

6.
9.

Dune: Book 1

2 months

7.
4.

Cuyahoga
3 months

8.


Vesper Flights
1 month

9.
10.

All My Mother’s Lovers
2 months

10.


22 Minutes of Unconditional Love
1 month

For the second month in a row, Susie Yang’s White Ivy tops our list. In the Great Second-Half 2020 Book Preview, Lydia Kiesling called Yang’s debut a “novel about race, class, growing up, and getting by,” and shared a lovely blurb from Lucy Tan. Going back even earlier: in her entry for our 2018 Year in Reading series, Tan wrote that Yang’s book was “a novel remarkable in both scope and substance.” Millions readers were enticed.

Fast forward six months and we’ve now published our Great First-Half 2021 Book Preview, stuffed with 152 titles publishing between now and next summer. (Has there ever been a more anticipated summer than our next?) We’ll likely see books from our Preview make the Top Ten starting next month.
Meanwhile, we big adieu to Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors and Ottessa Moshfegh’s Death in Her Hands, which both graduated to our site’s Hall of Fame. It’s Moshfegh’s third time in our Hall; she’d previously reached with both Homesick for Another World and My Year of Rest and Relaxation.
For Strong Washburn, though, the route to the Hall of Fame was less direct. Sharks published on March 3, roughly two weeks before California issued its first stay-at-home order related to the pandemic—a move followed by many other jurisdictions across the country soon afterwards. The book hung around the “Near Misses” section of our lists at first, but popped up once or twice before really establishing itself in the past four months. In other words, the book’s been with our list since our way of life really changed, and it’s easy read the timing of its ascendance to the Hall as the demarcation of a new age. I wrote above that next summer is anticipated. I think we all sense better days ahead.

This month’s near misses included: The Office of Historical Corrections, Drinking French: The Iconic Cocktails, Apéritifs, and Café Traditions of France, with 160 Recipes, The Cold Millions, Missionaries and Just Like You. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: November 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 November.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.


White Ivy
1 month

2.
6.

The Silence
2 months

3.
2.

Utopia Avenue
5 months

4.
7.

Cuyahoga
2 months

5.
3.

The Vanishing Half
4 months

6.
4.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors

6 months

7.
5.

Death in Her Hands
6 months

8.
9.

What Are You Going Through
2 months

9.


Dune: Book 1
1 month

10.
10.

All My Mother’s Lovers
5 months

It’s a bit striking that Millions writers have not tackled White Ivy in full, the most purchased book of the past month. They have also not written about The Silence (at least not wholly about it). Evidently these are books that sell without our imprimatur. They top this month’s list.

I’ve had a hard time tracking down reviews of the books in this month’s Top Ten. Here’s where I’d usually insert a quote about a book I’d just highlighted. Here’s where I’d throw in a pithy line to make you want more.

Here is where I’d tell you that we’d covered a few of these hotly anticipated titles in our Great Book Preview. I’d share some lines from their blurbs to pique your interest.

Then I’d throw in a paragraph here about some other aspects of the list, like whether a newcomer has joined its ranks. I’d write a line about whether a book ascended to the Hall of Fame. This is all pretty straightforward.

But for the most part this month’s list is similar to last month’s, so we can dispense with the custom until next time. For now, here we are, the month the vaccine’s been authorized. Let’s check in after a couple weeks when we’re close to getting our shots, when Year in Reading has concluded, and when more spots open up.

This month’s near misses included: Vesper Flights, Disappearing Earth, Just Like You, and Summer. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: October 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 October.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

Tell It Slant
6 months

2.
4.

Utopia Avenue
4 months

3.
6.

The Vanishing Half
3 months

4.
3.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors

5 months

5.
2.

Death in Her Hands
5 months

6.


The Silence

1 month

7.


Cuyahoga
1 month

8.
5.

All My Mother’s Lovers
4 months

9.


What Are You Going Through
1 month

10.
7.

22 Minutes of Unconditional Love
2 months

Three books dropped out of the rankings this month, opening slots for three newcomers. A hearty Millions welcome is owed to Don DeLillo’s The Silence, Pete Beatty’s Cuyahoga, and Sigrid Nunez’s What Are You Going Through—each of which was featured in our Great Second-Half Book Preview—coming in at the sixth, seventh, and ninth spots, respectively, on this month’s list.

DeLillo and Nunez are no strangers to this list, of course. Both Zero K (2016) and The Friend (2019) are in our site’s Hall of Fame.

In a recent piece for our site, in which Nick Ripatrazone sketched out DeLillo’s “liturgy of language,” he described the novel as “an overcast book—a night book,” and he classified the author as “the laureate of [an] unsettling truth”: “[that] the end will take us all by surprise, but that there will be an end is not surprising.” I’m thinking of that line a lot as I write this, on the fourth day of presidential vote counting.

Elsewhere on the list some titles swapped places: Utopia Avenue rose, Death in Her Hands dropped. But these moves are minor. The bigger moves are yet to come.

This month’s near misses included: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents and Sisters. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: September 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 September.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
8.

Tell It Slant
5 months

2.
3.

Death in Her Hands
4 months

3.
5.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors
4 months

4.
4.

Utopia Avenue

3 months

5.
6.

All My Mother’s Lovers
3 months

6.
10.

The Vanishing Half

2 months

7.


22 Minutes of Unconditional Love
1 month

8.


Disappearing Earth
1 month

9.
7.

Summer
2 months

10.


Vesper Flights
1 month

It’s always a celebration when books alight to our site’s Hall of Fame, but when those books are written by our own staffers it’s a special occasion indeed. This month, Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel becomes the longtime Millions writer’s second novel to reach the Hall. (Station Eleven ascended in April 2015.) Congratulations, Emily! Her book is joined in the Hall by fellow September 2020 inductee N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became. This is Jemisin’s first book to reach the Hall, but it’s also the first installment of a trilogy, so we’ll see how things go.

With two spots opened up—and then a third because A Luminous Republic dropped off of this month’s list—we welcome three newcomers: Daphne Merkin’s 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love, Helen Macdonald’s Vesper Flights, and Julia Phillips’s Disappearing Earth. The first two titles appeared in our Great Second-Half 2020 Book Preview while Phillips’s debut graced our First-Half Book Preview from 2019, well before it became a finalist for that year’s National Book Award.

Of this trio, Macdonald’s likely most familiar to Millions readers, not least of all due to the way H Is for Hawk, her 2015 memoir, was celebrated on this site. But Vesper Flights ushers forth its own delights as well, as Daniel Lefferts wrote in his profile of Macdonald last June. “What unifies the essays in Vesper Flights is her ardor for nature, her extensive knowledge of it, and her fear for its destruction,” Lefferts wrote. “With a naturalist’s command of technical vocabulary and a poet’s eye for simile, she can sound like a former scholar who’s broken free of the constraints of academe—which is, in essence, what she is.”

Next month we may see further shakeups, as the titles on the top half of the list approach the ends of their runs, and other newcomers are sure to pop in.

This month’s near misses included: How to Be an Antiracist, The Mirror & the Light, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, and Fleishman Is in Trouble. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: August 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 August.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

The Glass Hotel
6 months

2.
2.

The City We Became
6 months

3.
5.

Death in Her Hands
3 months

4.
8.

Utopia Avenue

2 months

5.
6.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors
3 months

6.
9.

All My Mother’s Lovers

4 months

7.


Summer
1 month

8.
3.

Tell It Slant
4 months

9.


A Luminous Republic
1 month

10.


The Vanishing Half
1 month

My friends, I’m not sure if you’re like me.

I mean, I see that you’re buying Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors, with it rising to our list’s fifth spot, perhaps on the strength of my past recommendations, but I’m still not sure if you’re really like me.

Instead you’re yourselves. That’s great. That’s grand. That’s what I want. Let’s talk about the books you’re reading.

This month you’ve pushed two books into our Hall of Fame: The Resisters by Gish Jen and Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu. At the same time, you’ve bumped a couple books out of our Top Ten, freeing space for new entries: Summer by Ali Smith, A Luminous Republic by Andrés Barba, and The Vanishing by Brit Bennett.

For a grounding on Smith’s quartet, let’s revisit Jean Huets’s “Things Fall Apart” piece for The Millions:
I’m looking forward to spring. I don’t like the cold. Where I live, the snow comes down these days as sleet and the dust on my ice skates thickens every year. But I’m also looking forward to Spring because I love Autumn and Winter.
For the other two, let’s resolve to read widely. Let’s check in next month, TBR lists ablaze, pitches aplenty, and let’s discuss. We should have a few newcomers to talk about by then, too.

This month’s near misses included: The Mirror & the Light, 22 Minutes of Unconditional LoveFleishman Is in Trouble, and Disappearing Earth. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: July 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 July.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

The Glass Hotel
5 months

2.
2.

The City We Became
5 months

3.
6.

Tell It Slant
3 months

4.
4.

Interior Chinatown

6 months

5.
9.

Death in Her Hands
2 months

6.
10.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors

2 months

7.
5.

The Resisters
6 months

8.


Utopia Avenue
1 month

9.
7.

All My Mother’s Lovers
3 months

10.


How to Be an Antiracist
1 month

Well, well, well. If it isn’t Millions readers taking my advice. Last month, I ended the write-up by highlighting Kawai Strong Washburn’s novel about a Hawaiian family (and so much more), and this month the book shoots up four spots in our list. For those of you still on the fence, here’s another Sharks in the Time of Saviors teaser: its opening chapter—part sex scene, part ghost processional—is still the strongest opener I’ve read in 2020.

The other news this month is that Kevin Barry’s Night Boat to Tangier capped off six consecutive months on our list by setting off for the site’s Hall of Fame. In an interview last summer, our own Bill Morris asked Barry about his creative inspirations, and also why he describe a barkeep as “stoned-looking as a fucking koala” in an earlier book. Anyway, the paperback edition of Night Boat released a couple weeks ago.

Night Boat’s move to the Hall of Fame freed up one spot on the list, while Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror & the Light dropped out of the running this month, so there were two new spots to fill. Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist took one of them, after spending some time in the “near misses” section of these posts.

Meanwhile, the eighth spot on the list belongs to David Mitchell, whose new novel, Utopia Avenue, came out last month. Mitchell has long been a Millions audience favorite, having made the Hall of Fame four times since 2010—so if past is prologue we’ll be seeing his name in these posts for five months to come.

This month’s near misses included: A Luminous RepublicFleishman Is in Trouble, Disappearing Earth, and The Lost Book of Adana Moreau. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: June 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 June.

This Month
Last Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

The Glass Hotel
4 months

2.
2.

The City We Became
4 months

3.
4.

Night Boat to Tangier
6 months

4.
5.

Interior Chinatown

5 months

5.
7.

The Resisters
5 months

6.
6.

Tell It Slant

2 months

7.
9.

All My Mother’s Lovers
2 months

8.


Death in Her Hands
1 month

9.
8.

The Mirror & the Light
4 months

10.


Sharks in the Time of Saviors
1 month

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.

This month’s near misses included: Disappearing Earth, A Luminous Republic, How to Be an Antiracist, and Fleishman Is in Trouble. See Also: Last month’s list.