Before we get too far into 2011, let’s take a look at what was keeping readers interested on The Millions in 2010. To start, we’ll divide the most popular posts on The Millions into two categories, beginning with the 20 most popular pieces published on the site in 2010:
2. Confessions of a Book Pirate: Our interview with someone actually “pirating” ebooks put a face on a nebulous trend and generated huge interest among readers, the publishing industry, and the media.
3. Stieg Larsson: Swedish Narcissus: The spot-on skewering of the most popular series of books in the world set readers dividing themselves into two camps, pro and con Stieg Larsson.
4. Colonoscopy: It’s Time to Check Your Colons: Has the internet created a new use for a popular punctuation mark? This fun piece suggests that might be the case.
5. Reading War and Peace: The Effects of Great Art on an Ordinary Life Staff writer Kevin Hartnett asked what it means to immerse yourself in a great work of art and found that many readers have been contemplating the same thing.
6. Judging Books by Their Covers: U.S. Vs. U.K. This unscientific look at book covers had readers taking sides in a trans-Atlantic design debate.
7. In Our Parents’ Bookshelves: In this thoughtful essay, Hartnett wondered what our bookshelves tell other people about us.
8. The Soul-Sucking Suckiness of B.R. Myers: Staff writer Garth Hallberg’s epic takedown of the cranky Atlantic book critic had many readers cheering (while some rushed to his defense).
9. The Franzen Cover and a Brief History of Time: Jonathan Franzen’s turn as Time magazine cover boy was probably the literary event of the year, and it inspired us to look back at the other 82 writers who have received the honor.
10. Sex, Seriously: James Salter Trumps the Great Male Novelists: While many critics complain about the clunky, awkward depictions of sex in contemporary fiction, staff writer Sonya Chung pointed readers to a master of the form.
11. Deckle Edge in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: A musing on a quirky design element of modern books had us exploring the history of these objects and contemplating their future.
12. Confined By Pages: The Joy of Unread Books: This essay dares to ask: are the best books the ones you haven’t read yet?
13. Orwell and the Tea Party: This astute essay pondered how George Orwell has been co-opted by political movements that he would never have sided with.
14. Ceasing to Exist: Three Months in the Social Media Detox Ward: Staff writer Edan Lepucki tried something many of us wish we could do: she took a break from Facebook and Twitter.
15. 20 More Under 40: The other big literary event of the year was the New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” project. We came up with our own list that we hoped was even more interesting.
16. Five Apocalypses: A Particularly Catastrophic Summer Reading List: Everyone was reading apocalyptic books in 2010, and staff writer Emily St. John Mandel offered five such books to read when the power grid goes down.
17. The Sorry State of the Rejection Letter: Staff writer Bill Morris pondered a time when thoughtful rejection letters arrived in the mail on real paper.
18. A Speculative 20 Under 40, from 40 Years Ago: In another response to the New Yorker list, we pondered a star-studded “20 Under 40” from 1970.
19. All Great Works of Literature Either Dissolve a Genre or Invent One: A Reading List: The other, other big literary story of the year was the controversial David Shields. Whichever side you took, his reading list of genre-destroying books was a treat.
20. A Year in Reading: Ed Champion (The 13 Most Underrated Books of 2010): Ed Champion’s list of under-the-radar books was a highlight of our year-end series.
There are also a number of older pieces that Millions readers return to again and again. This list of top “evergreens” comprises pieces that went up before 2010 but continued to interest readers over the last year.
1. The Best of the Millennium (So Far): Our late-2009 series invited a distinguished panel of writers and thinkers to nominate the best books of the decade. The ensuing list stoked controversy and interest that lingered into 2010. The write-ups of the “winner” and runners-up have also remained popular.
2. Best of the Millennium, Pros Versus Readers: We also invited our readers to compile a “best of the decade” list. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the readers’ list seemed to receive a warmer reception.
3. A Year in Reading 2009: 2009’s series stayed popular in 2010.
4. The Best Sports Journalism Ever (According to Bill Simmons): Sports fans love this collection of links to some of the best sports writing of all time.
5. On Our Shelves: 45 Favorite Short Story Collections: A terrific list that will keep the short story fan busy for quite a long time.
6. Food Fight: Anthony Bourdain Slams Rachael Ray: This rare dalliance for The Millions into celebrity gossip suggests an enduring interest in the bad blood between these two food (and publishing) superstars.
7. The Road: A Comedic Translation (Part 1): Staff writer Jacob Lambert’s skewering of Cormac McCarthy’s self-serious blockbuster has kept readers laughing for over a year now.
8. The Millions Interview: Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky: This interview with the world’s most famous working translators has kept readers coming back.
9. Diagramming the Obama Sentence: In the aftermath of Obama’s victory, Garth’s analysis of our new president’s rhetorical skills got picked up on a number of political sites.
10. Introducing Difficult Books, A Descriptive List: Readers have remained interested in our occasional series on some of the toughest — and most rewarding — books out there.
Where did all these readers come from? Google (and Facebook and Twitter and StumbleUpon and Reddit) sent quite a few of course, but many Millions readers came from other sites too. These were the top 10 sites to send us traffic in 2010: