Year in Reading

A Year in Reading: Wrap Up

By posted at 6:00 am on December 23, 2011 11

“There are so many books. Always so many. They collide in my mind.”
- Colum McCann

Another Year in Reading is behind us, and I speak for all of us at The Millions when I sincerely thank everyone who wrote, shared, and read our articles. It’s a bit daunting to let strangers into our private reading worlds, but it’s also quite rewarding.

There is always the temptation to dive into a new book just after finishing another. There are, as Colum McCann says above, just “so many books” we’ve yet to read. However it’s also true that reflection can deepen appreciation: your reading timeline becomes contextualized, and its connections develop like a filmstrip in your mind. Our series, in the end, is all about such reflection.

We also recognize that it’s becoming easier than ever to rely on algorithms and lists for one’s book recommendations – and while there are some treasures to be found through such means, there is nothing quite like the warmth of an actual human being’s testimony to vouchsafe your next reading choice. We hope that these articles have turned you on to new writers – authors of books selected by others, or authors of the articles themselves.

With 72 participants naming 214 books, it’s safe to say this has been our biggest and most high profile Year in Reading yet. Our participants included the current Poet Laureate, a longtime candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature, the reigning winners of the IMPAC and Pulitzer Prizes, two authors of books named The New York Times’ 10 Best of 2011, a recent inductee to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and more Pushcart winners than I care to count.

A number of authors wrote their own Year in Reading articles as well as books chosen later on in the series. This honor roll consists of McCann, Jennifer Egan, Daniel Orozco, David Vann, Siddhartha Deb, and Geoff Dyer.

Yet in spite of these credentials – impressive as they are – I thought it would be fun to note some statistics, and to award some further superlatives based upon the articles written for this series. (Note that all research is highly unscientific.)

covercoverBy the numbers: of the 214 books named, 139 were fiction, 68 were nonfiction, 5 were poetry, and 2 were graphic novels. The average length of the books chosen was 338 pages, and the average publication year was 1994. The oldest book selected was Moby-Dick, the longest was Bleak House, and the shortest was Buckdancer’s Choice. If you’re a fan of our Post-40 Bloomers series, you’ll appreciate the fact that the average age of each book’s author, at the time their book was originally published, was 47.53 years old. Most of the books were from the United States and the UK, but many were from Ireland, Canada, France, the Russian Federation, Hungary, and Germany. Six of the seven continents were represented, and these books were published by presses ranging from the New York Review of Books to New Directions to Fantagraphics to Random House. (I won’t release the name of which house published the highest number of selections because I don’t want war to break out in New York City.)

covercovercovercovercover

Some favorites from the series, based on feedback from readers and links, comments, and other stats, included McCann on The Book of Disquiet, Jonathan Safran Foer on The Shallows, Ben Marcus on Nothing, Michael Schaub on The Great Frustration, and Egan on Butterfly’s Child.

covercovercoverThree books tied for the most popular selection this year: Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams (selected by Dan Kois, David Bezmozgis, and Adam Ross), Edouard Levé’s Suicide (selected by Scott Esposito, Mark O’Connell, and Dennis Cooper), and Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 (selected by Charles Baxter, Kevin Hartnett, and Garth Risk Hallberg). Seven more books tied for second-most popular: Phillip Connors’ Fire Season (selected by Chad Harbach and yours truly), Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? (selected by Harbach and Emily Keeler), Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad (selected by Brooke Hauser and A.N. Devers), Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove (selected by Hauser and Rosecrans Baldwin), Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test (selected by Schaub and Chris Baio), Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal (selected by Hauser and Rachel Syme) and Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods (selected by Scott and Garth).

Still I am compelled to award a couple of half-serious superlatives to close this thing out:

The “Gashlycrumb Tinies” Award for Saddest Selection of Books goes to Emma Straub for her tear-soaked article. “Mr. Consistent” is an Award I’d like to bestow upon Brad Listi, who exhausted the Sarah Palin canon only to then go on to exhaust the David Markson one. “Most Indecisive” belongs to Brooke Hauser and her 15 selections, while “Most Topical” goes to Michael Schaub because 90% of his list published in 2011. The Award for Coolest Byline undoubtedly goes to Duff McKagan, but the Award for Coolest Backstory (as well as my unending jealousy) goes to Benjamin Hale. Finally, the Award for Most Valuable Participant goes to you, dear reader, for allowing us to continue our series and for helping it grow with each passing January.

Until next year, happy reading.

All best,
The Millions staff

P.S. If you’re curious as to how we put the series together, please do check out Electric Literature’s interview with our founder, C. Max Magee. The series, the articles, and the site itself would not be possible without him.





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11 Responses to “A Year in Reading: Wrap Up”

  1. Zorro
    at 11:14 am on December 23, 2011

    Hey, you missed Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?, which should be on your list of second-most popular books. It was listed by both Emily M. Keeler and Chad Harbach:

    http://www.themillions.com/2011/12/a-year-in-reading-2011-emily-m-keeler.html

    http://www.themillions.com/2011/12/a-year-in-reading-chad-harbach.html

  2. C. Max Magee
    at 11:28 am on December 23, 2011

    Thanks for the pointer Zorro. We’ve fixed!

  3. yolana
    at 5:05 pm on December 23, 2011

    The Avian Gospels by Adam Novy was on a Nick Moran’s and
    Adam Levy’s lists. I’m too lazy to link though.

  4. Nick Moran
    at 8:18 pm on December 23, 2011

    Hi Yolana,
    There was no Adam Levy in our series this year.

  5. Joshua Korn
    at 8:03 am on December 24, 2011

    Thanks for another great year. Keep up the good work!

  6. yolana
    at 8:11 am on December 24, 2011

    ooops, my mind has frazzled from the holidays. I must be remembering another year.

  7. 72 Participants Naming 214 Books | Grierson Huffman
    at 5:00 pm on December 24, 2011

    [...] Millions wraps up its Year in Reading series. This entry was posted in Reading and tagged list, nick moran, the [...]

  8. James Schiavone
    at 11:38 am on December 27, 2011

    And don’t forget Gareth Crocker’s debut, “Finding Jack” about a brave dog serving in the Vietnam war. (St. Martin’s, February).

  9. Bees
    at 7:24 am on December 28, 2011

    Which continent was missing? A wild guess…Africa right? Does this say something about the state of literature in Africa or the state of mind of the folks who compiled this list…

  10. C. Max Magee
    at 8:14 am on December 28, 2011

    Nice try “Bees.” Antarctica was missing. Not Africa. Way to jump to conclusions. I won’t try to guess what it says about your state of mind.

  11. Janie Collen
    at 2:21 pm on December 28, 2011

    I think you should include Leora Skolkin-Smith’s nez novel HYSTERA.
    Skolkin-Smith was originally published and supported by Grace Paley who also nominated her for the Pen Faulkner.

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