Before we get too far into 2013, let’s take a look at what was keeping readers interested on The Millions in 2012. 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 2012:
2. The Arcades Project: Martin Amis’ Guide to Classic Video Games: Mark O’Connell unearthed an obscure video gaming guide by Martin Amis, which proved to be a monumental exercise in cognitive dissonance. “Narrow that phalanx!”
3. Dashboard? More Like Bookshelf: Your Guide to Literary Tumblrs: The Millions debuted on Tumblr in late 2011 and Nick Moran helped us get acquainted with our new neighborhood by exploring the rich array of literary Tumblrs. He followed up with even more literary, Tumblr-y goodness a few months later.
4. Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? 8 Experts on Who’s Greater: Kevin Hartnett orchestrated a throwdown, asking eight scholars and avid lay readers to present their cases for Tolstoy or Dostoevsky as the king of Russian literature.
5. Our star-studded Year in Reading, with 74 participants naming 261 books, was a big hit across the internet.
6. The Marquise Went out at Five O’clock: On Making Sentences Do Something: In a sublime craft essay, novelist Christopher Beha explored why some sentences work and some don’t. “I simply ask myself, ‘What do I need this sentence to do?’”
7. 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.
8. This Chart Is a Lonely Hunter: The Narrative Eros of the Infographic: Novelist Reif Larsen delivered a richly illustrated tour of the infographic, plumbing our fascination with information, beautifully presented.
9. It’s All in Your Head: The Problems With Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine: A couple of months before Jonah Lehrer landed in the center of a firestorm of controversy over plagiarism and fabrication, science writers Tim Requarth and Meehan Crist pointed out the problems with the science behind Lehrer’s bestseller. Lehrer himself showed up to defend his work in the comments, but the piece would become one of the first data points in the emerging story of Lehrer’s downfall.
10. “A Right Fit”: Navigating the World of Literary Agents: Michael Bourne wanted to know how exactly one lands a literary agent. To those who send out query letters blindly, he wrote, “You might get lucky, but the odds of that are, well, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 in 11,111.”
11. I Greet You in the Middle of a Great Career: A Brief History of Blurbs: Blurbs are a filthy business, everyone seems to agree, and yet every book comes plastered with them. Alan Levinovitz’s hilarious history of the blurb also introduces us to “blaps” and “blovers.”
12. Big Bird is History: Why We Fund PBS: Shortly after Mitt Romney told the world he wants to fire Big Bird, Elizabeth Stevens explained why the free market alone can never be trusted to produce quality educational programming.
13. Crime Pays: Jo Nesbø Talks about Killing Harry Hole and the Best Job in the World: The Scandinavian crime novel remains a favorite genre, and Robert Birnbaum delivered an illuminating interview with one of its foremost practitioners.
14. Dickens’s Best Novel? Six Experts Share Their Opinions: Kevin Hartnett again polled the experts, this time to discover the best on offer from the prolific 19th century master.
15. Literary Fiction is a Genre: A List: Edan Lepucki’s got news for you: literary fiction is a genre with its own conventions, just like romance and thrillers. Her argument is both clever and convincing.
16. The High Line: New York’s Monument to Gentrification: Michael Bourne provoked controversy with his essay, part love letter, part critique, of New York’s High Line, “the distressed skinny jeans of public parks, the gourmet taco truck of urban tourist attractions.”
17. Are eReaders Really Green?: Ebooks are here to stay, and some suggest that the move to digital will save a lot of trees and carbon-spewing transport, but Nick Moran ran the numbers to find that going digital doesn’t necessarily mean going green.
18. Ban This Book: An Uncensored Look At The Lorax And Other Dangerous Books: Alan Levinovitz used Banned Book Week as a launch pad for revealing the closet censor that lies within all of us.
19. Is This Book Bad, or Is It Just Me? The Anatomy of Book Reviews: We always seem to be in a crisis of book reviewing, but Darryl Campbell wanted to mark out some territory for what the book review should be, not just what it is. Along the way he breaks down the form to its essentials.
20. The Game’s Afoot: The Case of the Mystery Genre’s Terrible Secret: Daniel Friendman lampoons the many tired tropes of the mystery novel. Get ready to have an entire genre irrevocably spoiled.
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 2012 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 has lingered. The write-ups of the “winner” and runners-up have also remained popular. We also invited our readers to compile a “best of the decade” list. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the readers’ list seemed to receive a warmer reception.
2. A Year in Reading 2011: 2011’s series stayed popular in 2012.
3. Introducing Difficult Books, A Descriptive List: Our currently dormant, but still fascinating series on the most challenging (yet rewarding) books ever published.
4. Hard to Pronounce Literary Names Redux: the Definitive Edition: Six years on, our “definitive” literary pronunciation guide is still a favorite The Millions. There must be a lot of people name-dropping Goethe out there. The initial, aborted attempt remains popular as well.
5. 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.
6. Reasons Not to Self-Publish in 2011-2012: A List: Self-publishing has been one of big industry trends of the last few years, but Edan Lepucki gave us eight reasons why she won’t be self-publishing… at least not any time soon.
7. 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.
8. 12 Holiday Gifts That Writers Will Actually Use: Hannah Gerson’s list of gifts for writers includes only one book and exactly zero blank journals.
9. On Our Shelves: 45 Favorite Short Story Collections: A terrific list that will keep the short story fan busy for quite a long time.
10. The Stockholm Syndrome Theory of Long Novels: Mark O’Connell articulated how big books can entrap us and hold us hostage. “It’s reading that has at least as much to do with our own sense of achievement in having read the thing as it does with a sense of the author’s achievement in having written it.”
Where did all these readers come from? Google (and Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr 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 2012:
1. Arts & Letters Daily
2. Andrew Sullivan and the rest of The Daily Beast
3. The New Yorker
4. The Browser
5. The Rumpus
6. Publishers Weekly
10. The Morning News