Thursday, December 26, 2013

A broad, bold showing for books in 2013

Published: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 -

Author Tom Clancy listens to questions during a discussion June 1, 2004 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Was 2013 the year that publishing’s “most vital category” crown finally passed to young adult and middle-grade literature?

If not, that day is surely nigh. Titles for teens and tweens (and their parents) saturated shelves, and consumers ate them up: “Allegiant” (the third book in the “Divergent” series by 25-year-old Veronica Roth) sold 450,000 copies its first week out, and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck” (the eighth in Jeff Kinney’s series) sold 1.1 million its first week. Kid lit has legs beyond Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen.

But in an era where reports of book publishing’s demise are consistently exaggerated, the grown-up bestseller lists were busy, too, thanks to familiar names: Dan Brown (“Inferno”), J.K. Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith, “The Cuckoo’s Calling”), Stephen King (“Dr. Sleep”), Donna Tartt (“The Goldfinch”), Khaled Hosseini (“And the Mountains Echoed”), and an old dead guy named F. Scott Fitzgerald (“The Great Gatsby” made a huge, Leonardo DiCaprio-fueled comeback).

On the nonfiction side, Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg made waves with “Lean In,” Fox News face Bill O’Reilly moved units with “Killing Jesus,” perennial talk-show guest Doris Kearns Goodwin proved her presidential-historian mettle again with “The Bully Pulpit,” and Lawrence Wright shed sober light on Scientology in “Going Clear.” David Sedaris re-earned his place as top comic memoirist with “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.”

There was also the unmistakable aroma of the bayou on the bestseller lists: The “Duck Dynasty” crew produced a handful of titles including “Happy Happy Happy” (Phil Robertson), “Si-Cology” (Si Robertson), and “Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen” (Kay Robertson), together selling piles of copies.

The big literary awards went to familiar, and unfamiliar names: Canadian storyteller Alice Munro won a long-due Nobel Prize, James McBride was an unlikely (and deserving) National Book Award winner for “The Good Lord Bird,” and 28-year-old Eleanor Catton took home the prestigious Man Booker Prize for her captivating (if byzantine) tale of New Zealand gold-rushers, “The Luminaries.”

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