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2016: The year’s best and worst

Photo: Creative Commons

Photo: Creative Commons

Best of times, worst of times: Nathan Whitlock rounds up 2016’s great and terrible book news from around the world.


  • Amazon spent the year opening brick-and-mortar stores and experimenting with near-instant delivery. The company also floated plans to fill new locations with the smell of pipe smoke and maybe keep a few old cats around.
  • Even in a year in which so much went wrong, makers of novelty tomes stepped up their game. Shakespeare in Fluff, for example, is a photo book that recasts the Bard’s iconic works with small, adorable animals. Look for it in the Literary Zoloft section.
  • The book industry struggled to monetize the Pokémon Go craze – at least until, as always, smut showed the way, with instant classic and likely Nobel contender Pokebutt Go: Pounded by ‘Em All.
  • Margaret Atwood, age 77, published three critically acclaimed bestselling books in the past 18 months. Still proud of your Gilmore Girls binge-watch?


  • Bob Dylan’s surprise Nobel win angered just about everyone who truly matters: literary critics, printed word purists, and that one heckler from the ’65 Newport Folk Festival.
  • Bad endings: Novelist Frederick Forsyth retired. Alan Moore said he was done writing comics. J.K. Rowling promised no more Harry Potter books. Anita Brookner, Imre Kertész, Alvin Toffler, Elie Wiesel, Edward Albee, and Ursula Franklin died. And George R.R. Martin spent another year stroking his beard as he stared out his office window.
  • The unmasking of pseudonymous novelist Elena Ferrante sparked condemnation, multiple think pieces, and, inevitably, a spike in sales of her books. (In case you missed it: a journalist finally revealed Ferrante’s true identity to be that of obscure Italian translator J.T. Leroy.)
  • Donald Trump’s impact on the books world paralleled his effect on the political one – dozens of notable authors signed anti-Trump petitions; even his own former ghostwriter publicly denounced him. And then there are his actual words: with obnoxious, word-salad pronouncements and beyond-avant-garde abuse of the English language, The Donald truly grabbed us by the poésie.


December 15th, 2016

12:46 pm

Category: Books of the Year

Issue Date: December 2016

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