Welcome, dear friends, to the customary annual review of events in the bonkers book industry, which I do every year in January, before the future, because I’m far too busy in December, when everyone else is talking about the past.
As you’ll remember from last year, I got a depressing amount of second-sighted stuff almost correct. I say depressing, because things which start out as a joke in January, often end up being anything but in December. They say that comedy equals tragedy plus time, but in this case, I found out that unfunny often equals the ridiculous plus truth.
With that in mind, this year, I’m going to focus less on the probable, and more on the plausible. I’m also going to try and keep away from that sort of Holier Than Thou School Of Finger Pointing, and concentrate on other less divisive things in society, such as wordplay, surrealism, and, er, aardvarks.
And now, herewith, to the Review of Bookish Happenings In 2016.
The Fourth Estate broke with tradition in January when, upon finding that their previews of the big books in 2016 all looked identical down to the last semi-colon (almost as if they were slavishly following big budget press packs), they decided to abandon the big blockbusters altogether and focus upon the most obscure titles they could find.
This had the unintended effect of knocking high literary small press titles out of the running for all the major literary prizes because they were now deemed too popular to be good, but strangely, nobody seemed to mind.
Readers shunned fiction in February, turning their attentions instead to ‘shelf-help’ books, also known as ‘holistic space therapy’. This Second Coming for people who had already read all the self-actualization books a body could handle was based on the success of 2015’s smash hit The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.
Clean Your Goddamn House, You Slattern! by Jocasta Herringbone was a surprise smash hit, followed shortly by It’s Not You, It’s The Farrow & Ball Elephant’s Breath In Your Living Room; along with the award-winning tear-jerker subsequently made into a major film, The Girl With The Wrong Duvet Cover.
After a lacklustre first quarter, publishers breathed a sigh of relief when the next big literary craze – called Science Fiction 2.0 – became apparent, following the stampede for the tills with the smash hit Neil deGrasse Tyson Licked My Aardvark. A swathe of comic, literary, crime and romantic fiction was hastily rewritten with scientists in the lead roles, instantly elevating previously lacklustre titles and their authors to bestseller status.
The search for the next Gone Girl/Girl On A Train was deemed to be over with the release of This Book Has A Girl In It, a thriller about an author being stalked by six unreliable narrators. She’s then forced at gunpoint to identify which one of them is telling the truth before she can bank £950,000.
Earning The End was the major talking point of May 2016. John E. Smith’s book, available in digital format only, caused a scandal when it became apparent that its final chapters could only be downloaded once the reader had left 5-star reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. The initial furore died down once the Financial Times called it “a masterful example of meta-manipulation which perfectly illustrates the forward-driven reader experience”, after which everyone agreed that John E. Smith was a bloody genius.
In another example of uncannily choreographed coincidence, it emerged that self-publishing service providers owned by the major publishing houses all suffered technical difficulties in the second quarter, meaning that some of the year’s most high-profile indie books had to delay publication and thereby completely missed the all-important summer holiday market.
July and August
Tables were turned on the press when the silly season produced the biggest book story of the year: the revelation that Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin had in fact finished the entire Song Of Ice And Fire series back in 2011, and was not therefore late in producing the last two titles as claimed. The news emerged when Martin admitted he’d lied in order to buy himself time as he transitioned to writing YA Romance, which he described as “literally an aching, painful process of getting to know the real me”.
Following the hugely successful re-release of Hitler’s Mein Kampf in early 2016, marking its first publication in Germany since World War II, a slate of new re-releases were announced in September for, amongst others, Zabiba And The King by Saddam Hussein; The Green Book by Colonel Gaddafi, and and See Spot, Run, the much-loved children’s book long unmasked as an explosive manifesto for Kim Jong-il, the dictator most famous for his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A revival of the sensational 1989 Taxi Driver’s Union mime performance of Chairman Mao’s The Little Red Book was rumoured, but never materialised.
The popularity of so-called ‘real’ women – irreverent comediennes and actresses who purportedly don’t care what you think of them – reached its peak with the simultaneous release of books from Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Jennifer Lawrence, Taylor Swift, Cara Delevingne, Melissa McCarthy and Carrie Fisher, all on the 14th of October 2016. Unfortunately, this deluge resulted in a backlash against the ‘real woman’ trope, and spawned an additional five Kardashians nobody had ever heard of before.
Wednesday November 2nd became known as “Launch Of The Walking Dead” after no fewer than fifteen posthumous titles were published on this day alone. Events were not without controversy, as seven ghost writers had to be placed in witness protection, and four of the book launches used a wake as their theme, somewhat to the embarrassment of their publishers. However, relatives of the deceased authors in question, including Tolkien, Beckett, and du Maurier, took a break from counting money to give their blessing to the enterprise.
Nobody was surprised when This Isn’t was declared the must-have gimmicky book for the Christmas 2016 market. Described as “refreshing” by the Guardian; “a truly original idea” by the Telegraph, and “grand” by the Irish Times, this blank, unlined book, with its plain brown cover, invited readers to enter their own thoughts, in order to form their own relevant narrative of what it means to be a human being alive today. It sold 73 million copies in December after the price was increased from 8.99 to 14.99.
And there we have it, folks. Tune in next December, when we will review my review, and judge
mercilessly accordingly. In the meantime, if I’ve left any major trends out, do please oblige by giving me what for in the comments.