2011 was the year old books and paperbacks triumphed
Published 08/01/2012 | 06:00
Only three Irish books feature in the Guardian's list of 2011's 100 bestsellers, the lowest number in well over a decade, and two of these books -- Emma Donoghue's Room and Maeve Binchy's Minding Frankie -- were actually published the year before, the third being Marian Keyes's The Brightest Star in the Sky.
Commenting on the list, Guardian writer John Dugdale sees the year as one in which "old books saw off new ones and paperbacks sent hardbacks packing".
Among the "old books" that did well was the ubiquitous Steig Larsson thriller-trilogy and David Nicholls's romantic One Day, all of them still in the Top 10, while a reluctance to buy expensive hardbacks may indicate a growing shift towards Kindle and other ebook providers.
Crime, chick-lit and children's stories dominate the list, though the absence of JK Rowling either means that the Harry Potter phenomenon is finally over or that every child in the world already has all the books. Other bestselling writers of the past seem to have had their day, too -- there's nothing here by Jeffrey Archer, Danielle Steel, Jilly Cooper or Wilbur Smith, while Jodi Picoult only makes 64th spot.
There are some quirky and unexpected inclusions -- Edmund de Waal's history-cum-memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes, not an easy read, is in 23rd place, while Caitlin Moran's How To Be a Woman (81st) bracingly demonstrates there's a market for intelligent, witty non-fiction.
Literary fiction, though, fares as badly as in previous lists. Ian McEwan's Solar makes it to 33rd place, Sebastian Faulks's A Week in December to 62nd and Tea Obrecht's The Tiger's Wife to 94th, but Julian Barnes's Man Booker winner, The Sense of an Ending, is absent.
In fact, the most popular of the literary novels is Donoghue's Room, its 402,000 sales getting it to fourth in the list. In money terms, it made £2,154,000 (€2,583,000) in 2011 alone -- which, by my estimate, would save a hundred other writers from starving in their garrets.