Bookworm: Irish slump but Fergie tops Guardian bestseller list
Only three Irish writers made it on to the Guardian list of the 100 bestsellers of 2013 – Marian Keyes in 34th place with The Mystery of Mercy Close, the late Maeve Binchy in 65th place with A week in Winter, and the all-conquering Brendan O'Carroll in 88th with Mrs Brown's Family Handbook.
The poor showing of Irish authors isn't the only thing notable about this year's list, Guardian columnist John Dugdale noting the demise of 2012's porn craze, with only one erotic novel featuring in the top 20 and with EL James's Fifty Shades trilogy nowhere to be found – except, perhaps, in the trash cans of hotel bedrooms.
Gillian Flynn is still there, though – her Gone Girl proving so enduringly popular that two years after its initial publication it secured third place, just behind Dan Brown with his most recent ill-written potboiler, Inferno.
But the real surprise was that the No 1 bestseller of the year was Alex Ferguson's My Autobiography (Incidentally, what's with the "My"? Whose else could it be?). Or am I the only person startled by the notion that 647,000 people bought the old grump's predictably score-settling tome?
Donal Ryan's The Spinning Heart didn't make the list and nor did his equally impressive The Thing About December, but if Sebastian Barry had his way, the latter book would outsell all others. "A magus of a writer" with "magic at his disposal" he raves in the Guardian. Indeed, Ryan's novel is not just something "to replenish the reader's heart and spruce the reader's soul", it's also "a force of nature" and "the product of a life-enhancing talent". You know, I think he quite liked it.
Writing in the Financial Times, Ryan himself cites John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath as the book that changed his life. He thought it "heartbreaking and uplifting". As for his perfect reader: "My wife. I love the way she reacts to books she loves. It spurred me on to write seriously." That's nice to hear.