The Year in Books: Amazon Entered New York Publishing and Jeffrey Eugenides Wore a Vest

Pity the plagiarist! Especially if he wrote a thriller, and the material he copied from includes James Bond novels and books by Robert Ludlum. That’s what Quentin Rowan, who wrote under the pen name Q.R. Markham, did. Little, Brown recalled his debut novel, Assassin of Secrets, from the shelves of bookstores across the country, and bloggers soon revealed that most of what Mr. Rowan had ever written included at least some writing by other people. In a post-scandal essay for The Fix, Mr. Rowan blamed drink and wrote that the scandal had cost him his job at Spoonbill & Sugartown bookstore in Williamsburg, his girlfriend and his dignity. He has moved west.
We have nothing more to say about that.
After a false rumor that Simon & Schuster had signed a book deal with Casey Anthony, angry commenters flooded the company's Facebook page to voice their objections.
[Photo: James O. Jenkins]
J.K. Rowling announced that e-book versions of the Harry Potter series will be published by the author and sold exclusively through an online bookstore called Pottermore. After a preliminary launch for 1 million Potter fans, Pottermore delayed opening to more users until 2012, but not before poaching HarperCollins digital chief Charlie Redmayne to be its new CEO.
Can we use Uber to get an Ark?
It was a controversial year for the New York Public Library, which first barely survived a proposed budget cut and then saw its new president arrested for drunk driving. The year ended with renewed questions about the proposed Central Library Plan, which will allow patrons to check out books from the main library at Bryant Park for the first time.
Not only did a children's book called Go the Fuck to Sleep become an unexpected bestseller, but a parody of Goodnight Moon called Goodnight iPad did too. Teach your children well.
McGregor. (Photo: Toby Canham/Getty Images)
This year we learned that Ewan McGregor will play Chip Lambert in HBO's adaptation of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. But who didn't get a television deal with HBO this year? Other New York novelists said to have pilots in development include Chad Harbach, Jennifer Egan, Sam Lipsyte, and Gary Shteyngart. Meanwhile, Jonathan Ames's Bored to Death got canceled.
Borders books closed for good, and St. Mark's Bookshop almost lost its lease. It was not all bad news for bricks and mortar though: Brooklyn's Greenlight Books expanded this year and St. Mark's survived in the end. In the world of digital commerce, Emily Gould and Ruth Curry explored the idea of an independent e-bookstore with Emily Books.
Bourdain. [Illustration: Drew Friedman]
This year Anthony Bourdain, Dennis Lehane and Deepak Chopra all got book imprints.
Kirshbaum. [Photo: Ben Gabbe]
It was in May, at Book Expo America, that Amazon dropped its big bomb: the Seattle-based Internet retailer would be starting its very own New York Publishing house, headed by Larry Kirshbaum, former CEO of Time Warner Books. Amazon quickly sighed up a roster of well-known editors and authors like self-help promoter Timothy Ferriss and film director Penny Marshall. But will Amazon be able to match big advances with editorial prowess? Time will tell!
At the announcement for the finalists for the National Book Awards this year, the judges named a book called Shine, by Lauren Myracle, in the young people's literature category. Then the National Book Foundation announced that it had mistakenly left off another finalist, Chime, by Franny Billingsley. Was it possible that the National Book Foundation had been tripped up by a vowel rhyme? Well, it turned out yes. Lauren Myracle was asked to drop out of contention, but the foundation, acknowledging its mistake and with profuse apologies, made a donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation at Ms. Myracle's request.
In 2010, St. Martin's Press acquired SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy Seal Sniper, by a retired Team Six Seal named Howard E. Wasdin and his Seal-trained co-author, Stephen Templin. It was a standard acquisition for an imprint that can publish a dozen or more works of military nonfiction every year. Then, on May 1, just a few weeks before the book's scheduled release, Team Six took out Osama bin Laden. St. Martin’s moved up the release date to May 10 and the book spent the next 20 weeks on the Times bestseller lists.
Apple fans were filled with foreboding in August when Simon & Schuster fast-tracked Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs for a November release. (The book was originally scheduled for March 2012). S&S said merely that the book was "ready." After Jobs's death in early October, the release date was again pushed up, to October 24. The biography became the best-selling non-fiction book of the year, according to Nielsen Bookscan.
The Marriage Plot was one of the most highly-praised novels of the year, but there was also that billboard in Times Square: Jeffrey Eugenides, caught mid-stride, glowering, his vest fluttering in a breeze. The vest soon had its own Twitter feed.
It took the writers a while to get organized, but once Salman Rushdie voiced his support and others started a petition in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street the big names flooded in. Deals for books about Occupy Wall Street abounded as well, for n+1, Todd Gitlin, David Graeber, and Adbusters publisher Kalle Lassn, among others.
Julian Assange. (Photo: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Julian Assange
It was a year of sad departures: the writer and critic Christopher Hitchens, Paris bookstore owner and sometimes-hotelier George Whitman and the poet Ruth Stone. Closer to home, New York publishing lost a young luminary, Verso Books marketing director Clara Heyworth.

The demise of Oprah’s Book Club might have left publishing bereft, but there was plenty to celebrate in 2011: Amazon Publishing blithely ignored the sniping of the Big Six and installed itself as a player in New York, a billboard of Jeffrey Eugenides in a vest competed with the toothsome blondes gracing Times Square and writers rallied around the cause of Occupied Wall Street. J.K. Rowling announced that Harry Potter would finally be going digital, a plagiarism scandal caused embarrassment and the National Book Foundation will never be lax about its enunciation again. More in the slideshow!

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