Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Fifty Shades of Grey
by E.L. James

It was the year that J.K. Rowling returned to publishing with The Casual Vacancy, and yet the creator of Harry Potter was completely overshadowed, and that is not an overstatement, by an author called Erika Leonard, who used to work as a TV executive and started off by writing Twilight fan fiction.

Erika Leonard writes as E.L. James. She is the author of the Fifty Shades trilogy (Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed). While the first in the series was originally self-published earlier, it hit the bigtime in 2012 and James turned erotica into literature’s biggest genre of the year. She sold millions of copies. There is going to be a movie. There is a Fifty Shades of Grey board game. There are Fifty Shades of Grey cakes. The Fifty Shades of Grey Classical Album was released. Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey are household names. Book clubs read the novel with everybody discussing the merits of spanking in a literary narrative.

The book is set mostly in Seattle and the staff at the city’s Visitor Information Center now have to handle hundreds of questions about the locations mentioned in the novel. Time Magazine listed E.L. James as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.  Frankly, the world went crazy for Fifty Shades of Grey.

Fortunately for those of us less inclined to be dazzled by that form of the erotic arts, there were plenty of other publishing triumphs to celebrate in 2012 as well, including new books from the likes of Salman Rushdie, Richard Ford, Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel, and many more.

 

The Biggest Books of 2012

Canada by Richard Ford
Canada
by Richard Ford
The Twelve by Justin Cronin
The Twelve
by Justin Cronin
Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
Joseph Anton
by Salman Rushdie
NW by Zadie Smith
NW
by Zadie Smith
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
Sweet Tooth
by Ian McEwan
Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
Mortality
by Christopher Hitchens

2012 was also the year in which we lost a number of fantastic authors including children’s author Maurice Sendak, science fiction pioneer Ray Bradbury and the heavily decorated Maeve Binchy.  We said goodbye to William Gay - the carpenter who continued the Southern Gothic traditions of William Faulkner and Thomas Wolfe, Harry Crews – who escaped grinding poverty of the Okefenokee Swamp and survived the Korean War to gain a cult following for his gritty novels like Feast of Snakes, and Dora Saint – (AKA Miss Read) who will be remembered for her two series of novels set in the British countryside, the Fairacre novels and the Thrush Green novels.

 

Authors Who Died in 2012

Josef Škvorecký, author of The Miracle Game
Josef Škvorecký,
author of The Miracle Game
Ronald Searle, author of The Terror of St. Trinian’s
Ronald Searle,
author of The Terror of St. Trinian’s
William Gay, author of The Long Home
William Gay,
author of The Long Home
Harry Crews, author of Car
Harry Crews,
author of Car
Dora Saint, author of Village School
Dora Saint ,
author of Village School
Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak,
author of Where the Wild Things Are
Jean Craighead George, author of My Side of the Mountain
Jean Craighead George,
author of My Side of the Mountain
Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury,
author of Fahrenheit 451
Maeve Binchy, author of Scarlet Feather
Maeve Binchy,
author of Scarlet Feather
Bryce Courtenay, author of The Power of One
Bryce Courtenay,
author of The Power of One

The massive popularity of the Fifty Shades trilogy cannot be understated. Steamy romance books are nothing new but the sheer number of sales attributed to E.L. James is definitely a new development in books. The trilogy sparked many more novels of erotica from other authors eager to follow in the footsteps of E.L. James.

 

More Erotica for Fifty Shades fans

Bared to You by Sylvia Day
Bared to You
by Sylvia Day
The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst
The Marriage Bargain
by Jennifer Probst
Easy by Tammara Webber
Easy
by Tammara Webber
Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard
Gabriel’s Inferno
by Sylvain Reynard
Sweet Surrender by Maya Banks
Sweet Surrender
by Maya Banks

What would a year-end roundup be without a glance at the winners of the major literary prizes?  The Man Booker prize, which is awarded annually for the best original full-length novel written in the English Language by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations (including Ireland and Zimbabwe), was won by Hilary Mantel for her historical novel, Bring Up the Bodies

This achievement was particularly notable because Bring Up the Bodies is the sequel to Wolf Hall, which won the award in 2009, making Martel the first woman and first Briton to win the prize twice. 

The 2012 awards were not without controversy. The Nobel Prize for Literature went to Chinese writer Mo Yan.  Depending on your standpoint, the selection either ignored China’s abuse of human rights or highlighted China’s abuse of human rights.

 

Major Award Winners in 2012

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Booker Prize)
Bring up the Bodies
by Hilary Mantel (Booker Prize)
The Round House by Louise Erdrich (National Book Award for Fiction)
The Round House
by Louise Erdrich (National Book Award for Fiction)
Among Others by Jo Walton (Hugo Award, Best Novel & Nebula Award)
Among Others
by Jo Walton (Hugo Award, Best Novel & Nebula Award)
The Republic of Wine  by Mo Yan (Nobel Prize for Literature)
The Republic of Wine
by Mo Yan (Nobel Prize for Literature)
Bewilderment by David Ferry (National Book Award for Poetry)
Bewilderment
by David Ferry (National Book Award for Poetry)
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (Newbery Medal)
Dead End in Norvelt
by Jack Gantos (Newbery Medal)
All That I Am by Anna Funder (Miles Franklin Award)
All That I Am
by Anna Funder (Miles Franklin Award)
The Purchase by Linda Spalding (Governor General’s Award Fiction)
The Purchase
by Linda Spalding (Governor General’s Award Fiction)
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction)
The Buddha in the Attic
by Julie Otsuka (PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction)

And there was more controversy in the book world in 2012. The Pulitzer Prize board announced that for the first time in 35 years there would be no Pulitzer winner for fiction - the somewhat baffled finalists were Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell and The Pale King by (the late) David Foster Wallace.  Ron Charles from the Washington Post quipped: “Only one finished real novel among the finalists, AND they can’t pick a winner,” hinting to Johnson’s book being a novella and the Foster Wallace entry being an unfinished manuscript. 

Other major controversies included Salman Rushdie canceling an appearance at an Indian festival after death threats, exiled Chinese writer Ma Jian’s protesting the Chinese government by smearing red paint on his face and book at the London Book Fair, and Matt Bissonnette (aka Mark Owen) publishing his account of the death of Osama Bin Laden without running the text past the US Department of Defense. 

 

Books Embroiled in Controversy

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
The Satanic Verses
by Salman Rushdie
Beijing Coma by Ma Jian
Beijing Coma
by Ma Jian
No Easy Day by Mark Owen
No Easy Day
by Mark Owen
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
Train Dreams
by Denis Johnson
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Swamplandia!
by Karen Russell

What was the best book you read in 2012?


More to Explore




50 Books for an 11-Year-Old Funniest Books According to the British Librarian Literature