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Most Expensive Sales of 2009

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman Jen Hadfield, a relative newcomer, wins the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry but it′s a sad night with the news that Mick Imlah, famous for The Lost Leader, had died at 52. Read our interview with Jen Hadfield.

Herman Rosenblat′s heart-warming Holocaust memoir, Angel at the Fence, is revealed to be fabricated. Oprah Winfrey, who had featured the book on her TV show, isn′t happy.

British author John Mortimer, who created Rumpole of the Bailey, dies at 85 after a long illness.

In the UK, Woolworths applies to go into administration. The famous retail chain soon disappears from the high street.

Publishers and booksellers cut thousands of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic as the recession bites.

Neil Gaiman wins the Newbery Medal for best children′s fiction for The Graveyard Book.

Sebastian Barry wins the UK′s Costa Book of the Year Award for The Secret Scripture.

Second-hand booksellers in Hay-on-Wye claim the town′s literary festival is killing their business rather than helping it.

Barack Obama - The Audacity of Hope

Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Updike dies from cancer at 76.

It is revealed Stephenie Meyer sold 15 million books in the US alone during 2008.

AbeBooks sells a signed 1996 first edition of Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama for $12,500 but the most expensive sale of the month is a book of hymns written in the Ioway language for $13,500. AbeBooks′ bestselling signed title for the month is The Graveyard Book.


Slumdog Millionaire

James Patterson keeps his position as most borrowed author from UK libraries.

Julia Gregson wins the Romantic Novel of the Year for East of the Sun.

Slumdog Millionaire sweeps the board at the Oscars - the movie is based on Vikas Swarup′s novel, Q & A.

Whitbread Prize-winning Irish author Christopher Nolan dies at 43. He won with Under the Eye of the Clock in 1988. Nolan suffered from severe cerebral palsy and wrote using a ‘unicorn device’ on his forehead to hit the keyboard.

Stephen King shoots from the hip and says: "Both Rowling and Meyer, they′re speaking directly to young people. ... The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can′t write worth a darn. She′s not very good.... You′ve got Dean Koontz, who can write like hell. And then sometimes he′s just awful. It varies. James Patterson is a terrible writer but he′s very very successful."

Science fiction and fantasy legend Philip Jose Farmer dies at 91. He is best known for his Riverworld series.

The most expensive book sold by AbeBooks during the month is a 1951 first edition of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger for $11,000. The Graveyard Book continues to be AbeBooks′ bestselling signed book.


Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

It is reported Audrey Niffenegger banked a $5m advance for her second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry.

Nicholas Hughes, son of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, hangs himself 46 years after his mother gassed herself.

The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais by Philip M Parker wins The Diagram Prize for the oddest book title of the year. Baboon Metaphysics by Dorothy L Cheney and Robert M Seyfarth is second.

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos spends a week working in one of his company′s distribution centers.

It is reported Barack Obama has earned $8.6 million from his books.

AbeBooks′ most expensive sale of the month is a 1966 first edition of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein for $9,730. AbeBooks′ bestselling signed book is The Vagrants by Li Yiyun.


Colombia′s literary legend Gabriel García Márquez retires from writing. Britain′s Margaret Drabble quits writing fiction because she′s scared of repetition.

The American Library Association′s ‘most challenged’ books of 2008 include The Kite Runner, His Dark Materials and And Tango Makes Three.

And Tango Makes Three

J.G. Ballard, author of Crash and Empire of the Sun, dies at 78.

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez presents a copy of Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent to Barack Obama and it becomes a bestseller.

Ursula K Le Guin wins a sixth Nebula Award for her young adult novel, Powers.

AbeBooks′ most expensive sale of the month is Imre: A Memorandum by Xavier Mayne for $12,000. It′s a first edition of this ground-breaking homosexual novel from 1906. See the top sales.

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and her earlier novel, Amy and Isabelle, is AbeBooks′ bestselling signed book during April.


Cormac McCarthy wins the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for lifetime achievement in US literature. See collectible McCarthy books.

Cormac McCarthy

In the UK, Richard & Judy′s book-heavy TV show is cancelled due to poor ratings.

Ruth Padel becomes the first female Oxford Professor of Poetry but then resigns after it is revealed she conducted a smear campaign against rival, Derek Walcott, over allegations of sexual impropriety.

AbeBooks′ most expensive sale of the month is Della Magnificenza ed Architettura de′Romaniand Osservazioni sopra la Lettre de M. Mariette by Giovanni Battista Piranesi for $17,000. It′s a book of etchings of ancient Roman ruins. See the top sales.


Recluse JD Salinger launches legal action against the author of 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, claiming the main character is similar to Holden Caulfield. Read AbeBooks′ review of Coming Through the Rye.

Coming Through the Rye

American author Marilynne Robinson wins the Orange Prize for her novel, Home.

Tim Winton wins Australia′s top fiction prize, the Miles Franklin Award, for the fourth time, with his novel Breath. Learn more about Breath and the award.

Author Chris Anderson lands in hot water for not revealing he sourced passages from Wikipedia for his latest book appropriately called Free.

Michael Jackson′s death sparks huge demand for signed copies of his book, Moonwalk.

The UK′s Tesco supermarket chain is blasted for displaying a book about Austrian Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his own daughter in a cellar for 24 years and raped her repeatedly, in its Father′s Day gift section.

A 1969 first edition of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut sells for $7,500 on AbeBooks - the month′s most expensive sale. See the top sales.


Frank McCourt, author of Angela′s Ashes, dies of cancer in New York. Angela′s Ashes goes on to become AbeBooks′ bestselling signed book in July.

American author E. Lynn Harris, a pioneer of black gay fiction, dies at 54.

Libellus ysagogicus Abdilasi Id est servi gloriosi dei: qui dicitur Alchabitius ad magisterium iuditiorum astrorum by Alchabitius sells for $12,500 and is AbeBooks′ most expensive sale of the month. This 1485 volume contains the work of Alchabitius, a 10th century Arabian astrologer. See the top sales.


Swallows and Amazons′ author Arthur Ransome is revealed to have been a spy.

Julia Child′s Mastering the Art of French Cooking becomes a worldwide bestseller thanks to the Julie & Julia movie. See Julia Child′s cookbooks.

Masquerade by Kit Williams

James Kelman, the Scottish Booker Prize-winning author, blasts "mediocre" detective writers and books that feature a "middle-class young magician."

A BBC radio show and a series of newspaper articles reignite demand on AbeBooks for Masquerade by Kit Williams, an out-of-print treasure-hunting book, that sold a million copies 30 years ago. Learn more about Masquerade.

A limited edition of The Canterbury Tales printed by Golden Cockerel Press sells for $9,250 - it′s AbeBooks′ most expensive sale of the month. See the top sales.

South of Broad by Pat Conroy is AbeBooks′ bestselling signed book during August.


J.R.R. Tolkien

Dan Brown′s new novel, The Lost Symbol, is finally published and sells in massive quantities.

It is revealed J.R.R. Tolkien trained as a spy prior to World War II.

A Vanity Fair article sparks huge demand for Death of a President by William Manchester - originally published in 1967 and the subject of a legal battle between Jackie Kennedy and the author.

Sheila Lukins, author of the Silver Palate Cookbooks, dies at 66.

Signed first editions of all seven volumes of The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King sell for $14,000 - it′s AbeBooks′ most expensive sale of September. See the top sales.

The Children′s Book by A.S. Byatt is AbeBooks′ bestselling signed book of September.

Uwem Akpan′s Say You′re One of Them becomes Oprah′s latest book club selection.


Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Red hot favourite Hilary Mantel wins the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Wolf Hall.

Romanian-born author Herta Müller, now living in Germany, wins the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature. Almost everyone outside Romania and Germany has never heard of her. Learn more about Herta Müller.

The Scots Musical Museum by James Johnson sells for $8,500 on AbeBooks - this 1792 set of four volumes is the most expensive sale of the month. See the top sales.


Sarah Palin releases Going Rogue - the first US printing is 1.5 million copies. Fans line up for hours to get their copies signed by the former Governor of Alaska.

Stephenie Meyer, with New Moon riding high in movie theaters, says: "I′m burned out on vampires right now." Learn more about vampire lit.

Much to the horror of American publishers, Oprah announces her talk show will end in 2011.

A complete set of Charles Dickens′ works and a signed letter dated 1859 sell for $12,500 - it′s AbeBooks′ most expensive sale of the month. See the full list.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann is AbeBooks′ bestselling signed book in November after winning the National Book Award for fiction. The Complete Stories of Flannery O′Connor is voted best overall winner of the National Book Award′s fiction category from the past 60 years. See all the past winners.

Cormac McCarthy's typewriter

Charles Darwin′s On The Origin of Species celebrates its 150th anniversary. See the evolution of this famous book.


Cormac McCarthy′s typewriter sells for $254,500.

An obscure physics book (Get A Grip on Physics by John Gribbin) seen on the floor of Tiger Woods′ crashed SUV becomes an overnight bestseller.

Modern art photographer Larry Sultan dies. His most famous work is Evidence.

Stephen King says his favorite book of the year was The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.

Charles Dickens′ gold and ivory toothpick sells for $9,150.

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