The 10 biggest book stories of 2015


When it came to books making headlines, 2015 ran the gamut from feel-good stories (like Canadian small presses and indie bookstores taking centre stage) to, well, not so feel-good stories (Atticus Finch is racist?!). In no particular order, here are the 10 book stories that made us sit up and take notice this year.

1. Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman is published


The prequel to Harper Lee's beloved, Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird smashed sales records before it was even out of the gate - it was the most pre-ordered book in the history of its publisher, HarperCollins. Then, once it was published on July 14, it sold 1.1 million copies in North America in the first week alone. But Go Set a Watchman proved troubling for Mockingbird fans with its portrayal of a racist Atticus Finch - as well as its cloudy provenance (it was discovered by Lee's lawyer) and questions about whether Lee was fully capable of giving her blessing at 89 years of age and in reportedly ill health. (If you missed all the hubbub, here's a handy cheat sheet.)

2. A-list authors release blockbuster books


This year was huge for big literary names and the readers who love them. Salman Rushdie's modern fable Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights was met with fanfare and rave reviews, as was the latest by Jonathan Franzen, the Dickensian novel Purity. Meanwhile, fans of Judy Blume had reason to rejoice upon the publication of her first novel for adults in 17 years, the semi-autobiographical and critically acclaimed In the Unlikely Event

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3. Raziel Reid's GG win ignites controversy

Vancouver author Raziel Reid had a 2015 that would have made Jude, the flamboyant and fame-loving teenage protagonist of his explicit YA novel When Everything Feels like the Movies, take a thousand celebratory selfies. After the book nabbed a Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature, Canadian children's author Barbara Kay wrote a scathing op-ed in the National Post entitled "Wasted tax dollars on a values-void novel," condemning the GG win. This led to the creation of an online petition to strip Reid of his win, though the Canada Council didn't budge. The book went on to be championed by Elaine "Lainey" Lui in Canada Reads 2015.

4. Small presses sweep the Scotiabank Giller Prize


In 2015, small presses - namely, Toronto's Coach House Books and Windsor, Ontario-based Biblioasis - emerged as big league players in the Canadian publishing scene. Proof positive: the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize, whose shortlist was dominated by books by the two small presses - Biblioasis repped Anakana Schofield's Martin John and the English-language translation of Samuel Archibald's Arvida, while Coach House took the win with André Alexis' Fifteen Dogs

5. Harry Potter takes to the stage

harry-potter-and-the-deathly-hallows-part-2.jpgThe final scene of the last Harry Potter film is a scene between Potter (depicted by Daniel Radcliffe) and his son Albus (played by Arthur Bowen. (Warner Bros.)

October 2015 became a magical month for Harry Potter fans when news came out that London's Palace Theatre would be staging a play based on a story dreamt up by J.K. Rowling herself. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will focus on an adult Harry and his son, Albus Severus. The two-part play picks up where the books left off, 19 years after Potter battles Voldemort. Written by Rowling with some A-list help from screenwriter Jack Thorne (Let the Right One In) and staged by director John Tiffany (Once), the play will take to the stage in summer 2016.

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6. Marlon James wins the Booker Prize

Photog-NeilHall.jpgMarlon James accepts his award from Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall at the ceremony on October 13. (Neil Hall/Reuters)

Marlon James made headlines this fall when his sweeping novel A Brief History of Seven Killings won the Booker Prize, making James the first Jamaican to win the prestigious award in its 47-year history. The book, a fictional account of a real-life assassination attempt on reggae legend Bob Marley in 1976, was deemed "extraordinary" by jury chair Michael Wood

Marlon James on Writers & Company:

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Marlon James on q:

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7. Margaret Atwood publishes a book... in the future

She's been writing futuristic fiction for three decades, so it only makes sense that Margaret Atwood decided to publish a book in a faraway space and time - planet Earth, 2114, to be exact. In May of 2015, Atwood delivered the first-ever commissioned work to the Future Library Project in Oslo, Norway. The literary time capsule will commission 100 new works by 100 different authors, one a year for the next century, to be opened in 2114. Atwood is contractually obligated to keep mum about her submission, though we do know the title is Scribbler Moon. 

8. Inaugural Authors for Indies Day crushes book sales

On May 2, 2015, 692 Canadian authors teamed up with over 100 independent bookstores across Canada for the first-ever Authors for Indies Day. The event had authors from Terry Fallis to Dennis Lee and Ann-Marie MacDonald acting as "guest booksellers," recommending their favourite reads to bookstore patrons, and the model proved a huge success - an average bump in sales of 18.5 per cent to be exact. (The 2016 Authors for Indies Day is on Saturday, April 30.)

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9. Angelina Jolie Pitt adapts Canadian YA novel for the big screen
In August, Angelina Jolie Pitt announced that she was executive-producing a feature film version of Canadian YA author Deborah Ellis's acclaimed book The Breadwinner. The animated feature is set to hit the big screen in 2017. The book, about a young Afghan girl who disguises herself as a boy to support her family, was praised by Nobel laureate and teenage activist Malala Yousafzai.

10. Canadian audiobook company helps The Martian achieve liftoff


The discovery and big-screen adaptation of American novelist and software engineer Andy Weir's novel The Martian was one of the biggest book stories of 2015 - but few know that a little Canadian audiobook company was one of the first to champion the scientifically credible narrative of an astronaut stranded on Mars. The novel's first iteration was in serialized form on Weir's website, where it happened to catch the attention of Greg Lawrence, sci-fi aficionado and co-founder/VP of production of Toronto's Podium Publishing, an audiobook company that at the time recorded only nonfiction titles. Podium and Weir struck a deal to record the audiobook almost a year before the print release of the book by Crown Publishing. Podium's audio version of The Martian became the top-selling title on the Audible audiobook site, and won the 2015 Audie Award for Best Science Fiction.

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