A brand new year has begun, which means (among other things) that a whole new batch of books are celebrating milestone birthdays! Here are some of the major book birthdays in 2022.
Books Turning 10 In 2022
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
The Fault In Our Stars was YA superstar John Green’s sixth novel. Before it was published in 2012, the announcement of just its title – just its title – saw pre-orders explode, and it rose to #84 on the Amazon bestseller list. Green foolishly committed to personally signing each pre-ordered copy; that’s how he ended up having to autograph the entire first print run. He even polled the public as to what colour Sharpie he should use, and divvied up the 150,000 copies according to the proportion of the vote that each colour received. That’s peak extra, right there… Read my full review of The Fault In Our Stars here.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Former Entertainment Weekly writer Gillian Flynn had published two twisty thrillers with anti-heronies – Sharp Objects and Dark Places – prior to 2012, but it was Gone Girl that snagged the book club market and made her a superstar. Looking back, it’s interesting to note that this book about women’s rage shot to the top of the bestseller list long before the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements went global, perhaps an omen of the reckoning that was to come. Amy Dunne remains one of the most divisive protagonists of the past decade, and people are still scraping their jaws off the ground after That Twist. Read my full review of Gone Girl here.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
When Wild was first published back in 2012, Cheryl Strayed wasn’t exactly on top of the world. Even though Reese Witherspoon had optioned the book weeks before its publication date, and it debuted at #7 on the New York Times Best Seller list, Strayed and her husband were sitting on $85,000 of credit card debt and were struggling to make rent. She even asked her agent to put a rush on the cheque the publisher offered, whatever the amount, so that she could use it to keep a roof over her family’s heads. Ten years on, things look very different for her and her family, and she’s spoken openly about her past financial struggles and the grit it took to write through them. Read my full review of Wild here.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
A Man Called Ove has won a legion of fans around the world, but few realise that the beloved titular character actually began on Fredrik Backman’s blog. A few years before the novel was published in 2012, the then-relatively-unknown blogger read an article about (no kidding) a man called Ove who had “a fit” while buying museum tickets. Backman found the man completely relatable, and published a series of posts titled “I am a man called Ove”, detailing his pet peeves and his difficulties getting along with others. Hundreds of readers begged him to turn the series into a novel, and ten years later it has become an iconic heartwarming favourite. Read my full review of A Man Called Ove here.
The Miseducation Of Cameron Post by Emily M Danforth
Emily M Danforth accidentally did 20+ years of research, as a (self-described) “weirdo closeted queer kid” in Miles City, Montana, before the 2005 case of Zach Stark inspired her to write The Miseducation Of Cameron Post. Much has changed since its publication in 2012 (though not enough); many jurisdictions around the world are planning to (or have already!) banned “conversion therapy” camps and other harmful practices aimed at “de-gaying” youths. Still, this book remains a beacon for queer and questioning teens and their allies, and each new edition released by its publishers is prettier than the last. Read my full review of The Miseducation Of Cameron Post here.
Books Turning 20 In 2022
Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami
For much of the ’80s and ’90s, Haruki Murakami was one of Japan’s best kept literary secrets. It wasn’t until the ’00s that the English translations of his work generated serious buzz outside his homeland. Kafka On The Shore was one of those breakthrough titles, translated into English by Phillip Gabriel. Like The Wind Up Bird Chronicle before it, and 1Q84, it has a strange dreamlike quality, the trademark Japanese magical realism for which Murakami is renowned and adored. It’s hardly an easy read, but 20 years after its initial publication in the original Japanese, Kafka On The Shore continues to astonish new readers and re-readers alike.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Jeffrey Eugenides’ bildungsroman-cum-family saga Middlesex has sold over 4 million copies worldwide since its publication 20 years ago (with a boost from Oprah’s Book Club). It was named one of the best books of 2002 by multiple mastheads, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times Book Review – a few have even suggested it as a contender for the title of the Great American Novel. Its enduring popularity (despite never having been adapted for film or television, the easiest way to engage new readers years after a book’s release) would certainly support that designation. Read my full review of Middlesex here.
The Days Of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante
Elena Ferrante is a pseudonymous literary genius, so reclusive that it’s really quite difficult to tell you anything at all about the genesis and publication of The Days Of Abandonment. I can tell you that it came before her most popular work – the series of Neapolitan novels, beginning with My Brilliant Friend – being first published in the original Italian in 2002. Ann Goldstein translated it into English, and the translation was published in 2005 (so I suppose, technically, it has two birthdays?). Other than that, the history of this novel remains as mysterious as that of its author.
Books Turning 50 in 2022
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Watership Down began the way a lot of great children’s books do: as a story the author told his own kids. Richard Adams was desperate to keep his two young girls entertained on a long road trip, so he started making up a story for them about some bunnies who had adventures on the fields around Berkshire where they lived. The girls loved it so much that they convinced him to write it down. The rest is history, now – Watership Down turns 50 this year! Incidentally, its younger sibling, the sequel Tales From Watership Down, turns 26. Read my full review of Watership Down here.