“The Year in Books” / Publishers Weekly / Karen Holt / November 7, 2005

This isn't a bestseller list, though some of the books are bestsellers. Nor is it, for the most part, a list of what we consider to be the best books of the year, though we are taking the opportunity to mention some titles we think deserve attention. What we offer here is our somewhat arbitrary, but entirely heartfelt, take on the year in books.

Like just about everyone, we tend to look for trends. Some are obvious. This year seemed to bring an unusual number of terrific memoirs by unknowns, or not-very-well knowns. The majority involved a combination of at least two of the following: alcoholism, troubled family relationships, the Kennedys. Not surprisingly, books about Iraq also figure heavily in publishers' lists this year. And then there is Scott Peterson, who, with the help of several women (most notably Judith Regan) has become a one-man book trend.

Some of our lists are based on less obvious connections. We noticed, for example, that several authors this year followed up very successful books with similar titles. The follow-ups are selling well, well enough to make PW 's bestseller lists, but none appear to be headed for the blockbuster territory inhabited by the earlier books. We also noticed that some debuts, mostly novels, were getting a lot of noise. In some cases the hype actually worked.

Books with titles we think are kind of funny got their own list, though calling colorful titles a trend is probably a stretch. After all, despite a tendency to copycat their competitors and themselves (witness all those novels about young women and their fabulous, terrible jobs), publishers still publish books, not trends.

Which is why we couldn't hold ourselves to offering proper lists and instead include categories that only encompass a single title. A sensational sports tell-all that led to serious reform, a "comeback" novel published before the author turned 30, a cautionary tale about a brand of teenage sex parties that may or may not exist and a book of wacky medical claims that's selling in the millions all seem like singular (if in some cases dubious) accomplishments.

[D&Q mention:]

From the Front Lines

Baghdad Journal: An Artist in Occupied Iraq , Steve Mumford (Drawn & Quarterly)

A painter's vision of a country at war.

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