The 29 Biggest Literary Moments Of 2K14

Photo: Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company.
This has been a banner year for books, not only because of all the incredible new novels, collections, and works of poetry, but because the publishing world is shifting so rapidly that there's plenty to try to keep up with. It was a year of incredible highs, such as Ursula Le Guin’s National Book Awards speech or Beyoncé sampling Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Of course, many in the industry count the Amazon/Hachette battle among the lows. But, one thing is very clear: books are not dead. Writers are still producing unforgettable works, and people are still lining up to buy them, or at least download them onto their smartphones.
Instead of a traditional "best of" year-end list, we've put together a cheat-sheet of the notable moments of the past year in literature: the good, the bad, and the still confusing. From exciting new book deals to the emergence of modern classics, from celebrity short stories to arguments over publishing rights that may affect the entire future of publishing, this is the year in (book) review. Happy reading.
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Photo: Courtesy of Knopf.
January 28: Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill

Upon its publication, this excellent novel was heralded by some as the must-read of 2014 — not a small thing, considering its January debut. Twelve months (and many good books) later, Offill's fragmented tale of love and misery in Brooklyn is still one of the best to have come out in recent memory: a smart, savvy look at the dissolution of a relationship with an unforgettable narrative voice.
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January 29: Two New Poems By Sappho Discovered

A University of Oxford papyrologist unearthed two new fragments which he asserts are work of everybody's favorite ancient Greek ecstatic poet. Read one of them here.
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Photo: Courtesy of Riverhead Hardcover.
March 6: Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi

Finally, the universe is catching on in earnest to the brilliant Helen Oyeyemi. The 29-year-old's fifth novel is a delicious retelling of the Snow White story from, in part, the perspective of the "evil" stepmother. It's also a dissection of race, identity, girlhood, and difference in all its forms.
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Photo: Courtesy of Amazon; Hachette.
April: Emergence Of Amazon/Hachette Dispute

April marked the beginning of a long and increasingly contentious dispute between Amazon and publishing house Hachette over e-book pricing. The fight became a widespread cultural conversation about the future of books, publishers' responsibilities to their authors, and Amazon's role in the marketplace.
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Photo: Courtesy of Graywolf Press.
April 1: The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison

Jamison's killer book of essays investigates how we feel, how we interact with one another, and ultimately, how we can best live. It's a must-read for anyone living in the modern, head-down, anxiety age (so, almost all of us).
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Photo: Courtesy of Hamish Hamilton.
April 8: Can't and Won't, by Lydia Davis

Any book by Lydia Davis is a certifiable literary event, and this, her fifth collection of diamond-pure short stories, doesn't disappoint.
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Photo: Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company.
April 14: Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch Wins The Pulitzer

Despite the cries of James Wood, Donna Tartt's latest and most ambitious work, the best-selling behemoth The Goldfinch, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction.
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Photo: Courtesy of Rutgers.
May: Trigger Warnings Debate

Around this time, the trigger warnings debate — the question of whether classic literature with possibly disturbing content should bear cautionary labels — cropped up in colleges and in the news. The argument for: Some content could trigger PTSD (for victims of rape or other violent crimes, war veterans, etc.). The argument against: Professors should be trusted to assign books widely, since challenging reading is part of the goal of higher learning.
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May 27: My Struggle pt 3, by Karl Ove Knausgaard

America went Knausgaard-crazy this year, feeding on the English translation of the third installment of his ruminative autobiographical novel. Counting the days until the next one.
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Photo: Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
June 26: Ed Champion Called Out For Misogyny

Notoriously grumpy lit critic Ed Champion published his incendiary essay "Emily Gould, Literary Narcissism, and the Middling Millennials," which was widely called out for its misogyny. A Twitter war ensued, with Champion threatening suicide by tweeting a picture from a bridge. Later in the year, Champion was back to blackmail Porochista Khakpour over some perceived slight.
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Photo: Courtesy of Karen Joy Fowler.
July 23: First Americans On Man Booker Prize Shortlist

In September 2013, in a somewhat contentious move, the Man Booker Prize committee decided to start considering not only works by citizens of the Commonwealth, but all books written in English and published in the U.K. This summer saw the first Americans to be shortlisted (including Joshua Ferris for To Rise Again At A Decent Hour and Karen Joy Fowler, pictured, for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves), though the ultimate winner was an Australian: Richard Flanagan with The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
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August 13: Lois Lowry Says Dystopian Novels Are Passé

The author of 1993's The Giver spoke with Variety about her now-classic YA novel as the film version was coming out: "People in the know say The Giver was the first young adult dystopian novel. I majored in English in college, so I read the classic dystopian novels like 1984 and Brave New World. But, apparently it hadn't been done for kids before The Giver. So, I'm not sure what happened between The Giver and maybe 15 years later when these others suddenly burst forth. Nobody copied The Giver. Those ideas are out there and emerge. But, I'm glad it happened. Although there's too many of them now. But, I think that trend is ending. We'll go on to the next trend, and we all wish we knew what that was so we could go out and write it. Dystopian fiction is passé now."
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Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Records.
August 19: Beyoncé Releases "***Flawless," Featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, As A Single

Beyoncé samples a one-minute segment from Nigerian novelist Adichie's TED talk, "We should all be feminists," on the fifth single from her self-titled album. Next step: Read Adichie's incredible novel Americanah, which came out in 2013.
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Photo: Courtesy of Faber & Faber.
September 2: 10:04, by Ben Lerner

Lerner's metafictional joyride is one of the smartest books you'll read all year, from one of the most interesting writers in the game.
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Photo: Courtesy of Knopf.
September 9: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

What will survive after the end of the world? Shakespeare, probably. This book might be a good thing to keep around, too.
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Photo: Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
September 16: Wolf in White Van, by John Darnielle

If you've ever listened to The Mountain Goats, Darnielle's lyric-heavy indie rock outfit, you may have thought to yourself, man, that guy should write a book. Well, he did: a National Book Award-nominated novel about a deformed high school boy who builds his own role-playing game.
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Photo: Courtesy of HighBridge Company.
September 30: On Immunity, by Eula Biss

One of the best nonfiction books of the year, Biss's On Immunity examines our cultural prejudices about immunization, health, and the very concept of being immune. A must-read for anyone who plans to go outdoors ever again.
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Photo: Courtesy of James Williams.
October 6: 25-Year-Old Emma Cline Inks A $2-Million Book Deal For Debut Novel

A collective "ugh" from all the aspiring (and aging) novelists out there: At the beginning of October, 25-year-old writer Emma Cline landed a seven-figure advance and a movie option from Random House for her Manson-inspired debut The Girls and two other books.
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Photo: Courtesy of Graywolf Press.
October 7: Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine

Rankine's fifth book is a deeply affecting, instantly captivating book-length poem about race in America. All things considered, it is absolutely essential reading for this year.
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Photo: Courtesy of Yale University Press.
October 9: Patrick Modiano Wins 2014 Nobel Prize For Literature

The 69-year-old French writer becomes the 111th winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, praised by the committee for "the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation." Too bad most American readers have never heard of him.
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Photo: Courtesy of McSweeney's.
October 16: McSweeney's Announces It Will Become A Nonprofit

From the press release, it sounds like a pretty good plan: "We believe that becoming a nonprofit will allow McSweeney's to sustain itself for many years to come, with the help of an expanded community of donors, writers, and readers. We want to continue to pursue a wide range of ambitious projects — projects that take risks, that support ideas beyond the mainstream marketplace, and that nurture emerging work. A nonprofit structure, with a board and members supporting our efforts alongside our staff and writers, will allow us to put new resources behind all our undertakings, and explore a number of exciting projects that, until now, were out of reach."
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Photo: DANIEL HERTZBERG.
October 17: Tom Hanks Publishes A Short Story In The New Yorker

It's called "Alan Bean Plus Four." General reaction was "meh," shoulder shrug. You can read it here and make up your own mind.
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Photo: Courtesy of Random House.
November 3: Lena Dunham Accused Of Sexually Abusing Her Sister After Writing About Their Relationship In Her Memoir

In the National Review, Kevin Williamson characterizes Dunham's relationship with her younger sister, which she presented in her memoir, as sexual abuse, calling it "the sort of thing that gets children taken away from non-millionaire families without Andover pedigrees and Manhattanite social connections." Backlash ensues. Later, Dunham courts more controversy when she is forced, under threat of legal action, to make changes in future editions to make it clear that she gave her own sexual predator a pseudonym. Come on, people.
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Photo: Courtesy of Bantam Spectra Books.
November 10: Foundation HBO Series Announced

Isaac Asimov’s classic sci-fi series Foundation will be adapted by Jonathan Nolan (that's Christopher Nolan's brother) for HBO. This is a serious "Yay!" moment.
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Photo: Courtesy of Amazon.
November 13: Amazon and Hachette Resolve Their Issues

At long last, Amazon and Hachette come to an agreement, which allows, in part, Hachette to set their own e-book prices. But, damage has been done all around, and commentators are still waiting to find out what the long-term effects will be.
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Photo: REX USA/Geoff Pugh/Rex.
November 17: New "Fabulist" Franzen Novel Reported For Next Fall

Get ready, book buyers: Jonathan Franzen's next book is on the horizon. The novel, Purity, has been described as a "multigenerational American epic" that spans years and continents, focusing on a young woman on a search for her father. "There's a kind of fabulist quality to it," said Jonathan Galassi, the book's publisher. "It's not strict realism. There's a kind of mythic undertone to the story."
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Photo: Marian Wood Kolisch.
November 19: Hijinks At The National Book Awards

Ursula K. Le Guin accepts award for her distinguished contributions to American letters, gives a killer speech; Louise Glück finally gets a National Book Award (what's taken so long?); Daniel Handler puts his foot all the way into his mouth (but later does his best to make amends).
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Photo: REX USA/Patsy Lynch/Rex.
November 24: Isabel Allende Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

"And, I feel that I'm not alone in this, that I come representing millions of Hispanics that have immigrated here like myself, and we are all together," the beloved Chilean-American novelist said. You go, girl.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
December 12: Film Adaptation Of Pynchon's Inherent Vice Hits Theaters

The first-ever film adaptation of a Pynchon novel comes out today. At The New Yorker, Anthony Lane writes, "Inherent Vice is not only the first Pynchon movie; it could also, I suspect, turn out to be the last. Either way, it is the best and the most exasperating that we'll ever have. It reaches out to his ineffable sadness, and almost gets there." Better get your tickets!
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