2008: A good year for fiction?

It was and wasn't – depending on how you look at it. A story in USA Today, after an analysis of 2008 bestseller lists, announces that, "2008 ... was a good year, not just for ['Twilight' vampire series author Stephenie] Meyer, but for fiction."

The piece points out that novels dominated bestseller lists last year. Each week, 69% of the top 150 books on USA Today's bestseller lists were novels. The story notes that that is the highest percentage of novels in top slots since 1993.

But was it really a good year for both fiction and Meyer – or just a good year for Meyer? If you subtracted sales of her books from the list it would be quite a different story. According to USA Today, Meyer's books accounted for "one in every five books sold since Thanksgiving."

And if then you took away sales of books by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling (who managed to briefly knock Meyer off the top of the list with her "The Tales of Beedle the Bard"), fiction sales would be looking far, far less impressive.

Then again, it does depend on how you look at it. You could make a pretty strong argument that 2008 was a fine year for fiction for all the following reasons:

– A veteran writer like Toni Morrison turned out another stunner with "A Mercy."

David Wroblewski appeared out of nowhere with "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle."

–  David Rhodes made an unexpected comeback with "Driftless."

– There were SO many good short story collections (to name just a few: "Unaccustomed Earth" by Jhumpa Lahiri, "Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout, "The Boat" by Nam Le, "Ms. Hempel Chronicles" by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum)

– A book like "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Muriel Barbery proved to be such a sweet surprise.

If you took the sales of all these books together (even including "Edgar Sawtelle" and "A Mercy") I don't know how they would stack up beside Stephenie Meyer.

But if you can overlook the numbers, that still seems to me to be a good year for fiction.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.