This Year in Books 2012

by | Jan 1, 2013 | Uncategorized | 19 comments

The library in Google’s New York office. Photo by me.

2012 was a year of hurricanes and recovery, tragedies and an election, divisions and compromise, promise and ominousness. The apocalypse didn’t take place, but the future does not feel won. The new millennium is transitioning from a rocky adolescence into a turbulent adulthood and it’s difficult to say where things are going to go. The economic malaise feels more like a labyrinth than a long, deep tunnel.

2012 was the year that social media went from fad to fact of life, so much so that way may stop talking about it as anything other than our new, interconnected reality, in the way that we stopped breathlessly discussing the Web and the Information Superhighway at the end of last decade. (2013 should also be the year we retro-cool the term “The ‘Net” back into parlance).

2012 was the year that the shiny new promise of cheaper tablets led to catapulting sales at the same time that e-book adoption rates appear to have leveled off, which has been greeted with some happy tut-tutting in some paper-loving book circles, but which strikes me as deeply concerning at a time when dedicated e-reader sales may be headed for the cliff.

Books and magazines have enjoyed a near monopoly in portable handheld entertainment for a hundred years (Game Boys and other handhelds notwithstanding), but if they can’t compete with the other diversions on an iPad, books may (start? continue?) a long slide in cultural consciousness and possibly sales. If people aren’t going to read books with what’s already in their hands, when are they going to read?

2013 looks to be the year when even takeoff and landing, that last refuge of print monopoly and “my paperback doesn’t need batteries” joshing, may be electronically-integrated.

And demonstrating the power of the rise of social media and cover-concealing e-readers and tablets, Fifty Shades of Grey catapulted from obscurity to cultural phenomenon. It’s hard to imagine a book that better demonstrates the potency of the forces shaping our new crowd-driven, gatekeeper-less culture.

And for me personally, 2013 is a truly new start. I’m back in Brooklyn, the Jacob Wonderbar trilogy will wrap in just a month with the publication of Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp, and I’m very excited about new projects and new beginnings.

Meanwhile, thanks to everyone for your generosity with our recent Heifer fundraiser, and especially to the other participants, whose blogs you should definitely check out:

Catherine Ryan Hyde
Anne Mackin
My Karma Jumped Over My Dogma
T.K.’s Tales
Mira’s Corner
100 First Drafts
Tales From the Motherland
Daily Adventures

Proving the power of social media, tweets surpassed blog comments for the first time in my fundraiser, and there were nearly 250 between the two. I went ahead and rounded up my $2 pledge:

Happy New Year, have a safe and prosperous 2013, and thank you so much to everyone for reading this blog!


  1. abc

    Hopefully I can speak for all your dedicated readers when I say Happy New Year, Nathan! We are glad you are here, keeping us informed, educated, entertained, and often laughing. And I'm glad you posted today because I was beginning to feel withdrawal.

  2. Jaimie

    Happy new year, Nathan! I so enjoy your blog, and here's hoping for another year of Nathan's blog awesomeness.

  3. Lisa Shafer

    That's a hefty donation to a good cause. Good for you, Nathan. 🙂

  4. Julie Luek

    Great 2012 for you with more in the works for 2013 it sounds like. Glad I found your blog– all the best to you and all writers in the coming year as we trek the maze of writing and publication (what IS around that corner?).

  5. terri patrick

    Happy 2013! You'll feel better about the "transitioning from a rocky adolescence into a turbulent adulthood" when you remember 13 is the beginning of the TEEN years. That adulthood option won't show until 2020…

    Keep being Awesome.

  6. Rebecca Taylor

    Very excited about many new adventures for 2013. Can't wait to see what you write (are writing??) now that Jacob is finishing.

    Best to you in the new year!

  7. Josin L. McQuein

    Happy New Year, Nathan.

    I propose that 2013 be the year we stop anticipating things will fall over cliffs. Be it economic or technological (or even boulders pushed by wiley coyotes). No more cliffs. The world is going back to being flat.

  8. Lauren Monahan

    Happy New Year! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and life with us; it's been a lovely year of reading your blog & I look forward to reading about your fun adventures in life/writing for 2013. 🙂

  9. Nicole

    Happy New Year, Nathan! Thanks for the fantastic Year-in-Review round-up (as usual), and keep being your awesome self through 2013. 🙂

  10. wendy

    Happy New Year, Nathan. Through this blog you seem like an old friend even though we've ne'er met. May many more successes and happy adventures come your way.

  11. Joel Mayer

    Dear Nathan-

    Do your books (in the electronic versions)include animations? I'm guessing your audience would love cartoon characters that talk and wave their hands in the air.

  12. Nathan Bransford


    They don't, but I'd like them to! I actually wanted an animated cover.

  13. Anonymous

    A nice part of Timeline is that you can go back to when you started on FB and check out your earliest status updates. I go back to early 2008, and I was surprised to see how differently I was posting back them. And how I wasn't taking FB seriously. Now I use it for family and tons of other things. Sometimes even more than e-mail with private messaging. And such good gossip…lol.

    I guess it's evolution, kind of like how nicely you continue to evolove as a blogger and author, Nathan. Happy New Year!

  14. Anonymous

    Yvette Carol said:

    Nice work on the donation, Nathan. I thought that you did a particularly good round-up of the year that was, too! Good luck with your next book. 🙂

  15. Daphnée Kwong Waye

    Happy new year! For me it was the best and worst year filled with both sun and rain.
    Keep up with everything you do Nathan! You rock 🙂

  16. Bryan Russell

    HUZZAH for Heifer.

    And I'll be reading books in one form or another until they me in the ground. Or until they take away my fix, Fahrenheit 451-style. But I have confidence in the Black Market.

  17. Meredith Towbin

    Somehow I missed this whole Heifer fundraiser — what a great idea. I donated to them for the first time this year (let's hear it for a new goat!), and now that I see this, I'll totally be participating next year through my blog. Too bad I missed it! Mad props, Nathan. And congrats on all your success.

  18. Mira

    You know, it's interesting. There are alot of articles popping up about the slow down of e-books. I believe these articles are…misguided.

    First of all, no one has any real, true data, because Amazon isn't sharing. So, all of the charts and comparisons are just guesses. Shatzkin even admits his article is based on a guess.

    As for the transfer from dedicated readers to tablets, I don't believe that means reading will slow. Actually, it's more likely to make books even more accessible.

    Tablets don't add competition, the competition is already there. It just centralizes access, and adds to the ease of access to books. The reality is, the more tablets gain prominence, the more reading will probably increase. And the more likely the switch to digital books will become.

    I think there may be alot of wishful thinking out there. People who have a stake in print, and want print to remain vital.

    But the reality is that a powerful new techology has come on-board, and it will replace the old one. Has there ever been a time in the history of mankind when that didn't happen?


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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