Decade of books: Wizardry increases readership

The phenomenon known as Harry Potter really began to take off with the 2000 publication of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the fourth in the seven-book series that has sold upwards of 400 million copies.

In 2003, a one-time teacher who was having trouble giving his books away, much less selling them, cobbled together a twist on the Holy Grail legend and suddenly Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” was on its way to selling more than 80 million copies.

That same year, a Mormon mom had a dream that she then turned into a novel about love-sick teenage vampires, and Stephenie Meyer was on her way to dominating book sales with her “Twilight” series for the rest of the decade, with some 85 million books sold.

The obvious question is: “Why?” Why — of all the 3 million or so books that have been published over the last 10 years — are these the most popular?

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LOOKING FORWARD | Fantasy Books to Watch for in 2010

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde – Series Debut
Release Date: December 29th | Publisher: Viking

The Many Deaths of the Black Company by Glen Cook
Release Date: January 5 | Publisher: Tor

The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman – Series Debut
Release Date: January 10 (UK) / June 15 (US) | Publisher: Michael Joseph (UK) / Dutton (US)

The Ruling Sea by Robert V. S. Redick
Release Day:: February 16 | Publisher Del Rey

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin – Debut / Series Debut
Release Date: February 25 | Publisher: Orbit

Spellwright by Blake Charlton – Debut / Series Debut
Release Date: March 2 | Publisher: Tor

Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt 1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky – Debut / Series Debut
Release Date: March 23 | Publisher: Pyr

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The Art of Magic in Fiction: An Interview with Lev Grossman

Fantasy is a genre dominated by sword-and-sorcery epics, mysterious dragons, and tyrannical sorcerers. Few fantasy novels have joined the ranks of ‘great’ literature, and fewer still have crossed over into the contemporary literature aisle. The Lord of the Rings has of course become iconic, and the Harry Potter books were inexplicably popular among non-fantasy readers. But when trying to find a book to compare to Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, I came up pretty much empty-handed.

Quentin’s nagging despair over a world without magic is something I experienced a lot of as a kid and even as I grew older. Magic is still something I have a hard time letting go of (which is probably why I read so much fantasy). So I found myself relating to Quentin a great deal. I wonder, how much of this story was autobiographical in nature?

There’s elements of that. It very much began as a kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy-slash-thought experiment. I imagined myself as a senior in high school (only taller, and better at math) and then gave myself exactly what I thought I wanted. Actually I started writing this book at 34, and I still thought I wanted all that stuff. Not much had changed.

There’s definitely a paying-homage-to-Narnia feel about The Magicians. And there are a few good-natured jabs at Harry Potter as well. But at times I had the sense that there was a bit of a bitter-sweet quality to it, bordering on cynical or even a little mocking. Have you made your peace with Narnia or are you going back to Fillory? I had a competing sense that the end of the book was both a solid finale and a possible cliff-hanger.

I wrote The Magicians as a standalone. I feel like by the end of the book Quentin has made his peace with the things that bedevilled him at the book’s beginning. Or as close as he’s going to get.

But you know, once your hero has finally come of age, suddenly there’s a lot more you can do with him. And there’s a lot of Fillory we haven’t seen yet. I have an idea about where things can go from here, and we’re pretty close to making a deal with Viking for me to write it. As we used to say back in my Boston-area childhood, it’s gonna be wicked fun. (That probably qualifies as news, by the way, since we haven’t said anything about it publicly.)

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I am beyond excited about some of the books coming out in 2010. I’ve already started my must read list for next year.

What books are on your must read list for 2010?