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Seven big literary world stories from 2018

Michelle Obama
Former First Lady Michelle Obama signs copies during an appearance for her book, “Becoming,” in New York. Sales for Obama’s memoir have topped 3 million, and the former first lady is extending her book tour into 2019.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Say this for 2018: There wasn’t a single slow news day this year. While most of this year’s headlines focused on Washington, D.C., there were quite a few notable events in the world of literature as well. Here are seven of the biggest literary headlines from the last 12 months:

Michelle Obama’s memoir becomes the bestselling book of the year: The former first lady’s hotly anticipated “Becoming” hit bookstores on Nov. 13 and quickly shattered sales records, moving 725,000 copies on its first day alone.The memoir soon gained Oprah Winfrey’s imprimatur, which helped it become a global bestseller — it’s sat at or near the top of Amazon’s bestseller list for months, and it has currently sold more than 3 million copies. Obama is scheduled to embark on the second leg of her book tour in February; she’ll be visiting cities in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

Books about the Trump administration fly off bookstore shelves: The first smash hit book of the year, Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” sold so quickly that publisher Henry Holt and Co. had to rush to print more copies to meet the unexpected demand. The book sold so well that it catapulted Wolff onto Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid authors. Other bestselling Trump-themed books included fired FBI Director James Comey’s “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” and Bob Woodward’s “Fear: Trump in the White House.”

The Man Booker Prize goes to an underdog: Oddsmakers had picked Daisy Johnson’s “Everything Under” and Richard Powers’ “The Overstory” as the favorites to win Britain’s most prestigious literary award, but the prize ended up going to Anna Burns for her novel “Milkman,” set during the time of Northern Ireland’s Troubles. Burns became the first British writer to win the award since 2012, and the first person from Northern Ireland to take home the prize.

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N.K. Jemisin makes Hugo history: Jemisin’s “Broken Earth” trilogy was popular among both readers and critics, and this year, it earned the Brooklyn-based author a singular honor: She became the first writer in history to win the Hugo Award three years in a row, for her books “The Fifth Season,” “The Obelisk Gate” and “The Stone Sky.” Jemisin had previously made history in 2016 as the first African American author to win to win the Hugo for best novel.

Chuck Palahniuk announces he’s ‘close to broke’ after embezzlement: The “Fight Club” author revealed in May that he had lost a significant amount of money after an accountant at his literary agency was arrested and charged with embezzling. Earlier this month, the agency, Donadio & Olson, filed for bankruptcy, and the accountant, Darin Webb, was sentenced to two years in prison for the theft.

#MeToo hits the literary community: Celebrities accused of sexual misconduct this year weren’t limited to Hollywood and Washington, D.C. — authors were also called to account for alleged transgressions. These included Junot Díaz, accused by author Zinzi Clemmons of forcibly kissing her, and Stephen Elliott, who sued Moira Donegan this year for her role in creating a list of men in the media, which included Elliott, alleged to have engaged in misconduct.

American literature loses a legend: Ursula K. Le Guin, the pioneering science-fiction author of books such as “The Left Hand of Darkness” and the “Earthsea” series, died in January at age 88. Times critic-at-large John Scalzi memorialized her in an appreciation: “The speaking of her name and of her words goes on, and will go on, today and tomorrow and for a very long time now. As it should. She was the mother of so many of us, and you should take time to mourn your mother.”

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