In 2014, about a million readers sobbed ugly tears over Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. The following year, everyone (really, 11 million everyones) took in the drunken hijinks of Paula Hawkins’s titular girl on the train. But then, in 2015, attention spans swiveled toward our very own Richard III, determined to “prove a villain” in the Oval Office. Since that year, no work of new fiction has sold more than a million copies in the U.S. No powerhouse novel, no cover spotted on every L train or Barnes & Noble front display. Only one novel, James Patterson’s The President Is Missing, sold more than half a million copies this year, according to NPD BookScan, and only half of the top-ten fiction sellers for 2018 were even new (the other half comprised “relevant” classics like Fahrenheit 451.) Fiction sales have fallen 16 percent from 2013 to 2017 — a brutal statistic Publishers Weeklyhas partly blamed on all those gangbusters books about Trump that are siphoning off the meager budgets of book-buyers.
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