A Book Critic’s New Year’s Resolutions: Five Publishing Trends to Buck in 2017

From twin protagonists to lengthy family trees of European royalty, here are some book trends Kirkus Reviews would like to see go away.

By Joy DiazJanuary 2, 2017 9:30 am

Losing weight, saving money, getting out more – it’s the new year and many people are setting their resolutions for change. Clay Smith, editor-in-chief of Austin-based Kirkus Reviews, and his staff have come up with their own set of changes they would like to see – in books.

Smith asked all the editors to get dyspeptic and think about trends in publishing that they wish would go away for good.

No more esoteric thrillers

“That’s basically anything written by anyone from Scandinavia. … Too much thinking and not enough action.”

“In thrillers, there’s definitely a trend toward a narrator who can’t be trusted. And the unreliable narrator goes back quite some time, but in thrillers, there haven’t been unreliable narrators for all that long. Readers started seeing that they loved playing this little puzzle game of not only having to solve the murder mystery, but wondering if they could even believe the narrator. So it gives the reader more to guess about. Certainly, something to praise – but, like, enough.”

Lengthy biographies of European royalty with multiple pages of family trees

“Those bios tend to be 700 pages.”

Titles with “girl” in them

“I think after ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ became this mega international bestseller, understandably publishers thought there was something about that word ‘girl’ … that had people buying that book.”

“No one is taking to task writers who have a legitimate reason for putting ‘girl’ in the title, but let’s hear from some grown women.”


“Novelists will have these twin protagonists. One twin is good, one is bad. One represents truth, the other represents beauty. Let’s get a little deeper.”

Obvious sensual detail

“One of our critics says about this very topic ‘Is a barroom redolent of juniper and pine? Does the microphone smell like a beer? Do your twins reek of freshly pressed pinafore? I suspect they do.’ An editor should be stopping that stuff. I mean, it’s so obvious.”

What Kirkus wants to see in the new year

“We’re looking for original, beautiful content in novels, in non-fiction books, in children’s books. The joy of our job as critics is discovery and finding these new voices that are doing something totally new.”

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.