Those We Lost in 2018

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Those We Lost
2018 is now officially “in the books,” as the saying goes. At the beginning of the New Year, we take a moment to remember those who have recently completed their journeys here on Earth. While it may sound morbid, it is a well-known truth that there is often increased interest in authors' works after their passing. Libraries would be wise to at least be aware of this trend, and anticipate requests from patrons.

Without further ado, here are some of the notable deaths in 2018, with a bias toward those most likely to be well-represented in American libraries. Two of the most notable deaths this year were former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara . President Bush died just seven months after his wife. They had been married for 73 years.

More noted as a preacher rather than an author, even though he penned 34 books, the Rev. Billy Graham died earlier this year at age 99. My husband, Richard, spent many hours fact-checking and updating an extensive obituary for Billy Graham while working as a young newspaper librarian years ago. For those who may be scratching their heads, the practice of writing obituaries in anticipation of people's passing is quite common. In any case, my husband is not that young anymore (Sorry, dude!), and newspaper libraries are no longer that common.

Almost nothing is more popular today than superheroes, whether in books, graphic novels, or film adaptations. Stan Lee, who died this year at the ripe old age of 95, helped bring us many of them, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange.

Two literary lions left us in 2018: American author/journalist Tom Wolfe and Philip Roth, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Pastoral. Although very different, they both made important contributions to modern American literature. Both were in their 80s and died weeks apart in New York hospitals.

Here’s another odd couple: two notable playwrights who died in 2018. The first, Neil Simon, actually wrote The Odd Couple. The second, Ntozake Shange, was best known for the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.

Let’s not forget these other important figures who left us in 2018: John McCain, Anthony Bourdain, Stephen Hawking, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anita Shreve, V. S. Naipaul, Charles Krauthammer, Amos Oz, and Sister Wendy Beckett. We keep pretty good track of these major losses via title lists on Bibz, regularly posting lists of works by and about the dearly departed. You can find the latest in the Hot Topics section.

For even more, take a look at this extensive list of notable 2018 literary deaths.

"Life after Death"
It’s well known that musicians often continue to rack up sales after they’re gone (Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley topped that list this year), but did you know that Charles Schultz and Dr. Seuss earned a combined $50 million in 2018? Here's a list of top-earning deceased celebrities in 2018.

Some notable authors were not recognized until after their deaths, and others have been gone for a while, with new titles still being published under their names. John Kennedy Toole, author of A Confederacy of Dunces, was virtually unknown until his book was published 11 years after his death. He won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction a year later. Another author who gained great fame posthumously was Steig Larsson, who died before his wildly popular books were published. Here's a more complete list.

And here’s one more post-death scenario for authors, the one I like to think of as life after death. Sometimes the literary output of an author continues long after they are gone. My favorite example of this is V.C. Andrews, who died in 1986. She was very successful when she was alive, publishing Flowers in the Attic and six more popular books. Since her death, Andrew Niederman has ghost written at least sixty books under her name, along with many popular books under his own name. Here's an article that delves into this curious situation.

In a similar fashion, the stories of Tom Clancy have outlived him, with a new team of ghost writers that is just getting started.

We will miss those we have lost this year. Happy trails to you.