Growing up, I have always escaped with books.
I read ‘em all — Encyclopedia Brown, Choose Your Own Adventure, Nancy Drew — which fostered a love for reading early on. I’ve read everything from Kurt Vonnegut to Judy Blume to collections of poetry by E.E. Cummings. And I actually read the books assigned in English class — ”The Scarlet Letter,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “The Old Man and the Sea” — in high school.
So reading isn’t something new or novel (no pun intended) or trendy. It has always been a big part of my life.
But over the years, I’ve become more of an exception than the norm. Most of my friends don’t read for fun, and many of my college students would prefer watching the movie version of any novels assigned.
I was worried that handheld gaming devices and “Angry Birds” would kill the book industry.
Except I read this the other day in Crain’s: “For the industry, overall trade book sales in January spiked 27 percent, to $504 million, compared to the same month in 2011. Among the fastest growing categories were children’s hardcover books, which were up 69 percent to $57 million; adult hardcover, which increased 22 percent to $70 million, and e-books, which grew 49 percent to $100 million.”
No surprise due to such huge (and profitable) successes like “The Hunger Games” and — undoubtedly — ”Fifty Shades of Grey,” the trilogy of which has sold 40 million copies worldwide with book rights having been sold in 37 countries. This erotic series set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time, surpassing the Harry Potter series.
And it’s not the best example of fiction, either.
Yet, it sold — and readers loved it.
I wouldn’t say I’m a book snob. I’ve read “Twilight” and all seven Harry Potter books. I’m currently reading “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, the first title in the newly revived book club headed by Oprah Winfrey. (I started it well before Oprah mentioned it, so I could actually get a copy of it.)
But I still value good writing, at least a good story. But does that matter anymore? Do people really want quality writing — or can books be just pure entertainment?
Or am I the only person who cares?
At the end of the day, I’m just glad people are actually reading. Even if it’s barely more interesting than the backs of cereal boxes.