Are Books Back? (Or how Harry Potter led to accidental thievery)

Are Books Back?

(And the story of how Harry Potter turned me into a criminal)

A while ago, I was wasting copious amounts of time on Pinterest and I saw this infographic (PS, I love infographics):

Inforgraphic I found via Pinterest, credited to Memebase.com

It was meant to show how unoriginal Hollywood is becoming and how so few movies are actually original ideas or screenplays nowadays. As a book lover, I took an entirely different spin on this. My reaction was, “Are books back? Are books the new movies?” Clearly no one can deny how successful movies based off of books have become. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, the Hunger Games (some of the more recent ones) – These are the most familiar ones and each movie (usually) earns more and more than the one before it.

In a Reading Slump
I really think that Harry Potter started it all. For me, this was one of the first things that brought reading back around to me when I was completely discouraged by all of the books that I hated reading for school. I’ve never been one to enjoy the classics for whatever reason. I really enjoyed school, loved learning, and enrolled in most of the honors classes and from those courses came an onslaught of classic literature. The problem was this: I’ve always been interested in the mysteries, mild types of sci-fi, magic, adventure, and most importantly, familiarity. There had to be someone or something that I could easily relate to and the rest would fall into place. I never found any of this in the classics, even as I got older. The closest I’ve ever come is Sherlock Holmes and that’s because we’ve got a lot of wit and a lot of mystery. From this, I became pretty discouraged about reading and didn’t know where I would pick it back up.

A (very) rough chart of my reading habits for each age

How Harry Potter turned me into a criminal…
Harry Potter came out when I was in 4th grade – I remember my 4th grade teacher reading it to us and for some reason even though I was in 4th grade and only 11 years old, I thought it was a kid’s book and I was too old for it! Ha! Apparently I was a child book snob. I didn’t actually read the book for myself until I was maybe 13 or 14 when my sister bought the first three books. And so my streak of accidental book thieving began. Slowly but surely, those first three Harry Potter books made their way from her bookshelf to mine until I full adopted them. Then I was out of books to read so I borrow HP & The Goblet of Fire from my next door neighbors. I don’t remember exactly how this went, but that book must have enjoyed living at my house because years later my parents asked me why we had two copies of HP4 and I confessed I still had our neighbor’s copy. Once I confessed to my neighbors (another couple years later), they’d already replaced the copy that mysteriously disappeared… So I “inherited” HP4 as my own.
It may come as a surprise to those of you who follow my blog now and have seen the copious amounts, stacks, and shelves of books that I’ve purchased and are waiting for me to read them, but as a kid, Harry Potter was pretty much all I owned. We had some fairy tales, I grew up on American Girls, but most of the books we usually donated or garage saled fairly regularly. Before I started my book buying spree in 2010, I pretty much re-read Harry Potter over and over when I needed a book to read. Vacations, tanning in the backyard – They were my go-to reads. And waking up at 6am to go get the new books when they came out, then spending literally the full day reading it until I finished. My love for books was rejuvenated!

So back to the original point…
After Harry Potter came other books. Lots of chick lit that I picked up from my sister and then one of my friends introduced me to Twilight and so the summer of Twilight began (similar to the Harry Potter experience, minus the stealing, and insert the first time I felt too old to be looking in the YA section. Not so concerned anymore since I live there). Then came The Hunger Games when I was introduced to that last summer. I wasn’t in on these crazes alone. These were all hugely popular books which turned into, well, hugely selling movie franchises. I even started reading books because the movies were coming out (a plug for ReadIt1st.com!) like One Day and Water for Elephants (which I still haven’t seen the movies, by the way…)

Which came first…?
So now I’m left wondering – which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did the books get so popular because of the movie craze? Are the movies only popular because of the book fans behind them? I really do think that “books are back”. Was it just me that went through a reading slump, or was I with the rest of America as we by-passed the library and went to the movies? I feel like we hadn’t had any “hit” books in a really long time, and I really do believe that Harry Potter changed all of that. It brought back our love for reading and the adventure that comes along with it. Then it opened up the doors for reading to break back into our lives, right where it belongs. I feel like after Harry Potter, people were more willing to read again. From the movies, people who weren’t ordinarily readers were maybe willing to give it a shot again, experience the adventure along with everyone else and allow themselves to get lost in a book again.

Is Hollywood getting more and more unoriginal…?
Or are they simply smart? Books are back and more popular than ever and Hollywood knows that these books already have a huge following and they already have a large audience. Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia; classics like Sherlock Holmes, Pride & Prejudice and even Anna Karenina coming out this fall – These are books we already know and love. We talk up the movies (and the books, of course) to friends and family to come join us and the audience grows.

These are just some of the movies based off books from 2011 & 2012 alone

This surely wasn’t MY high school required reading…
Even schools are picking up on the popularity of the “new classics” – I’m pretty jealous considering my old high school has summer reading lists that included the following for this upcoming school year: The Summer I Turned Pretty (Jenny Han),  Insurgent (Veronica Roth) Matched (Ally Condie), Along for the Ride (Sarah Dessen), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky),  Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card), The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)… What!?!? Come on. I had Lord of the Flies, Frankenstein, the Scarlet Letter, the Great Gatsby – I didn’t get ANY modern day classics – Because there were none! Maybe I just never noticed but it seems like there are so many more choices these days, especially in YA (clearly. Thanks a lot, Glenbard South. You could have been enriching my reading and instead killed it)!

Books are back, my friends. I’m sure for many of you, they never went anywhere, but as for me, I’ve noticed a definite change in my life. It’s undeniable that books are making a serious comeback, getting a lot more “mainstream” and growing larger audiences than ever before, and thank goodness because I am loving all of the options out there for us to read!

Tell me what you think! Has reading always been so popular and I’ve been living under a rock? (It’s not implausible…) Do you notice any popular reading trends that I didn’t mention? Totally disagree with me? Let me know!

27 thoughts on “Are Books Back? (Or how Harry Potter led to accidental thievery)

  1. Liss Martz

    Interesting post. I’m really jealous to know school’s are selecting this new books. In Highschool,i read The Iliad, Oliver twist, Huasipungo, and a lot of books that I can’t remember their names. (I’m from El Salvador) I remember them because I only read those. LOL
    Well, I think books have come first. Since Harry Potter, and, let’s accept it, Twilight, people have been buying lots of books. In Hollywood, I think what they are trying to do is to gain more money because they are looking for bestsellers to do a movie. Bestseller book = Bestseller movie. But it’s not always like that! Look what happend with Eragon’s movie.
    Another books that are really popular, but is a series now, is Game of Thrones. It’s HUGE! Honestly, i’m glad that people is reading. =) I’ve always read. My beloved father always wanted me to be reader and he used to take me to the library to buy anything I liked, even if he didn’t liked what I chose. Nowdays we have so many options that’s really hard to choose!! What we need now, is time to read more!

    1. Brittany

      Yes, I forgot all about Game of Thrones! And True Blood, and all the TV shows based off books as well, for that matter! Thanks so much for the comment 🙂 Really great input. I know, I can’t believe all of the new books that high school kids are assigned to read! We read a lot of that too – I also had a lot of Shakespeare and I remember the Oddysey, lots of mythology. We never got to read interesting/fun books, even when I had elective classes and I got to choose what classes I wanted!

  2. Alison

    Interesting perceptive, Brittany!

    I think the movie popularity has more to do with the fact that book->movie has a built in audience. By simply adapting a book, you’ve got a number of people who will see it because they love the book, you’ve got more people who will most likely see it because they enjoyed the book, and then of course there are the people who will go see it because it looks good. That’s good assurance that the movie will make some money.
    Yes it’s possible to have people excited for a completely original movie but it’s a big multi million dollar risk.

    As far as the books being back point, I think maybe it’s because we as a culture have more free time and ‘extra’ money. Think back a little as 100 years ago. Books were around but most people didn’t have time to read. You worked the farm (or went to the factory) for most of your day. They didn’t have tons of time to read for fun, not to mention they didn’t have money to buy books.
    We’ve reached a point where more people have extra time. Many people will work 8 hours a day so they have time for other things and they have the money to have a little fun. That’s one of the reasons movies, television shows, and games have grown in popularity. The media is responding to the free time and giving the people what they want.

    1. Brittany

      Great points! I didn’t even think about the time/money factor. This is why I love hearing from people! So many things I didn’t even think of, all great factors.
      And I definitely agree – I think that’s one major reason why movies adaptations of books are booming — They already have a base audience!

  3. Candice

    I just checked my high school’s summer reading list. Right now they just had honors and AP classes posted, but they were the same stodgy old books I had to read back then. Oh well!

    I truly don’t know if I think reading is “back” in that it was once not popular or not many people read. I think it’s more that reading is cooler now. Mainstream books are smarter, actionier, exciting and riveting. And the movie adaptations are flashy and fun. Celebrities are reading these books and actively promoting them. Heck, these books are making celebrities! Look at RPatz and KStew for crying out loud; neither would be anything without Twilight.

    I think with Harry Potter the series had been out for a while. It was a phenomenon on its own. So when it became a movie, it exploded. Twilight was probably the next popular series to be adapted into a movie, but the first one was pretty low budget (and kind of awful) due to the series not being THAT popular. However, that exploded quickly and the series became huge. Both series pushed the books out there, and fans of the movies wanted more – hence reading something they probably never would have. I know that’s how it worked for me!

    What has essentially happened, I think, is that popular series that have been made into movies (HP, Twilight, Hunger Games) or TV shows (Game of Thrones, Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood) have opened up doors into genres that were once taboo or glanced over. People who didn’t read – probably ones who were turned off to reading because of HS reading lists – finally tried and found books that excited them and went on to find others similar to them. Say what you will about Hollywood adaptations of our favorite books, but anything that opens up the world of reading to a non-reader is okay. Is great.

    So in conclusion to my extra long response my point is this – I don’t think reading is back in that it went somewhere. I think that thanks to movies, more eyes have been opened to these amazing books that readers love and have developed more lovers of books.

    1. Brittany

      Well, yeah, that’s mostly what I mean by “reading is back” 🙂 (See, I’m still terrible at wording things) – I feel like it’s a lot more mainstream and may even be growing popularity at a faster rate than movies nowadays (in my personal opinion.. Which I guess stats could technically negate, but psh!) Of course, it helps that movies are adapting so many books into screenplays!
      And I definitely agree – I love that it’s opening up the world to possible non-readers who can go see the movie and then pick up the book which leads them to other books, etc. That even happened with my sister & The Hunger Games!
      Thanks for your input 🙂 Love discussing this with people!!

  4. thewatersgirl

    Ahh. We could be reading twins. I have always been a reader, but those high school summer reading books were a major drag. I still read, but I was reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I actually think people are reading more, and technology is getting books out there we never would have seen. Back in the day ( gosh that makes me sound old) the only way to find a new book was browsing shelves or maybe a recommendation from one person who had read it. Now, this week I’ve added about 10 books to my wish list based on several independent reviews, something that makes it much easier to find a new author. I like to believe book reading is on the rise, but I do fear that technology is also making us a little less able to pay attention long enough to get sucked into a book. I know I have that problem occasionally, too much stimulation with streaming video, and phones that moonlight as computers, so you never have to be out of touch. We’re at a spot where things could go one way or another, and I’m hoping for the reading side of thing, instead of the brainless zombie side of things.

    1. Brittany

      That’s a great point, I didn’t think of the technology side of things either! I know as a blogger, that’s pretty much where I get almost all of my ideas/suggestions from now. Plus so many people have ereaders and the great deals for free/cheap for people to try out books they may not have paid full price for as well. With Twitter and websites we can even get to know authors and interact with them, which I know always makes me more excited to read their book!
      Thanks for your insights!!

  5. Elizabeth

    Ok, I’m breaking this into two comments since I’ve got two veins of thought going on here. First, I hesitate to say reading is “back” like it went somewhere or that popular fiction is a new thing… but I did a little googling and came across this little series of articles on the state of publishing: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/columns/the-state-of-publishing

    If you read the book club one, there is a statistic saying that the percentage of adults reading literary material has increased for the first time since 1982. So I guess you might be right! The article attributes the rise in reading to the rise of book clubs, increasing literacy and education, and increased production of books.

    However, looking at this chart: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/the-next-time-someone-says-the-internet-killed-reading-books-show-them-this-chart/255572/#
    It seems from that data then that reading isn’t back– it’s on the rise in an unprecedented way! Which, like Alison said, probably has a lot to do with changes in education and lifestyle– increased literacy/access to books and more time to enjoy them (though there are conflicting arguments about whether we have more or less free time these days).

    1. Brittany

      I definitely agree with that! Reading is especially highly promoted nowadays too. I think along with the promotions and encouragement for fitness among children, reading and education might be the other thing I see the most. The fact that we put so much into our education now, I think reading has a lot to do with that as well.
      Also makes me mad that I used the words “reading is back” because really we all know it never went anywhere – I just felt like it started to become a lot more mainstream than I ever have seen it before 🙂
      I’ll definitely go check out those articles too! Sounds really interesting and I would love to learn more about it!!

      1. Brittany

        Thanks so much 🙂 I’ve loved hearing all the responses from other people! Got me thinking a lot more as well. So many things I never considered.

  6. Elizabeth

    And part two: I think you bring up an interesting topic of how other media play into the popularity of books and vice versa… when The Hunger Games movie came out, I had every member of my family text me asking if they could borrow the books– none of them are big fiction readers and I don’t think they will become them just because they enjoy the popular favorites. However, in the book blogging world, it seems like a lot of people became voracious readers because popular books acted as a gateway to reading! They finally allowed you (and others) to enjoy reading and gave you permission to read what you like.

    On the other hand, I have always been a big reader, but the trend towards movies based on books actually gets me to the movie theater, which is something that I pretty rarely do these days. So those movie people have definitely found a way to get a butt in the seats that they wouldn’t have otherwise!!

    1. Brittany

      I never thought of it that way, that books also bring people to the theater! I guess that kind of works the same way for me… I haven’t really made it a point to go see a movie except for things like HP, The Hunger Games, etc, so I guess it really worked the other way around for us 🙂

  7. Vyki

    I think the new reading lists for school are awesome and I am super jealous that I didn’t get to enjoy these books in high school as well. Like you I got stuck with books like Lord of the Flies and Frankenstein, which was not fun reading really. You make me feel old bringing up the fact you were in 4th grade when HP came out. Being in the bible belt here, it took a little longer for it to really reach us, plus it was banned in our school at first. I was in 10th grade when I first heard about HP only 2 yrs after it came out. My English teacher had it in her room, though we weren’t allowed to read it at our school. My boyfriend and I were just talking about how unoriginal Halloywood has become. Yeah I think they are smart for bringing books to the big screen, but they are lazy smart since they have know become dependant on authors for new ideas. I love seeing books I read made into movies (sa long as they are done well), but I would like to see some kind of original movie along with it. Great post and I love the tables lol!

    1. Brittany

      Thank you! Love your input. I’m surprised they even let my teacher read that to us in 4th grade! I went to a Catholic school. Wow, I never thought of that. Maybe they didn’t know! Haha.
      I agree, they’re smart, but it is kind of lazy. Elizabeth made a good point though that it’s made us as readers movie-goers. I think most of the movies I’ve actually seen in the theater lately have been book adaptations because they’re the only things I’ve gotten excited enough to see!
      And stupid stinkin schools getting good books now! lol

  8. L. Palmer

    Books make a great, ready-built market for movies. And, with how expensive films are to make, the lack of risk makes sense. Maybe books are the new/old comic book movie?

  9. Maren @ The Worn Bookmark

    This is such an interesting topic! I think it goes back even farther as well when you see how well movies like Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz did back in 1939. Gone With the Wind won 8 Oscars including Best Picture. I think that it definitely helps a movie to already come in with having fans of the books but I think it is also good promotion for a book, especially now. When I see a new movie coming out based on a book, I always want to try and read the book before seeing the movie. And if I don’t get the chance, I still want to read the book afterwards if I liked the movie.

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