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):
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.
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.
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!