Originally published in the Albamny Student Press, 9/26/05
When I am not in school, studying or writing this column, I work as a bookseller at a local bookstore. The job description, in addition to assisting customers, includes shelving books as well as helping the merchandising supervisor organize displays.
Our most popular displays are, naturally, the bestseller displays.
This could be because they are bestsellers. It could also be because we discount them 30 percent. At any rate, it’s one of our most prominent and important displays in the store.
Last week, I was reorganizing the bestseller shelf. The lists are compiled by our store sales, and the top nine fiction hardcover books and the top nine nonfiction hardcover books are discounted 30 percent each week.
The number one book this week, and for the past few weeks, was Eldest, by Christopher Paolini. It is the second in the Inheritance series, written for elementary and middle school children.
Number two? Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which I imagine needs no introduction.
At first glance I thought nothing of the two books retaining their positions for the umpteenth week in a row, and then I looked over at the paperback bestseller shelf. Eragon, the first book in the Inheritance series, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Anne Brashares topped the list.
Which poses the question: do young adults really read that much more than adults? Or are adults reading more YA fiction?
When you look at the other hardcover bestsellers this week, you’ll see the first two are accompanied by Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, which is about a quest for Dracula, Terry Brooks’ Straken, his third in the High Druid of Shannara series, and Thud!, by Terry Pratchett, a well-known science fiction and fantasy author. Gregory Maguire’s new book, Son of a Witch, due out on Oct. 1, will likely displace one of the other books on the hardcover shelf in a few weeks. After all, on the paperback shelves, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West still holds strong.
I could go on, but I’m only allowed 900 words.
In an era of 24-hour news channels and reality television, it’s initially surprising that so many people are choosing books that have very little basis in reality. Then again, reality television is hardly “real life,” and the real life we see on the news is rarely happy. Sometimes, escaping with a thrilling mystery or exciting fantasy, or even a light-hearted book about teenage girls coming of age is a welcome escape from our day to day lives. I look at my own bookshelf and see, along with my Harry Potter and Gregory Maguire collections, books such as The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffnegger (which is about exactly what the title suggests), a number of selections by Dan Brown (of Da Vinci Code fame), and Kostova’s Historian.
So, perhaps even I am my own contradiction to my original thought. Though, as college students, or even as high school students, reading stops being fun and starts being a chore. It isn’t until we encounter an enthusiastic fifth grader who can’t stop gushing about that cool book all about dragons that we think, yet again, the kids are always having more fun.
Maybe, slowly but surely, we “adults” are reclaiming our childhood fun. One book at a time.