You mean people ARE reading more?Posted: September 13, 2010
A long time ago in a bookshop not very far far away I found myself face to face with something interesting. A queue. This queue stretched out of the shop and wandered all the way down the street. Because of the queue people were struggling to walk down the street. Many of the people in that queue were dressed up Trekkie-style and all of them were waiting for the opening of the shop.
Which book were they waiting for? Not The Da Vinci Code (spit)…. Harry Potter (which one is not important).
For a long time I’ve not been a fan of these books. They enforce certain stereotypes I find irritating, many of the tropes are recycled and I read the first one only to find that the writing style wasn’t my sort of thing. In short it didn’t feel very sophisticated. Others may disagree but that’s their problem.
After a period of reflection it occurred to me that my sniffiness from that time was misplaced. These are books not aimed at me. I am an adult, and I’ve read a LOT of that genre so it’s entirely unsurprising that I it just didn’t work for me. I also remember thinking about this and wondering what the effect of these books would be. As a triumph of marketing hype I am certain that they are very successful but as the herald of a new dawn of fantasy I have never thought they were much cop. A far better book is Strange & Norrell which I thought was one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years. It’s great check it out. It’s also very long and quite challenging in some respects.
What I’ve been wondering is how much of an effect on reading, amongst the proper target, audience would Harry Potter have?
I agreed with the general consensus from back then; that these books wouldn’t change very much. Reading which, generally, isn’t encouraged very well wouldn’t change. It would spiral downwards and disappear. I would be very sad. Kids would continue to have a world view that seems (to me) to be increasingly simplistic. I would be increasingly frustrated and grumpy.
I wonder if I was wrong?
I’ve been listening to this. Lou Anders is the senior editor for a book company in the States. I imagine he knows what he’s talking about. In the course of his interview he mentions that he’s had a “change of heart” [about reading in general]. He goes into detail about how he’s come across a lot more young folk who have an interest in reading. In fact he says they’re avid readers. These guys are just about all from the Harry Potter generation. He mentions that reader numbers have been going up recently (by a large amount) and attributes this to the effect of Harry Potter. Basically he echoes something I’ve been wondering. If everything around you lacks depth then surely you will start to look for that from somewhere; and surely that’s where books are? If true (and it’s only one man’s vision from the US) then things sound quite encouraging. Thanks JK!
I still wonder what exactly these kids are reading because grumpy me sees a lot of stories I think are crap being given quite a lot of prominence. And I also see a lot of genres (yeah erotic vampires and steampunk I am looking at you) being promoted to within an inch of their life but then that’s nothing new!