Written by Sara McClaran and Ellie Shelton.
Print book sales had their best year in a decade in the past year, the New York Times said, according to NPD BookScan. Additionally, ebook and audiobook sales increased, highlighting the solace many people found in reading a book throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Part of this is a need to get into other people’s shoes to learn about other people’s lives — fictional or real.
“We really do connect better with others, [and] we relate to other human beings more fully when we’ve had a chance to walk around in James Baldwin’s skin, or, you know, Virginia Woolf’s,” Dr. Nathan Henton, associate professor of English, said.
Henton said he has a specific theory when it comes to the increase in physical book sales over ebooks or audiobooks.
“For years, print sales have been declining, we know this,” Henton said. “But what happened during the pandemic is that we all switched to all screens all the time. My suspicion is that it’s actually kind of a bit of screen fatigue. That people want to read, but the idea of doing it on your Kindle or any of the other apps around involves one more screen, and that is exhausting.”
In addition, Henton thinks the tactile experience of a physical book may be more of a factor in a time when physical contact has been so limited.
“Holding an object that’s not going to beep at you, but that also maybe has a particular smell to the pages or texture of the paper — I think there may be something to that, too,” Henton said.
While many classes enforce or suggest books as a part of the curriculum, some Harding campus members have enjoyed reading for pleasure throughout the past year. Senior Raissa Ames said that reading is the single most important thing that a person can do to liberate themselves and that reading leads to awareness.
“Reading helps me understand the person that I am and want to be,” Ames said. “I want to remind people that it is OK to commit a DNF (Did Not Finish) on a book they aren’t enjoying. I think a lot of times we view reading as a chore and something we have to get through, but reading should be a fun, challenging and exciting experience, and the sooner a reader realizes that, the more open they will be to continue.”
Ames said if she could suggest three books to a friend, they would be “Jane Eyre,” “On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous” and “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle.”
Junior Anna McLain said she likes reading because it is peaceful and quiet, while still stimulating the mind and keeping the reader interested.
“It’s a total cliché, but it really does take you to a different world,” McLain said. “I fell in love with reading when I was around 10 and started the ‘Harry Potter’ series. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m obsessed with it. I related to so many of the characters in different ways, and the writing was so descriptive [and] so imaginative that the reader felt like they were truly in Hogwarts.”
McLain said that if she could suggest three books to a friend, they would be “Gone Girl,” “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” and “Girl on the Train.”
Henton’s long list of literary recommendations included “East of Eden,” “The Poison Wood Bible” and “Velvet Elvis,” among others.