December 12, 2019

Book trends of the decade, decoded; Brit critic dips Into lit


 The annual deluge of year-end roundups is upon us, made even worse by the inevitable conscious coupling of decade-end lists! It’s gilding the lily, to be sure! It’s piling on!

Not all such pieces are insufferable, of course; the BBC’s Erica Wagner has offered up a piece charmingly titled “How Reading Has Changed in the 2010s.” If you are like us—and if you’re reading this, you probably are like us!—how can you not click on that, amirite?

Wagner notes that at the outset of the decade there was some lingering fear that the printed book might eventually disappear: “a new century had dawned, our lives were being digitised and surely there was no longer any reason to lug” physical books around. As ludicrous as it may seem now, this once upon a time had smart people worried; what we have seen since, of course, is that e-book sales have flattened, while independent bookstores have more than held their own.

Moving quickly and lightly, Wagner skips merrily across the topics of Insta-Poetry—noting that Rupi Kaur has been responsible for a “re-democratising” of poetry—and of the self-publishing mechanicsms that brought us the much-discussed Fifty Shades of Grey juggernaut. (Is it just us, or does the whole Fifty Shades thing feel like it was about 140 years ago?) Wagner goes on to make a small, polite noise about the perennial lack of diversity in publishing before citing the continued existence of cheesy tourist trap 100-year-old Parisian store Shakespeare and Co. as a reason for optimism.

Not to be dismissive of Wagner’s insights, but is it possible that she missed some news? The rise of soi disant auto-fiction? The mainstreaming of genres like fantasy and romance? The downfall and (hopeful) resurrection of chain stores like Barnes and Noble (under the direction of Wagner’s compatriot James Daunt, no less)? The Shitty Media Men list? The continued beauty and relevance of our managing editor Mike Lindgren’s favorite holiday story of all time? Ah, well. Even the BBC can’t be everywhere, it would seem!



Michael Lindgren is the Managing Editor at Melville House.