When people have the rug pulled out from under them, a common response is to escape into a book, seeking solace, empathy, laughter, and hope that life is turning in circles and we will get out of whatever strikes us, eventually. UK book sales figures and the titles readers bought last year seem to indicate this.
Nielsen BookScan figures for 2021 show a 3% increase in revenue compared to 2020 in the UK and Germany. UK book sales were the highest in a decade – 212 million copies printed – with crime, sci-fi and romance titles selling 20% more than in 2019 despite the veil thrown away by the pandemic.
Fiction grew by 20% compared to 2019, with crime and thriller registering volume growth of 19%; science fiction and fantasy, 23%; and romance, 49%. Richard Osman, British comedian, novelist and creator and co-presenter of the BBC One TV quiz show uselessmade a point of crime lure works: His The Thursday Murder Club was the #1 bestseller in 2021 and The man who died twice placed fourth.
Non-fiction titles dealing with the needs of body, mind and spirit have been snapped up by consumers. This category saw the strongest growth, 50%, and an all-time high of £18.7 million in sales. by Charlie Mackeysy The boy, the mole, the fox and the horsewho offers hope and inspiration in uncertain times, was second on the top 10 list, followed by Matt Haig The Midnight Librarya fantasy novel about eliminating regrets and deciding what makes life worth living.
Books have proven their lasting power time and time again, Nielsen’s Jackie Swope said in The Guardian. “Overall, the year’s bestsellers show shoppers looking for comfort, laughter, escape, familiarity and perhaps a sense of community, given the impact continuous use of social media to attract new authors to existing platforms and create conversations around new and old books.”
This article was first published on January 24, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.