I’ve rarely met a woman who can grasp why men like to read in the bathroom. I keep books in the bathroom in case I forget to bring in whatever I’m currently reading while not perched on the porcelain. Right now there are two selections therein: 1) Prisoners of Geography, by Tim Marshall, and 2) The Devil’s Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce.
Marshall, BTW, posits that political scientists and other such self-assured experts pooh-pooh the notion that geography has all that much to do with the actions, reactions, and relationships of the nations of the world. To the contrary, he writes, geography — mountains, plains, rivers, latitudes and longitudes, climate, growing seasons, et cetera — have almost everything to do with how countries go about their business.
See, these are the kinds of things I learn while…, well, doing something else.
Anyway. Reading. In the bathroom or out. A year ago this December, Gallup did a poll asking Americans how much they’ve read in the past year. The 2021 poll revealed, to my surprise, that the citizens of this holy land read fewer book in the past annum than in any year since 1990.
Conventional wisdom holds that people are reading less and less these days. Yet, raw data tells us books sales continue to be brisk. Even as big box retailers like Border’s and Barnes & Noble have either bitten the dust or are just about to, locally owned independent booksellers are flourishing. And Amazon is awash in cash from its online book sales.
So, are Americans reading less in this post-Trump era? I delineate things that way because the election (on a technicality) of the 45th president told us a lot of things about Americans, up to and including that they got (and/or get) most of their information from TV news channels and social media. In other words, they ain’t reading newspapers and Time magazine anymore.
Would that be because Americans aren’t reading much anymore, period?
I still say no. I continue to maintain the American populace is reading at relatively the same rate it has ever done so. Admittedly, my nation’s sisteren and brethren have never been particularly noted for devouring Proust and Kant. I recall reading in the iconic Book of Lists back in the 1970s that the two most widely read books in America were the Bible and Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls.
A deeper dive into Gallup’s figures reveals that Americans, on average, have been reading more and more books on an annual basis ever since 1990. The 2021 figure represents the first non-growth number since that year. So the supposed decline in American reading habits is not at all a trend but perhaps a minor bump in the road.
What are Americans reading? A lot of them — a lot of them — are reading young adult romance author Colleen Hoover.
The Texas housewife and former social worker is the reigning royal in the genre. In the entire publishing universe, for pity’s sake. Not that she’s following in anybody’s footsteps or lineage; Hoover’s success is something the publishing world has never seen before.
While raising three kids in her single-wide trailer home, mopping up spilt milk, and listening earnestly to people moaning about how unfair life was, Hoover decided to write a novel. She scribbled while sitting in a theater waiting for one of her kids’ after school drama classes to end. She didn’t even dream the book would one day be picked up by a publisher, and it wasn’t. She self-published the novel, Slammed, in 2012. A year after that, she self-published a sequel, Point of Retreat.
Then, out of the blue, a book blogger named Maryse wrote the following about Slammed on her website (all sic):
So! Who’s in the mood to read a book that will hook you from the first few lines, make you smile, make you laugh, make you ABSOLUTELY fall in love, and then sigh and sigh and sigh again? YOU? OF COURSE YOU!
I LOVED SLAMMED!!! One of my best books of 2012, EASILY and now, one of my all-time favorites too!! Here is the book that kept me up until 2am (laughing and crying and sighing).
Maryse must have had some hot following back then because, next thing anybody knew, both Slammed and Point of Retreat shot up the New York Times paperback fiction bestseller list. Hoover quit her job as a social worker and devoted herself to writing more novels.
Hoover’s third book, Hopeless, also self-published, hit number one on the NYT bestseller list in January 2013. Then Hoover experienced a temporary lull in sales and fame. Several of her books originally were available for free on her website. But last year, a book-reading community on TikTok went gaga over all her old books, then numbering 22, and Hoover became the hottest bestseller since…, uh, forever.
Hoover’s written two more novels since TikTok turned her into a supernova. This week, for instance, nine the top 13 paperback fiction NYT bestsellers are Hoover’s. Nobody’s ever seen anything like it. Not even JK Rowling burned as brightly all at once.
Even though Hoover tackles such heavyness as domestic and child abuse, infidelity, and toxic families, pretty much all the boilerplate topics she probably encountered as a social worker, her audience is comprised primarily of teenaged and young adult females. Their infatuation over her is astounding. Her fans call her CoHo and themselves CoHorts. She has millions of followers on several internet platforms. The Guardian asked, “Have teenagers taken over publishing?” in a June article on the Hoover phenomenon.
The BookTok social sub-medium that propelled Hoover superstardom is rife with images and videos of CoHorts sobbing, shrieking, mooning, and extolling the author in near orgasmic terms. One fan was seen burying her tear-drenched face in the pages of one of Hoover’s books.
A lot of my literate friends sniff dismissively at the very mention of Hoover’s name. Me? I say as long as people are reading, it’s all good. Hell, I read books about baseball players, a preference, no doubt, many CoHorts would find as silly as can be.
You might not find Colleen Hoover’s Verity in my bathroom or, for that matter, in anybody else’s. As I say, women just don’t get the whole bathroom reading thing.