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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Retro-reading: the decade in books

    In the last 10 years, readers have seen their fair share of crazy trends and mega-bestsellers in the book world. There was “”The Da Vinci Code,”” a quasi-historical thriller that struck some hidden chord in readers, who were apparently all too ready for a book about ancient secrets and Jesus’ baby mama. Then there was the political, social and religious backlash to the book itself, followed by a wave of copycats that brought the centuries-obsolete Knights Templar into popular culture.

    We had the continuation of the Harry Potter series, the biggest and most widely accessible fantasy series to ever leak out of the pen of a British single mother. The books flew off the shelves without even the aid of wands. The movies filled midnight theatres with scar-bearing, bespectacled fanatics of all ages, reading levels and countries. The books inspired a whole community of fans, complete with its own musical genre known as Wrock, short for wizard rock. J.K. Rowling’s franchise broke barriers for sales and for the wide appeal of a book marketed to children.

    Toward the end of the decade, readers went batty for vampires, most notably the uber-ubiquitous “”Twilight”” series by Arizona native Stephenie Meyer. Vampires were the new wizards. Readers showed up in droves to midnight book release parties to get their hands on the latest story about clumsy human Bella Swan and her undead heartthrob Edward Cullen. Inspired by a dream, one can barely leave the house without being inundated by the descendants-of-Dracula mania. The”” Twilight”” series made books into a force of major marketing and cultural influence: everything from television to home décor to the sales of pale makeup has been affected by this crazy-popular series.

    The biggest change in the book industry over the past 10 years, however, has little to do with mega-bestsellers and fantasy worlds. It has to do with who has access to the formerly quite opaque publishing business.

    Before 2000, readers and aspiring writers had little access to information about authors, publishing companies and the process of publishing. The Internet changed that. Now, readers can follow their favorite writers on Twitter, watch book trailers of anticipated new releases and start a blog or podcast about their favorite reads. Aspiring writers can follow publishing industry trends, read literary agents’ blogs to get information on publishing, join critique groups with writers all over the world and even post clips of their work online for readers to peruse.

    This decade gave rise to the Internet presence, which has become an important piece of a successful print work. Marketing is no longer just a quarter-page in a teen magazine: it’s a live, interactive process. Bestselling authors have YouTube channels, chats with readers in live forums and generate exposure for their works by streaming signings and readings live across the Web. Highly anticipated books have Internet scavenger hunts with cash prizes. In today’s world, everyone is a critic: from personal blogs to Amazon customer ratings, today’s readers have a voice like never before.

    If this Bibliophile were to craft a time capsule of the 2000s, it wouldn’t be filled with the bestseller-wannabes pervading the market. I’d like to put in a couple free books publishers now send out to regular people with blogs about books, to show the benefits of the new everyone’s-a-critic model of marketing. I’d put in a few of the great young adult novels of the decade, such as M.T. Anderson’s “”The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing”” series. The brave, biting group of books marketed to teen readers has matured from Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High series into a valid genre with talented young writers and very passionate readers.

    I’d include one of the many crazy products with a “”Twilight”” line, such as the vinyl wall stickers, to show future readers just how culturally pervasive and influential a book can be. I’d include a Kindle or nook, to show the first generation of what looks to be the next big thing on the page: e-readers.

    The book world looks much different than it did before the Internet, before Dan Brown, before J.K. Rowling, before Edward Cullen, before the Kindle. But if wizards were the new Templars, if vampires are the new wizards, then Twilight-weary readers can be glad that something has to be the new vampires.

    My pick for book trend of the ‘10s? Zombies.

    — Anna Swenson is a sophomore majoring in English. She can be reached at

    arts@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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