Friday, 17 October 2008

Reading for the Recession

Grow Your Own VegPast experience shows that during hard times, people don’t like to read about doom and gloom but instead like to read about the good times. Booksellers have been looking over the bestseller lists from previous eras of financial uncertainty to try to predict what cash-strapped readers will be buying. Back in the recession of the early 80s, readers were lapping up Jackie Collins’ novel Lovers and Gamblers about the glittering world of rock parties and concerts to limos and mansions of the power-brokers. This also held true for the recession of the early 90s when Jilly Cooper’s book Polo – based on the ritzy, wild, and promiscuous polo set - was number one in the fiction bestseller charts. "Stories of the mega-rich and royalty also seem to hold a perverse fascination when times are tough," says Viking editorial director Joel Rickett. "We're thinking more widely about the kind of books that sell when times are tight," says Rickett. "Escapism is one answer: crime and thrillers will go on selling by the truckload. People will want to bury themselves in fast, compelling stories." Romance publisher Mills & Boon says it has traditionally enjoyed stronger sales in times of crisis, as miserable workers live an imaginary high life among handsome Arab sheikhs and smouldering Italian tycoons. "Billionaires are here to stay - we've always been aspirational, that's part of our promise; we've never tried to be achievable." However, sales of books on how to survive the recess are already on the rise. Waterstones has seen a 200% increase in sales of two titles about keeping chickens in recent weeks. And sales of Carol Klein’s Grow Your Own Veg are double what they were a year ago as people look for ways to save money. This Christmas will see the launch of a slew of thrifty titles as publishers look to profit from this demand, headed up by a timely new edition of Delia Smith's classic Frugal Food. India Knight, who previously penned the book The Shops: a guide to retail therapy, is also tightening her belt with the publication of The Thrift Book: Live Well and Spend Less. Knight tells us how to make jam and preserve foods, make beautiful but cheap dinners and use a sewing machine – all the time saving money and looking fabulous!

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