You're Not Going To Read 'Infinite Jest' During Isolation

Those of us in certain fandoms are used to being told to read another book, and apparently, it took the end of the world for that to happen. In the United Kingdom, at least, sales across all genres have seen single- to triple-digit increases in the last few weeks. (And if stereotypes bear out, the same is likely true in the U.S., if on a smaller scale.) It's pretty much never a bad idea to buy a book, but are we really going to emerge from our self-isolation cocoons as beautiful, well-read butterflies? According to what people are buying, it seems unlikely.

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Notable amid the surge is increasing sales for supposed "I always meant to read that" books like War and Peace, The Great Gatsby, and Infinite Jest. Now, it's entirely possible that there are people out there who constantly lament their schedule's refusal to let them read 1,200 pages of political drama that don't even contain any dragons. There are maybe even three such people. But chances are, these books are going to do what they've always done best: gather dust on the bookshelves of people who tell themselves that they "should" read them but just can't force themselves to do it.

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The fact of the matter is that if you haven't read The Great Gatsby by now, it's probably because you don't want to. That's fine! Your life will probably not be measurably changed by reading The Great Gatsby. Do you really want to spend what could be your final days appeasing a faceless crowd of literary snobs instead of reading The Hunger Games again? The data suggests you don't. The other genres selling particularly well are puzzle books, arts and crafts, and true crime. Sales of adult non-fiction actually went down. No, we're going to come out of this exactly as dumb as we went in, and there's something almost comforting about that. The world might change dramatically, but we'll be the same people we've always been, just hopefully better-rested.

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