"It's better than an it-bag or a new pair of Manolo Blahnik”, seems to think Sarah Jessica Parker as she flips through a copy of A place for us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. The publishing house that released the book is owned by the actress herself - SJP for Hogarth - and the novel, published in 2018, has long been a New York Times best seller. Not a bad debut, both for the writer and the publisher, all thanks to the message (and the messenger). If SJP, who’s always trendy and cool, reads it, then I wanna read it too. This is it: today, in the social media era, seeing an actress, a celebrity or an influencer with a book in their hands is the best way to reach more people.
This is the time when intellectual influencers were born, photographed while reading a masterpiece of literature or a contemporary essay. They carry it in plain sight, and display it as they display their Hermes bag. Books have become the accessory of the moment. A book is cool, fashionable, and it gives people a less frivolous look. In short, it really seems that the book is the new status symbol.
We cannot help but wonder: are influencers genuinely interested in books or is it all just for the ‘aesthetic’? Is this romanticisation of books and the act of reading just a fleeting trend? Or is it a cultural shift, in that people are bored by passive watching and, after years of consuming shows as their predominant form of information and entertainment, are craving something more?
Books have largely been a dominant source of entertainment from generation to generation, especially during periods where other kinds of entertainment such as music concerts or art performances were highly priced or simply unavailable, like during the pandemic. A recent study by the Pew Research Center showed that book readership has been relatively steady since 2016. In 2019, 72% of U.S. adults said that they’ve read a book within the past one year, and experts think the number has increased in the past couple of years.
Not only reading seems to be back in fashion, one other positive thing of the new influencer obsession with books is that - as nicely said by Alice Porter - they are often reading texts written by and about women. Seemingly this is because everyone else is reading books by women, which has a knock-on effect. Many of the most popular online book clubs specifically focus on texts by female authors.
And so, if we have to draw conclusions, we can say that this new book aesthetic on Instagram, TikTok and other social platforms, has certainly been a positive thing for authors, publishers and the book industry in general. The hope is that this romanticisation of books will translate to actual book appreciation and a new-found love for literature.
Written by Paige Trimbly