Thursday, December 31, 2009

you've been pottered

I guess it wasn't surprising but I still get slightly depressed looking at Germany's top 20 bestsellers of the decade, published in the current issue of Der Spiegel.

In the fiction list we have Harry Potter in positions 1, 2, 3, 14, 16, and 18. Dan Brown in 5 and 15, Stephenie Meyer in 8, 9, and 20, and Germany's very own fantasy kidult fiction writer Cornelia Funke (Inkheart, etc.) in places 6, 11, 19 (which already counts as good news, I guess). Two German originals which I found mildly interesting (Daniel Kehlmann's Measuring the world and Charlotte Roche's Wetlands) made 7 and 4, respectively.

There is the school of thinking that says that many of those millions reading Harry Potter wouldn't have read any book otherwise. But I tend to think if they only read fantasy and nothing else, they might as well read nothing, it wouldn't make much difference. What I am worried about is the other side of the spectrum. A phenomenon like the noughties fantasy tsunami pulls along people from all sides, including those who might otherwise have spent their time reading more intelligent books. So if people come along and say Rowling did great work for public literacy, I have to object and point out that pottermania may also have stopped people from reading more intelligent books and dealing with the real world.

The non-fiction side of the list (another 20 titles including one by the pope) is less easy to categorise but just as depressing. Suffice it to say that a "medicine for kids" title is the only thing that is coming anywhere near science.

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