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What can Amazon’s bestseller list tell us about the national mood?

What can Amazon’s bestseller list tell us about the national mood?

By Gabrielle Johnson |

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As the monthly ‘anniversary’ of national lockdown slips by, the country continues to adjust to its new way of life, a life now defined by our new virtual environments, DIY schooling, and of course the emotional turbulence that a global pandemic brings. It can be difficult to judge how you’re feeling, let alone how the rest of the country, and those nearest and dearest to you, may be feeling.

Well, to gauge the national mood, we’ve consulted our ‘go-to’ place that can always be trusted to reveal the latest insights on the public psyche: The Amazon Bestseller List. Their print bestseller list can tell you everything you need to know about how book buyers are feeling and thinking on an hourly basis. We have focused on Amazon UK, and this is what the most popular choices are telling us about ourselves.

1. The books that say the children have broken up early!

As parents all over the world frantically google ‘home-schooling tips’, ‘learning books for kids’ and ‘help, I have to teach my children’, publishers step in. Whether it’s Telling the Time Ages 5–7 to make those hours pass faster, Numbers 1 to 26 to help their maths lesson along or Go F*ck Yourself, I’m Colouring once they’ve gone to bed, Amazon’s bestsellers are telling the tale of millions of frustrated parents.

2. The books that say, some big brands just keep motoring on whatever the circumstances

There are some things even a pandemic can’t touch: friendship, family and David Walliams’ popularity. Walliams’ Slime is the perfect light-hearted solution to the intensity of the news and social media right now, and a perennial trusted brand.

‘Whether it’s Telling the Time Ages 5–7 to make those hours pass faster, Numbers 1 to 26 to help their maths lesson along or Go F*ck Yourself, I’m Colouring once they’ve gone to bed, Amazon’s bestsellers are telling the tale of millions of frustrated parents.’

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3. The books that say, phew, we got in under the PR wire just in time

And good thing too, as it will probably take all of lockdown to get through the 879 pages of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light. Mantel and Marian Keyes were two authors lucky enough to get in under the wire, giving us all an escape into worlds which may now seem preferable to our own, despite the trials of 16th century Britain…

‘Dealing with a constant influx of bad news can have its effects, and with plenty of time to spare, people are looking to some books to stay distracted and find comfort.’

4. The books that say we need to switch off

Dealing with a constant influx of bad news can have its effects, and with plenty of time to spare, people are looking to some books to stay distracted and find comfort. Step forward The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse and Happy by Fearne Cotton. And then there’s the practical social influencer phenomenon that is Mrs Hinch. Who doesn’t want a book about cleaning tips during a pandemic?

5. The books that say, just exactly what the hell happened and how do I understand it?

Where do we turn to when everything feels a bit much and we can’t find concrete answers? Well, when the outside world is far too dystopian, looking to literature for the answers seems a good option. Published in 2015, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (with its promise of exploring and understanding the future of human life) must be back on the bestseller list for a reason…

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‘Now featuring a sticker that reads “Did this thriller predict the coronavirus outbreak?”, Dean Koontz’s The Eyes of Darkness is a little too close to home for many, but clearly some readers are finding reassurance in familiarity.’

6. The books that say, let’s eat our feelings!

You can’t go out to eat, so bring your favourite foods to you! Pinch of Nom and Pinch of Nom Everyday Light are still flying high in the bestseller list, as is Wagamama Feed Your Soul. This article from Ruby Tandoh on finding food pleasures in a time of crisis may shed some light on why you just can’t seem to stop eating…

7. The books that say we knew something bad was going to happen… just that we’d thought it was in fiction

Now featuring a sticker which reads ‘Did this thriller predict the coronavirus outbreak?’, Dean Koontz’s The Eyes of Darkness is a little too close to home for many, but clearly some readers are finding reassurance in familiarity. We won’t tell you how it ends…

If these bestsellers can tell us anything, it’s that many of us are feeling the same; we’re all trying to come to terms with what’s happening while adjusting and looking for comfort and happiness in the new normal. We hope that books can continue to inspire, uplift, distract and entertain. And, if they don’t quite do the job, at least they’ll give you something to talk about on those endless video calls…

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