Secrets of a Children’s Bookseller: Adult Nostalgia and Book Buying Trends

Do you remember your favorite book from childhood? It could be Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf, or maybe it’s Miss Rumphius  by Barbara Cooney (that’s mine!). Thinking about that book probably makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You LOVED it! So, of course your son, daughter, granddaughter, grandson will love it too!

This holiday season I found a large percentage of customers making gift purchases based on these exact emotions. They’d ask for that treasured book (be it out of print or not) with hopes of sharing the feeling they had as a child. On Christmas Eve, I walked into our classics section and found it plucked bare. Little House on the Prairie, The Chronicles of Narnia, Charlotte’s Web, The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables – all had been purchased, wrapped, and now sat under trees with bright shinny bows.

I think there are two ways to look at this trend. On one side, these books DO stand up against the test of time. They’re classics, timeless, and just plain good! But on the other side of this discussion, I think some might argue that not all classics appeal to today’s kids. Some are slightly outdated and harder for today’s audience to relate to. In this second case, I think adults are buying classic books because they feel nostalgic about them. They hope their kids (or grandkids) will love the book as much as they did, and it’s that hope that gets them to take it home and put it under the tree. Ultimately, this comes down to why someone buys a gift (or any product). In this case its about the feelings and memories the gift-giver has about a book. There’s a ton of great new books on the shelves these days, but sometimes that can’t compete with the joy of sharing a loved classic.

This leads us (as writers) back to the age-old point that books need an emotional punch. Books we loved as kids stay with us because we are connected to them emotionally and something in them has resonated over the years. Look back at your favorite classic and see if it still holds up today. Why? Why not? What about the book makes it timeless? What makes it memorable and worth sharing?

2 thoughts on “Secrets of a Children’s Bookseller: Adult Nostalgia and Book Buying Trends

  1. It’s strange. I have such fond memories of certain books from my childhood, but when I look at them now, the only thing I see is how badly they’re written. (But that sometimes happens even when I buy my fav authors’ new books today.) Perhaps viciously revising my wips all this time has ruined me, and I can’t read for enjoyment any more…

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Some of my favorite books from childhood are Where the Wild Things Are, the first few Harry Potter books, Charlotte’s Web, and others. In college I took a Children’s Lit class and we read a couple of those books. They brought back fond memories of adventure and a time when things were simple. I would hope that my children enjoy these books as much as I do but, like you said, sometimes that is not always the case.

    I also think back to when my parents were in school and they read things like Brave New World or Tess of the Durbervilles and they liked them. I hated them. I think it has a lot to do with generations AND how they are taught in schools. Plus, the kids have different tastes than their parents.

    Great post!

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