Popular Literature

Authored by: Jennie Chapman

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Popular Culture

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415638661
eBook ISBN: 9781315724478
Adobe ISBN: 9781317531067


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Go into any bookstore in the USA and you will inevitably find, amid the classics, the celebrity biographies, the cookery books, and the motivational guides, a section dedicated to religion and spirituality. Every imaginable genre is represented: guides to prayer, witnessing, and charitable giving all inevitably feature, but so do rather more surprising and esoteric subjects, from biblically inspired weight-loss guides to faith-based approaches to success in the workplace (see Adams 2011; Maynard and Maynard 2010; Van Duzer 2010; Solomon 2004; Grudem 2003; Colbert 2002). Evangelical and New Age titles predominate, but readers of other faiths are catered for: there are self-help books for Muslims and marriage manuals for Jews (see Mogahed 2012; Crohn et al. 2001). The fiction sub-section is also densely populated, with a profusion of Evangelical Christian titles in particular. While other sectors struggle against the rising tide of e-books, self-publications and pirated content, religious publishers report growth and profit. According to American Libraries, annual sales of Christian books and products rose from $1 billion in 1980 to more than $4 billion in 2000 (Ralph and Larue 2005: 51). A market study undertaken in 2011 revealed that the religion category accounted for 10 percent of the overall book market, measured in sales dollars (Nelson 2011). In the rapidly burgeoning e-book market, sales of Christian fiction increased sixfold between 2010 and 2011 (MacDonald 2012). There are other indicators of the sector’s accomplishments beyond sales figures and profit margins. Demand in libraries for Christian fiction is among the highest of all genres. In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, a Minneapolis librarian explains his policy toward Christian fiction: “if the book is with a known publisher, it’s not a question of if we’ll buy it, but how many copies we’ll buy” (Byle 2012). In our putatively secular age, popular religious literature is not merely surviving but thriving.

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