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    A new poll has found that we read to ~escape~ … to World War II.

    Janet Manley

    July 31, 2023, 11:50am

    There’s no escape hatch from the current climate-deranged heat dome we live in quite like a goooooood fantasy novel or historical romp through the killing fields, a new ThriftBooks and OnePoll survey of 2,000 Americans has found.

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    ThriftBooks asked respondents about how reading can change their mood, and about the types of books and settings they best prefer when trying to feel immersed in a story. Of the 2,000 readers, the largest share (49%) said fantasy offered an easy opportunity to “lose yourself,” followed by romance (42%), history (39%) and sci-fi (36%) novels. Many said they felt more cheerful and positive after reading.

    More interestingly, in my book, the survey found that respondents identified the best immersion opportunity in stories set “during World War II (44%), the present day (42%)—defined as the 1970s to today—and the Great Depression (42%).” AH YES, THE GOOD OLD DAYS. The survey likewise found that people often buy literature based on the locale alone (see also).

    For examples of stories set in more depressing times, think books like Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants (already a movie) and Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See, which will soon be a movie. The ubiquity of bestsellers seems to have warped the stats here, I think, but let’s take the poll at face value.

    I feel the history of men enjoying a bleak WWII novel on the toilet has been well documented, and perhaps the appeal of a story hedged on the possibility for annihilation is that it makes all our petty problems seem quaint. In a 1984 Esquire article on why men love war, William Broyles Jr. wrote of war that, “Like all lust, for as long as it lasts it dominates everything else; a nation’s other problems are seared away, a phenomenon exploited by kings, dictators, and presidents since civilization began.”

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    Yes, there are few problems worth worrying about when the bigger problem is a war. That said, I recommend Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins to everyone.

    Books: cheaper than an Oculus Rift headset!

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