In a reading nook of their sun-soaked attic bedroom, leaders of the Hardcover Hotties book club chatted about this month’s selection, “All About Love: New Visions” by bell hooks.
It was a perfect choice for February. The book discusses love in the modern age and is a fitting tribute to hooks, who died in December at the age of 69. The group also wanted to read something written by a Black woman in honor of Black History Month.
Thoughtful book selections and earnest conversations are just a couple of reasons why four Ohio State University friends and classmates –– Stephanie Herrera, Megan Kovis, Ellen Minzler and Lauren Marshall –– decided to start a book club last year.
It began last fall when Kovis, a 21-year-old Missouri native studying neuroscience and philosophy, and Marshall, a 21-year-old art history major from Canton, discussed ocwe lunch their shared goal to start reading more.
Kovis said her roommate, Herrera, a 21-year-old English and communications technology major from Chicago, had inspired her to start a GoodReads account and start reading more. It was the COVID-19 pandemic though that showed her the importance of making time to connect with friends.
So in October, the four friends met to start Hardcover Hotties at Two Dollar Radio Headquarters, an independent bookstore and coffee shop on Parsons Avenue.
The group’s name is a homage to Megan Thee Stallion, the Grammy-award winning rapper who lovingly refers to her fans as hotties. She also recently graduated from Texas Southern University with a bachelor’s degree in health administration.
“Hot girls read,” Kovis said with a laugh.
The Hardcover Hotties meet once a month in person and on Zoom to discuss their monthly selection. About 20 people meet regularly, but the club also has some out-of-state participants who just read the books and follow along on the group’s Instagram account.
Beyond just reading more, Herrera said the book club is a place to foster connection.
“We really wanted to create a space to have a genuine discussion about things that matter,” Herrera said.
More: Central Ohio libraries launch area’s ‘largest book club’ to encourage reflection on racism
Gallup finds Americans reading fewer books, but young adults are still reading more than average
A recent Gallup poll found that U.S. adults are reading fewer books than they once did.
Americans read about 12 books during the past year, the smallest number Gallup has measured in any previous survey since 1990. U.S. adults are reading about three fewer books per year than they did in 2016. That includes print books, as well as e-books and audio books.
While the numbers of adults who say they did not read any books in the past year remains consistent at about 17%, those who read more than 10 books a year are fueling the decline.
“Currently, 27% report that they read more than 10 books, down eight percentage points since 2016 and lower than every prior measure by at least four points,” according to Gallup.
That decline is greater among groups that tended to be more-avid readers: college graduates, women and older Americans. College graduates read an average of about six fewer books in 2021 than they did between 2002 and 2016, from nearly 21 to about 14 currently.
Young adults ages 18 to 34, however, saw only a marginal decline of about 0.8% –– they’re still reading an average of 13 books a year. Adults 55 and older, for comparison, read about five fewer books in that same timeframe, from 16.7 to 12.
Related: Why are Ohio libraries breaking up their African American collections?
‘New adult’ readers
Kris Hickey, youth services manager at the Columbus Metropolitan Library Whetstone branch, said that number is encouraging.
“It’s exciting to see because it shows they’re reading and will for life,” she said.
New adult readers, those ages 18 to 26, are an interesting demographic, Hickey said. TikTok and #BookTok, for instance, drive a lot of interest for this age group. Those recommendations aren’t just leading to more eyes on the page, Hickey said, they’re also leading to book sales.
Netflix and Hulu ordering series based on popular young adult and teen books has also driven some interest in certain books and genres.
Hickey said she’s seen a growing interest in #OwnVoices stories, a term coined by young-adult author Corinne Duyvis referring to books about characters from underrepresented and marginalized groups in which the author shares that same identity.
“People are interested in stories about life experiences that aren’t their own,” Hickey said.
Herrera said reading #OwnVoices stories are a huge focus of Hardcover Hotties. The book club tries to line up its selections with indigenous, LGBTQ, Black and Latinx history months.
Hickey said book clubs like Hardcover Hotties are a great way for young people to be exposed to new ideas and space to discuss them in a world hungry for deeper connections.
Kovis and her fellow Hardcover Hotties agree.
“One of the most powerful things is being able to learn with people,” Kovis said. “I love my close friends. I love being able to engage in critical discussions. I learn so much from the people around me in book club.”
Sheridan Hendrix is a higher education reporter at the Columbus Dispatch. You can reach her at email@example.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @sheridan120. Sign up for her Mobile Newsroom newsletter here.
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