They all start with fantasy. Whether you’re fantasizing over an erotic character or you’re fantasizing about a different life—these types of fantasies have seduced a large audience. From “Fifty Shades of Grey,” to “The Hunger Games,” these best-selling series have attracted a widespread audience and made their way to the top of the charts.
According to the article “Bestselling Book Series of All Time: ‘Narnia’ to ’50 Shades’” published in The Daily Beast, “The erotic ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy is about to sell over 20 million copies in the U.S., and the explosive demand shows no sign of slowing down.” However, Shades’ 20 million copies does not compare to the 11 million copies that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” sold within the first 34 hours. But what is it about series that attracts readers more than any other books?
Series such as “Harry Potter,” “Twilight,” “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “The Hunger Games” aren’t read for their exceptional storytelling, or their grammar—rather, they are chosen because of their characters. As readers, we like to find a way to relate to characters—it’s the easiest way to make the book come to life.
For some a relatable character is most important—but what is so appealing about a girl who swallows any ounce of her dignity to be treated like an object by a masochistic and sadistic entrepreneur that is more interested in his sexual needs than her emotional needs? The answer is that these types of characters, no matter how erotic, become a fantasy that readers can latch onto. They begin to imagine their lives through characters such as Anastasia Steele, Christian Grey, Harry Potter, Bella Swan, Edward Cullen or even Katniss Everdeen.
According to the New York Times article “A Good Mystery: Why We Read,” “The gestation of a true, committed reader is in some ways a magical process, shaped in part by external forces but also by a spark within the imagination … But what makes that one book a trigger for continuous reading? For some, it’s the discovery that a book’s character is like you, or thinks and feels like you.” But maybe series are more successful because of the possibilities.
This generation has seen countless series make their debut on the big screen—Harry Potter, Bella Swan and Katniss Everdeen have all debuted on the big screen, with Christian Grey in the works. These films that chronicle these infamous series not only provide readers with a concrete idea, but also serve as another way to escape into the fantasy world that authors J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer and even E.L. James have created. The girls who read these books want nothing more than to be the heroines of these books, and as a result the boys of our generation now have to compete with Edward Cullen, Harry Potter, and even Christian Grey. These series of books are no longer the best-selling and most popular books of our generation; rather, their characters have become a sensation that fans not only want to emulate, but also characters they desperately want to be real.
Authors such as Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and F. Scott Fitzgerald are ones who are no longer recognizable among our generation of readers today—rather, their impact is overshadowed by the poorly written, fantasy driven, series of books that are most popular today. In 50 years, our generation will be remembered for “Twilight” and “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Rather than growing and developing and composing unforgettable storylines that are unique in their own, we have traded classic works such as “The Great Gatsby” and “A Tale of Two Cities” for poorly written series that have only succeeded due to their fantasy nature.
Someone once told me that writing is never original—it is always mimicked and copied—if that were true what we read would sound more like “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
But our best-selling books have proven that it’s no longer about the age of wisdom, but the age of fantasy—heading in the other way.
Sam Norton can be contacted at