For the love of reading

Staying In

Book sales and romance on the up

Book talk
Bríd Conroy

The question ‘What is the value of books?’ was debated at the annual Irish booksellers’ conference held in Cork last week.
Some interesting figures: Most books cost less than a takeaway pizza, with an average selling price of €12.70 in 2022. Around €170 million was spent on books last year – that’s an average of just under three books per head of population. For every €1 spent in a bookshop another €2.40 is generated in the wider economy, so that’s 3,145 jobs are supported in Ireland by the booksellers, and the customers who support them.
According to surveys, it seems that most readers value the escapism that books offer and the positive contribution they make to their mental health. So it seems books are back and here to stay!
In terms of trends, there’s been a huge growth in the ‘romance and sagas’ genre, which saw a staggering increase of 87 percent in 2022 compared to 2021. The bringing of younger readers to books through platforms like TikTok has been credited with a lot of this.
In our two days in Cork, we got to meet some great authors and hear about their latest books. With his new book, ‘Fling’, published by PanMacmillan, Joseph Murray joins a new wave of Irish male authors producing work in the romance genre. Quirky, funny, romantic and a great escape, the novel centres around a married couple who are going through a rocky patch. A newly launched app called Fling throws a further spanner in the works of their relationship. Murray highlights and explores difficult issues through with gentle humour and empathy.
We got to read a chapter of Catherine Ryan Howard’s new book, ‘The Trap’, due to be released by Bantam Press in this summer, as well as meet the author herself. The book is inspired by real-life events some decades back, when a killer could not be apprehended. The main character’s sister has gone missing and she wanders the streets at night, hoping to entrap the suspect and find her sister. Every woman’s nightmare, it promises to be a chilling read.
We were also treated to a tour of all the bookshops in Cork, and I got to meet Catherine Kirwan, an amazing crime-fiction writer who’s based there. Kirwan’s latest book, ‘Cruel Deeds’ (published by Hachette Books Ireland) tells the story of a successful lawyer called Mandy who has been found murdered in a derelict house in Cork. Kirwan herself is a solicitor – and so too is the main character, Finn, who uncovers a web of secrets and lies.
Lastly, we met Niamh Mulvey, author of ‘Hearts and Bones’ (published by Picador). It is a beautiful short-story collection set in contemporary London and Dublin in the first two decades of this millennium. Mulvey calls them ‘love songs for late youth’, and they really are. These sharp, witty and empathic stories about everyday life and relationships feature young lovers, teenagers and parents. The gentle pace and beautiful prose allow us to pause in our own daily lives and ponder our own relationships.
So keep up the reading, books and bookshops are here to stay!

Bríd Conroy and her husband Neil Paul run Tertulia  – A Bookshop Like No Other at The Quay, Westport.