Being the world’s largest retail bookseller is a heavy responsibility—and Barnes and Noble takes this stuff seriously. We’re always trying to learn more about books, reading, and readers. To that end, we recently commissioned a national independent survey concerning reading habits around the holiday season, which proved beyond any doubt the biggest reading day of the year—a day that shall forever more be known as Reading Day—is Thanksgiving Eve. Seventy-seven percent of respondents reported that they read at least one book on that day; 60 percent said they pack or purchase reading materials specifically for pre-holiday reading.
While we’re proud to celebrate the first annual Reading Day (plans for parades are in the works), our work is never done. It’s up to us to figure out just what is it about Turkey Day that inspires people to read. Here are our top theories.
THEORY ONE: The Horrors of Travel
Thanksgiving is the busiest travel event of the year. More than any other holiday, people tend to go home for Thanksgiving—and that means a lot of people flying, driving, and training across vast distances, racing to make it to their destination by Thursday’s big meal. And let’s face it: travel in the modern day is pretty awful. Even if you manage to get to where you’re going without being dragged violently off the plane, it’s a miserable experience. So it’s not surprising that the B&N survey revealed 73 percent of people think reading makes travel more relaxing. Whether you’re mashed in the middle seat of an exit row or in the backseat of an Uber creeping through metro traffic, having a good book on hand is a relief.
Our suggestion: The Midnight Line by Lee Child is the perfect travel book: a tightly-written thriller that’ll get your aggressions out before you have to deal with your relatives.
THEORY TWO: The Perfect Escape
Speaking of those relatives, 28 percent of the respondents to our survey mentioned that a book is a good way to avoid uncomfortable conversations with your
drunk aunts and uncles members of your extended family. Book nerds have long known the power of having your nose in a book to stave off unwanted conversations, and it’s a trick that can be employed anywhere—but maybe especially around Thanksgiving, whenever someone starts a sentence with “I’m not usually political, but…”
Our suggestion: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders—it’s a beautiful story that’ll transport you out of any room.
THEORY THREE: Stress Relief
The travel, the unwanted arguments with family, the old wounds reopened when you find you’re still at the kid’s table, despite being a full-grown adult—Thanksgiving is stressful. If you’re not traveling, you’re likely hosting and cooking, which is a whole other ball of mashed potatoes. So color us unsurprised that 53 percent of survey respondents mentioned reading a book as a great way to relax—because it is. Any time you feel stress coming on, crack open a great book and escape to a universe in which you’re not staying up half the night making handcrafted stuffing.
Our suggestion: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks. The beloved actor’s short stories are the perfect escapist reading.
THEORY FOUR: Time Management
Unsurprisingly, our survey revealed that 56 percent of people asked think reading is perfect for travel delays, and 47 percent intended to catch up on their reading over the holiday. Most people want to read more books, but life gets in the way. Even if your travel itinerary isn’t too crazy, you’re bound to suffer some down time in airport lounges, slow-moving traffic, or train stations. Instead of staring at a wall or watching local news with the sound off, why not crack open a book?
Our suggestion: Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. Reading about this genius will make you feel even less accomplished than when your parents dote on your older siblings, but there’s so much fascinating stuff in here, your time will be well spent.
THEORY FIVE: Self-Improvement
The holiday season in general is a time for contemplation—most obviously at New Year’s when we start making lists of resolutions for the coming year, but also at Thanksgiving, a time when we explicitly think about what we’re thankful for. No wonder 46 percent of those who answered our survey said they like to read on Thanksgiving Eve because it gives them a chance to learn something new. Improving your understanding of the world is a great way to kick off the holidays, and that boost in self-esteem from newfound knowledge will come in handy when your pants no longer fit come December.
Our suggestion: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Nothing boosts the ego more than feeling like you understand how the universe works when your dad doesn’t even understand how Snapchat works.
Thanksgiving is a time to gather, give thanks, and, as we all just learned, to read. When packing for your annual pilgrimage home, make sure you’ve got enough books to get you through the big dinner.