Penguin Random House US campaign identifies 2021 book trends

The publisher’s new campaign reveals facts from the year in books, including the revelation that Barack Obama’s audiobook of A Promised Land was listened to for the equivalent of 4,255 years in 2021

In an echo of Spotify’s Wrapped, which also aired this week, Penguin Random House US has created a campaign to reflect the growth of the book market this year, which saw US sales up 12% compared to last year.

Titled Find Your Light, it was created in collaboration with branding and marketing agency Posture Media and features illustrations from Lynn Baik. The project includes billboard ads and a video identifying individual trends and a web article that offers a deeper dive into the way the book world reflected the year’s events.

Key moments included the inauguration of President Biden and specifically the contribution by Amanda Gorman, whose performance led 14,820 people to pre-order the print edition of her poem The Hill We Climb the next day. The book went on to sell 200,000 copies in the first week of its publication in March.

A love of particular genres was also revealed, with sales of romance and sci-fi novels up 50% and 46% respectively, and comics and graphic novels seeing a boost of a whopping 113%.

US readers also reacted to the BLM movement and rallied to stop anti-Asian hate by celebrating Black and American-Asian voices. These included Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, which debuted at number two on the New York Times bestseller list and stayed on the list for over 20 weeks, and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and Born A Crime by the Daily Show host Trevor Noah, which were also mainstays on the NYT bestseller list this year. Readers also turned to classic fiction, with a 22% spike in James Baldwin sales compared to 2019.

The entertaining campaign demonstrates the confidence of the publishing industry at the moment and also the importance of books in helping us get through tough times – whether that be by offering escapism or food for thought.

View more details on the Year in Books here