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Insights from Hawthorne Publishing

Story, Story, Story

by Nancy Niblack Baxter, Senior Editor Hawthorne Publishing

In Southern Indiana a generation or so ago, a sort of joke-mini-tale was this: “Natives were sitting around a campfire. ‘Give us a story,’ the chief said and pointed at a woman. She cleared her throat and began: “Natives were sitting around a campfire, ‘Give us a Story,’ the chief said—” And so on. The point was supposedly that stories go around from person to person in a circle, come down through generations, and turn up a thousand years later because people will always be ready to listen.

Jane Austen coloured version

Jane Austen

Book sales this last year, 689 million units, continued to be significantly up from the period five years ago. And this in the face of little podcasts online, audio books and the rampant growth of online movies.

These audio books were up 16% and generated over 2 billion dollars. We at Hawthorne put out our first audio book As I Remember: A Walk Through My Years at Hughes Aircraft by Scott Walker.

Quarantined or remaining by choice at home, America has binge-watched “Story” on TV—binge-worthy movies on Nexflix, Amazon Prime, Peacock, Disney Plus—the list of choices is huge and growing every week. The thirst for a good story, eternal and old as mankind, has gripped our people again and in a new form.

Amazon Prime has captured those at my house. Its variety of movies, serial mysteries, sports tales, documentaries, lives of history’s leading artists and musicians, Royals, Black history stories, and much more is astonishing, and I intend that in the real meaning of the word. I see the choices, for instance, on the PBS channel, hundreds of them, with my mouth open. When and where were these excellent shows originated, how did they get grouped for this channel and—when can I see more?

Bust Homer BM 1825


Movies about World War I and II, supernatural tales, travelogues, brutal fight stories, westerns, and a whole range of special-interests for children and in foreign languages are spread before us like a gorgeous buffet at the Grand Hotel on Macinac Island. Line me up! Call the food in! Forget the dusting and other chores. My eyes are glued.

Dickens, Thackeray, Sinclair Lewis, Chekov, Jane Austen–the famous authors are there aplenty.

Six hundred-seventy-five B.C. Homer wrote “The Odyssey” after generations had spun the tales, grandfather to grandchildren and on down as oral tradition. Many of us believe it is still the greatest story ever told and its themes and myths and tales flow through the literature in the new media.

We are still sitting around the campfire and when we say “Give us a Story,” the answers are there as never before.