Although declining compared to 2020, race and social justice book unit sales were still 116% higher in 2021 than in 2019 before the George Floyd protests
Port Washington, N.Y., January 31, 2022 – Unit sales of adult print books in the U.S. focused on diversity, discrimination, and civil rights reached 2.6 million copies in 2021, falling 42% versus 2020, when sales for these books spiked upward following nationwide protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. However, according to The NPD Group, sales in this category have still risen more than 116%, compared to 2019 before the protests, led by elevated sales for titles like Oprah’s Book Club selection, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” by Isabel Wilkerson, “The Sum Of Us” by Heather McGhee, and “Uncomfortable Conversations with A Black Man” by Emmanuel Acho.
“With Black History Month coming up in February, it’s important to point out that many new voices on these subjects found an audience over the past year,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “In fact, half of the top 10 bestsellers in 2021 were newly published front-list titles. High growth authors in this space last year included Heather McGhee, Tarana Burke, and Don Lemon — authors who all had new releases in 2021 that are focused on the issue of racism.”
Social Justice Books for Kids
Sales of kids’ books with a focus on diversity and social issues also took off in 2020, and the growth continued in 2021. Unit sales volume for these books reached 19.9 million units in 2021, rising 10% over 2020. Comparing 2021 volume to 2019 levels, sales grew by 29%.
“Children’s fiction categories play an important role in educating children about social justice because the messages are easier to deliver in a story,” McLean said. “Growth areas suggest buyers are eager to help their children be a good friend, better understand their emotions and develop skills to feel confident and secure.”
Top growth subjects in the kids’ diversity and social issues category in 2021 were all fiction and included the following subjects:
- Friendship subject sales grew 10% year-over-year, bolstered by titles that promote the importance of kindness and being a good friend, including “A Friend is Someone Who,” by Marilee oy Mayfield, and “ABCs of Kindness,” by Patricia Hegarty.
- Self-esteem and self-reliance book sales grew 20%, with books that celebrate personal value and empowerment driving a large part of the increase.
- Books that help children understand their emotions rose 9%, including “In My Heart,” by Jo Witek.
- Books focused on prejudice and racism grew 40%, led by Amanda Gorman’s children’s book, “Change Sings,” which aims to teach young readers they have the power to make change, big or small.
- Books about emigration and immigration grew 32%, led by “When Stars are Scattered,” by Vitoria Jamieson, a graphic novel detailing the day-to-day life of a young refugee.