February 14, 2022

Reading Between the Palm Lines


Reading Between the Palm Lines
If you're going to peddle fancy-sounding superstitions, at least do it in an upscale place like St. Petersburg's Dom Knigi. Wikimedia Commons, Pierre André.

Commercialized spirituality is doing what it does best: making money.

While that's hardly news on its own, what is remarkable is the rate at which the Russian literary appetite for books on spiritualism has grown: up 53% from last year, according to a recent study. This is a sharp rise from last year, when the genre only grew 13%.

Books in this category cover subjects and practices as diverse as the use of tarot cards (the most popular subject; sales of tarot cards grew 486% over the last year!), predictions, positive thinking / mindfulness, divination, and karma. Experts speculate that Russians, feeling the squeeze of pandemic restrictions, are looking for a little more agency in their life, and they're looking for it in ooey-gooey spiritualism.

Since these books are undoubtedly written by well-meaning gurus with no stake in whether they make money on their solutions which certainly work (after all, they're spiritual experts with no need for cash), it should come as no surprise that this genre accounted for only 400 million rubles ($5.3 million).

At the same time, books on established religion fell 30%, which is surprising, given Russia's historic ties to conservative Orthodoxy.

What a great time to be a self-help author!

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