Can you fight bullies with books?

The publishing industry shows signs of maturity with a spate of new books addressing bullying.

Books tagged with the key word ‘bullying’ – works like 'Dear Bully,' in which well-known authors describe their own experiences of being bullied – have seen an increase of 500 in the last decade.

For all its get-rich-quick “insta-books,” explicitly erotic mega-sellers, and memoirs of questionable authenticity, every so often the publishing world does us proud. 

The most recent instance is an example of the very best of publishing addressing the very worst of social problems – bullying. 

Bully books are clawing their way into publishing houses and up bestseller lists, according to a recent article in The New York Times that explores the attention – and profits – books on bullies are receiving of late.

According to the library catalog World Cat, books tagged with the key word ‘bullying’ saw an increase of 500 in the last decade to some 1,891 such books in 2012, as reported by the Times. 

“Bullying has always been a popular topic, but this year we are seeing bullying titles coming out as never before, and there is no end in sight,” Elizabeth Bird of the New York Public Library, told the paper.

And bully books aren’t just for kids. It turns out they represent the rare publishing trend that blankets all age groups, from children and teens to adults. As an example, the Times cites “Bully,” a picture book for elementary-grade students, “The Bully Book,” for middle school children, “Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories,” an anthology for teens, and “Sticks and Stones,” by Emily Bazelon, a recent release for adults.

But it doesn’t end there. Our favorite part of this story is that authors and publishers aren’t just looking for a bestseller or to make a quick buck. Besides writing and publishing books on bullying, the publishing industry has gone a step further, building antibullying campaigns, setting up antibullying support networks, and organizing conferences on combating bullying. 

Among those efforts are campaigns by such publishers are Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harlequin, including the latter’s “Love is Louder” movement. There’s also a Facebook site called Young Adult Authors Against Bullying and a conference in Missouri for authors of books on bullying.

What’s more, “In response to government cues, libraries, schools and even bookstores like Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest retail book chain, have been holding events to talk about the problem and provide help for parents and children,” reports the Times.

As distressing as the subject and its real world tragedies are, we’re heartened to see the publishing world use books as a means to address the problem of bullying – and not just with ink on paper, but with campaigns, conferences, and candid conversations. For publishers, the potential to affect proactive change on a variety of subjects are endless and we’re eager to see more.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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