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Book sales are up. Nevadans share what they're reading

A display of banned books is in a Barnes & Noble book store in Pittsford, New York, on Sunday, September 25, 2022.
Ted Shaffrey
A display of banned books is in a Barnes & Noble book store in Pittsford, New York, on Sunday, September 25, 2022.

People lament the intelligence of their fellow Americans. No matter who says it, everyone tends to think the other person is one who needs to read more.

Well, Americans are reading more. Total book sales last year were still higher than before the pandemic (when everybody was reading because many people weren’t working). About 767 million verified book sales happened in 2023 in the United States. In 2019, it was 697 million.

Books are big, whether people are listening to audiobooks, or reading them on a tablet or a good, old-fashioned paper book.

In fact, it's the latter option people prefer the most — and tend to go back to even if they've been choosing audio or digital. "We have that conversation almost daily, where people are kind of sick of reading on their ebook or only listening through Audible," says Jeff Anderson, co-owner of Las Vegas Books used bookstore. "And they want the physical thing that they know they own. One of the things we hear pretty regularly is now, ebook providers aren't really selling you the book — they'll go in and change it if they feel like it needs changing. They'll take it back if they feel like they want to, much like digital game sales. So now they're coming in seeking out the physical books because they know it's theirs."

Anderson adds that most people looking to sell back books come with mysteries and thrillers, but the genres customers seek out the most are horror and young adult.

Las Vegas Books also sells local interest and local author titles. One it may want to add to those shelves is Lissa Townsend Rodgers' Shameless: Women of the Underworld, recently published by Las Vegas-based Huntington Press.

"There's been a lot of books about the mob, as we know, but pretty much all of them center on the men — the women are just sort of mentioned [and] they're this little supporting turn," she says. "And I've always been a fan of stories people don't tell, [and] that side character that seems interesting that you want to look at more. So that was the inspiration for this. And also, the more I learned about these women, the more I found out that what we knew about them wasn't really accurate."

Each of the six women Rodgers profiled was a unique underworld character, but also had a lot in common. "They were all women who did not do what society expected of them," she says. "They were all fairly flamboyant — people you would notice when they came into a room. They were also all women who didn't like being told what to do or being pushed around. And that may have also been what drew them into this milieu ... in a time and place where women didn't have a lot of options. Someone like Stephanie St. Claire, she was never gonna get to run a business as a Black woman and especially not as a Black woman who was an immigrant. But in Harlem, she could take over the numbers racket."

Books recommended in this show:

  • Shameless: Women of the Underworld by Lissa Townsend Rodgers
  • Shadow Beneath the Lights: A Vegas Cabbie Noir by Andrew Mackenzie
  • Go Down Together: The Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn
  • To Earn Submission by Evelina Cortez
  • A Fever in the Heartland, by Timothy Egan
  • The Women by Kristin Hannah
  • The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
  • From Rust by Daniel James Clark
  • The Many Lives of Mama Love by Lara Love Hardin
  • Profit Song by Paul Lynch
  • In Nineteen Ways of Looking at Consciousness by Patrick House
  • Lou Reed: The King of New York by Will Hermes
  • Open Throat by Henry Hoke

Guests: Lissa Townsend Rodgers, author and Desert Companion contributor; Jeff Anderson, co-owner, Las Vegas Books

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Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.
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