Behind the counter of La nouvelle page, a very recent small bookstore in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, four vacation books for adults are ostensibly enthroned. “This one is a hit with our customers!” exclaims Charlotte Philippon, the hostess, pointing to the sober and chic Book of literary activities offered by Gallimard. Then she points to another: “He too is a great success!” With its colourful, humorous and summery cover, On vacation, Simone! from Denoël editions promises fun learning about the condition of women.
Launched in 2007 by Chiflet et Cie, closely followed by Hachette in 2008, the holiday notebook for adults has become for several summers the essential companion for long French holidays. “The market has exploded over the past five years,” confirms Nathalie Sannier Théret, director of the extracurricular department at Hachette and responsible for the Adult Passport collection. From now on, about twenty vacation books make up its offer in what constitutes “the biggest operation of the year” for the leader of the genre. At the competitor Solar, in second position, the trend is identical: according to the editorial director, Corinne Cesano, two titles were launched in 2018, nine today. The circulation is also swelling: 5,000 and 6,000 copies in 2018, against 9,000 this year, on average and per title. geo notebook Which traveler are you, Special History On vacation with Stéphane Bern, Games special issue by Our time Or 100% general culture by Larousse… the proposals are becoming ever more diversified and meet, unlike children’s exercise books, the use of which divides parents, with unanimous enthusiasm.
“It’s super addictive!” exclaims Maëva, 25, who bought My 2023 vacation notebook Solar editions. She finds the hot cover and has already put it in her suitcase, two days before going on vacation. “Inside, there are sudokus or crossword puzzles, but also news, coloring pages… Really well done, they offer a variety of content!” specifies the one who, as a child, was nevertheless traumatized by the vacation notebooks that her mother forced her to fill out. “I overcame this bad memory and discovered the pleasure of the notebook without constraint.” A difference that explains the wider success than that of children’s notebooks?
No doubt in part, but not only: for Nathalie Sannier Théret, the notebooks appeal to a general culture in all fields and are aimed at a readership eager for intellectual activity. They reflect, according to her, the desire to meet around common references and a desire to transmit this base to the younger generations. “But our great intuition was to give them a playful dimension,” she hastens to add. An analysis confirmed by the bookseller Charlotte Philippon: her customers certainly want to learn, but while having fun. “We get caught up in the game and we make our brains work”, explains Maëva who, two years ago, had bought a special young adult notebook to occupy her holidays intelligently, and since repeats the purchase.
A distant legacy of the Enlightenment
This thirst for learning in her free time, Nathalie Duval, professor of contemporary history, feels it during the summer universities offered by the Sorbonne. And also throughout the year through the Inter age university, open to any adult wishing to train and which mainly welcomes retirees. “For my history of feminism class, the amphitheater is full: 500 people!” she exclaims, delighted.
She is therefore not surprised by the success of these notebooks. “There is an appetite to learn, to understand our world that I find at all ages”, observes the one who can no longer imagine spending her holidays without cultivating herself. Could this desire to learn during the summer be a distant legacy of the Enlightenment? One thing is certain: holiday notebooks are a French specificity. “This market does not exist abroad,” observes Nathalie Sannier Théret, head of the Passport collections. And the demand is strong in the country of Voltaire. A request no doubt linked to the need to find one’s place in a confused and complex world. Would the holiday notebooks be a start? “Having knowledge is not enough, warns Nathalie Duval. Checking and contextualizing them seems essential to structure your thinking”. The teacher takes the little black dress as an example: one thing is to know of the existence of the perfume of the same name signed Guerlain, another thing to know that this symbol of the emancipation of women was invented by Coco Chanel during the Roaring Twenties. . Notebook On vacation, Simone! plenty of such examples.