Explaining the latest literary trend: 'Grip lit'

Unreliable narrators abound in 'grip lit.'
Unreliable narrators abound in the latest trend of 'grip lit.'
Courtesy of publishers

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What is "grip lit" and why is it so popular?

You've heard of "chick lit." Now there's "grip lit."

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The term started getting tossed around last year: It generally refers to the recent boom of dark crime fiction written by women. There's Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl," Paula Hawkins' "The Girl on the Train" and Ruth Ware's "In a Dark, Dark Wood" — just to name a few.

Readers are gobbling up the dark, psychological thrillers, which often feature unreliable narrators.

The numbers support the genre's popularity: According to sales numbers in BookBrunch, fiction sales are up, and crime and thriller novels make up 29% of that market.

BookBrunch also has a theory about the sudden thirst for dark thrillers: "Harry Potter" is to blame. The fantasy series phenomenon inspired an entire generation of readers, who are now shaping the marketplace.

From BookBrunch:

A generation of women in their twenties and early thirties, who grew up reading Harry Potter, are now energising the book trade in three key markets: so-called 'grip lit', children's picture books and adult colouring books.

The Harry Potter-raised cohort has become a dominant force in the book-buying world, and their taste for dark tales may be driving the "grip lit" boom.

So while psychological thrillers aren't new — see Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca" or anything by Ruth Rendell — they are definitely having a moment, and Hollywood is paying attention.

"Gone Girl" was adapted immediately, and the film of "The Girl on the Train" hits theaters this fall. With movies driving even more interest in the original books, "grip lit" likely isn't going anywhere any time soon.