How one book store brilliantly used clickbait to get people reading fiction.

Fewer people are reading fiction than ever before.

According to a report from the National Endowment for the Arts, the percentage of U.S. adults who read literature fell to the lowest level recorded since the group started tracking the statistic in 1982. It's anyone's guess as to why we're spending less time reading for fun, but one theory is that people are simply spending more time online and don't make time for books.

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.


Last year, Dallas bookstore The Wild Detectives tested out a unique approach to getting people interested in the literary classics: clickbait.

Yes, clickbait. It worked for internet posts, but would it get people to read Hemingway? That's what The Wild Detectives wanted to find out.

The premise for the experiment was simple: They took beloved pieces of literature and gave them modern clickbait titles. For example, "The Jungle Book" became "He befriended a bear when he was a kid and fate reunites them years later." "Dracula" became "Romanian man discovers shocking fact about garlic that will give you nightmares," and "Frankenstein" became "German doctor becomes first to perform full body transplant."

The Wild Detectives didn't stop there — they actually tested these headlines on Facebook. People who clicked on the posts were taken to the full text of the public domain stories, which the store uploaded to its Medium profile.

"When it's OKAY to slut shame single mothers" describes the plot of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" pretty well. Photo from The Wild Detectives/YouTube.

The coolest part of this campaign wasn't just the cheeky titles and Facebook trickery, but rather, that it netted some majorly positive results. According to the store's case study, they experienced a 150% increase in engagement with their Facebook posts and a 1,400% increase in traffic to their website.

The store did it for brand awareness, and it clearly paid off.

"British guy dies after selfie gone wrong" might be the nudge you need to pick up Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Grey." Photo from The Wild Detectives/YouTube.

Why go through so much trouble to encourage people to read fiction? Does it really matter what people read?

Aside from being a good way to spend some extra time, reading literary fiction actually serves a pretty important purpose in building empathy.

A number of recent studies concluded that literary fiction plays a role in developing the necessary skills to be able put ourselves in someone else's shoes. According to a study by Keith Oatley, the director of the Cognitive Science program at the University of Toronto, the act of reading fiction helps build empathy due, in part, to the way people engage with stories on an emotional and analytical level as well as the content of books themselves.

"Fiction can be thought of as a form of consciousness of selves and others that can be passed from an author to a reader or spectator, and can be internalized to augment everyday cognition," wrote Oatley.

"Teenage girl tricked boyfriend into killing himself" captures the essence of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." Photo from The Wild Detectives/YouTube.

Empathy is essential in helping create a better, more livable world.

Social skills are a key factor in predicting how successful someone will be in life. Empathy is a driving force behind social change, and it's what makes up the very foundation of civil society.

If building these skills relies on picking up the occasional book or two, we should celebrate acts of innovation like The Wild Detectives' "Litbaits" campaign that aim to reignite a passion for reading. After all, it's for the sake of humanity.

Learn more about what made Litbaits the success it is in the video below:

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

The year 2018 was a pivotal one in the produce industry, the Red Delicious was supplanted as the most popular apple in America by the sweeter, crisper Gala.

It was only a matter of time. The Red Delicious looked the part of the king of the apples with its deep red, flawless skin. But its interior was soft, mealy, and pretty bland. The Red Delicious was popular for growers because its skin hid any bruises and it was desired by consumers because of its appearance.

But these days it's having a hard time competing with the delectable crunch provided by the Gala, honeycrisp, and Fuji.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."