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Brave new world.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Mass-Market Paperbacks in the Classroom

Mass-market paperbacks can be useful in classroom instruction in a variety of ways. Although the texts of these books are interesting in their own regard, the instruction plans below will focus on the information we can learn from mass-market paperback covers. This cover-centric model is useful for a few reasons. First, since mass-market paperbacks needed to grab their audiences through their covers, there is so much we can understand about audiences and genre expectations from covers alone. Secondly, since these texts were often printed on cheap acidic paper and bound using glue and paper bindings, our mass-market paperback collection is highly fragile due to the deterioration of their physical components; as such, our collection is limited to bibliographic study.

Below are suggestions for how you can incorporate mass-market paperbacks into the classroom. We have given a brief introduction to using these texts for visual analysis, content analysis, bibliographic & author studies, and genre-specific exercises.

Lesson Introduction: Books as Cultural Objects

Whether your students will be working in-person with paperbacks or using images found online, it can often be useful to give students an idea of why it is important to use these paperbacks in the first place.

In order to give more context on how popular and cheap print can be helpful, we recommend having students watch the following videos:

Part 1: Books as Cultural Objects: Introduction

Part 2: Book Size

Part 3: Book Covers

Part 4: Typography

Part 5: The Book Spine

Part 6: Paper Quality

Part 7: Compare & Contrast

Part 8: Bonus Segment: Blind Date with a Book

Lesson Plans and Additional Resources

Follow the links below for lesson plans, unit sequences, and more inspiration for incorporating mass-market paperbacks into the classroom. 

Lesson Plan: Visual Analysis

Lesson Plan: Content Analysis

Quick Tips: Brainstorming Lesson Ideas 

Tracking Multiple Editions/ Bibliographic Histories

The prolific amount of mass-market "literary" paperbacks also allows for the potential for students to research what particular editions of famous authors' works can show us about an author's career, identity, and audiences. Activities like the visual analysis activity (linked above) can be adapted to be author specific, and can present these editions alongside other editions of interest.

Genre-Specific Exercises

Any of the activities above can be done in regards to specific genres studied in a classroom setting. You could also think about things like film adaptations versus book covers in specific genres, state of the genres now versus then, etc.