Adult coloring books are giving Harper Lee a run for the money on best-seller lists this summer.
Dover Publications has sold more than 3 million adult coloring books with titles like "Flower Fashion Fantasies." Quarto Publishing will have 1.3 million in print this year ranging from mandalas to fairies. "Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt," by one of the genre's most popular illustrators, Johanna Basford, remains a top seller on Amazon two years after its initial publication.
In fact, adult coloring books occupied as many of eight of the top 20 slots in a spot-check of Amazon's best-seller list this week, including "Creative Cats" and "Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns."
"We cannot print them fast enough," said Amy Yodanis, Quarto's head of marketing. "We are getting orders of 60,000 at one time from some of our biggest retailers."
There are coloring clubs, coloring contests and a frenzy of coloring posts on social media. Parade magazine devoted a Sunday cover to the trend. Dover plans a national coloring book day on Aug. 2.
"People are stressed and anxious all the time," said Jeannine Dillon, Quarto's publisher. "Coloring is a way to calm down and unwind at the end of the day."
Psychologists and therapists have helped this trend blossom by using coloring as a way to help their patients.
"A lot of people find coloring soothing; I think it's the sensory aspect," said Marti Faist, an art therapist in Indianapolis who has helped people with mental health and chemical dependency problems. "When someone is coloring, their mind and body are operating in a more integrated way. It's almost a meditative process.
"I've watched people under acute stress, almost panic-attack level, color and have their blood pressure go down very quickly. It's cathartic for them."
But art therapy is not the only reason coloring has taken off. As hobbies go, coloring books are incredibly simple: portable, easy to pick up and put down, old-school analog pursuits with no batteries or messages, no calorie-counting, skill-building, classes or scores.
And the finished product is perfect for minimalists. Pottery and paintings demand shelf and wall space; knitted scarves cry out to be worn or bestowed as gifts. But a colored-in page takes up almost no space at all (unless you frame it).
Jason Keyser, 42, a stay-at-home dad from a suburb of Sacramento, California, picked up the hobby a year ago in a program to help him with anxiety and depression after a friend passed away. "I've been doing it ever since," said Keyser, who placed third in a coloring contest for a picture he completed from Dover's "Asian Tattoo Designs."
"It's really relaxing," he said. "Takes your mind away from stressful things in life."