For my 23rd birthday last week, I didn’t ask clothes or jewelry: I asked for a coloring book. Turns out I’m not the only (technically) adult who’s yearning for some nostalgic meditation: Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest are adult coloring books at number one on Amazon.com’s Best Sellers list. Who'd have thought?
Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book, the Scottish illustrator’s first made-for-grown-ups activity book published by Laurence King Publishing, was released in 2013 and has so far sold 1.4 million copies. But Basford saw a real surge in popularity with the release of Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Coloring Book this past February. Eleanor Blatherwick, the head of sales and marketing at Laurence Press, says that the books’ success came unexpectedly. “We knew the books would be beautiful but we didn’t realize it would be such a phenomenal success.”
The books are truly, exquisitely beautiful. As Basford told BuzzFeed, Secret Garden was inspired by Brodick Castle Gardens in Scotland, where her grandfather worked as head gardener and which “were wonderful places to play as a child.”
Basford's books have inspired adults to relive our own childhoods (or perhaps to live vicariously through Basford's undoubtedly fairytale-like childhood), to free ourselves of mundane stressors. "I think it is really relaxing, to do something analogue, to unplug," Basford told The Guardian. Coloring books are also an easy way to flex our creative muscles in a way we likely haven't since our good old paste-eating elementary school days. "For many people," the illustrator continues, "a blank sheet is very daunting; with a coloring book you just need to bring the color."
Reviews of the books are overwhelmingly positive, and many readers praise the activity's therapeutic powers. Of Secret Garden, one Amazon reviewer writes: "I'm a very anxious person by nature, but when I get my pencils out and sit down to color, I can almost feel the stressors draining away."
A piece of art, a boredom-killer, and a Xanax all in one: these coloring books are every adult's dream.