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The Trump Fighter’s Book Club

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 3:57 pm    Post subject: The Trump Fighter’s Book Club Reply with quote

The Trump Fighter’s Book Club
BY Jason Pinter
Book lovers and booksellers loved Obama, who always shared his reading lists. It’s different with Trump: He inspires reading, too, but of decidedly dystopian titles.

Throughout the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, book lovers were delighted to have a commander in chief who possessed and publicized a voracious reading habit. Obama made frequent trips to local independent bookshops, and released his summer reading list so book lovers could take cues from his purchases. In the final days of his presidency, Obama granted an interview to Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic at The New York Times, in which he said that books were often his secret to surviving the turmoil of the White House.

Reading allowed Obama to “slow down and get perspective.” He enriched his mind with books both classic and contemporary, such as Colson Whitehead’s National Book Award-winning The Underground Railroad, V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, and Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies.

Someone who reads—as opposed to, say, watching TV news all day—is, I imagine, more compassionate and disciplined when it comes to the nuanced and tricky decisions that a president faces every day,” says Dana Schwartz, arts and culture writer for the New York Observer and author of the forthcoming novel And We’re Off. “Books by definition force you to engage with someone else’s viewpoint.”

Yet in Donald Trump, America’s 45th president, we behold a self-admitted lifetime non-reader, save for the pile of Trump-related Google Alerts his assistants print out for him each morning. Yet a series of controversial feuds, policy decisions, and seeming ignorance of American history has sparked massive interest in several titles that stand in almost defiance—or fear—of the Trump presidency.

Unlike President Obama, who inspired reading based on his own love of books, President Trump seems to have sparked sales of books that either defy—or possibly mirror—his policies and behaviors. And over the last few months, Americans have flocked to support authors and institutions Trump has either willfully or accidentally discredited.

“There’s this contrarian American spirit stuff, that’s always angling for some underdog otherness,” says journalist and novelist Porochista Khakpour (The Last Illusion). “The more the president boasts of not reading, the more people wonder about reading. The more the president says The New York Times is failing and fake, the more they subscribe and it succeeds.” (NYT subscriptions doubled in 2016.)

On Jan. 14, Trump tweeted that Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a revered civil rights leader, was “all talk, talk, talk—no action or results.” Trump’s comments fueled a huge backlash, and in subsequent weeks, Lewis’s autobiographical graphic novel trilogy March saw sales skyrocket. In the two weeks proceeding Trump’s attacks, March: Book One sold 1,496 copies and the trilogy’s box set sold 1,709 copies (per Bookscan). In the week following Trump’s tweets, sales of March: Book One jumped to 7,268 copies and the box set to 7,669 copies. Subsequently bolstered by winning many prominent awards, March: Book One became the first graphic novel to land on The New York Times non-fiction paperback bestseller list since Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.

On Jan. 22, in an interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway cited the now-infamous use of “alternative facts” to determine that Trump’s inauguration was the largest of all time (it was not, by any measurable metric). Conway’s use of the term “alternative facts” struck many as a particularly Orwellian turn of phrase. The week following Conway’s remarks, sales of George Orwell’s dystopian classic, 1984, increased nearly 600 percent, and the book has remained near the top of Amazon’s rankings on both print and digital lists. Alexandra Alter of The New York Times reported that Signet has reprinted 500,000 copies of 1984, more than they typically sell in an entire year.

According to Orwell, political language “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable,” which seems even more prescient after Trump’s dismissive comments about Vladimir Putin’s alleged murderous treatment of political opponents in an interview broadcast on Feb. 5 with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News.


There is hope, though, that President Obama will continue to advocate for books even after his departure from the Oval Office. Adds Weinman: “Obama will still (I hope!) buy books at bookstores. He’ll have avenues for recommending titles. And those in the arts, and outside of it, will be more than happy to take up his recommendations.”

Many feel inspired to stand up to President Trump through their words, because the extent to which his policies might cause global upheaval and personal strife remains, to some, frighteningly unclear. Says the Iranian-born Khakpour, “I don’t think I have a choice. I’m going to put my voice and thoughts out there until they are silenced for good, which is already a possibility.”

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