For a glimpse of the country’s political polarization, check out this Sunday’s New York Times bestseller list. Political books occupy the top five places on the hardcover fiction list, but they offer widely divergent views.
No.1 on the list is Fox News host Mark Levin’s “American Marxism”, who argues that liberals, including President Biden, are pushing a socialist agenda. Two titles that follow present very critical views on the Trump administration: “Here, Right Matters,” a memoir by Alexander Vindman, the retired US Army Lt. Col. who played a role in the Trump’s first impeachment; and “I Alone Can Fix It,” an explosive account of Trump’s last year in office by Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker. Next are the books by conservative media stars Ben Shapiro and Jesse Watters.
“The same kind of polarization that we see in mainstream culture is happening in the book market,” said Kristen McLean, analyst at NPD BookScan, a market research firm. “The appetite is there on both sides of the political divide. “
When Biden took office, editors braced for a crisis. The Trump years had been a huge boon to their industry, with a torrent of bestsellers that included explosive revelations by Bob Woodward and Michael Wolff, and revealing memoirs of John Bolton and Mary Trump. Sales of political books hit a 20-year high, according to NPD BookScan.
As expected, sales of political books fell in the first seven months of this year. But publishers remain optimistic about the genre. While sales have declined, the numbers are still well above what they were in 2016 and even in 2019. Books by conservative authors are starting to pick up, as is often the case when there is. a Democrat in the White House.
“It’s easier to sell political books when your audience is in opposition, when they feel besieged and more edgy and angry,” Thomas Spence, president and publisher of the house, told me. of conservative edition Regnery. “The first two quarters of 2021 have been great for us. “
However, the conservative book market also carries risks for large publishers. After the uprising on the United States Capitol in January, Simon & Schuster canceled plans to publish a book by Senator Josh Hawley, who tried to overturn the results of the presidential election. (Mr. Hawley, who accused the company of violating the First Amendment, published his book with Regnery.)
Simon & Schuster later announced that he had signed a two-pound contract with former Vice President Mike Pence. The move outraged liberals, including some of Simon & Schuster’s own authors and staff, who signed a petition calling on the company to stop publishing books by former Trump officials. But the petition failed to sway executives, and news broke shortly after Simon & Schuster bought a book from Kellyanne Conway.
These acquisitions have not appeased conservatives like Tucker Carlson, who attacked Simon & Schuster for his decision to drop Hawley, and accused the company of censorship in his new book, “The Long Slide”. (His claim to censorship is offset by the fact that his book was published by, well, a Simon & Schuster imprint.)
Then there’s the prospect of a memoir by Trump himself, which would be a guaranteed bestseller but present editors with factual challenges and an inevitable return of his critics.
Despite these tensions, editors are rushing to sign conservative titles, and conservatives continue to rush to write them. Jared Kushner and William Barr have also sold books. Still, many top-house editors are reluctant to provoke a reaction by working with far-right Republicans, and the mistrust can be mutual. This summer, two industry veterans announced they are launching a new conservative publishing company to cater to right-wing authors who feel left out by mainstream publishers.
It’s unclear if publishers will see the kind of blockbusters we saw during the Trump era. But analysts predict that the polarization of cultural and social issues will continue to boost book sales on both sides of the political divide.
“Now it feels like culture wars are on again,” McLean said. “Everyone took a deep breath and we’re back. “
Alexandra Alter covers publishing and the literary world for The Times.
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Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangrams were ineffective and infectious. Here is today’s puzzle – or you can play it online.
Here are today’s mini crosswords and a hint: Summa ___ laude (three letters).
If you want to play more, find all of our games here.