NEW YORK: “Fire and Fury,” “A Higher Loyalty,” “Fear”: three books about Donald Trump have each sold more than a million copies in the United States, a first that reflects Americans’ fascination with their ever-surprising president.
The great majority of successful books on politics have been written by politicians themselves — or by ghostwriters working with them.
Barack Obama set the standard in the genre, selling a combined 4.6 million copies of his autobiographical books “Dreams From My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.”
In their time, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton and even Sarah Palin all topped the best-seller lists at least for a few weeks, while not reaching Obama’s lofty level.
And in 1976, Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward sold 630,000 copies of his “The Final Days,” chronicling the dramatic unwinding of the Nixon presidency.
After that, however, there have been no chart-toppers about a president.
But in just nine months, “Fire and Fury” by journalist and author Michael Wolff, “A Higher Loyalty” by former FBI chief James Comey, and Woodward’s “Fear” have sold a combined total of more than five million copies, according to numbers reviewed by AFP.
A desire to understand
“I’m not surprised,” said David Corn, co-author of “Russian Roulette,” a book about Russian interference in the American presidential campaign.
“There is deep desire on the part of many Americans for an understanding of what happened in this country” during the 2016 presidential campaign, he said, and also of “what’s going on now within the Trump White House.”
In the past, books about a presidency were generally published only after it was over, leaving sources freer to talk and allowing greater historical perspective.
But, “as ever, Trump has sped everything up,” Jon Meacham, the author of several best-selling political and historical books, told MSNBC. “It’s almost as if we had a webcam” providing live coverage of events inside the White House.
Trump himself has, however unintentionally, helped promote these books — all of which paint an apocalyptic picture of his administration — by firing off highly critical Twitter messages about them.
“The Woodward book is a Joke,” he tweeted shortly before “Fear” was published, “just another assault against me.”
“I guess people want to see how bad it really is” in the White House, said Marianne Elliott, who is on a long waiting list at the New York public library to read “Fear.”
Many opposition Democrats, though repelled by Trump, his politics and his blustering personality, have been eager to read anything they can find about him.
“They want more bad information, to make you feel better because you know he’s terrible,” Elliott said. “It’s comforting.”
Trump the author
While coming nowhere near the success of Woodward or Wolff, several books favourable to the president have also done well — helped by Trump’s endorsements.
“In our very divided society, people are feeling motivated by their political passion in deciding what books to read and buy,” said Corn.
Trump’s impact on the publishing world doesn’t stop with the current best-sellers. Books like “1984” and “Fahrenheit 451,” portraying totalitarian regimes that manipulate people through disinformation and propaganda, have enjoyed newfound popularity.
Nor does the surging interest in political books seem close to peaking.
“The Fifth Risk” by Michael Lewis (author of “Liar’s Poker” and “The Big Short”), “The Apprentice” by Washington Post journalist Greg Miller, and the Stormy Daniels book “Full Disclosure,” about the adult film star’s alleged sexual liaison with Trump, are all set to reach bookstores on Tuesday.
“One potential problem is that people get too accustomed to the outrages of the Trump administration,” Corn said, “and therefore become less interested in books like these.
“But I don’t see that happening any time soon.”
Might Trump himself set a new sales record? The onetime real estate magnate, co-author of 1987’s best-selling “The Art of the Deal,” has already said he plans eventually to write “the real book” about his presidency.
Corn is not holding his breath.
“According to The Washington Post, Trump has made over 5,000 false statements as president. So I would not look forward to looking at any book of his as an accurate reflection of reality.”