Dystopian Novels Are All the Rage

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Readers will not forget — literature is a form of resistance.

Photo from Electric Literature’s Contributing Editor, Kelly Luce

We’re only eleven days into the Trump Administration, and readers in enormous numbers are coping by stocking their shelves with dystopian novels. George Orwell’s classic 1984, has been making headlines for seizing the number one spot on Amazon’s Best Sellers list. Everyone probably remembers that book from a high school summer reading list, but as the revival suggests, it deserves a second (or third) look. Through his narrative, Orwell warns of the dangers of totalitarian rule, which he saw taking hold in Russia and Spain at the time he penned the classic novel (it doesn’t take the most incisive reader to see the troubling parallels with our current reality).

According to Boing Boing, Sinclair Lewis’s, It Can’t Happen Here, which is described as a “timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America,” has also surged to the top of the Amazon charts. Like Orwell Lewis was writing in the 1930s during a time of anxiety and political uncertainty, as Hitler and other fascists rose to power. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World are also seeing an increase in demand.

Confirming the trend, The Atlantic reports that John Steinbeck’s 1961 novel The Winter of Our Discontent has enjoyed a recent boost, and that readers are searching for lessons outside of fiction, purchasing Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, and J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy in great quantities.

Let’s forget about a silver lining. The situation is bad, and too many people are suffering to take comfort in sales figures. Still, there’s a historical pattern of remarkable writing taking place during frightful political times. While it doesn’t seem promising that many positive strides will be made in the next four years, perhaps we can count on Trump inspiring the next earth shattering political dystopia (that is, if he doesn’t create one himself).

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