Trump's unintentional promotion of books - and not only those on him

NEW YORK • Fire And Fury, A Higher Loyalty, Fear: three books about Mr Donald Trump have each sold more than one 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.

Former US president 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, former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin all topped the best-seller lists at least for a few weeks, while not reaching Mr 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 Richard 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 Federal Bureau of Investigation chief James Comey, and Woodward's Fear have sold a combined total of more than five million copies, according to numbers reviewed by Agence France-Presse.

"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.

Mr 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 Ms Marianne Elliott, who is on a long waiting list at the New York public library to read Fear.

Many opposition Democrats, though repelled by Mr 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," Ms Elliott said. "It's comforting."

While coming nowhere near the success of Woodward or Wolff, several books favourable to the President have also done well - helped by Mr 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.

Mr 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 Mr Trump, are all set to reach bookstores today.

"One potential problem is that people get too accustomed to the outrages of the Trump administration and therefore become less interested in books like these," said Corn. "But I don't see that happening any time soon."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2018, with the headline 'Trump's unintentional promotion of books - and not only those on him'. Subscribe