Sales of '1984' and other classic dystopic novels soar

Dystopia is climbing the charts.
These dystopic classics, published an average of 60 years ago, are suddenly best-sellers again.
Courtesy of publishers

With "alternative facts" the latest catchphrase, George Orwell's "1984" is No. 1 on — and the publisher has ordered an additional 75,000 copies.

Signet Classics told The Associated Press in a statement Wednesday that sales have been "remarkably robust" for a book that already is a classroom standard. The publisher noted that books such as Orwell's tap into "the fears, anxieties, and even hopes" of readers.

The heightened interest in Orwell's dystopian classic, in which language itself is held captive, follows assertions by President Donald Trump and some White House aides about the reported size of the crowd at his inauguration and whether voter fraud led him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton last fall. Administration adviser Kellyanne Conway has called such assertions "alternate facts."

"1984" isn't the only dystopic book climbing the charts. Sales of Sinclair Lewis' "It Can't Happen Here" spiked after the election and now sits at No. 17 on Amazon's best seller list. Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" is at No. 20; Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" is at No. 28; and Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" is at No. 32.

Know your dystopia

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"1984" by George Orwell, originally published in 1949

Written when the year 1984 seemed like a far-off future, Orwell's classic novel takes place in a highly regimented world, where "Thought Police" prosecute "unapproved thoughts." The state rolls out a new language, Newspeak, as a method of controlling such thoughts. This is also the book that gave us "Big Brother" — the term that became shorthand for governmental surveillance.

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"Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley, originally published in 1932

Huxley's dystopia takes place in a future London, where all human reproduction has been moved to Hatcheries, which turn out nearly identical individuals bound for predetermined fates: leaders or laborers. Rather than question the order of things, people dose themselves with soma, a drug to make it all palatable.

Brave New World Brave New World

"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood, originally published in 1985

Atwood imagines a future where a theocracy has overtaken the United States and women have been stripped of all power. Young, fertile women have been forced into the role of handmaids, and assigned to powerful families to bear the husbands' children. All movements are monitored, reading and writing are forbidden, and the bodies of those who disobey are hung from the wall for all to see. The recent popularity of the book may also be tied to the forthcoming television adaptation.

Handmaid's Tale Handmaid's Tale

"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury, originally published in 1953

Bradbury's dystopia is built around the censorship of books. The novel's protagonist, Guy Montag, is a fireman: His job is to burn any and all books that are discovered.

Fahrenheit 451 Fahrenheit 451

"It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis, originally published in 1935

Lewis's satirical novel imagined an alternate history in which a charismatic leader named Buzz Windrip defeated FDR at the ballot box and pushed the country toward fascism. The inspiration for the novel reportedly came from Lewis' wife, Dorothy Thompson, who interviewed Adolf Hitler in 1931.

Can't Happen Here Can't Happen Here