'The New Jim Crow' and 'The Communist Manifesto': Best-sellers in the age of Trump

Recent best-sellers at Symposium Books
Recent best-sellers at Symposium Books in Providence, R.I.
Courtesy of publishers

Every week, The Thread checks in with booksellers around the country about their favorite books of the moment. This week, we spoke with Anne Marie Keohane, the owner of Symposium Books in Providence, R.I.

The reading tastes of Symposium Books customers seemed to change overnight, Keohane said, after the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Books that have been staples on high school syllabi are suddenly flying out the door.

"People have started off the year on a more academic setting than we've seen before," she said.

They're buying up classic dystopic novels like "1984," "Animal Farm" and "A Brave New World."

Keohane said that, in fourteen years of owning the store, she can't remember buying a new copy of "A Brave New World" from the publisher, because she always had a reliable stack of used copies. Not now.

Customers are also snapping up "The Communist Manifesto" and Sinclair Lewis' "It Can't Happen Here."

When it comes to newer titles, she's having a hard time keeping "The New Jim Crow," by Michelle Alexander, and "Hillbilly Elegy," by J.D. Vance, in stock. "The New Jim Crow" looks at the effect of mass incarceration on African-Americans. "Hillbilly Elegy" is a memoir about growing up in Appalachia.

"'The New Jim Crow,' we're selling them daily," Keohane said. "We sold a lot when it first came out. It slowed down like all books do, but here it's back in again."

"People are reading all of these texts now, both to get an understanding of what they feel 'went wrong' with the election. But then others, who agree with how the elections turned out, are reading it just to see what everyone else is talking about," Keohan said. "We're selling out constantly of them."

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