This post by John Heath, whatever it might say above
Taking a look at the bestselling lists from 2007 and 2008, I have not been surprised that they generally look a lot like those from previous years. But perhaps my pessimism is premature. So far in 2008 there has been one major, wonderful change in America’s bestselling reading: the comparative absence of bestselling political spew. We are already over a third of the way through the election year and there have been only four bestsellers specifically about American politics (remember, in that last presidential election year there were 40—did I mention that I read them all?). And these four take a distinctly different tone than those from the previous decade. Steven Colbert’s I Am America (And So Can You) undermines conservatism through humor, not wrath; Glenn Beck’s conservative An Inconvenient Book can be wittily self-effacing. Even Newt Gingrich has climbed onto the bestselling lists by claiming we need Real Change and that America is not divided into red and blue (although, well, it’s still the Left that causes most of the problems). And the ultimate change-fan, Barack Obama, offers his now-famous optimistic take on the future in The Audacity of Hope.
These are the four bestsellers? These silly, hopeful, not-very-angry books? Get outta town.
We keep hearing that Americans are ready for change. Are the bestseller lists evidence that we are making it happen? Are these books a good indication of a change in the zeitgeist? (It’s a well-established law that every essay on culture must use the word zeitgeist—I held off until the last paragraph to keep you in suspense.) Does the success of a woman, an African-American, and a maverick in the primaries suggest we are fed up with acrimonious dichotomies offered us in 2004 in both our reading and our political choices?
We’ll see. Readers still have over half a year to start buying up the latest screed from the radio talk show hosts and New York Times pundits. Can we resist? My guess is that within a few months reasoned debate will be harder to find than Ann Coulter’s maternal instinct or Michael Moore’s copy of The South Beach Diet. But I’m hoping—really, really hoping—that I’m wrong.