There have been two major sales spikes in the past week, both of them noteworthy due to their unexpected rise in popularity and the fact that both of them were highlighted from the stage at the Democratic National Convention. The first was the “pocket Constitution,” which Khizr Khan held up in defiance to GOP candidate Donald Trump; Khan offered to loan his dog-eared copy to the candidate since he had obviously never read it. The other specific mention of a book was in former First Daughter–and possibly First Daughter again–Chelsea Clinton’s speech, who spoke passionately about her favorite childhood read, A Wrinkle in Time.
Both books received a surge in sales that launched them up the bestseller lists once they were mentioned. What experienced a sales push during the Republican National Convention? Booze and needlepoint pillows.
Despite the fact that the GOP candidate’s books were all ghostwritten–some of them by the woman who has taken the fall for plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech for Melania Trump’s RNC appearance–there are admittedly Republican party followers who can read, and who even enjoy it. But where was the push for a more dignified, cultured, and educated appearance from the Convention by professing a love of books?
Sadly, we’re hard pressed to find a public devotion to reading from the party leaders, other than the requisite mention of loving the Holy Bible, of course. And with the demographic breakdown of GOP supporters, it may not be hard to see why candidates are not reaching out to voters through literature, but rather instead through television personalities like Scott Baio and Duck Dynasty’s patriarch Phil Robertson, and longtime party icons like Ted Nugent.
According to research by Neil Irwin and Josh Katz of The Upshot, “Counties with Trump support correlate with counties where voters have less education, work in old-economy jobs, and when asked about their ethnicity say ‘I’m an American.'” And as Sam Wang reported for the Princeton Election Consortium, “Trump voters tend to have lower incomes than Republican voters as a whole.”
There may be something at work here other than just a lack of education and appreciation for reading, and it speaks to a national crisis within the world of books. According to Bill Fay’s article for Debt.org, “Republican affiliation in cities with populations over 500,000 is only 39 percent, compared with 52 percent in suburban areas and 59 percent in rural areas. Suburban communities strongly lean Republican, and rural areas are almost exclusively Republican.”
In other words, areas of the country that have the least access to bookstores and libraries tend to be predominantly Republican.
With the sales spike in A Wrinkle in Time following Ms. Clinton’s speech, the numbers brought it even higher than sales for Trump’s most famous (ghostwritten) title, The Art of the Deal, whose author has spoken out against the candidate with thoughts on his possible mental illness and his status as a sociopath.