Donald Trump may or may not be making America great again, but he certainly is pumping up the publishing industry’s top line. As the second anniversary of Trump’s inauguration approaches, what began as a moderate stream of titles relating to the 45th president has swelled this season into a flood of releases. Barnes Noble recently reported that January–August unit sales of all political books were up 57% from the same period a year ago, with all but one of the overall top 10 bestsellers tied to Trump or his administration. Authors on both sides of the aisle are writing books, many of which are meant to confirm readers’ presuppositions, and bestseller lists have become a microcosm of the divisions roiling this country.
Some publishers, such as Regnery and Hachette’s Center Street imprint, play to Trump’s base, with books supporting his agenda and denouncing his critics, written by politicians, pundits, as well as former White House staffers and other former government employees. Some recent titles include Trump’s America by former Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich (Center Street); The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President by former White House communications director Sean Spicer (Regnery); America First: Understanding the Trump Doctrine by former State Department staffer Danny Toma (Regnery); and Trump the Blue Collar President by Anthony Scaramucci (Center Street), another former White House communications director.
Some of these books don’t tout Trump and his policies as much as they call out those who oppose him. Such books include Liars, Leakers, and Liberals: The Case Against the Anti-Trump Conspiracy by Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro (Center Street), which Trump talked up on Twitter when it was released, urging people to read it; Why We Fight: Defeating America’s Enemies—With No Apologies by Sebastian Gorka (Regnery), a former deputy assistant to Trump; and Trump’s Enemies: How the Deep State Is Undermining the Presidency (Center Street, Nov.) by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and his deputy campaign manager, David Bossie.
Other major houses are publishing books impugning Trump and his policies, by authors well known to liberal and progressive readers: Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Where We Go from Here (St. Martin’s/Dunne, Nov.); former New York Times Book Review editor Michiko Kakutani’s The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump (Crown/Duggan); Brookings Institution senior fellow and journalist Marvin Kalb’s Enemy of the People: Trump’s War on the Press, the New McCarthyism, and the Threat to American Democracy (Brookings Institution); and financial journalist Michael Lewis’s The Fifth Risk (Norton), about government agencies imperiled by Trump’s ignorance of their important functions.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given Trump’s fraught history with the more moderate wing of the GOP, several recent books by disaffected Republican operatives criticize him for disrupting the center-right political movement built up by Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes: Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever by Rick Wilson (Free Press); Trump Troubadour No More: How I Lost Faith in Our President (Rowman Littlefield) by trucker/musician Kraig Moss; and The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right by Max Boot (Liveright).
Two recent psychoanalyses of Trump—Trump on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President by psychiatry professor Justin A. Frank (Avery) and Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention by David Shields (Thought Catalog) describe the president as psychologically damaged. Frank focuses on Trump himself, and Shields examines Trump’s mental state against a cultural backdrop.
In contrast, several well-known conservative media pundits have recently published books arguing that opposition to Trump is symptomatic of a widespread mental illness on the part of liberals and progressives: Resistance Is Futile: How the Trump-Hating Left Lost Its Collective Mind by Ann Coulter (Sentinel); Stop Mass Hysteria: America’s Insanity from the Salem Witch Trials to Trump Witch Hunt by Michael Savage (Center Street); Mad Politics: Keeping Your Sanity in a World Gone Crazy by Gina Loudon (Regnery); and Addicted to Outrage: How Thinking Like a Recovering Addict Can Heal the Country by Glenn Beck (Threshold).
Lurid Is Lucrative
Since Michael Wolff’s exposé Fire and Fury landed with such an unexpectedly huge splash at the beginning of the year, selling 1.7 million copies to date in all formats, fly-on-the-wall accounts confirming Wolff’s premise about an administration in chaos have grabbed newspaper headlines and made their authors familiar faces on the television talk show circuit. Among the most popular books and authors on television have been former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman’s Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House (Gallery), followed by journalist Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House (Simon Schuster). Fear sold 1.1 million copies in its first week, making it the fastest-selling book in the company’s 94-year history.
Another government insider, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, is expected to pile on with incendiary allegations of his own in The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, which will be released after the holidays by St. Martin’s. And with a title like Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics (Hachette, Jan. 2019), the memoir of former New Jersey governor Chris Christie is guaranteed to generate headlines and talk show discussions, and thus sales.
Although they have generated neither the same kind of media attention as Fear nor its blockbuster sales, two recent releases, both by journalists in the White House press corps, have received positive reviews from those interested in eyewitness accounts by journalists covering the Trump White House: Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House by April Ryan (Rowman Littlefield) and Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of His Extraordinary First Year in Office by Major Garrett (All Points).
The thirst for tales about the Trump White House extends to the family as well. Two books brimming with tidbits about Trump’s wives and children are already on bookstore shelves: Born Trump: Inside America’s First Family by Emily Jane Fox (Harper) and Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women by Nina Burleigh (Gallery). Burleigh also delves into the relationships Trump has had with other women: his mother, sisters, female staffers, and even a dozen women who have accused him of sexual assault.
And there’s a first-person account even for those hardy readers wanting to dig deep into Trump’s sex life. Full Disclosure (St. Martin’s) is Stormy Daniels’s memoir, in which she alleges that she had a fling with Trump in 2006 and was paid to keep quiet about it during the run-up to the 2016 election.
State-by-State Sales of Political Books at Barnes NobleClick image to view a larger size
Was Trump’s Rise Inevitable?
Though the insider accounts have been lucrative for booksellers and publishers, more and more books are being published that go far beyond the anecdotal. A number of new releases—from the commercial houses as well as from university and indie presses—are trying to explain the 2016 election and its aftermath by delving into the political and cultural forces that propelled a real estate developer and reality television star with a checkered past into the White House.
A number of recent releases seem to have taken their cue from J.D. Vance’s bestselling Hillbilly Elegy by dissecting the emergence of popular support for Trump. Many of these books examine what life is like for Americans who live away from the coasts, some of whom voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then switched sides in 2016. Such books include Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America by Alissa Quart (Ecco); The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics by Dan Kaufman (Norton); The Next Republic: The Rise of a New Radical Majority by D.D. Guttenplan (Seven Stories); and Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh (Scribner), which a number of indie booksellers—particularly in the Midwestern states that the media often describes as Trump strongholds—insist is one of the most important books published this year.
More recent books on the same topic include Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow (Doubleday); The Militant Normals: How Regular Americans Are Rebelling Against the Elite to Reclaim Our Democracy by Kurt Schlichter (Center Street); The Forgotten: How the People of One Pennsylvania County Elected Donald Trump and Changed America (Little Brown) by retired Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee; Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America by John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck (Princeton Univ.); and Amongst the Liberal Elite: The Road Trip Exploring Societal Inequities Solidified by Trump (Resist) by Elly Ronon and Joan Reilly (Powerhouse).
Even a Republican senator, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, weighed in on the subject with Them: Why We Hate Each Other—and How to Heal (St. Martin’s). According to Sasse, Americans’ increasing sense of loneliness has been expressed as anger, fueled by the digital revolution. He suggests as a solution that people connect in real life with their neighbors.
Several authors have taken a top-down approach to answering the question of how Trump was elected by exploring the influence of money and power upon popular elections. The Cash Ceiling: Why Only the Rich Run for Office—and What We Can Do About It by Nicholas Carnes (Princeton Univ.); The Deep State: How an Army of Bureaucrats Protected Barack Obama and Is Working to Destroy the Trump Agenda by Jason Chaffetz (Broadside); One Person No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy by Carol Anderson (Bloomsbury); and Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution by Tucker Carlson (Free Press).
Others have reached back into our nation’s past to explain our present circumstances. These books examine specific pivotal episodes in U.S. history that may have set a course culminating in the 2016 election results: The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation, and the Rise of Donald Trump by Alan Abramowitz (Yale Univ.); Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World by Adam Tooze (Viking); Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon Schuster); Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution by Ben Fountain (Ecco); My Mother, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and the Last Stand of the Angry White Man by Kevin Powell (Atria); One America? Presidential Appeals to Racial Resentment from LBJ to Trump by Nathan Angelo (State Univ. of New York); and The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism by Steve Kornacki (Ecco). NBC/MSNBC national correspondent Kornacki says the current political landscape of a few solidly blue states in a sea of mostly solid red states is the result of an epic struggle for power in the 1990s between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, who both exploited the weaknesses of their respective parties to advance their own ideological agendas with far-reaching consequences—including, after the 1994 midterms, the demise of any pretense at bipartisanship at the highest levels of the government.
Not surprisingly, some of the recent books in this category are blatantly partisan, such as, for liberal readers, Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall—and Those Fighting to Reverse It by Steven Brill (Knopf) and, for conservative readers, Death of a Nation: Plantation Politics and the Making of the Democratic Party by Dinesh D’Souza (All Points)
While some authors are digging into the archives to explain Trump’s bursting out on the world stage, others have posited more esoteric explanations. In Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis (Simon Schuster), Martha Nussbaum argues that feelings of powerlessness among some in a globalized society have fomented a rage that Trump has tapped into. In Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (FSG), Francis Fukuyama explains that groups are identifying themselves more and more narrowly, resulting in a resurgence of nationalism.
Two November books make similar arguments but explore such trends from a decidedly Christian perspective: Choosing Donald Trump: God, Anger, Hope, and Why American Conservatives Supported Him by Stephen Mansfield (Baker) and Trump Aftershock: The President’s Seismic Impact on Culture and Faith in America by Stephen Strang (Frontline).
A few books try to explain why evangelicals in particular have thrown their support to such an unlikely candidate. In Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump (Eerdmans), John Fea argues that the decision to back Trump is the logical outcome of the evangelical approach to public life defined by the politics of fear, the pursuit of worldly power, and nostalgia for the past. In Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, A Battle Against the Global Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon by Paul McGuire and Troy Anderson (FaithWords, Jan. 2019), the authors argue that Trump’s rise to power was foretold in the Bible, and that he was sent by God to save the world from the liberal elite. But in Twelve Lies that Hold America Captive: And the Truth That Sets Us Free (InterVarsity, Jan. 2019), Jonathan Walton warns readers not to buy into such “idolatrous” misconceptions—that Trump is not a messiah.
Looking into the Future
Several authors have recent books that don’t simply explore the reasons for Trump’s appeal to certain sections of the American electorate; they also offer possible solutions to the problems facing these voters. In The Forgotten Americans: An Economic Agenda for a Divided Nation (Yale Univ.), Isabel Sawhill argues for a policy agenda based on mainstream values that will help Americans who feel disenfranchised by trade and technology. An Uncivil War: Taking Back Our Democracy in an Age of Trumpian Disinformation and Thunderdome Politics by Greg Sargent (Custom House) looks at the structural flaws in American democracy and what people can do to counteract them.
As the Mueller investigation continues—and allegations persist that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and that Trump, his family, and associates colluded—a spate of books have delved into that controversy. Some recent titles—The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump by Greg Jarrett (Broadside) and Spygate: The Attempted Sabotage of Donald J. Trump by Dan Bongino (Post Hill)—seek to exonerate Trump by echoing his claims that the investigation is a “witch hunt.” Many other books condemn Trump as a Putin stooge: The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies are Undermining America and Dismantling the West by Malcolm Nance (Hachette); House of Trump, House of Putin: How Vladimir Putin and the Russian Mafia Helped Put Donald Trump in the White House by Craig Unger (Dutton); and Proof of Collusion: How Donald Trump Betrayed America by Seth Abramson (Simon Schuster, Nov.).
The Washington Post, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its cybersecurity investigative reporting earlier this year, also weighed in with The Apprentice: Trump, Russia, and the Subversion of American Democracy by journalist Greg Miller (Custom House). In it, Miller sets out a timeline, based on hundreds of interviews, of Putin’s campaign to destroy Hillary Clinton and to help Trump win the presidency.
With a myriad of controversies swirling around Trump and his administration, it’s no surprise that books either arguing for or against his being removed from office have been rushed into print. First out the gate was The Case Against Impeaching Trump (Hot Books) by celebrity law professor Alan Dershowitz, followed by a more satirical approach from TV/radio host Bill Press: Trump Must Go: The Top 100 Reasons to Dump Trump (And One to Keep Him) (St. Martin’s/Dunne). Alan Hirsch’s Impeaching the President: Past, Present, and Future (City Lights, Nov.) will take a historical approach by examining the impact upon three previous presidencies of impeachment, and the possible impact if Trump is impeached.
The specter of impeachment hanging over Trump is also drawing attention to recent releases about the man who’s second in line for the presidency. The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence by Michael D’Antonio and Peter Eisner (St. Martin’s/Dunne) was described as “damning” in several reviews, but Where You Go: Life Lessons from my Father by Charlotte Pence (Center Street) presents a heroic figure. Balancing out these two highly divergent portraits, Pence: The Path to Power by Andrea Neal (Red Lightning)—based on interviews with Pence’s family, friends, staff, and other politicians, both allies and foes—paints a more nuanced picture.
A number of recent releases focus not just on this presidency but also on its impact on various segments of American society—particularly immigrants living in America. In Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas (Dey Street) puts a human face on illegal immigration, while in Melting Pot or Civil War? A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders (Sentinel), Reihan Salam voices his support for Trump’s doctrines.
Trump Is Funny
With such a colorful cast of characters in the Trump White House, it’s no surprise that there has been an outpouring of satire this past summer and into fall, much of it incorporating Trump’s own words and tweets. Humor for those who need a laugh includes The Chapo Guide to Revolution: A Manifesto Against Logic, Facts, and Reason (Touchstone) by the hosts of the Chapo Trap House podcast; #Sad! Doonesbury in the Age of Trump (Andrews McMeel) by cartoonist G.B. Trudeau, who has been skewering Trump for years; The Donald J. Trump Presidential Library (Random/Spiegel Grau) by Trevor Noah and the writers of The Daily Show; My Amazing Book About Tremendous Me—Donald J. Trump Very Stable Genius (Media Lab), which contains 96 pages of verified quotes and tweets; A Very Stable Genius (ECW) by political cartoonist Mike Luckovich; American Tantrum: The Donald J. Trump Archives (Morrow) by Anthony Atamanuik, the creator and star of Comedy Central’s President Show; and, coming in December, The Real News! The Never-Before-Told Stories of Donald Trump Fake News! by journalist and playwright John Bernard Ruane (Post Hill).
There’s also a trend this fall of political satire written in the guise of children’s picture books. Regnery describes Donald Drains the Swamp by humorist Eric Metaxas, illustrated by Tim Raglan, as a “whimsical fable for the current political moment.” And last month, Stephen Colbert announced, during a Late Show broadcast, the release on election day of a children’s book produced by his staff: Whose Boat Is This Boat? Comments That Don’t Help in the Aftermath of a Hurricane (Simon Schuster). Like so many of the other books poking fun at Trump, it contains only verified quotes—this time, Trump’s responses regarding Hurricane Florence. There’s another “children’s book” that is actually parody by P. Shauers, the pen name of someone whom the publisher describes only as a “New York Times–bestselling author with more than 30 books published”: Donald and the Golden Crayon (Schiffer). And in November, Animal Media Group is publishing Please Don’t Grab My P#$$y: A Rhyming Presidential Guide by comedians Julia Young and Matt Harkins, illustrated by Laura Collins—“a rhyming picture book for adults.”
While mystery writer Laura Lippmann’s debut picture book, Liza Jane and the Dragon (Akashic, Oct.), illustrated by Kate Samworth, actually is being marketed towards children, it’s also an allegory for the 2016 election. Liza Jane is a little girl who fires her parents and hires as her new parent a fire-belching dragon that drives away her friends and looks suspiciously like Trump.
Of course, not all children’s books about Trump are in reality parodies or allegories. UnPresidented: A Biography of Donald Trump by Martha Brockenbrough (Feiwel + Friends, Nov.), for YA readers, is based upon the author’s original research into the Trump family’s history and should sell well in the school and library markets.
Perhaps due to the issue of family separations that has contributed to the controversy over immigration, several authors are responding to the Trump presidency by trying to educate young readers about this issue. Yuyi Morales’s recent picture book Dreamers (Holiday House/Porter) tells the story of her own migration years ago from Mexico with her infant son. Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman’s contribution to the discussion, All Are Welcome (Knopf), emphasizes the benefits that a diverse population brings to a community. And Dave Eggers’s picture book What Can a Citizen Do? (Chronicle), illustrated by Shawn Harris, which also celebrates ethnic and racial diversity, enumerates the ways young people can be active, with, for instance, some of its characters carrying signs protesting trumpets and others blowing flowers out of trumpets.
Trump as Literary Inspiration
Not only has the Trump presidency inspired adult nonfiction, satire, and children’s books but it has even motivated novelists and poets. Trump makes an appearance in the recent alternative-America–set novel The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer (Minotaur); the novel had to undergo major revisions when Trump unexpectedly won the election, making moot Steinhauer’s original story line. Terrance Hayes’s latest collection of poetry, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (Penguin), explores what it means to be a black man in Trump’s America. And in Citizen Illegal (Haymarket), Jose Olivarez, another poet, provides a Mexican-American perspective.
Despite the marketplace being saturated with books about Trump, the most anticipated, politically relevant release this season is a memoir by his predecessor’s wife: Michelle Obama’s Becoming (Crown, Nov.). Not only that, but a group of Midwestern indie booksellers attending the Heartland Fall Forum regional trade show told PW that one of their favorite discoveries there was a book about Trump—one that has a photograph of Barack Obama on the jacket. Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents (Little, Brown) by former official White House photographer Pete Souza juxtaposes on the left side of the page spreads tweets, headlines, or quotes relating to the first 500 days of the Trump administration with, on the right, photographs Souza took during the Obama years.
“What I love is that Souza is so low-key,” said Sue Boucher, the owner of the Cottage Bookshop in Glen Arbor, Mich. “His photography tells a story. It’s anti-Trump, but it’s not negative—it’s not mean. He’s subtle. And I love that title.”