By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Books About Race and Anti-Racism: ‘Surging’Update: Subsequent to our publication of this story today (June 16), as Maggie Haberman and Katie Benner at The New York Times are writing, the administration of Donald Trump has “sued the former national security adviser John R. Bolton to try to delay the publication of his highly anticipated memoir about his time in the White House, saying it contain(s) classified information that would compromise national security if it became public.”
Publishing Perspectives has been sent a statement this evening from Simon & Schuster, the book’s publisher, saying:
“The lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice to block John Bolton from publishing his book, ‘The Room Where It Happened’ is nothing more than the latest in a long running series of efforts by the administration to quash publication of a book it deems unflattering to the president.
“Ambassador Bolton has worked in full cooperation with the National Security Council in its pre-publication review to address its concerns and Simon & Schuster fully supports his First Amendment right to tell the story of his time in the White House to the American public.”
And, as Walter Shapiro, at The New Republic today (June 16) has quoted John Bolton writing in his forthcoming book: “I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations.”
With that, the pre-election summer nonfiction season in the United States is not only off to the races but potentially off the charts.
At 140 days to the November 3 general elections—which include the presidential election between Donald Trump and the presumptive Democratic contender Joe Biden—the pent-up fire and fury of the fight to come can at times seem muted. Amid reopening efforts and jumps in infections in various local jurisdictions, the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has largely kept out of sight what would normally be a wide-open battle of rallies and confetti.
What has brought the dynamics of the fray into view, however, is 21 days of street protests against systemic racism surfacing in the police killings of black Americans George Floyd in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. Add to that the rising emergency of an economy on the pandemic’s ropes and Trump’s determination to hold an indoor rally in Tulsa on Saturday (June 20), risking what health experts say could be a disaster, and you’re looking at what’s likely to be the kickoff of a newly energized US publishing market in the next few months.
In her weekly update for the week ending June 6, the NPD Group’s Kristen McLean, who heads up NPD Books and Entertainment, sees “a strong week for the US book market as growth was driven by the start of summer reading season combined with the need for books that help educate and inform us during the current cultural moment.”
Indeed, for the first time since March, McLean is seeing the market rise above 0.0 percent year-to-date, with an 0.2-percent gain over 2019 for the same time frame.
McLean describes 64 percent of the top 99 designated market areas (DMA) to have jumped 57 percent over the previous week, with most major metropolitan are gaining ground. During the deepest lockdowns, as she has said, juvenile books rose to the fore, adult titles sagging, as parents loaded in books to entertain and educate home-bound kids. That trend has resulted in the whopping 26.6-percent gain that holds the industry as a whole in that position of a slight gain over last year.
By early May, adult nonfiction in the States was on a fast rise, and a new uptick shows up in the week ending June 6, the category still under water by 7.3 percent over its usual levels for the time of year, but making sharp gains. George Floyd was killed on May 25, and by June 5, Elizabeth A. Harris was writing at The New York Times that “demand for books about race and anti-racism has surged.”
NPD’s report concurs, showing adult nonfiction social sciences, including minority studies, booming. For the week ending June 6, NPD is citing a one-week jump of 605 percent in this category and an 89-percent change year-to-date.
In both major camps–the election-energized political field and the police-violence charged race-relations field–it’s clear we can anticipate intense consumer interest.
Remember, too, that NPD’s McLean has pointed to the autumn for its crowded release schedule, too, stemming from delayed publications in the spring during pandemic lockdowns and confusion. Expect remarkable levels of competition for readers.
Simon & Schuster’s Trump Triangulation
As Publishing Perspectives readers know, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir from Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton has had a halting route to market, delayed by security reviews believed by Trump critics to have been slow-walked by the White House.
Simon & Schuster’s announcement within the last several days that it plans to go ahead and release the book a week from today, on June 23, has the political class sitting right up.
The announcement says that Bolton “argues that the House of Representatives committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy—and Bolton documents exactly what those were, and attempts by him and others in the Administration to raise alarms about them.”
Meanwhile, Simon & Schuster today has released Mary Jordan’s sweetly titled The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump.
As Annalisa Quinn wrote on Sunday (June 14) at NPR, “Melania has had to offer much more than her looks: She has endured a presidential campaign, the humiliations of Stormy Daniels and the Access Hollywood tape, and the daily demands of life in the White House.
Throughout these trials, Jordan characterizes Melania as a canny operator who believed ‘she had more to gain by standing by her husband than walking away.’
“Jordan writes that after Trump was accused of infidelity and assault, Melania used the fact that he needed her public loyalty and presence in Washington to negotiate a better prenuptial agreement. Melania referred to this process as ‘taking care of Barron.”
And yet another Simon & Schuster book appeared as a surprise on Monday (June 15) when Lachlan Cartwright at The Daily Beast reported the pending July 28 release of Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.
The author? Mary Trump, Donald Trump’s deceased brother’s daughter—the president’s niece.
Now 55 and holding a PhD in clinical psychology, the daughter of Fred Trump Jr., writes Cartwright, “will detail in the book, according to people familiar with the matter, how she played a critical role helping The New York Times print startling revelations about Trump’s taxes, including how he was involved in ‘fraudulent’ tax schemes and had received more than $400 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire.”
In Simon’s promotional material for the book, we read, “Mary L. Trump has the education, insight, and intimate familiarity needed to reveal what makes Donald, and the rest of her clan, tick. She alone can recount this fascinating, unnerving saga, not just because of her insider’s perspective but also because she is the only Trump willing to tell the truth about one of the world’s most powerful and dysfunctional families.”
And that Trump-family book will drop just 98 days to the election.
Also out today—in this case not from Simon but from Abram Press—is Endgame: Inside the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump by Rep. Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California’s 15th district, a member of both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees and a former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Partly autobiographical, Swalwell’s book carries the Democrats’ rationales for moves in the impeachment of Donald Trump that were, from the outside, at times baffling even to party members.
An unrelenting, incisive critic of Trump and his administration, Swalwell is also among the left’s most outspoken gun-control advocates.
Charting in Race-Related Nonfiction
A demonstration of how responsive the US marketplace can be to a national crisis: Have a look at Amazon Charts‘ nonfiction listings.
Normally updated on Wednesdays, these titles are showing No. 1 and 2 in both the charts’ Most Sold and Most Read categories to be, respectively White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (Beacon Press, 2018) and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (Penguin Random House, 2019), respectively.
Those two titles went onto the list two and three weeks ago, respectively just after, and one week after, George Floyd’s death for which former police officer Derek Chauvin now is charged with second-degree murder.
And just out a week ago, on June 9, Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America (Macmillan/Henry Holt) is the timely new release from Stacey Abrams on voter suppression.
On the list of potential vice-presidential candidates for the Joe Biden ticket, Abrams’ book arrived with eerie timing last week–just as Georgia (where she has run for governor) went into a primary-election meltdown of voting-machine failures and waiting lines between four and eight hours long.
More from the Amazon Charts, Most Sold in nonfiction–and the timing on many of these, most on the list for one or two weeks, indicates the drivers to which publishing’s content is responding:
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (Hachette/Seal Press) is at No. 4.
- Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad (Sourcebooks) is at No. 5
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (New Press) is at No. 6
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Penguin Random House/Spiegel & Grau) is at No. 7
- Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi (Bold Type Books) is at No 8
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (Penguin Random House/Spiegel & Grau) is at No. 9
- The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein (LiveRight) is at No. 11
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum (Basic Books) is at No. 12
- Becoming by Michelle Obama (Penguin Random House) is at No. 13
- Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood (Penguin Random House/Spiegel & Grau) is at No. 14
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (a remix with Jason Reynolds of Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped, Hachette/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) is at No. 15
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown (Penguin Random House/Convergent Books) is at No. 16
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (Vintage) is at No. 18
- Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape from the Democrat Plantation by Candace Owens (Simon & Schuster/Threshold Editions)
And more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.