By Laura Barkema, MLIS
When I pitched this article topic in late 2020, I was hoping for an end to the avalanche of political titles of the last few years. As one of Collection Development's nonfiction librarians who oversees political books day in and day out, I’ve hit a point of burnout (as I’m sure much of the country has). In fact, so many political titles are published that I wondered if people actually read them. Well, bestseller lists and our own Ingram Demand (which shows which titles libraries and retailers purchase) both indicate that these titles are popular, so we can assume that customers are reading them. The question is, will this trend continue through 2021, or will we see a drop in the sheer number of titles published?
A simple ipage search of Donald Trump as an LC Subject shows over 600 books (some are reprints) published within the last five years and with publication dates well into 2021. It’s worth noting that this figure includes only the books that tag him as a subject, so there are certainly hundreds more. That’s a lot of titles focused on one man and his global influence; indeed, books about our former President run the gamut of the political spectrum. It’s understandable, then, that after the election of President Joe Biden, I hoped we might see a downtick in political books.
In February 2021, however, Town & Country magazine published an article called “Why the Political Memoir is the Year’s Hottest Book Genre”, and with that headline, my hopes were dashed. Though librarians have seen this trend for years, it seems to have picked up speed. We expect another book in July by Mary Trump called The Reckoning: Our Nation’s Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal, and Simon & Shuster announced it will publish a controversial new book by former Vice President, Mike Pence. However, the scope of political topics seems to be broadening to include more than the former administration.
It is no secret that after an exhausting 2020, a year that included a pandemic (still not over), a racial reckoning (far from over), and a contentious election (I think this is over?), people are more engaged in politics. Publishers are taking advantage of America’s renewed interest in the political system, and new(er) and forthcoming titles reflect this. A few titles to highlight are Our Time is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America by Stacey Abrams, The Ten Year War: Obamacare and the Unfinished Crusade for Universal Coverage by Jonathan Cohn, Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal by George Packer, and looking even further to 2022, Fight: How Gen Z is Channeling Their Fear and Passion to Save America by John Della Volpe.