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Monday, September 17, 2012

Why ‘Red’ Outsells ‘Blue’ In The Book Market

NY Times best selling author Glenn Beck autographs books in 2008. (AP)

Americans are reading far more right-leaning or “red” books than left-leaning “blue” books, according to a survey by Amazon.

The New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list also reflects the trend: books by Edward Klein and Dinesh D’Sousa that are highly critical of President Obama are near the top of this week’s list.

It’s a phenomenon that both blogger Ezra Klein and Here and Now literary critic Steve Almond have noticed over the past few years. Almond is a self-proclaimed liberal. But several years back he became fascinated by the frequent appearance of books written by conservative authors like Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter on the non-fiction bestseller lists and on his relatives’ bookshelves.

So he set out reading and found that many of the “red” books had compelling narratives.

“These are books that, putting aside whether thy are factual or not, are deeply emotionally and psychologically involving,” he told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.


  • Steve Almond, Here and Now literary critic

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • J__o__h__n

    People who don’t need their narrative reinforced by everything they read tend to read more diverse topics than just the latest book put out by their talk radio/Fox news blowhards. 

  • J Frog

    Typical liberal screed.  Conservatives aren’t intellectual, they’re EMOTIONAL!  Total drivel…look at the so-called “Left” leaning books.  “Who stole the American Dream?”…”New Jim Crow”…”Boss Rove..”…”Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt”  These AREN’T playing on emotions??  On the other hand, I see Hayek and Milton Friedmen on the Amazon booklist…How do those fit into his narrative?

    • monkeysonfire

       Where, then, is the intellectual Right? Is there a real bias in the academy? Can there be a sustained bias in the academy given the atmosphere of corporate spending there by right-leaning groups and corporations? 
      Also, asserting the emotional stability of your group while using ellipses and repeated emotionally-nuanced punctuation conventions is not likely to be effective in the way you might hope. 

      • J Frog

        Criticizing my punctuation? Maybe my poor spelling, but my punctuation? That’s going too far!

  • Conraddamian

    Playing up on paranoia and fear-mongering was once the work of the John Birch Society and their ilk. Sense the Reagan years, more and more this has become the way of a self-described new conservatism–no longer the fringe. Creating fear and hatred has worked well throughout society, not always with very good results.

    I also wonder what role mass sales have in the best selling nature of these books. I have seen come-ons to right wing conferences of a free copy of these very books. Nice way for rich benefactors to make sure these books make the top of the sales list.

    I tried reading one from the library by Coulter. So loose and free with facts I couldn’t finish it.

  • Patrick

    I think that conservative books outsell liberal books because they are easy to read,sensational and full of flat snappy answers. They are “best sellers” in the same way that popular novels are,there is no depth,the reader does not have to read,reflect or have any background understanding. Liberals tend to read around politics.They derive their political values from wider ,deeper sources in science and the humanities.

  • Mikezurek

    Conservative, red books sell well for the same reason reality TV shows get high ratings – drama sells. People are attracted to the controversy and the sensationalism.

  • guest

    I just heard this guy on the radio, how condescending! Typical liberal intellectual who feels superior to everybody else and in denial that conservatives can actually THINK for themselves and aren’t lacking analytical skills like he claims. Yes, yes, of course it’s all about EMOTIONS and not logic …. And how dare these conservative authors appeal to their readers’ sense of patriotism! I can’t believe they put this guy on the air.

    • J__o__h__n

      Show the the liberals how independent you are by all reading the same books. 

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    Palin is a Drama Queen.

  • JK

    It is a well documented fact that right-wing foundations pre-buy  “red” books in advance in order to propel them into the best seller list. Later, they give them away or donate them to thrift stores (where I have seen many). I can’t believe your report was so remiss as to not report this

  • Susan

    For the same reason liberals get their news from NPR and conservatives get theirs from FOX News.

  • joseph aisenberg

    First, your critic used a bunch of fancy words to just say that conservative writers are better demagoguers, hardly a virtue–Secondly, most books are bought and never read, so my guess is that these right books are not perused beyond the first chapter or so and sit on the shelves of people who never read anything anyway but heard about these books on the rightist radio and television they consume, far bigger than left leaning literary audiences–And on Ayn Rand, I definitely think all those non-readers purchasing that dull block of badly written Chick Lit Atlas Shrugged, which I have had the misfortune to read, is not really being consumed by people who I bet don’t read newspapers or magazines–In fact I wish reporters would ask very specific questions about the plot of Atlas Shrugged to these dork libertarians who claim to have been influenced by it, because it has some the dumbest plotting of any book I’ve ever read

  • J__o__h__n

    By applying typical bizarro conservative logic, liberals are dominating the bestseller list as those perverse Shades of Grey books have sex in them and therefore are part of the liberal assault on our Judeo Christian heritage.

  • J__o__h__n

    I hope they don’t count the upcoming Stephen Colbert book as an actual conservative book.

  • John

    The reason for such appeal is that these writers use the same techniques expressed  in scripture that is stories with apocolitic overtures!  After all why are biblical stories so often quoted and revisited.  Must be something inherent in human nature.

  • http://www.facebook.com/renee.woodard.56 Renee Woodard

    Hi, I enjoyed your story about red vs blue books and reading.  I haven’t read anything political in a long time unless you count feminist books.  I’m 63, MIT grad, but a bit of an old hippie.  I believe your guest that red books are exciting and dramatic, that’s the way I think of Palin, e.g., every time I see or hear her. I think she would much rather be dramatic than speak the exact truth.

    I also agree with Patrick’s comment.  I was struck by the colorful language of your guest, when he  said, quoting red books (something like)”the invaders are here already, they want to steal everything from the USA and end our god-given way of life”.  I might have over dramatized….

    I was also struck that I feel the same way!  I feel the very rich and big corporations are taking over our government and plan to increase their share of wealth by taking it from everyone else.  I’m worried about global climate change and I see the forces of wealth and conservatism fighting very hard (with lots of money) to keep us polluting as we are now.  I’m sort of a fan of the Occupy Movement and GreenPeace and would like to vote for Green Party candidates.  I need to support Democrats, however, in order to stop the Republicans, whose entire policy seems to be the goals of Christian conservatives and the interests of big money.

    It seems interesting when you said the right wing message is very stark and dramatic, I guess compared to the liberal centerists, but that I think my left wing fears are also very stark and dramatic.  I also worry that the future I fear is becoming more and more inevitable.

    Thank You.

  • http://www.facebook.com/renee.woodard.56 Renee Woodard

    Renee Woodard. I added the comment below.

  • Robert Laurence

    The reason conservative books outsell liberal ones is that the true believers need constant reinforcement. They feel they’re under a constant assault of actual facts from the mainstream media and have to keep up their defenses. How else can anyone keep believing that global warming is a hoax and that Barack Obama is planning to take “In God We Trust” off our money? Another reason, of course, is that the same people buy all the books.

  • Redtbirdman

    I believe this Presidents background and positions allow for a lot of warranted criticism and scrutiny. I lost my business and have no hope of getting a job at my age I can not go on a long drive because gas is $4.00 plus a gallon. My food cost is up 25% and after Jan I do not know where the country is heading with new taxes and $600 Billion to be cut from the defense and What is the Presidents Mid East policy? I can only find information in conservatie books.
    Do you know of a liberal book that answers my worries?

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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