George Orwell’s “1984’’ is having a moment, possibly thanks to the Trump administration.
Sales of the 1949 dystopian novel about a totalitarian government are soaring locally and nationally, with the title rising to No. 1 on Amazon’s list of bestsellers Wednesday and taking the top spot in the New England Independent Booksellers list of hottest mass-market sellers last week.
According to a report Wednesday by CNN, book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of “1984” to keep up with the rise in demand.
Orwell’s classic tells the story of a society in which citizens are under constant surveillance and leaders try to maintain order through propaganda, “newspeak,’’ and historical revisionism.
It’s not clear what prompted the recent sales surge. But statements by Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, on Sunday’s NBC news program “Meet the Press’’ led various commenters to characterize her language as “Orwellian.’’
Conway defended Trump spokesman Sean Spicer’s insistence that the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was the biggest ever, despite widely circulated photographic evidence to the contrary.
When pressed by “Meet the Press’’ host Chuck Todd to detail evidence supporting the claim, she described Spicer’s version of events as “alternative facts,’’ which begged a comparison to Orwell among a number of pundits and commentators. On Sunday afternoon Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty said, “alternative facts” is “a George Orwell phrase” during an appearance on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.’’
Many Boston area booksellers have seen an increase in sales of “1984,’’ but some of them say the rise has been going on for a while.
“[Sales were up] leading up to the election and then post-election, and it’s just continued on through inauguration,” said Michael Lemanski, general manager of Trident Booksellers.
The local movement seems to mirror the national one. According to CNN, Nielsen BookScan, which measures the bulk of US book sales, says Orwell’s book sold 47,000 copies in print since Election Day, up from 36,000 copies over the same period the prior year. BookScan’s data does not reflect sales since Inauguration Day.
But bookstore workers also say that interest in other political books have been on the rise through the election and the inauguration.
Dale Szczeblowski, adult buyer at Porter Square Books, says he’s seen robust recent sales for titles such as Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here,” a satire about a totalitarian leader who displaces FDR; Gene Stone’s “Trump Survival Guide,” a series of tips on activism; Richard Rorty’s “Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America,” a work of political philosophy; and Matt Taibi’s “Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus,” a reporter’s campaign diary.
So why are readers rushing out to buy these books?
“It’s like they definitely want to be active in some way,’’ said Luke Damrosch, a bookseller at Newtonville Books. “If it’s not politically then at least with that. They’re people who are heartbroken and want to feel better.”
Paul S. Makishima can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Globe correspondents Alexander Frandsen, Lexi Peery, and Sonia Rao contributed to this report.