Orwell's '1984' surges to No. 1 on USA TODAY's books list

Jocelyn McClurg
View Comments

Here’s a look at what’s new on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list…

It’s 2017, but 1984 is all the rage.

George Orwell’s chilling 1949 classic, long a staple of classrooms, is No. 1 on USA TODAY's list this week. Sales of 1984 and other older dystopian titles such as Brave New World have been driven by President Trump’s controversial first week and the uproar over “alternative facts.” (The full list, reflecting sales from Jan. 23-Jan. 29, will be published on Thursday.)

1984 first made headlines last week when it shot to No. 1 on Amazon (one of the outlets that reports sales to USA TODAY’s list), after Trump disputed the size of his Inaugural crowd and made the widely dismissed claim that millions of illegal votes were cast against him in the presidential election.

Sales of the dystopian classic '1984' have soared since Donald Trump's inauguration.

Orwell’s vision of the future, in which “Big Brother,” or the totalitarian government, is always watching, is the dark story of Winston Smith, who works at the Ministry of Truth but must rewrite history with lies. (1984’s previous high on USA TODAY’s list was No. 27 on June 27, 2013.)

1984 is only the third classic ever to hit No. 1 on USA TODAY’s list, which began in 1993. The others are Leo Tolstoy's 19th century masterpiece Anna Karenina in June 2004 when Oprah Winfrey selected it for her book club, and C.S. Lewis’ 1950s children’s fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia, in December 2005, the month a movie adaptation was released. Other literary classics have come close to the pinnacle: The Great GatsbyTo Kill a Mockingbird and East of Eden have hit No. 2.

In the last week, the paperback publisher of 1984, Signet, has ordered a reprint of 500,000 additional copies. (According to data reported to USA TODAY’s list, the print and digital editions are selling neck-and-neck.)

“To put the current demand in perspective, we have printed in one week more copies of 1984 than we sell in a typical year,” says Signet spokesman Craig Burke.

Signet also ordered a 100,000-copy reprint of Orwell’s Animal Farm, which this week is No. 118 on USA TODAY’s list.

Also seeing a Trump “alternative facts” boost:

'It Can’t Happen Here' by Sinclair Lewis is selling well.

The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt at No. 25.

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, about a U.S. president who becomes a dictator, at No. 43.

► Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World at No. 59.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood at No. 75. (A Hulu adaptation starring Elisabeth Moss is also on tap this spring.)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury at No. 111.

And then there is the new president himself, who is getting his own Trump bump. His 1987 business book, Trump: The Art of the Deal, written with Tony Schwartz, is No. 38 this week, its highest ranking ever. It hit No. 45 in April 2004, while Trump was hosting The Apprentice.

View Comments