The Economist

Atlas felt a sense of déjà vu
The Economist

Books do not sell themselves: that is what films are for. “The Reader”, the book that inspired the Oscar-winning film, has shot up the bestseller lists. Another recent publishing success, however, has had more help from Washington, DC, than Hollywood. That book is Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”.

Reviled in some circles and mocked in others, Rand’s 1957 novel of embattled capitalism is a favourite of libertarians and college students. Lately, though, its appeal has been growing. According to data from TitleZ, a firm that tracks bestseller rankings on Amazon, an online retailer, the book’s 30-day average Amazon rank was 127 on February 21st, well above its average over the past two years of 542. On January 13th the book’s ranking was 33, briefly besting President Barack Obama’s popular tome, “The Audacity of Hope”.

Tellingly, the spikes in the novel’s sales coincide with the news. Whenever governments intervene in the market, in short, readers rush to buy Rand’s book. Why? The reason is explained by the name of a recently formed group on Facebook, the world’s biggest social-networking site: “Read the news today? It’s like ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is happening in real life”. The group, and an expanding chorus of fretful bloggers, reckon that life is imitating art.