Publishing trends are important in my line of work. Of course, these trends are fueled by consumer tastes and sometimes these preferences are influenced by current events. Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale, has been recently adapted into a Hulu show starring Elizabeth Moss. This timing compliments a renewed interest in the book and its subject matter. The 1985 acclaimed novel takes place in a male dominated totalitarian theocracy, a situation that some have referenced in protests of President Trump and his policies towards women.
“…in recent months, Ms. Atwood has been hearing from anxious readers who see eerie parallels between the novel’s oppressive society and the current Republican administration’s policy goals of curtailing reproductive rights.”
In the beginning of 2017, Atwood’s publishers increased production of her book to meet the renewed demand. And it’s not just this novel, other novels that fall under the dystopian category are also enjoying a resurgence of interest. Another popular novel of late is George Orwell’s 1984, published in 1949, and currently #6 on Amazon’s list of 2017 bestselling books. While The Handmaid’s Tale is #14 on Amazon and #10 on the New York Times paperback trade fiction bestsellers list (for the week of April 30, 2017).
I usually avoid dystopian novels (and movies and tv shows), for the same reason that I avoid science fiction because the subject matter frightens me. I also am skeptical about whether I will be able to relate to the characters and setting. This is a very limited point of view and I realize that there is great diversity in the genre. Also, the definition of dystopia is “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding,” and these themes are not ones that I avoid. I know many people that only want to read uplifting books, which I can completely understand, but I’m not one to shy away from sad stories.
Therefore, in an effort to become a more well-rounded reader I plan to read some dystopian classics like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World & Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here. In reviewing a list of 20 dystopian novels on the BookBub blog, it turns out that I have read (and enjoyed) a few apocalyptic novels. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is one of my favorite novels (and a fantastic movie), I love that the science fiction elements are subtle and the focus of the story is really on friendship. Another excellent book on the list is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which I devoured in one day and is another heartbreaking story with some classic themes (suffering =life, struggle to survive, importance of relationships, etc.).