In the first weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, sales for George Orwell’s 1984 have risen through the roof, landing the 1949 classic atop the Amazon best-seller list. Other dystopian novels like The Handmaid’s Tale, It Can’t Happen Here, and Brave New World have also experienced a boost in sales and newfound popularity during the Trump administration. Though dystopian fiction can shed light on confusing political times, dozens of nonfiction books illuminate real-life stories of how authoritarian figures take power, from America to the Philippines. Here are some excellent nonfiction books to read during the Trump Era.
Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell
Orwell’s journalism feels just as vital as his fiction in this day and age. Although somewhat forgotten by American history classes now, the Spanish Civil War (fought mostly between Francisco Franco’s fascist forces, Communist revolutionaries, left-wing militia groups, and a few other factions) was an international phenomenon at the time. Thousands of people all over the world voluntarily came to Spain to help fight the fascists. Orwell was one of them, and his account of how various forces combined to tragically undermine the opposition to Franco remains a powerful lesson for anyone gaming out modern strategies for fighting the resurgent far-right.
Dark Money, Jane Mayer
Donald Trump may be the first billionaire president, but his road to the White House was paved by other billionaires. Jane Mayer’s investigative reporting paints a picture of how the super-rich have used their wealth to bankroll the radical right and tilt the entire American political system in their favor.
Like Orwell, Arendt witnessed the rise of ‘30s fascist regimes firsthand, and she too had some thoughts about it. The Origins of Totalitarianism is her analysis of how such governments come to power, and like 1984, it is newly resurgent on Amazon best-seller lists. Those looking for something shorter may prefer Eichmann in Jerusalem, her report on Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann’s famous trial for his complicity in the Holocaust.
As Donald Trump’s presidential campaign rolled on, it prompted more and more comparisons to authoritarian leaders of the past, including Adolf Hitler. Kershaw’s two-volume biography provides an important portrait of Hitler and lays out how the many Nazi horrors emerged from one man’s psychotic obsessions.
The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single Town, 1922-1945, William Sheridan Allen
The strangest thing about the Nazis, of course, is not just the exploits of Hitler himself but how his radical fascist ideology became palatable to so many Germans in so short a time. In his analysis of one German town, William Sheridan Allen paints a haunting picture of how fascism can take root among the masses, and just how quickly a democracy can give way to dictatorship.
Dirty Wars, Jeremy Scahill
President Trump wasn’t even in office a month before ordering a costly raid into Yemen that killed civilians and commandos alike. Jeremy Scahill’s history of the War on Terror is essential to understanding how President Bush and President Obama built the national-security structures and drone assassination programs now at Trump’s disposal.
What’s the Matter With Kansas?, Thomas Frank
Most mainstream political commentators had expected Hillary Clinton to win the presidential election, based on the idea that the so-called “blue wall” of Midwestern states like Wisconsin and Michigan would continue to vote Democratic as they had in the past. When those states flipped for Trump, it was a decisive game-changer. Thomas Frank’s 2005 book about his home state of Kansas tackles the question of how states with radical political histories have recently become new bedrocks of red-state conservatism.