September 12, 2004

Social trends

I spend so much time browsing in bookstores -- I suspect that my awareness of the world is shaped as much by what I see on the shelves as by what I read in the newspapers. It certainly has a greater influence than what I see on TV, because I'm not watching TV at all anymore.

Anyway, here's my impressions about some of what's going down in the world, based on what kinds of books I've seen prominently displayed in the bookstore:

  • The administration of George W. Bush has revitalized the liberals by angering them profoundly. Today's Democrats are not like those of the late 90's, who were either supporters of the "centrist" Democratic Leadership Council, or were tolerant of a Clinton administration that pursued the DLC agenda. The new books in the politics section don't just make fun of Bush (though some do), they seethe with anger in a way that liberals haven't displayed since the Reagan years. The best example is the new book by kindly Garrison Keillor of "Prairie Home Companion" fame.

  • The pharmaceutical industry's intransigence about the exorbitantly high prices charged for prescription drugs won't last. Books like the one by Marcia Angell are proliferating in the business and health sections, all laying out the case against the supposed end to Big Pharma R&D that they claim would result from sensible measures to control the prices of prescription drugs. This one is also getting a lot of shelf space.

  • Fiction publishers are still enamored of the sort of cover design that they used with Caleb Carr's The Alienist. I've seen so many covers with sepia-toned covers with a fuzzy picture of a 19th-century guy in a black cloak that I'm reminded of the feverish imitation that a few reality TV shows have spawned. Too bad I haven't kept track of the individual titles so I could post a few examples. Next time you're in the bookstore, keep your eyes out for this mimicry and you'll see what I mean.

    Posted by Carey at September 12, 2004 02:35 PM
  • Comments

    Interesting observations. By the way, did you read the Alienist? That's a great book if you like escapist, historical thrillers.

    Posted by: Julie at September 12, 2004 05:35 PM

    I've wanted to read the Alienist ever since I saw that cool cover with the 19th-century guy in a cape... ;)

    But no, I haven't ever read it. I do like escapist historical thrillers, so it's on my list. Have you read Jennings' Aztec? There's a good escapist historical thriller for you...

    Posted by: Carey at September 13, 2004 09:44 PM - fine thing :)

    Posted by: Maminov Onopko at October 3, 2004 03:53 PM