I have a lot of disagreements with conservatives, but there's one thing I'll give them credit for: their support of the publishing industry. I give you the top-selling non-fiction books of 2009, from Publisher's Weekly (h/t Tyler Cowen):
1. Going Rogue: An American Life. Sarah Palin. Harper (2,674,684).
2. Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment. Steve Harvey. Harper (1,735,219).
3. *Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government. Glenn Beck. Threshold.
4. *Liberty & Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto. Mark R. Levin.
5. True Compass: A Memoir. Edward M. Kennedy. Grand Central (870,402).
6. Have a Little Faith: A True Story. Mitch Albom. Hyperion (855,843).
7. *It's Your Time: Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase in God's Favor. Joel Osteen. Free Press.
8. The Last Lecture. Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow. Hyperion (610,033).
9. Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs. Greg Mortenson. Viking (515,566).
10. Superfreakonomics. Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. William Morrow (487,977).
You'll notice that Sarah Palin is No. 1, Glenn Beck is No. 3, and conservative talk-radio host Mark Levin is No. 4 (the asterisks mean PW agreed not to share the exact sales figures). The only liberal in the top 10 is Ted Kennedy. And there are more:
19. Catastrophe. Dick Morris. Harper (289,887).
23. A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity. Bill O'Reilly. Broadway (247,897).
25. Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America. Ann Coulter. Crown (208,336).
Any more liberals? Well, a couple:
54. The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory. David Plouffe. Viking (147,202).
62. Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities. Elizabeth Edwards. Broadway (141,032).
But on the whole, it's no contest. As they have for some time, conservatives just buy more books by their people than liberals do. It isn't as though liberals don't write or read books. So what's going on? I think it has to do with the totality with which conservatives are more likely to give themselves over to the people they admire. People who like Sarah Palin really like Sarah Palin, so much so that they'll plunk down $28.99 to read her wise words (that was the sticker price of Going Rogue). Glenn Beck's fans feel as though he is the one person in America who truly understands the depths of the socialist conspiracy; so if they're going to help save their country, they've got to get one of his books (or, more likely, all of them). Liberals, on the other hand, like their writers and commentators well enough, but most of the time, they can wait to get the book out of the library.
Which would explain why the one liberal who can really move merchandise is a guy named Barack Obama. He sold 338,672 copies of The Audacity of Hope in paperback.
-- Paul Waldman