If you don't live under a rock, you've probably noticed that standing up to Trump administration is a daily occurrence for people, places, and organizations across the country these days. In the last three months, there have been countless protests, marches, and other demonstrations against the new administration and its controversial policies, but one of the most remarkable signs of resistance in the Trump era has been the free books given away since the election. From classic dystopians to manifestos of hope and change, the literature bookstores, libraries, and individuals are giving away says a lot about where we are as a country, where we want to go next, and probably most importantly, where we need to steer clear of.
Throughout history, countless books have been deemed "dangerous" and subsequently burned, banned, or censored, often "for the good of the people." Novels that challenged the political system of the day, stories that went against the accepted norm, and authors who spoke out against injustice were often the targets of governments and school systems who feared their potential to disrupt the status quo. But today, protest literature is telling a different story.
From celebrities to libraries to bookstores and more, book-lovers are sharing with the reading public stories that really matter, and books that can make a difference in the fight against the current political hostilities of today's America. Here are 7 of the books that have been given away since the election of Donald Trump. There's a reasons these books matter.
1. '1984' by George Orwell
Prior to Trump's inauguration, an anonymous good samaritan donated copies of George Orwell's classic dystopian novel 1984 to the patrons of Green Apple Books. The bookstore shared a photo of the books, along with a card explaining that it was meant to arm the public "against newspeak and alternative facts." Since the original donation in January, several other bookstores have received free copies of the book to give out to their customers.
In an interview with KQED Arts, the anonymous donor that started the trend, who goes by the name of Winston Smith, explained his actions simply by saying:
“Four words: post truth, alternative facts.”
A novel about how dangerous alternative facts are, and how deadly a government who changes the truth can be, 1984 has become one of the most popular books in the Trump era, even rising to the #1 spot on Amazon.
2 & 3. 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood & 3. 'In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and and American Family in Hitler's Berlin' by Erik Larson
After seeing copies of 1984 being given away at the store, an anonymous benefactor bought copies of The Handmaid's Tale and In the Garden of Beasts from San Francisco-based Booksmith to be given away to shoppers. When talking to the L.A. Times about the recent movement of free book giveaways, the store's owner said:
"This has become a way for bookstores to play a role in this political climate. Bookstores believe greatly in the power of the written word to help inform, educate, inspire and persuade."
Both incredible relevant to today's political climate, Atwood's novel tells a cautionary tale about a theocratic regime who systematically takes civil rights away from women — sound familiar? Larson's book, however, is a work of nonfiction that deals with events surrounding Hitler's rise to power and the quiet but deadly threat of the Nazi movement.
4. 'The Underground Railroad' by Colson Whitehead
In February, BBC Radio released a free abridged audio version of Colson Whitehead's National Book Award-winning novel, The Underground Railroad. While this version is only two hours long (the original is closer to 11), it still packs a devastating emotional punch that will change the way listeners see race, both in the context of our past and in our current climate. Free to stream until March 22, the audiobook is narrated by The Wire’s Clarke Peters, who told BBC:
"I felt my emotions get stuck in my throat and could no longer narrate because I found it hitting things inside of me that I thought might have been dormant but still had not been resolved. And some of those things resonate today. It’s one thing to forgive, but we must never forget. I think that what happened yesterday while reading it and getting so emotional is that I realized I hadn’t forgiven and that’s what hurt because I don’t know who to give that to.”
Despite dreams of living in a post-racial society after the presidency of Barack Obama, racial inequality and tensions are at an all-time high. Luckily, books like Colson's can remind us, as Peters put it, that we can never forget the mistakes of our past, lest we want to relive them in our future.
5. 'We Should All Be Feminists' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
"We chose Inauguration Day for this giveaway because when we inaugurate a new president and bring in a new administration it’s a time of new beginnings and new challenges, a chance to reflect on where we are as a country, where we want to go, and how we want to get there. We found the words of this international voice to be particularly inspiring and wanted to share them with our customers."
Based on her popular TEDx talk in 2012, Adiche's slim but important book is a powerful reminder of why the world still needs feminism, and why every person, not just every woman, should claim the title boldly and proudly.
6. 'Hope in the Dark' by Rebecca Solnit
Writer, activist, and feminist icon Rebecca Solnit gave away free ebook copies of her inspirational collection, Hope in the Dark, last November following the election of Donald Trump. In a Facebook post about the giveaway, the author of Men Explain Things to Me told her fans:
"I’m against lashing out, but I’m against running away from the impact too. I’m for taking it in and then gathering our strength to move on."
In her short but powerful book, Solnit draws on her decades of activism to highlight the potential for change and the necessity of hope, especially in the face of dark times. While the free offer is over, Solnit's book is still available to readers at a steep discount.
7. 'Mom and Me and Mom' by Maya Angelou
In response to Donald Trump's election, feminist icon and Beauty and the Beast star Emma Watson left copies of her My Shared Shelf book club pick, Mom and Me and Mom, around the subway, first in London, and later in New York City. The actress explained in a tweet:
"Today I am going to deliver Maya Angelou books to the New York subway. Then I am going to fight even harder for all the things I believe in.
Last week, Watson continued her trend of sharing important literature with readers for free by teaming up with Book Fairies to distribute copies of The Color Purple, How to Be a Woman, and My Life on the Road in public places all over the world. Each of the books Watson has given away have shared a common theme of feminism, female voices, inclusivity, and women's rights, all topics everyone in the country could benefit from learning more about.