I contacted six other political scientists in reporting the story. None of them had made a serious study of the books, nor knew of someone who had, other than Andrew Civettini of Knox College, who had recently advised an undergraduate thesis on the topic.
His student, Helen Schnoes, analyzed the books as “strategic, political texts that often attempt to utilize the memoir form.” She asserts that candidates use the books to express their visions of self and nation, and make their case for election.
The media world has taken slightly more interest in the subject. New York University’s School of Communications and Professional Studies hosted a panel on “Candidates as Authors” in March 2008 where panel member David Rosenthal, then publisher at Simon and Schuster, commented, “It’s almost impossible now to run for president unless you have a book.” He notes that candidate authors that manage best-seller status get a sort of credibility, as well as a lot of media attention.
He continued, saying books have become “a tremendous platform for candidates and would be candidates to strut their stuff and more important, to have a wonderful excuse even out of the cycle to talk to press all around the country to talk to people and to get their faces out there, and also to show fundraisers, ‘My book sold, how can you say I have no credibility as a candidate?’”
He also commented that books are “great indicators” of the public’s enthusiasm and regard for a candidate pointing out that for someone to buy one, they have to care. “This is something you’re literally taking to bed with you,” he said.
How much are people caring this year?
Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney’s latest book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness is tracking at #201,643 on the Amazon.com bestseller list.
Rick Perry’s Fed Up! ranks #451.
Ron Paul’s latest, Liberty Defined, comes in at #569.
Herman Cain’s They Think You’re Stupid, published in June, is above #601,000. Snd Pawlenty’s Courage to Stand is tragically in stock and sitting at #255,940.
As for President Obama, three years in, his books fall somewhere in the middle, #3,183 for Dreams of My Father and #12,416 for The Audacity of Hope.
Let’s hope some of these buyers are journalists. If anyone ought to care, they should.