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saint's avatar

Does it surprise you that Atlas Shrugged continues to sell well?

Asked by saint (3970points) February 14th, 2012

Atlas Shrugged is a mystery novel about the disappearance of America’s great thinkers, industrialists, inventors and artists. Its philosophical theme is the role of the mind in man’s existence.
In 2011 all English editions of Atlas Shrugged sold 445,000 copies. That is more than the book sold in 1957 when it was a best seller. Plus,Penguin’s new “Atlas Shrugged” iPad app recently won the Publishing Innovation Award for best app in the fiction category.

Does this surprise you? Why? Why not?

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21 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

I wouldn’t say it surprises me so much as it disappoints me.

janbb's avatar

Well – a movie was released of it last year and Ayn Rand’s philosophy seems to resonate with a certain proportion of the population today so I am not surprised.

gailcalled's avatar

I found it unreadable 55 years ago and am saddened that there are still fans. Nothing like a little hot rape scene to spice up the economic POV. The rape victim falls in love with the protagonist, also. What’s not to like?

Rheto_Ric's avatar

Ayn Rand, as far as I’m aware, was an exponent of some form of individualism. When the world is falling apart around our ears, it makes sense that people like to feel empowered and in control of their own fate, being anti-government etc. etc.
I’m sure thousands of people every year discover Ayn Rand by some route, just as they discover any writer (she’s a great fictional storyteller), but when people are searching for answers, her philosophy can be attractive. I’m not sure the film has had much influence on the numbers, as it went straight to DVD and has no big stars. Apparently quite good though.

Blackberry's avatar

The Bible is pretty popular, too.

DominicX's avatar

I know most people on this site seem to dislike Ayn Rand yet most people on a site of which I am also a member seem to love her. This disparity naturally creates interest in me and I, therefore, will probably end up reading the book some day…

TexasDude's avatar

@DominicX that seems to be how most people approach her in general. It seems that half of people who have read her think she’s the brilliant and luminous incarnation of everything that is pure and awesome on earth, and the other half think she’s an evil devil puppy-killer who warps the minds of innocent people everywhere.

I’ve read some of her stuff. I wasn’t fond of Atlas Shrugged, but I like The Fountainhead. I don’t think she’s a savior or a corrupter of minds. Just an author.

gorillapaws's avatar

After reading the Fountainhead, I wanted to be an architect for a spell (back in middle-school). Rand never sold me on the idea of how being indifferent to your fellow man was somehow beneficial to society. There are too many real-life examples of how that ends up a shitty mess. I think it’s disappointing that I could figure this out as an 8th grader, but full-grown adults seem to lack the ability to do the same.

GracieT's avatar

@DominicX, what other site? You’ve made me curious!

wundayatta's avatar

Seeing as how there are some famous and popular national politicians whose philosophy is supposedly exemplified in the book, I’m not surprised.

Ron_C's avatar

It will sell as long as there are teenagers and sociopaths in America.

TexasDude's avatar

@Ron_C what about AP English teachers?

Ron_C's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard now that you mention it, I read Fountainhead after high school. I don’t remember any teachers or professors being impressed by her. Most I heard was that her characters were stiff and shallow. That is probably why I read the first one. I seldom trusted my teachers’ opinions. ( I went to Catholic school but was a budding agnostic).

TexasDude's avatar

@Ron_C my AP English teacher my sophomore year of highschool had us read Atlas Shrugged and analyze/discuss it in the same way we analyzed the other books we read (which included Catch-22 and The Grapes of Wrath, among others). She was a liberal Democrat, but she didn’t inject politics into anything.

I didn’t read Fountainhead until last year.

Ron_C's avatar

I read Catch 22 in high school and now have it as an audible book. I read and re-read Ayn Rands books when I was going to engineering school because I needed a break from logic.

TexasDude's avatar

I hated Catch 22 when I first read it, but it’s among my favorites now. I never could get into Grapes of Wrath. We read a lot of good shit in her class. It was a nice break from my other AP English classes where we read nothing but John Grisham over and over and over again. Literally.

GracieT's avatar

I would have loved having Rand in my AP English Class. I don’t remember everything we did, but I know we didn’t read Rand.

ETpro's avatar

No, there’s one born every minute. It’s a fun book to read, and it appeals to Americans strongly.

But the notion that John Galt could make the trains run on time, while it is a compelling one, is patently absurd. It fits the nostalgic Wild West individualism so much a part of the American meme. But it’s also absolute bunk. No one man can acquire all the rights-of-way, engineer all the track and bridges, lay the track and maintain it, build the locomotive and all the cars, mine the fuel to drive the engine, be the train’s engineer, conductor, brakeman and porters, man all the crossings and control centers that operate all the switches, sell the tickets for passengers and book all the freight, staff all the freight warehouses and drive all the forklifts… You get the picture. Ayn Rand’s iconoclastic character, John Galt, makes it all work.

Suggesting the entrepreneur is that important, that capable, is utter rubbish. Every great inventor or entrepreneur gets his raw materials and delivers his finished products over roads and bridges we all paid to build and maintain. His very idea came from a foundation of knowledge we all built, including much we all directly paid to research. The labor pool he hires to man his factories and offices and be his sales force was educated by schools and teachers we all paid to provide.

I love entrepreneurs, and God bless them if they have a great idea and put thousands of people to work. But let’s never forget that they stand on the shoulders of millions of ordinary people. Without those shoulders to stand on, they would be no taller than you or I. They can’t evenhandedly make the trains run on time any more than Rand’s fictitious Government could.

SavoirFaire's avatar

I’m not terribly surprised. For one, escapist fantasy has always sold well. For another, Ayn Rand is sometimes taught in political philosophy classes (meaning that many people purchase the book simply as a requirement). And furthermore, the Ayn Rand Institute and The Atlas Society both artificially increase the sales numbers by purchasing large numbers of the book and then attempting to distribute them (sometimes by reselling them).

I’m also not sure just how great these sales numbers are. There are roughly 4500 universities in the United States. At the one where I teach, at least 500 copies of Plato’s Republic are sold annually. Not all US colleges have large introductory classes like my institution does, of course, but it is also likely that almost every university has some class that uses the Republic as a text. Even if the average is only 100 copies sold per university annually, then, that still results in 450,000 copies of Republic to 445,000 of Atlas Shrugged.

It would be interesting to get non-academic sales numbers on each book. Unfortunately, few companies are will to part with this sort of proprietary information. Bookstores tend to stock more of Plato, Nietzsche, and Rand than other authors in their philosophy sections, though, so I suspect that each of them sells fairly well (relatively speaking).

Ron_C's avatar

@ETpro ”. They can’t evenhandedly make the trains run on time any more than Rand’s fictitious Government could.’ An absolutely Great Answer. You are really building up steam on Ayn Rand’s simplistic view of the world.

ETpro's avatar

@Ron_C Thanks. But my spell checker threw me curve in that answer. Evenhandedly should have been single-handedly.. :-)

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