Nearly everyone knows what the phrase “Big Brother” means in a political discussion – a government that keeps a close eye on its people’s comings and goings, a surveillance state. Surprisingly few people these days know that the phrase comes from George Orwell’s dystopian science fiction novel, 1984.
That, it seems, is rapidly changing. In the wake of recent revelations regarding the NSA’s surveillance of American citizens the book has shot up Amazon’s bestseller rankings. One edition – the centennial edition – has seen sales increase by a staggering 5,800%, moving from 7,397th to 125th. Another edition has moved from 810th in the rankings to 209th. Other booksellers have reported similar spikes in sales, including Barnes & Noble and The Strand in New York City. The book is currently 43rd in the iBooks store’s top books list.
The book, in case you haven’t read it, tells the story of a totalitarian government run by the mysterious dictator Big Brother. The government engages in extensive surveillance and mind control of the populace (hence the phrase “Big Brother is watching you,” which appears on propaganda materials in the book).
1984 isn’t the only book to enjoy a boost in sales thanks to the NSA scandal. Other dystopian novels have seen similar, if not as striking, surges, including Orwell’s other classic, Animal Farm, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
So, on the down side, it turns out that the government is paying way more attention to your business than (almost) anybody thought. On the bright side, a whole new generation of readers are being introduced to some literary classics. So there’s that.