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Ayn Rand in Waldenbooks

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I decided before school tonight I'd walk around the mall and do some window browsing to get some ideas for Christmas presents for my family. I walked into Waldenbooks and saw a display along a wall that had many copies of The Fountainhead and Anthem on it. To my surprise, it had a sign on it which read:

To The Best of Mankind

Ayn Rand

Read one of the 20th century's best intellectuals.

I was shocked to see this and it made me wonder: are Ayn Rand's writings finally gaining mainstream acceptance? In 50 years, will our grandchildren be reading Ayn Rand in school for classic 20th century literature?

Of course, I certainly hope so.

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I decided before school tonight I'd walk around the mall and do some window browsing to get some ideas for Christmas presents for my family. I walked into Waldenbooks and saw a display along a wall that had many copies of The Fountainhead and Anthem on it. To my surprise, it had a sign on it which read:

No Atlas Shrugged? That's odd.

I certainly hope that more people start reading Rand. I am going to give Atlas Shrugged to three people this Christmas. One is a hardcore Demacrat/liberal (I have no idea whether she is pro-Capitalist or not) and the other is a hardcore Christian. They both have real potential to be Objectivist, they just haven't been introduced yet. :)

Funny story, my mom gave Atlas Shrugged to my violin teacher a long time ago. Then I found out she is a orthodox Jew who likes Socialism. She says she hasn't "gotten around to it yet" :)

If my whole English class read Atlas Shrugged, it would be the coolest thing ever. I asked my teacher about it. She said "I don't really like those kind of books."

WHAT? :dough:

Zak

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I decided before school tonight I'd walk around the mall and do some window browsing to get some ideas for Christmas presents for my family. I walked into Waldenbooks and saw a display along a wall that had many copies of The Fountainhead and Anthem on it. To my surprise, it had a sign on it which read:

To The Best of Mankind

Ayn Rand

Read one of the 20th century's best intellectuals.

I was shocked to see this and it made me wonder: are Ayn Rand's writings finally gaining mainstream acceptance? In 50 years, will our grandchildren be reading Ayn Rand in school for classic 20th century literature?

Of course, I certainly hope so.

If my memory serves me correctly, the ARI is working with WB to promote Ayn Rands works. It was featured in Impact, I think an excerpt about it was on the registered page of aynrand.org

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I work for B&N. I can't name too many other authors that have more shelve space in the fiction section than Ayn Rand. Also, Rand is very prominent in the philosophy section. Actually, VOS has been the top selling philosophy book in our store in the past year, even when you subtract the 2 copies I've purchased.

Every book has a "model" number, which indicates how many copies should be in the store at the time. I know that VOS has a model of four, so when it goes below that the computer automatically reorders the book. The process is kinda cool. Because of the sales figures, VOS has the highest individual model in the philosophy category in my store.

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I work for B&N.  I can't name too many other authors that have more shelve space in the fiction section than Ayn Rand.  Also, Rand is very prominent in the philosophy section.

Thank you for this comment. The largest bookstore in this area is Powell's (also Powells.com). The main store is one block square, three floors high.

They do not place any of Ayn Rand's works, even ITOE, in the philosophy section -- which they reserve for "serious" philosophers such as Jacques Derrida.

The owner of Powell's, Michael Powell, deserves admiration for his business skill. He built the business from a tiny store-front operation to a huge one. He loves books.

He is also leftist -- and ironically has had to struggle against a store union that arose a few years ago, accusing Powell of "exploiting" his workers. At one point in negotiations with the union, he threatened to shut the store down forever. He didn't, of course. Just hearing him say it made me cheer.

Over the years, I have noticed that Powell's is changing to reflect the rise of conservativism. That isn't necessarily good news for Objectivists, but it is intriguing to watch the process of leftism wither.

Another sign is this: In some departments, the store sets up displays of books recommended by employees -- and invariably they are left-wing trash that almost no one buys. That is exactly the same situation as in the local, very expensive county library system. A section of the fiction area includes a Librarians' Recommendations shelf. Ghastly naturalistic stuff that collects dust and no readers -- except the almost universally leftist librarians.

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That's interesting to hear about Powell's and Ayn Rand. I work for a bookstore that is based on Powell's business model of new and used books. We're the biggest independent bookstore in Alaska (and are about the size of a standard B&N or Borders).

Unlike Powell's, at our store, Ayn Rand gets plenty of shelf space and display (I make sure of that), both in western philosophy and literature. And surprisingly, at least 5 employees feature her works in the 'Picks' section. (Our picks section sells quite well).

If you're curious, our website is at www.wavebooks.com

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If you're curious, our website is at www.wavebooks.com

How could anyone not like a store whose adress is " 1360 W. Northern Lights Blvd?" That address alone captures the flavor of Alaska.

The store picture on the web site looks very nice. One thing, though, about the "BOOK SEARCH" feature: when I search on "Ayn Rand" the first two books that are shown are by "Maynard, Christopher," apparently finding the "ayn" in the middle of his name. In fact, out of the first twenty books appearing on the search results, seven are completely unrelated to Ayn Rand or Objectivism. Contrast this with amazon.com, where for a search in books using the same "Ayn Rand," I stopped looking after the first one-hundred books showed nothing that was unrelated to her or Objectivism.

I purchase a lot of books and I value a search algorithm that helps me hone in on what I am looking for, one that gets rid of extraneous listings that waste my time. I think a new search algorithm for the web site might be of value.

Edited by stephen_speicher
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Thank you for this comment. The largest bookstore in this area is Powell's (also Powells.com). The main store is one block square, three floors high.

They do not place any of Ayn Rand's works, even ITOE, in the philosophy section -- which they reserve for "serious" philosophers such as Jacques Derrida.

The owner of Powell's, Michael Powell, deserves admiration for his business skill. He built the business from a tiny store-front operation to a huge one. He loves books.

He is also leftist -- and ironically has had to struggle against a store union that arose a few years ago, accusing Powell of "exploiting" his workers. At one point in negotiations with the union, he threatened to shut the store down forever. He didn't, of course. Just hearing him say it made me cheer.

Over the years, I have noticed that Powell's is changing to reflect the rise of conservativism. That isn't necessarily good news for Objectivists, but it is intriguing to watch the process of leftism wither.

Another sign is this: In some departments, the store sets up displays of books recommended by employees -- and invariably they are left-wing trash that almost no one buys. That is exactly the same situation as in the local, very expensive county library system. A section of the fiction area includes a Librarians' Recommendations shelf. Ghastly naturalistic stuff that collects dust and no readers -- except the almost universally leftist librarians.

At Powell's I have seen bumper stickers for sale that said, "Labor creates all wealth."

I almost stopped going there.

I still go because the prices are so cheap. It's also the best place to buy inexpensive (sometimes as low as $2 for something like Anthem) copies of Ayn Rand's books to give away to friends and coworkers.

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Thank you for this comment. The largest bookstore in this area is Powell's (also Powells.com). The main store is one block square, three floors high.

They do not place any of Ayn Rand's works, even ITOE, in the philosophy section -- which they reserve for "serious" philosophers such as Jacques Derrida.

The owner of Powell's, Michael Powell, deserves admiration for his business skill. He built the business from a tiny store-front operation to a huge one. He loves books.

He is also leftist -- and ironically has had to struggle against a store union that arose a few years ago, accusing Powell of "exploiting" his workers. At one point in negotiations with the union, he threatened to shut the store down forever. He didn't, of course. Just hearing him say it made me cheer.

Over the years, I have noticed that Powell's is changing to reflect the rise of conservativism. That isn't necessarily good news for Objectivists, but it is intriguing to watch the process of leftism wither.

Another sign is this: In some departments, the store sets up displays of books recommended by employees -- and invariably they are left-wing trash that almost no one buys. That is exactly the same situation as in the local, very expensive county library system. A section of the fiction area includes a Librarians' Recommendations shelf. Ghastly naturalistic stuff that collects dust and no readers -- except the almost universally leftist librarians.

In fairness to Powell's they do have a problem with authors that fit into multiple areas, particularly when the number of books by that author that they stock isn't that high. And it is a particular pain in a store that big.

Rand is in the Libertarian thought section which also includes Hayek, Rothbard, etc. Rand is also in the Fiction section. If you put her in the philosophy section too you'll have about two or three books there.

As for employee recommendations... Generally people who work in bookstores are more liberal. You have to really like books and a relaxed atmosphere and take that in exchange for low pay. Conservatives tend to want the higher pay, so....

Anyway Powell's also has a holocaust revisionism section, so they are concerned with what sells. Rand just doesn't sell enough in Portland to stock enough of her stuff to also put her in Philosophy.

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In fairness to Powell's they do have a problem with authors that fit into multiple areas, particularly when the number of books by that author that they stock isn't that high.  And it is a particular pain in a store that big.

Rand is in the Libertarian thought section which also includes Hayek, Rothbard, etc.  Rand is also in the Fiction section.  If you put her in the philosophy section too you'll have about two or three books there.

[...] Rand just doesn't sell enough in Portland to stock enough of her stuff to also put her in Philosophy.

Do you live in Portland? Do you work at Powell's? If so, then you may have later and better information than I do. However, my experiences contradict your statements. I have been shopping there for perhaps 20 years.

First, I was told by an employee, several years ago, that only "serious" philosophers were in the Philosophy section (from which I have purchased more than $1k worth of books in the last few years).

Second, I know from my own bookhunts at Powell's that even very specialized books, for example, on particular medical diets, are multiple stocked even if there are only two copies available.

Third, placing Ayn Rand in the Libertarian Thought section is factually wrong -- as well as offensive.

Fourth, it is not true that there would be only "two or three books" in the Philosophy section for Ayn Rand: ITOE, PWNI, VOS, FNI, ARL, VOR, and RM come to mind immediately. In terms of content, all are comparable to books I have found in the Kant and Plato subsections of the Philosophy section. (Of course, Powell's doesn't consider them to be serious, because they appeal to readers outside academia.)

Even one copy of each title makes seven books, not counting other books about Objectivism, such as OPAR most of all, but also such works as Ayn Rand's Marginalia.

However, if your main point is that it is difficult to classify some books, I wholeheartedly agree. I have sometimes wondered how I would classify a book such as a study of the religious aspects of medieval science: Medieveal History? History of Science? History of Religion? -- to say nothing of the many subclassifications.

As I said in my original post, I have lots of respect for Michael Powell and what he has created in business. That applies right on down to the details of where and how to shelve books. It is the philosophical bias that otherwise colors the business that irks me.

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Do you live in Portland? Do you work at Powell's? If so, then you may have later and better information than I do. However, my experiences contradict your statements. I have been shopping there for perhaps 20 years.

First, I was told by an employee, several years ago, that only "serious" philosophers were in the Philosophy section (from which I have purchased more than $1k worth of books in the last few years).

Second, I know from my own bookhunts at Powell's that even very specialized books, for example, on particular medical diets, are multiple stocked even if there are only two copies available.

Third, placing Ayn Rand in the Libertarian Thought section is factually wrong -- as well as offensive.

Fourth, it is not true that there would be only "two or three books" in the Philosophy section for Ayn Rand: ITOE, PWNI, VOS, FNI, ARL, VOR, and RM come to mind immediately. In terms of content, all are comparable to books I have found in the Kant and Plato subsections of the Philosophy section. (Of course, Powell's doesn't consider them to be serious, because they appeal to readers outside academia.)

Even one copy of each title makes seven books, not counting other books about Objectivism, such as OPAR most of all, but also such works as Ayn Rand's Marginalia.

However, if your main point is that it is difficult to classify some books, I wholeheartedly agree. I have sometimes wondered how I would classify a book such as a study of the religious aspects of medieval science: Medieveal History? History of Science? History of Religion? -- to say nothing of the many subclassifications.

As I said in my original post, I have lots of respect for Michael Powell and what he has created in business. That applies right on down to the details of where and how to shelve books. It is the philosophical bias that otherwise colors the business that irks me.

I live in Portland, I know people that work in Powell's, I'm probably there like once a week.

Personally I've had problems with writers appearing in multiple sections. That is the author is sold out in the section I think is most likely and discover they are somewhere else I'd never thought of. That's why they have the nifty computer system.

Rand does logically fit into the "Libertarian" section, since people who go there for other reasons are more likely to buy Rand than people who go to the "Philosophy" section for other reasons.

Personally I think "Philosophy" needs to be subdivided a little better anyway.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Book publishers pay for special display space at retail stores. They also create the cardboard floor displays you see. So you can thank Penguin for promoting Ayn Rand's books at Borders and Waldenbooks.

You can also thank the Ayn Rand Institute for persuading Penguin to do it, showing them how, and underwriting some of the costs.

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I was under the impression that for many years her books were listed among the most influential books in the world..... I thought that I heard, that in the western world, they were second only to the bible( before I get slammed with posts, I am not saying anything by that other than her massive inffluence in the world). Go figure? She used to even frequent television shows such as Donahue! She :D seems to have been part of pop cultural since it existed, afterall how did all of you come across her texts? :P

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A survey of college students asked them what was their most influential book in their lives. Atlas Shrugged came in second behind the Bible. I forget who conducted the survey.

Another survey conducted by the congressional library asked scholars (the Intellegensia) what they felt was the most influential piece of literature in the 20th century. Their response was James Joyce's Ulysses. When they opened the survey to the American public, Atlas Shrugged was far and away number 1, and I don't even think Ulysses got ranked.

If you value your time, do not touch Ulysses. I am convinced that when Rand sat down to write "the art of fiction" she read Ulysses to assist her in remembering what NOT to do in a writing. Horrible excuse for literature.

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  • 2 weeks later...
But here's the funny thing: Re-reading Rand as an adult in 2005 is not what you thought it would be. It's not a "Oh, wow, what a chump I was!" feeling. In fact, the ideas from "Atlas Shrugged" you thought you had outgrown don't seem all that outlandish, after all.

I thought the Chicago Tribune review was pretty decent and probably encouraged people to go out and get the book.

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When I was in high school (at a public school in California) we read Anthem in one of my English classes. It was also required reading for my sister, who is still in high school. However, when I asked her what kind of lessons the book was being used for, what she told me made it seem like it was being studied form a stylistic viewpoint instead of from a thematic one.

Nevertheless, it's good to see Ayn Rand as a part of high school cirriculum.

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