A Banner Day for Bad Books

Illustration for article titled A Banner Day for Bad Books
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It’s a day that ends in -y, so naturally two of your enemies have signed major book deals. I mean, maybe for you, personally, it’s more than two—I’m just here to tell you about Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and former Attorney General William Barr, who are both getting paid boatloads of money to write their respective books.


Barrett’s reported $2 million contract is for what Politico calls a “tome” about “how judges are not supposed to bring their personal feelings into how they rule.”

It’s not unusual for Supreme Court justices to publish books while they’re still on the bench, though they tend to stay focused pretty narrowly on talking about the courts as well as various legal frameworks and philosophies. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch—who reportedly received just $225k for his book deal by comparison—departed from this convention a bit when he wove in some memoir throughout his big bad book, which published last year. It doesn’t seem entirely unlikely to me that Barrett’s will also include some personal tidbits, especially considering how she weaponized her biography during her confirmation hearings. In any case, what’s striking to me about the description is that Barrett has notably only served as a judge since 2017, so it would seem that she has very little experience to draw on with regards to “how judges are not supposed to bring their personal feelings into how they rule.”

It’s not yet clear what the angle of Barr’s book is—which is to say, how negative he’ll go on Trump. Barr stepped down from his post in December after the Electoral College certified the 2020 election results, but praised Trump in his resignation announcement.

Of course, in some sense it matters very little what these books actually say. Anyone who has even the slightest brush with the Trump White House has been virtually guaranteed a book deal over the last four years, though Politico reports that some former Trump officials have hard a “tougher time” selling their stories. And really, it should be much tougher: Setting aside the obvious moral questions about rewarding Trump associates with multimillion-dollar book deals, I’m not sure there’s anything new anyone could tell me about Trump’s time in the White House that I would find remotely interesting at this point.

In good bad book news, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is now facing an inquiry into his use of state resources and staff as he wrote, edited, and promoted his vanity book on the pandemic. Whatever the investigation’s outcome, I hope the mere fact of it might be a lesson to any other public figure seeking to write a bad book for no good reason.

Night blogger at Jezebel with writing at The Baffler, The Nation, The New Republic, Vice, and more.


Brick HardMeat

Barr apparently has political aspirations. I think he even took an exploratory trip to Iowa.

Any politician with aspirations basically has to write a book at this point. Obama essentially made it required with Dreams From My Father. It’s nice to say “Best Selling Author.” Trump even touted that credential around for a book he didn’t even write.

It’s become so important to conservatives that there’s a whole shadow industry of nameless organizations, think tanks, and other sympathetic groups that purchase poorly written books by conservatives extremists* with the primary goal of getting them on the New York Times best seller list, all in the name of publicity. I would bet a cool $100 that’s what’s going on with Barr.

As for ACB — she clearly isn’t interested in higher office. Not sure what publicity gets her, other than more speaking engagements/higher rates. The simplest explanation is she wrote a book and (thinks) she has something interesting to say and/or she wants to make $$$. I can’t fault her for that. I can fault her for her garbage politics though.