1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale is Amazon's #1 bestseller

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Feb 7, 2017

The Handmaid’s Tale, the novel by Margaret Atwood, is back in the news — and not just because it's the basis of the upcoming Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale. The 1985 novel is currently #1 on the Amazon best-seller list.

Vulture surmises that the novel's surge in popularity came from a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl — as well as "the unnerving resurgence of sexism in American discourse."

Atwood's novel tells the tale of Offred, a young woman who lives in the Republic of Gilead, the fundamentalist theocracy that the United States has become. She is a "handmaid" to a commander (Fred, hence her name: Of-Fred), that is, a fertile woman whose purpose is to bear a child when a wife is infertile. Trust me, his wife Serena doesn't like it one bit ... especially the part where her husband has sex with Offred while Offred is lying on her lap.

I read and absorbed the book back in the late '80s, and it's a truly uncomfortable read. The protagonist is matter-of-factly trying to keep herself alive, but the loss of her freedom haunts her on every page. The prose is riveting and at times very sexual — but never when speaking about actual sex. I can't recommend it highly enough.

In fact, I suggest you read it now, before the show premieres on April 26 -- all the better to play the geeky game of "Who did it better: the book or the show?"

As for the rest of Amazon’s best-seller list, #2 is another dystopian nightmare, 1984 by George Orwell. But not everything that's old and dystopian is new again. Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, Norse Mythology, a collection of short stories about, well, Norse mythology, is currently on Amazon’s list at #4.