John Bolton's bad reviews don't stop him topping US book charts

The Room Where It Happened, due out later this month if attempts to block publication fail, has received stinging early notices but is already Amazon’s No 1

John Bolton’s damning indictment of the Trump presidency is soaring up online charts in the US a week before its release, despite withering reviews describing it as “bloated with self-importance”, as the Trump administration makes a last-ditch attempt to prevent its publication.

In the teeth of a series of critical assessments from papers including the New York Times and the Washington Post, Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened is currently No 1 on Amazon’s US charts. Its sales are just ahead of another scathing take on Donald Trump, this time his niece Mary Trump’s forthcoming Too Much and Never Enough, which is subtitled How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Bolton’s book, which is out on 23 June, and Mary Trump’s, scheduled for 28 July, have knocked anti-racism titles by authors including Ibram X Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo and Robin DiAngelo off the top spots.

As the US justice department on Wednesday sought an emergency order to block publication of Bolton’s memoir, copies of the book were leaked to news outlets which revealed a series of explosive claims from the former national security adviser. According to Bolton, Trump pleaded with China to help him with his 2020 re-election campaign, praised China’s president Xi Jinping for his country’s internment camps, and was willing to halt criminal investigations to “give personal favours to dictators he liked”. Trump also weighed in, claiming on Twitter that the book is “made up of lies & fake stories”.

Early reviews of the book have not been favourable. The New York Times said the memoir was “bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much”. Filled with “minute and often extraneous details”, the review continued, it “toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged”.

The Washington Post said that “for a memoir that is startlingly candid about many things, Bolton’s utter lack of self-criticism is one of the book’s significant shortcomings”, while NPR found that Bolton “clearly does not expect to attract the casual reader, or anyone else unable to digest sentences such as this one on the third page: ‘Constant personnel turnover obviously didn’t help, nor did the White House’s Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes (war of all against all)’.”

Reviews were united in criticising Bolton’s refusal to testify at the Trump impeachment hearings last year. The New York Times called his chapter on Ukraine “weird, circuitous and generally confounding”. Bolton argues that “because of the House’s impeachment malpractice”, testifying would have made “no significant difference”.

“It’s a self-righteous and self-serving sort of fatalism that sounds remarkably similar to the explanation he gave years ago for pre-emptively signing up for the National Guard in 1970 and thereby avoiding service in Vietnam,” writes the NYT.

For NPR, “what might have been blockbuster testimony in January or February seems more historical than contemporary today”. The Washington Post also considers him too late: “Bolton took his time in telling us the truth, and he should have done more when it was his duty during the impeachment inquiry. But it’s all here. In boxing, you’d call it a knockout punch.”

Whether the blow will land is still unclear. The emergency order from the justice department follows a civil suit filed by the Trump administration on Tuesday. Simon & Schuster, the book’s publisher, called the restraining order “a frivolous, politically motivated exercise in futility”, adding that “hundreds of thousands” of copies of The Room Where It Happened have already been distributed.

Contributor

Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Trump and Navarro condemn John Bolton's China claim
After judge allows publication but criticizes author’s behaviour, senior White House aide says Bolton ‘should turn in his seersucker suit for a jumpsuit’

Martin Pengelly in New York

22, Jun, 2020 @12:00 AM

Article image
Trump reportedly calls John Bolton a 'traitor' and wants to block his book
President reportedly told aides and media figures book shouldn’t be published before November’s election

Martin Pengelly in New York and agencies

22, Feb, 2020 @3:21 PM

Article image
White House 'pressured official to say John Bolton book was security risk'
Ex-National Security Council official claims she was pressured her to say manuscript contained sensitive information after her department had cleared it

Alison Flood

24, Sep, 2020 @3:10 PM

Article image
Trump administration sues to block publication of John Bolton's book
Officials claim book, which is critical of administration, contains classified information and would compromise national security

Maanvi Singh and agencies

17, Jun, 2020 @12:49 AM

Article image
Amazon redacts one-star reviews of Hillary Clinton's What Happened
Hundreds of damning verdicts on memoir of 2016 presidential race, posted within hours of publication, have been removed by the online bookseller

Alison Flood

14, Sep, 2017 @10:59 AM

Article image
John Bolton: judge declines to block tell-all Trump book
Trump says Bolton ‘must pay a very big price for this’, with former national security adviser’s memoir due out Tuesday

Martin Pengelly in New York

20, Jun, 2020 @5:54 PM

Article image
Trump is trying to block publication of John Bolton's book. What's he scared of? | Lloyd Green
The memoir reportedly depicts Trump as caring more about re-election than US national security. No wonder he wants to quash it

Lloyd Green

17, Jun, 2020 @6:30 AM

Article image
HR McMaster to publish book that may pose headaches for Trump
Ex-national security adviser to release Battlegrounds on 28 April while president is trying to block release of John Bolton’s book

Martin Pengelly in New York

24, Feb, 2020 @1:04 PM

Article image
Hillary Clinton to 'let her guard down' in candid 2016 election memoir
What Happened, due out in September, will tell the story of the electoral battle with Donald Trump in ‘a deeply intimate account and a cautionary tale for the nation’

Alison Flood

27, Jul, 2017 @12:33 PM

Article image
Fire and Fury flies off shelves, with publisher rushing to print 1m copies
Michael Wolff’s headline-grabbing exposé of the US president’s administration has been selling out on both sides of the Atlantic in its first days on sale

Alison Flood

09, Jan, 2018 @1:45 PM