Amazon tracks reader interests closely, so I was not surprised to see a pitch for a history book on Amazon, but I was taken aback by the title pitched to me: Jonah Goldberg's screed Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, now the number one customer favorite in the category of history books for 2008: http://www.amazon.com/...
On closer examination it turns out that this award was based on sales through October 2008. One can only guess how many of the purchasers of Jonah's book read past the words liberal fascism. It would also be interesting to learn how many of the purchases of this book took place in the form of bulk sales.
The issue here, is less with J. Goldberg, however, than with Amazon. Surely the Amazon staff realize that they are peddling book sold in large part to reinforce conservative prejudices or invent new ones. It must be nice work if you can get it (for J. Goldberg)--write nonsense and get rich in the process. If the results can be so easily manipulated perhaps Amazon should cease with the customer choice awards altogether in this category, or if they are simply going to follow the numbers they might be better off not sticking the self-promoting Amazon award on customer's search pages.
Some of the other works on the top ten Amazon sales list for history are also no prize: take Pat Buchanan's Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World. But there are some books that might actually merit a plug such as Drew Gilpin Faust's, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War .