‘Mystery Benefactor’ Leaving Out Free Copies of ‘1984’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in San Francisco


The cover of 1984 is shown in a file photo. (Credit: CNN)

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It started last week when someone purchased 50 copies of George Orwell’s “1984” from Booksmith, a bookstore in the Haight-Ashbury district, and left them with a sign that said “Read up! Fight back! A mystery benefactor has bought these copies of 1984 for you if you need one.”

Orwell’s book tells of a future dystopia plagued by a manipulative government that thrives on propaganda, “Newspeak,” and thought police. Published in 1949, the book has seen a surge in sales since the election.

The store would not say who bought the books, just that he or she was a regular customer.

The copies were gone the same day.

So another Robin Hood of literature stepped in, this time armed with Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts.”

Again, they were gone.

Before long, the store’s social media was flooded with messages of support — and customers interested in sponsoring books as well. Store owner Christin Evans was happy to oblige, ordering 100 more copies of “1984” in an effort to keep the conversation going.

“It’s a quiet form of political engagement” store manager Amy Stephenson told CNN. “It didn’t start with us, but we are happy to help in any way we can.”

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