The New York Times "Freakonomics" column had a brief entry about the recent spikes in sales seen by Ayn Rand's magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. I submitted the following comment. While possibly interesting on it's own, it is probably best put in context by the comments that come before.
Reading Atlas Shrugged because you’ve been hearing about it in the news is certainly understandable and I personally hope that trend continues! However, just reading the book won’t make you truly understand Ayn Rand’s philosophy or its implications and connections with what is happening today.
I encourage everyone to read AS, read a bit about her philosophy in a non-fiction context (there are a lot of good resources at http://www.aynrand.org, including a summary of her ideas), and then try to apply it to your life. Think about examples that you see around you, big and small, and how they might play out in a system based on reason, self-interest and free markets. Think about what is happening now and it’s true causes and how things would be different under different scenarios.
Ayn Rand’s philosophy is not a religion - you can’t just read the book and follow it and have a happy life. You have to understand the ramifications, internalize it, apply it and live it. So before you judge, start with understanding. I think you’ll come to understand that living in a reasonable society where people work for their own self-interest is the best possible scenario for everyone.
Along those lines, the upcoming issue of The Objective Standard has an interview with Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute where he talks about the messages in Atlas Shrugged and how, even more than being political, "it is a novel about what happens to a world that denounces its best minds as greedy and immoral". Of course that relates directly to todays politics, but it speaks to the deeper reasons behind our policies today and why they are so damaging. TOS is offering the interview free of charge on their website.