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The most popular books at US public libraries this year, mapped by city

  • David Yanofsky
By David Yanofsky

Editor of code, visuals, and data

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Hollywood has been good to Paula Hawkins. Following the release of a movie adapted from her novel, The Girl on the Train, the book has become one of the most widely read books at US libraries this year.

A survey of 14 metropolitan libraries by Quartz shows that The Girl on the Train is the most checked-out book at eight of them, and the most checked-out work of fiction at 11.

There was also a strong Wimpy grip on children’s reading in 2016. Jeff Kinney’s series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, is the top book for kids in seven of the 12 cities that provided children’s breakouts.

Some books’ popularity were driven by library initiatives. For instance, the San Francisco Public Library’s “One City One Book” program encouraged its patrons to read Season of the Witch by David Talbot, shooting it to the top of its most popular book list.

Other books’ popularity are driven by adjacent corners of culture. Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton was the most borrowed nonfiction work in Baltimore. The book was the basis and inspiration for the Tony-award-winning play Hamilton.

Here are the top five books for each category at each library that responded to our requests:

The most popular fiction books of 2016

5The Nightingale, Kristin HannahNYPD Red 4, James PattersonGo Set a Watchman, Harper LeeAll the Light We Cannot See, Anthony DoerrAlert, James PattersonThe Japanese Lover, Isabel AllendeCross Justice, James PattersonAll the Light We Cannot See, Anthony DoerrThe Last Mile, David BaldacciThe Crossing, Michael ConnellyGo Set a Watchman, Harper LeeThe Nightingale, Kristin HannahFates and Furies, Lauren Groff

The most popular nonfiction books of 2016

5Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan CainTroublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, Leah ReminiThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Marie KondoBeing Moral: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul GawandeRising Strong, Brené BrownWhen Breath Becomes Air, Paul KalanithiThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Marie KondoThe Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, Jesmyn WardWaiting for Snow in Havana, Carlos MN EireSpark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, Marie KondoMindy Kaling, Why Not Me?

The most popular children’s books of 2016

5Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Hard Luck, Jeff KinneyThe BFG, Roald DahlOne fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, Dr. SeussTales from a Not So Dorky Drama Queen, Rachel Renee RussellLego Ninjago, Masters of Spinjitzu, Tracey WestWaiting is not Easy!, Mo WillemsHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, JK RowlingDiary of a Wimpy Kid. The Long Haul, Jeff KinneyDiary of a Wimpy Kid. Dog Days, Jeff KinneyDiary of a Wimpy Kid. The Ugly Truth, Jeff KinneyI broke my trunk!, Mo Willems

The number of times a book can be checked out is, of course, limited by the library’s inventory, the speed at which local patrons complete and return books, and the efficiency of library staff in recirculating the title.

The public libraries of Memphis, Philadelphia, San Jose, Houston, Chicago, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Phoenix did not provide Quartz with suitable rankings prior to publication.

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