books · libraries

Discover the Most Popular Library Books of 2016

Book lovers in Texas may end up going to battle against book lovers in New York about which books truly ruled 2016. Quartz’s survey of 14 metropolitan U.S. libraries determined what books patrons checked out the most the most in different regions. Some of the results won’t surprise you – everyone wanted to get their hands on The Girl on the Train –  but others hint at the way that interests vary according to place.

Below is a brief sample of the survey results of fiction books in New York, San Antonio, and Washington.

Fiction Survey Results Sample

New York

  1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  2. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
  3. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
  4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

San Antonio

  1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  5. The Last Mile by David Baldacci


  1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  3. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  4. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  5. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff


It seems that New York was occupied with thoughts of Harper Lee in 2016 while San Antonio was a bit more romantic and wanted to read Me Before You. (Which was no doubt driven by the release of the movie adaptation.) The diverging interests of readers is intriguing, and I would love to see a more in depth analysis of these numbers.

Though I love seeing what Quartz has compiled, this survey shouldn’t be taken as a definitive look at American reading interests. The number of times a patron could check out a book was limited by a library’s inventory, the return time for a book, and other variables that were not standardized. It also overlooks many major metropolitan libraries in the Plains states and the Midwest. To be fair to Quartz, they did contact the public library systems of Chicago, Indianapolis, Memphis and other centrally located cities, but didn’t receive statistics in time to for the article. (Though given that Quartz published the article on December 29, I imagine some of those libraries hadn’t even had time to compile their year end statistics yet. I remember doing library statistics. These things don’t just happen by magic. Especially not over the winter holidays.)

Regardless it is interesting to have a very general overview of what types of books people in the U.S. read in 2016. I am curious to see what the most read books are for midsize and smaller cities though as I suspect those lists differ from the ones seen here. There is still a lingering divide between the rural and urbane areas in terms of library funding if nothing else, and that would influence these lists.

Take a look at the full survey results, and let me know what you think of them! In addition to the sample of fiction books that I listed above, the survey provides a fascinating overview of the most read nonfiction and children’s books. I’m ashamed to say there are a fair number I hadn’t heard of!



6 thoughts on “Discover the Most Popular Library Books of 2016

    1. When I looked at the map of replies, there looked like such a hole in the middle of the country! As a girl who grew up in corn country, it nearly broke my heart. (And mostly I’m just nosy and want to know what people in my home state read.)

      Liked by 1 person

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