One way to take the pulse of a country is to determine what its people are reading. Quartz checked in with public libraries across the country about their recent circulation rankings for adult books. The data, illustrated in a pair of infographics, tells the story of what’s popular in the world of literature.
Top shelf finds: Paula Hawkins's The Girl on the Train and Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. The two novels, both of which debuted this year, dominate in nine of the 15 city libraries who reported their figures. (Writer David Yanofsky notes that Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, and San Antonio did not report back before deadline.)
There is accounting for good taste, but the numbers aren't perfect: Each library reported totals from their most recent checkout list, but whereas some of the institutions offered up lists that spanned a few months, others had numbers that covered only July or August. Other factors like inventory and the speed at which readers return their books also play a part in which books become most popular, but are not reflected in this particular set of data.
Titles that might seem like outliers in the group have reasonable, but location-specific, explanations. The San Francisco Public Library, for example, promoted Fairyland by Alysia Abbott through its “On the Same Page” initiative, earning it a place on the map.
Still, the overwhelming popularity of Lee and Hawkins’s titles led Quartz to see what would happen if those two books were excluded. To no one's surprising, removing the two frontrunners makes the map a lot more colorful, though a lot of names still repeat.