Stephen King

These Are the Most Popular Books at DC Libraries

Data provided by the DC Public Library System reveals what Washingtonians are reading


Anywhere you go in Washington, D.C., you're bound to see someone with their nose in a book. Recently named America's most literate city, the District boasts 26 libraries and dozens of bookstores.

To get a peek into what Washingtonians are reading, NBC Washington checked out the DC Public Library's data on the most popular books and authors of the past year.

Most-Circulated Library Books in DC

Source: DC Public Library System
Credit: Anisa Holmes/NBC4

Check the map below to see the top 10 most-circulated books at each of D.C.'s 26 libraries from August 2018 through August 2019. The results show that Washington's reading choices are delightfully diverse.

"Little Fires Everywhere," Celeste Ng's novel about motherhood and race in a planned community, was the most-circulated book in D.C.

Most-Circulated Books in Washington, DC, by Library

Click on the different points on the map to see the top 10 most-circulated books per library in D.C., from 2018 to 2019

Source: DC Public Library System
Credit: Anisa Holmes/NBC4

Tara Westover's book "Educated: A Memoir" came in second place. The writer tells her story of reaching elite colleges after not stepping foot in a classroom until she was 17. And Michelle Obama's memoir, "Becoming," came in third.


Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia local news, events and information

DC police officer publishes new children's book

Cadillac thieves caught on camera outside Laurel home

The top 10 list included eight novels, two memoirs and the reported nonfiction book "Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup." All eight of the novels are literary fiction, not the genre fiction that is sometimes considered more low-brow.

"D.C. is a literate city," said Sheryl Katzin, the DC Public Library's director of collections.

Well-reviewed fiction tends to be very popular in the District, she said.

The list of most popular authors, though, is less literary. It's topped by mystery writer James Patterson, travel writer Rick Steves and horror writer Stephen King.

DC's Favorite Authors

Source: DC Public Library System
Credit: Anisa Holmes/NBC Washington

Anticipating which books will be most popular is an art in itself, Katzin, the library's collections director said. Staffers read the trade publication Library Journal and track which authors are featured in The New York Times, on NPR and on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," among other outlets.

The library staff also keeps an eye on hold requests for books, so they can see when a book is more popular than they had anticipated.

And the change from summer to fall may bring a shift in library checkouts; what readers want tends to be seasonal, Katzin said.

"What you're in the mood to read in the summer and what you're in the mood to read come fall can change a little bit," she said, with fall picks tending to be weightier.

Here are a few things we noticed in the library data:

  • "Little Fires Everywhere," "Educated" and "Becoming" were in the top three at more than half of D.C. library branches.
  • Takoma Park liked "Barracoon: The Story of the Last 'Black Cargo'" by Zora Neale Hurston, "Sing, Unburied, Sing" by Jesmyn Ward and "The Windfall" by Diksha Basu.
  • At the Parklands-Turner branch, "This Mournable Body" by Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga was the most-circulated book.
  • "Bad Blood" was a favorite at the Cleveland Park, Francis Gregory, Shaw and West End branches.
  • "Children of Hoarders: How to Minimize Conflict, Reduce the Clutter, and Improve Your Relationship" was checked out six times in the past year at the Capitol View branch.
  • The fantasy comic book series "Saga" was a big hit at the Capitol View, Northeast, Petworth and Woodridge branches, among others.
  • Of the top 10 books, women wrote six of them, two of the authors are black and two are Asian. Of the top authors, six are white, and there's a 50-50 split between male and female authors.

D.C. library fans have a lot to look forward to, spokesman George Williams said. The renovated main branch is on target to open in fall 2020, and more beloved books are on the way.

"D.C. residents are good readers, and the library is working to get everything they want," he said.

D.C.'s Youth Poet Laureate for 2019, Gabriela Orozco, spoke with NBC Washington about some of her favorite books.

Gabriela Orozco, 2019 DC Poet Laureate, shares what literature and authors inspire her poetry.

She cited the fantasy book "Purple Hearts" and the poetry of Emma Lazarus and Elizabeth Acevedo. The 16-year-old Southeast D.C. resident said reading never fails to transport her.

"Reading takes me away to another world, another place, another time. It's not just an escape; it's a form of learning," she said.

On video, Orozco recited a portion of one of her own poems, "The Drooping Branches of a First-Generation American's Family Tree."

Contact Us