The numbers are in, and they don't lie. This year's list of the Boston Public Library's most borrowed books shows that the city loves women writers. Women wrote 72.5 percent of the books on four BPL lists — e-books, adult fiction, adult nonfiction, and overall — and took first place on every single one.
Surprising absolutely no one, The Girl on the Train was the most popular book in Boston in 2015. Paula Hawkins' thriller took the No. 1 spot on the BPL's e-books, adult fiction, and overall lists. The novel's performance in Boston proves that its success on Amazon was no fluke.
There were three other books by women that made repeat showings on these same lists. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant were widely read in both print and digital formats.
Also popular were Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winner, All the Light We Cannot See — which clocked in just behind Hawkins' book whenever it appeared — and Markus Zusak's 2005 title, The Book Thief. Both books appeared on the same three lists.
There were some surprise no-shows. Harper Lee's second novel, Go Set a Watchman, which took home the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction, was not a huge success in Boston, but To Kill a Mockingbird took the No. 8 spot for adult fiction. Similarly, E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey beat out Grey for the No. 9 spot on the e-books list, despite the fact that the 2015 sequel was the second-most-popular book on Amazon this year.
Here are the Boston Public Library's top 10 most popular books overall:
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- Yes Please by Amy Poehler
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
- The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Fiction being most readers' genre of choice, the BPL's overall and adult fiction lists are pretty similar, to the extent that only three new titles appear in the adult fiction top 10. Following The Book Thief on that list are Gray Mountain by John Grisham, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Life after Life by Kate Atkinson.
The cluster of novels topping the overall and adult fiction lists weren't the only books doing well in 2015, however. One work of nonfiction in particular had a great year in Boston. Newton, Massachusetts native and Boston College alumna Amy Poehler's Grammy-nominated memoir, Yes Please , was the city's most popular nonfiction title, as well as its sixth-most-popular e-book, and fifth-most-popular book overall.
Eight of the BPL's top 10 nonfiction titles were written by women. Memoirs from funny ladies Poehler, Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, and Mindy Kaling made the list, as did Cheryl Strayed's ever-popular Pacific Crest Trail epic, Wild. Rebecca Skloot's controversial biography, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, came in at No. 6, while Lean In, the work-life balance guidebook for women from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, brought up the rear.
Here are the Boston Public Library's top 10 most popular nonfiction titles for 2015:
- Yes Please by Amy Poehler
- Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
- Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
- The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown
- Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
- Bossypants by Tina Fey
- Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
There are a few notable absences here. Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up does not appear, and neither does Erik Larson's Dead Wake, both of which were all the nonfiction anyone could talk about this year. It's also pretty disappointing that Ta-Nehisi Coates' essay on race in the U.S., Between the World and Me, did not make the cut.
I think it's pretty clear, from looking at these lists, that the city of Boston loves women writers. Not only that, but the BPL's patrons also love stories about women. With the exception of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the fiction titles by male authors that appear above all feature well-written female protagonists. Everyone is tuning in to women's stories, and that's something to celebrate.