As we reflect over a year that was largely disappointing, it may please you to know that the New York Public Library's most popular books for 2016 were written mostly by women. Female authors dominated the same list in 2015, but this year saw a 33 percent reduction in the number of woman-authored titles to rank in NYPL circulation. Regardless, the year's most popular books were diverse and spectacular.
2016 saw the return of a few familiar faces to the NYPL's list. Two books that made the top 3 in the library's 2015 rankings returned this year, alongside several bestsellers from the last few years. Three of the NYPL's most popular books for 2016 were Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners, making this year's list much more literary than the last, which featured E.L. James' Grey, Danielle Steel's Prodigal Son, and Marshall Karp and James Patterson's NYPD Red 3.
Literary or not, the NYPL's most recent list features just six books written by five women, a considerable reduction from last year's numbers. In 2015, women wrote nine of the 10 most popular books in New York City, but have been displaced this year in favor of three authors of color — Ta-Nehisi Coates, Paul Kalanithi, and Aziz Ansari — which isn't really a terrible trade-off.
Check out the NYPL's most popular books for 2016 below, and share your favorite reads with me on Twitter!
'The Girl on the Train' by Paula Hawkins
Paula Hawkins' debut novel appeared on the NYPL's top checkouts list for the second year in a row. The Girl on the Train moved up two places to the No. 1 spot in 2016, likely because of the film adaptation, starring Emily Blunt, which hit theaters on Oct. 7.
Hawkins has a second novel, Into the Water, due out on May 2, 2017.
'Between the World and Me' by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This National Book Award winner was surprisingly absent from NYPL's most popular list for 2015, despite being one of the most lauded books of the year. Written in the aftermath of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo's acquittal in the death of Eric Garner, Between the World and Me is not only Ta-Nehisi Coates' love letter to his son, but also a treatise on what it means to be a young black man in the U.S.
'When Breath Becomes Air' by Paul Kalanithi
Written by a neurosurgeon who transitioned from doctor to patient after a terminal lung cancer diagnosis, When Breath Becomes Air reached No. 1 on The New York Times' Best Seller List this year. Paul Kalanithi's book, which was published after his death, attempts to answer one of life's most difficult questions: What makes all of this worth it in the end?
'Go Set a Watchman' by Harper Lee
No. 3 on NYPL's list last year, Harper Lee's highly anticipated second novel dropped to the No. 4 spot this time around. With To Kill a Mockingbird making an appearance later on this list, it's likely that Lee's death in February contributed to Go Set a Watchman's staying power in 2016.
'Why Not Me?' by Mindy Kaling
The 2015 follow-up to her 2011 bestseller, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me? appeared on the NYPL's list of most popular books this year, one of two humor titles to rank for 2016.
'Modern Romance' by Aziz Ansari
Another of The New York Times' No. 1 bestsellers, actor and comedian Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance was popular in the NYPL system this year. Like Kaling's offering above, Ansari's first book didn't rank during its publication year, but attained a high level of popularity in 2016.
'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee
More than half a century after it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Harper Lee's first — and, for decades, only — novel experienced a revival following her death in February 2016.
'The Goldfinch' by Donna Tartt
Donna Tartt's 2013 novel, The Goldfinch, is another Pulitzer winner on the NYPL's list for 2016. After debates over the length and content of Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life brought sexist criticism of women's fiction — A.K.A. "Goldfinching" — to the forefront of the literary conversation late in 2015, the phenomenon's namesake saw a boost in circulation this year.
'All the Light We Cannot See' by Anthony Doerr
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A third Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner made the NYPL's list of most popular books for 2016. Anthony Doerr's 2014 novel, All the Light We Cannot See, tells the story of two European children whose paths collide when their home countries go toe-to-toe in World War II.