What We Read in 2021: The Seattle Public Library’s Most Popular Books of the Year
release date: 01/13/2022
Curious about the books that Seattle's library readers turned to in 2021? Or perhaps you're building your booklist for 2022 and want to be inspired by others' top picks?
The most popular book checked out last year from The Seattle Public Library was “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett, the selection for the Library’s 2021 Seattle Reads program. The award-winning book was checked out in digital and physical formats 11,400 times, more than any other fiction or nonfiction title.
Other top adult fiction checkouts in 2021 included “The Midnight Library,” by Matt Haig; “The Four Winds,” by Kristin Hannah’s Dust Bowl-era epic story; and “Klara and the Sun,” Kazuo Ishiguro’s genre-bending novel about an Artificial Friend.
For adult nonfiction, Library cardholders checked out Jessica Bruder’s “Nomadland,” about a wandering senior population, more than any other title in 2021, followed by Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste,” and Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land.”
Read on for a full list of adult titles that topped checkouts from The Seattle Public Library in 2021 (not including audiobooks and e-audiobooks).
THE LIBRARY’S 10 MOST POPULAR ADULT FICTION BOOKS IN 2021
This list ranks adult novels by combined circulation for e-books and physical books, but does not include audiobooks, e-audiobooks or renewals.
1. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett: The bestselling novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds — one Black and one white — was the Library’s selection for the 2021 Seattle Reads program.
2. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig: Between life and death, there is a library. Within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived, to see how things would be if you had made other choices.
3. The Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah: In 1934 Texas, Elsa must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.
4. Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro: Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?
5. Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman: Taken hostage by a failed bank robber while attending an open house, eight anxiety-prone strangers discover their unexpected common traits in this bestseller by the author of “A Man Called Ove.”
6. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir: Alone on a tiny ship that's been cobbled together and hurled into the depths of space, Ryland Grace is faced with conquering an extinction-level threat to our species.
7. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab: In a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever – but cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
8. The Searcher, by Tana French: Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a bucolic Irish village would be the perfect escape. When he uncovers layers of darkness beneath his picturesque retreat, he starts to realize that even small towns shelter dangerous secrets.
9. The Guest List, by Lucy Foley: On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. And then someone turns up dead.
10. Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins-Reid: Set against the backdrop of the Malibu surf culture of the 1980s, this novel follows the daughter of a famous singer who, once she finds fame, must grapple with her father’s past.
THE LIBRARY’S 10 MOST POPULAR ADULT NONFICTION BOOKS IN 2021
This list ranks adult nonfiction books by combined circulation for e-books and physical books, but does not include audiobooks, e-audiobooks or renewals.
1. Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century, by Jessica Bruder: Bruder chronicles the lives of transient older Americans who travel the nation as a new kind of migrant labor force, “workampers.”
2. Caste: the Origins of our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson: Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more.
3. A Promised Land, by Barack Obama: Former President Obama describes in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency.
4. Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner: Zauner’s bestselling memoir is about growing up Korean-American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.
5. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know, by Adam Grant: The bestselling author of “Give and Take” examines the critical art of rethinking, which can position you for success at work and happiness at home.
6. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, by Lori Gottlieb: This hilarious, thought-provoking and surprising book takes us behind the scenes of a therapist's world.
7. Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age, by Sanjay Gupta: Globe-trotting neurosurgeon Gupta offers insights from top scientists on how to heighten and protect brain function and maintain cognitive health.
8. The Premonition: A Pandemic Story, by Michael Lewis: Lewis's nonfiction thriller pits a band of medical visionaries against the official response of the Trump administration to the outbreak of COVID-19.
9. Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America, by Ijeoma Oluo: This history of American white male identity by the author of "So You Want to Talk About Race" exposes the costs of successes defined by racial and sexual dominance, while imagining a merit-based, non-discriminating model.
10. Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover: Westover, who was 17 when she first stepped foot in a classroom, crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education offers.
The Library was recently named one of the top library systems in the country for digital circulation, by OverDrive.
The Library believes that the power of knowledge improves people's lives. We promote literacy and a love of reading as we bring people, information and ideas together to enrich lives and build community.
To learn more about the Library’s work in 2021, read Interim Chief Librarian Tom Fay’s new winter message.
Visit the Library's Road to Reopening page for more information on current Library services.
Contact the Library’s Ask Us service by phone at 206-386-4636 or by email or chat at www.spl.org/Ask. Staff are ready to answer questions and direct you to helpful resources and information.