Which Books Do Americans Take on Vacation?

Our city-by-city breakdown uncovered some surprises

Girl Reading
Maica / iStock

Romance novels reign in Miami. Houstonians unwind with Fifty Shades of Grey. Angelenos go to the beach with Frankenstein. Those are the findings of our new study of summer reading preferences over the past decade, which revealed that the top overall genre was science fiction and fantasy. To learn how tastes in summer books differ across the country, we analyzed 218,000 reviews on the website Goodreads, identifying the most distinctively popular titles in 12 cities since 2007. (For example, Eat, Pray, Love was a hit everywhere, but it accounted for a larger share of summer reading in Washington, D.C. than it did nationwide.) Digital tools helped spur the new dominance of sci-fi and fantasy, according to Andrew Albanese, a senior writer for Publishers Weekly: “Where those genres might have been on a shelf at your local bookstore, now they are prominent online and on social media, and new titles can be pushed to readers.”

What was the most distinctively popular book in your city?

Divergent, Miami Courtesy Harpercollins
Catching Fire, Atlanta Courtesy Scholastic
Eat, Pray, Love, Washington, DC Courtesy Penguin Random House
The Devil Wears Prada, Boston Courtesy Penguin Random House
Fifty Shades of Grey, Houston Courtesy Penguin Random House
Ender’s Game, San Francisco Courtesy Macmillian
Hunger Games, United States Courtesy Scholastic
Slaughterhouse-Five, Chicago Courtesy Penguin Random House
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Phoenix Courtesy Penguin Random House
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Dallas Courtesy Harpercollins
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Minneapolis Courtesy Penguin Random House
The Glass Castle, New York City Courtesy Scribner
Frankenstein, Los Angeles Courtesy Penguin Random House

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This article is a selection from the July/August issue of Smithsonian magazine