News & Politics

These Were the DC Public Library’s Most Popular Books in 2021

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Hot vax summer never really took off, so what did people in DC do instead? They read books, apparently! The DC Public Library’s exhaustive list of its most popular titles for 2021 holds only a slight resemblance to last year’s list, which suggests that District readers kept searching for new works to plow through while waiting—apparently in vain—for life to return to normal-ish.

Local author Barack Obama’s year-old A Promised Land was the second-most-checked-out nonfiction book this year. He shared that list with several authors who have connections to the Washington area, including Isabel Wilkerson, Glennon Doyle, and Robert Kolker.

Top 10 Nonfiction Books
1. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
2. A Promised Land by Barack Obama
3. Untamed by Glennon Doyle
4. Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
5. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
6. The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson
7. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
8. How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
9. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
10. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Top 10 Fiction Books
1. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
2. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
3. Anxious People: A Novel by Fredrik Backman
4. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
5. Such a Fun Age: A Novel by Kiley Reid
6. Dog Man. Fetch-22 by Dav Pilkey
7. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
8. Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague by Maggie O’Farrell
9. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
10. Dog Man. Mothering Heights by Dav Pilkey

Top 10 Fiction Audiobooks
1. The Vanishing Half: A Novel by Brit Bennett
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
3. American Dirt: A Novel by Jeanine Cummins
4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
5. The Water Dancer: A Novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates
6. Anxious People: A Novel by Fredrik Backman
7. The Four Winds: A Novel by Kristin Hannah
8. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (Tied)
9. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Tied)
10. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Tied)
10. The Dutch House: A Novel by Ann Patchett (Tied)
10. The Nickel Boys: A Novel by Colson Whitehead (Tied)

Top 10 Fiction eBooks
1. The Vanishing Half: A Novel by Brit Bennett
2. The Guest List: A Novel by Lucy Foley
3. The Midnight Library: A Novel by Matt Haig
4. Anxious People: A Novel by Fredrik Backman
5. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
6. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
7. Bridgerton Collection by Julia Quinn
8. The Searcher: A Novel by Tana French
9. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
10. American Dirt: A Novel by Jeanine Cummins

Top 10 Fiction eAudiobooks
1. The Midnight Library: A Novel by Matt Haig
2. The Vanishing Half: A Novel by Brit Bennett
3. The Guest List: A Novel by Lucy Foley
4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
5. Anxious People: A Novel by Fredrik Backman
6. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
7. The Overstory by Richard Powers
8. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
9. The Dutch House: A Novel by Anne Patchett
10. The Water Dancer: A Novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Top 10 Nonfiction Audiobooks
1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama
2. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
3. Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
4. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
5. Becoming by Michelle Obama
6. Just as I Am by Cicely Tyson
7. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell
8. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
9. How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
10. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (Tied)
10. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval N. Harari (Tied)

Top 10 Nonfiction eBooks
1. Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder
2. A Promised Land by Barack Obama
3. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
4. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
5. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
6. Untamed by Glennon Doyle
7. Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner
8. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
9. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
10. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Top 10 Nonfiction eAudiobooks
1. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
2. A Promised Land by Barack Obama
3. Becoming by Michelle Obama
4. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell
5. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
6. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
7. Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong
8. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
9. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
10. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson (Tied)
10. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo (Tied)

Top 10 Magazines
1. The Economist
2. The New Yorker
3. Us Weekly
4. Cook’s Illustrated
5. Bon Appétit
6. HGTV Magazine
7. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance
8. The New York Review of Books
9. New Scientist
10. The Week Magazine

Top 10 Videos Streamed on Kanopy
1. Ultimate Guide to the Presidents
2. What We Do In the Shadows
3. Another Round
4. Parasite
5. The Librarians
6. The Big Short
7. Beanpole
8. Inherent Vice
9. Bacurau
10. Stash Short Film Festival: Comedy

Top 10 Videos Streamed on Kanopy Kids
1. I’m An Animal Season 1
2. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
3. Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late
4. Creepy Carrots
5. Duckling Gets a Cookie!?
6. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
7. Good Night, Gorilla
8. Bugs in My Hair!
9. Dem Bones
10. You Are (Not) Small

Top 10 Linkedin Learning Courses
1. Learning Python
2. Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365)
3. HTML Essential Training
4. JavaScript Essential Training
5. Programming Foundations: Fundamentals
6. Python Essential Training
7. The Six Morning Habits of High Performers
8. Project Management Foundations
9. Microsoft Teams Essential Training
10. Digital Marketing Foundations

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.