The top 10 books Pittsburgh is reading this summer

The library is challenging Pittsburghers to read 180,000 books by Aug. 31.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline
Rossilynne Culgan

Forget light beach reads, Pittsburghers are reaching for action-packed thrillers this summer, according to data from Allegheny County libraries.

“Thrillers are always popular and especially in the summer when people are looking for something they can read quickly and looking for entertainment and relaxation,” said Sarah Beasley, coordinator of collection development for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

And perhaps it’s easier to read something gripping or scary when you’re relaxing poolside, added Melissa McKenna, librarian for the new and featured collection at Carnegie Library in Oakland.

Top 10 most checked-out adult fiction books

Data for print books borrowed from Allegheny County libraries during summer 2017.
 Book titleAuthor
1Camino IslandJohn Grisham
216th SeductionJames Patterson
3The FixDavid Baldacci
4Into the WaterPaula Hawkins
5The IdenticalsElin Hilderbrand
6The Black BookJames Patterson
7Golden PreyJohn Sandford
8One Perfect LieLisa Scottoline
9The WhistlerJohn Grisham
10Against all OddsDanielle Steel

Allegheny County’s No. 1 most checked-out book this summer so far: Camino Island by John Grisham, followed by James Patterson’s 16th Seduction and David Baldacci’s The Fix.

Topping the list for most-read fiction ebooks this summer: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict, 15th Affair by James Patterson and Into the Water by Paula Hawkins.

The popularity of books like Gone Girl and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has not waned either, McKenna said.

“The strong female characters, the unreliable narrators, the thriller … really is going just as strong,” she said. “Really the biggest book that people are looking for this summer is Into the Water, which is the Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins’ second book.”

Other popular reads include A Gentleman in Moscow about an aristocratic intellectual on house arrest, a traditional British mystery called The Magpie Murders and the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale.

Handmaid’s Tale has been one that people have been wanting to read since the elections last year. A lot of that dystopian — especially political dystopian — [has] been popular since the election,” McKenna said.

The Handmaid’s Tale is also getting a boost from its Hulu series.

“TV tie-ins and movie tie-ins boost things that used to be popular again, like The Handmaid’s Tale,” Beasley said.

Top 10 most checked-out adult non-fiction books

Data for print books borrowed from Allegheny County libraries during summer 2017.
 Book titleAuthor
1Hillbilly Elegy : A memoir of a family and culture in crisisJ. D. Vance
2The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpMarie Kondō
3The Wright BrothersDavid G. McCullough
4When Breath Becomes AirPaul Kalanithi
5Hidden FiguresMargot Lee Shetterly
6Theft by findingDavid Sedaris
7ShatteredJonathan Allen
8Born a CrimeTrevor Noah
9Tuesdays with Morrie Mitch Albom
10The Stranger in the WoodsMichael Finkel

Non-fiction readers are picking up Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and The Wright Brothers by David G. McCullough. Hillbilly Elegy also tops the ebook non-fiction list, followed by Hidden Figures and The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman.

The figures are based on data from all 46 libraries in Allegheny County, which includes 19 Carnegie Library locations.

In non-fiction, readers are looking to books about the way of the world, McKenna said, such as Vance’s Elegy.

On the kid lit list, youth are gravitating toward books with a visual component, such as a comic that melds with the narrative, said Megan Fogt, library service manager for children and teens, at Carnegie Library in Squirrel Hill.

Series books are “tremendously popular,” she said, and books with humor or fast-paced adventure also remain favorites for kids.

Summer reading — it’s not just for kids

This summer, the library is challenging Pittsburghers to read 180,000 books. So far, the count is at about 35 percent of the goal. Last year, local readers logged 152,000 books over the course of the summer, smashing the 90,000 book goal.

“A lot of adults don’t know that summer reading is for all ages,” McKenna said. “There is summer reading for adults as well. The idea is we want people to read and we want people to read throughout the year.”

Adults who sign up for the summer reading program get a free tote bag (it’s no personal pan pizza from the ’90s-era Book It! days, but you could use to it carry a take-out personal pan pizza, just an idea) and can earn prizes. Everybody who participates will be given a book to take home for their bookshelf as well.


Join summer reading, get a tote bag.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

It’s not too late to sign up for summer reading, which runs through Aug. 31, McKenna said. Interested readers can sign up online or in-person at their local library, and librarians can even add to the count books they’ve read this summer before enrolling in the program.

Among the most-logged summer reading books?

“Across the board, Harry Potter never ceases to be on the top of the list,” Beasley said.

A special Battle of the Books program for adults focuses on works by Pittsburgh authors and books based in Pittsburgh. Teams sign up to study the books and then compete in a trivia contest about the books at Wigle Whiskey. (Trivia nights are booked solid, but there is a wait list for interested bookworms.)

Add these to your reading list

Add these to your summer reading list.

Add these to your summer reading list.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Handpicked by a librarian, McKenna recommends these new releases for your summer reading list:

Not into any of these suggestions? Tweet at @CarnegieLibrary and request #MyNextRead, ask on Facebook or stop by in-person for personalized book recommendations.

“The library staff are here to help you find something that you want to read,” McKenna said. “We want to get people to read.”

After all, Suzanne Thinnes, Carnegie Library’s manager of communications, said, “Pittsburgh is still on the top list of most literate cities.”