Ever wonder what everyone else in your city was reading? Or what people read in Boston versus Los Angeles? Miami versus Minneapolis? If we are what we read, then these lists are a surprising glimpse into the American mind-set in 2009. The results are predictable (Sarah Palin, Dan Brown, and Malcolm Gladwell dominated) and surprising (Steve Harvey's book was No. 1 on eight of the 16). Using data from Nielsen BookScan, The Daily Beast presents 2009's bestseller adult fiction and nonfiction by city, from New York to Miami.
No surprise that Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol topped the fiction charts in every single city, and only slightly less surprising that The Help by Kathryn Stockett was just behind it at No. 2 or 3. As for James Patterson, he is officially a juggernaut with three or four different books appearing on some lists at the same time. Vampires continued to sell with Stephenie Meyer's series landing her on every list except for Washington, D.C., where David Baldacci, known for his Washington thrillers, had two books, First Family and True Blue. Conservative publishing shows no sign of slackening with Mark Levin, Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck on numerous lists throughout the country. Liberals could only boast the strong showing of Kennedy's memoir.
The greater Atlanta area found solace in Divine Soul Mind Body Healing and Transmission System Special Edition: The Divine Way to Heal You, Humanity, Mother Earth, and All Universes by Zhi Gang Sha and David Jeremiah's Living With Confidence in a Chaotic World, neither of which made any other lists. And in Philadelphia, Harvard business professor Bill George's Seven Lessons for Leading in Crisis was a standout and appeared nowhere else.
These lists also show the power of regional interests in propelling a book to the top of the charts. In Boston, the home of the Kennedy clan, Teddy's memoir took the top spot while Boston's rabid sports fans guaranteed Larry Bird he'd make it. As for Joe Torre, the former Yankees manager, he hit the No. 2 spot in New York and No. 7 in Boston—which makes one wonder why Red Sox fans are so interested in their old adversary. While in Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, Bryan Burroughs' The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Great Texas Oil Fortunes gave many Texans a glimpse of the big money in the state.
Perhaps the most surprising for many readers will be the appearance of books that largely escaped the attention of the MSM. Comedian Steve Harvey's celebration of women, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man was the top book in no less than eight different cities, including the four largest. How did Harvey beat out the former governor from Alaska?
A note on the data and methodology: These are the 16 largest metro areas in the U.S. and contain roughly one-third of the U.S. population (100 million people). All of the sales rankings for adult fiction and nonfiction were provided by Nielsen BookScan, which gathers point-of-sale book data from more than 13,000 locations across the U.S. Their data provider list includes all major booksellers, Internet retailers, and food and other non-traditional bookselling stores.