What can reading habits tell you about a neighborhood?

Library Journal has introduced a new bestseller list designed to reflect U.S. library patrons’ actual reading, rather than purchasing, habits. The list records the most borrowed and requested books at hundreds of public libraries — “from a bookmobile in rural Washington State to branch libraries in New York City.” As Laila notes, there’s a dearth of fiction on it.

Statistics maintained by New York City-area Barnes & Noble stores suggest that readers’ habits vary significantly by neighborhood. New Yorkers’ appetite for sex books thrives the city over, except on the Upper East Side (where the men presumably find it more convenient just to keep a mistress downtown).

And of course there’s Amazon’s insidious (but informative and entertaining) purchase circles feature, which allows customers to search bestsellers by community.

Last fall my sister mentioned that female-to-male sex change operations are all the rage among 19-year-old Smithies in Northampton, Massachusetts, a/k/a the lesbian capital of the States, and Sister’s home for the last seven years. When I came across Amazon’s purchase circles a week later, I discovered that Middlesex was the top seller in the area.


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