Arkansas and Washington, DC, love The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, but Pennsylvania and Virginia are more into Stephen King. Kentucky loves a romance, Alaska is here for some science fiction, and everyone seems to love blogger Mark Manson.
At least that’s what the user data from Scribd, the reading subscription service, suggests. Scribd works more or less like Netflix for books, allowing readers to pay a set subscription fee for access to a library of electronic titles (with a few catches), and in celebration of National Author’s Day, Scribd sent Vox its data for which books are most popular in every state in the US.
Before we dive into the numbers, some caveats: This data does not measure which books are the most popular of all time, but instead, which books were most popular from October 1 through October 18 of this year. The result is a snapshot rather than a detailed portrait, and as such, it’s heavily weighted toward new releases.
This data is also specific to Scribd’s readers. That’s not an unreasonable sample size — Scribd says that more than 100 million readers actively use its service every month — but it does mean that the sample we’re working with is limited to people who self-selected into a subscription reading service, rather than the general population.
And although romance fans are generally some of the most prolific readers in the country, Scribd has intentionally structured its service so that it’s harder to read romance than it is to read other genres. That’s because romance fans go through books so voraciously that before the company restricted the genre, they essentially made Scribd’s business model insupportable. (Electric Literature has a great overview of what happened here.)
So this data doesn’t tell us which books are absolutely the most popular of all time for every state in the US. But it does tell us which books are being read right now by people who read at a high enough volume to use a subscription service. And those numbers paint an interesting picture.
Blue state stalwarts New York, Massachusetts, and Maine are all over Hillary Clinton’s new campaign memoir, What Happened, but fellow blue state California is passing Clinton over in favor of delving into the aforementioned Manson’s self-help title The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.
Manson is the most popular author across all 50 states, winning over populations as disparate as Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and Texas — but it looks as though the recent film adaptations of Stephen King’s It and other works has given King enough of a bump to tie Clinton for a respectable second-place finish, even though King hasn’t released a new novel this year. It takes the laurels in Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and King’s 1987 novel The Tommyknockers is the surprise winner for Wyoming. (That ranking may result from Wyoming’s low population skewing the sample size, combined with the influence of this year’s Stephen King revival — there’s no new adaptation for The Tommyknockers in the works that I know of.)
Scribd’s data supports the traditional publishing wisdom that a movie deal will increase book readership. Beyond King’s great performance, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One takes third place, winning Arkansas, Arizona, and Michigan, likely prompted by Steven Spielberg’s forthcoming movie adaptation.
And although Scribd is deliberately structured to foil romance readers and their book-devouring ways, genre fiction remains the big winner in this data set. Mysteries and thrillers won in 12 states, science fiction and fantasy won in five, and romance managed to overcome the company’s structural bias against it to win in three more.
Critically acclaimed literary fiction, meanwhile, is conspicuous in its overwhelming absence, with the exception of Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling, which won Oregon. Perhaps not coincidentally, My Absolute Darling earned a rave endorsement from Stephen King himself, who called it a “masterpiece.”
Here’s how America does books, by state.