According to recent data from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the Cary Memorial Library in Lexington is one of the largest and most popular in the state, despite the city’s population not being in the top 50 in the Massachusetts. It is the sixth busiest library in the state, just behind the Boston, Newton Cambridge, Brookline and Worcester Libraries. The fact that the Lexington Library is able to keep pace with those in much larger communities is a testament to Cary’s significant and long-standing importance to the residents of Lexington and the surrounding area.
Despite the pandemic, that popularity has not waned in 2020, as visitors to Cary have expressed interest in a wide variety of books. Below is a list of the 10 books, in order, that have been most frequently viewed in Lexington this year, according to information provided by library staff.
1. “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett
The most popular book in 2020 among Lexington residents was released in September 2019. The latest by Patchett, one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists, tells the story of several generations of a Pennsylvania family. This “dark fairy tale” centers on two siblings who are suddenly plunged back into poverty after leading enchanted lives, and how their bond explores themes of inheritance, love and forgiveness.
2. “Olive, Again” by Elizabeth Strout
Here, Strout brings back the character who starred in her 2008 novel “Olive Kitteridge,” for which she won the Pulitzer. Following the resounding success of this book and a hit TV show based on it, Strout treats readers with 13 interconnected stories detailing Olive’s daily life and more.
3. “The Splendid and the Vile” by Erik Larson
Hailed as “an inspiring portrayal of courage and leadership in a time of unprecedented crisis”, it is no wonder that Larson’s book on Winston Churchill during World War II caught the attention of Lexington readers in 2020 Through archival documents, diary entries and secret intelligence reports, Larson relays the scope of Churchill’s effect on the war, how he united Britain and the drama that colored the family life of the Prime Minister.
4. “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett
Bennett’s novel centers on identical twin sisters who grew up together in a small black community in the south. Years later, after running away from home, the two lead very different lives. One has returned to her hometown, while the other is secretly passed for white while founding her own family far away. This page turner spans decades, telling an emotional family drama while investigating the racial dynamics at play in America throughout the twentieth century.
5. “American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins
One of the most discussed and possibly controversial books of 2020 lands on Cary’s list at number five. The novel takes readers to the Mexican city of Acapulco, where bookseller Lydia finds herself embroiled in a ruthless cartel before being forced to flee to the United States.
6. “Caste: The origins of our discontent” by Isabel Wilkerson
Wilkerson uses meticulous research and the stories of real people to illustrate how our country was shaped by a hidden caste system. Wilkerson’s vivid descriptions of caste systems around the world shed light on how they are created and maintained without many even realizing it.
7. “Too Much and Never Enough” by Mary Trump
The president’s only niece, a trained clinical psychologist, sheds light on how Donald Trump’s family history shaped the man who now runs America in this bestseller. Mary Trump details her time spent in the family home in Queens, where Donald and his four siblings were raised. Through first-hand accounts, she recounts the traumas, destructive relationships, neglect and abuse that created what she calls “the most dangerous man in the world”.
8. Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”
Lexington’s most popular book of 2019 returns to the 2020 list, now number eight. The memoirs of the former first lady take readers on an intimate journey through her life from Chicago to Pennsylvania Avenue. “Becoming” also had one of the longest waiting lists last year.
9. “All the Devils are Here” by Louise Penny
In Penny’s 16th novel, she continues the story of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as he investigates a nefarious plot in Paris. Before becoming a successful detective writer, Penny worked for decades as a radio reporter. She brings this penchant for compelling storytelling to this series, drawing readers into a world of mystery and intrigue.
10. “The Order” by Daniel Silva
This new thriller picks up with the death of a pope. As the public learns that he has suffered a heart attack, spy Gabriel Allon learns of a murder plot centered on a secret Catholic society hidden beneath the surface of Vatican City politics. Through twists and turns, Silva’s novel will leave readers guessing at every crossroads.