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What was Utah reading in 2022? We asked some librarians to find out!

Sale Lake County Library, books on a shelf, Millcreek branch, Dec. 28, 2022
Rob Winder
/
KUER
Noteworthy mystery novels are displayed in the stacks of the Millcreek branch of the Salt Lake County Library, Dec. 28, 2022.

The chaos and uncertainty of the past couple of years led Grand County readers to seek refuge in faraway lands.

“I think in 2020 and 2021 we saw a lot more fantasy reading,” observed Jessie Magleby, the head of adult services at Grand County Public Library. “I think people just really wanted to dive into a world that was nothing like the world in which we're actually living.”

But in 2022, Magleby said her patrons started to move slightly away from “pure escapist literature” in favor of “stories that take place in this universe.”

The Grand County library’s most checked-out adult fiction book this year was indeed set in this universe — just one state over, actually. “Shadows Reel” is the latest entry in C.J. Box’s long-running series of mystery novels starring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett.

“Those are extremely popular books. They're really a lot of fun,” Magleby said. She added that her patrons are drawn to the “ruggedness” of the characters in the books, which feature “just the right amount of violence.”

“They're not really grisly or over the top,” she said.

Fantasy novels remained strong at the Brigham City and Summit County libraries, their respective directors reported. But more “grounded” fiction topped their lists as well.

The top fiction book of the year at the Brigham City Public Library was “Heirs of Falcon Point,” a historical fiction novel about a trio of cousins who seek to reclaim property lost by an Austrian ancestor during World War II. The book, which has four authors, is published by Covenant Communications, an imprint of Deseret Book.

“Those are very popular books in our area,” said Elizabeth Schow, director of the Brigham City library.

Schow cited “Heirs” as an example of gentle reads which don’t “have as much language or violence or sex.”

“In our area, a lot of people may prefer the gentle style, but we also have people who prefer more the hardboiled style,” she said. “We have readers of all preferences.”

The top fiction read in Summit County libraries was “The Cold Millions” by Jess Walter, a story that takes place in Spokane, Washington during the labor movement of the early 20th century.

Summit County Library director Dan Compton pointed out that the library featured the book in the One Book One Community program it sponsored this year. The library hosted a talk with the author and another from a local historian.

“We thought there would be a nice tie-in to our local history,” Compton said, noting the county’s mining roots. He said the book was checked out by Park City and Kamas residents alike.

“Different politics, different views, but ‘Cold Millions’ seemed to resonate with everybody. There was something in that book for everyone,” he said.

Popular nonfiction books 

Grand County Library patrons were also drawn to reads that reflect their community, Magleby said. “The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon” by Kevin Fedarko was first published in 2014, but was still among the library’s top five nonfiction books this year.

“This is a really exciting story about river running history,” Magleby said. “We're a river community. We've got a lot of boaters and river folk.”

Magleby said Moab also has a high number of “very science-minded” people, and “a lot of science writing gets read here.” Science-related books round out the rest of Grand County’s top five nonfiction list.

Two of those books also appear on Summit County’s top five list: “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art” by James Nestor, and “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

“Braiding Sweetgrass” is “a brilliant book that's getting read a lot still, even though that's a few years old,” Magleby said. “Breath,” meanwhile, was Grand County’s top nonfiction book, “by far,” she said.

That book is “all about the science of breathing and how modern humans have kind of lost the art of breathing correctly,” Magleby said.

Self-help books were top reads at all three libraries. “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” by James Clear was the top nonfiction book at Brigham City and #4 on Summit County’s list (and its top nonfiction book checked out via the Libby app). Brené Brown’s “Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience” was #3 in Summit County, and “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel A. Van Der Kolk barely missed cracking Grand County’s top five.

“People like to escape and read fiction, but they also just are trying to become better people,” Compton said.

Two superhero encyclopedias — “The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe” and “Marvel Encyclopedia: New Edition” — were among Brigham City’s top five nonfiction books. Schow said while they were technically classified as adult nonfiction, they were embraced by readers of all ages.

“Anything that's popular in the media tends to be more of interest and is going to get more circulations, whether it's Marvel or what's currently airing on Masterpiece Theater,” she said. While both teens and adults are interested in the Marvel universe, “I don't think as many teens are checking out what's necessarily airing on Masterpiece Theater.”

Top 5 reads 

Below are the top five most checked-out adult fiction and nonfiction books from each library. (These lists only reflect the circulation of physical copies and do not include audiobooks or e-books.) Schow cautioned that while such lists are interesting, they don’t paint a full picture of what the entire community is reading.

“The true diversity of what a community reads fleshes out as you continue farther down the list with titles that maybe aren’t as well-known or popular,” she said.

Fiction

Summit County Library:

  1. “The Cold Millions” by Jess Walter
  2. “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah
  3. “The Last Thing He Told Me” by Laura Dave
  4. “The Lincoln Highway” by Amor Towles
  5. “Shadows Reel” by C.J. Box

Grand County Public Library:

  1. “Shadows Reel” by C.J. Box
  2. “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr
  3. “The Sacred Bridge” by Anne Hillerman
  4. “The Sentence” by Louise Erdrich
  5. “Run, Rose, Run” by Dolly Parton and James Patterson

Brigham City Library:

  1. “Heirs of Falcon Point” by Traci Hunter Abramson, Siân Ann Bessey, Paige Edwards and A. L. Sowards  
  2. “Charming Artemis” by Sarah M. Eden
  3. “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens
  4. “Summerhaven” by Tiffany Odekirk
  5. “Reminders of Him” by Colleen Hoover

Non-fiction

Summit County Library:

  1. “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  2. “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle
  3. “Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience” by Brené Brown
  4. “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” by James Clear
  5. “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art” by James Nestor

Grand County Public Library:

  1. “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art” by James Nestor
  2. “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law” by Mary Roach
  3. “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  4. “The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon” by Kevin Fedarko
  5. “An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us” by Ed Yong

Brigham City Public Library:

  1. “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” by James Clear
  2. “The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe” by Phil Jimenez
  3. “Marvel Encyclopedia: New Edition” by Tom DeFalco, et. al.
  4. “Every Dog: The Ultimate Guide to Over 450 Dog Breeds” by  Nancy J. Hajeski
  5. “The Dog Encyclopedia: The Definitive Visual Guide” by DK Publishing 
Rob is a native of Salt Lake City and is happy to be back home and enjoying “one of the best backyards in the world” again.
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