Every Monday afternoon Post Alley writers gather for a newsroom meeting. When the website first started, we’d meet in person, down at Peter Miller Books in Pioneer Square. But as the pandemic set in, we transitioned to Zoom.
Every week we talk about issues of the day, then go around the room as writers talk about the stories they’re working on. Many of us are longtime journalists who worked in newsrooms, and we miss the camaraderie of talking about stories with colleagues. Post Alley’s virtual newsroom doesn’t replicate the newsroom experience, but it helps. We trade tips and contacts, and suggest ideas and angles on what our colleagues are working on.
Our loyal Post Alley readers will have noticed that our website has a new design as of last week. We think it’s cleaner and easier to read. We also made some significant changes to the backend of Post Alley. We’re a writer-driven community — more than 150 different bylines over the past two years, and we operate very differently than a traditional newsroom. Writers write what they want to write about. We don’t concern ourselves with clicks. And we give our members room to explore ideas. There are pluses and minuses to this approach, but it works for us, and hopefully for you the reader. Our new back end gives writers and editors a picture of what everyone is working on and an opportunity to see the progress of stories.
One pretty constant theme of our weekly meetings has been books. Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn’t launch into a discussion of the book they’re reading. Many of these books make it into full reviews on the website. But most don’t. And yet, we know there’s a great appetite for books among our readers, so we decided to create a “what we’re reading” blog. These will be short hits on books, why we’re reading them, and recommendations as to why you might or might not want to check them out. These posts will be largely unedited (in the grand tradition of blogs) and informal, and solely the opinions of their writers.
To start off, I thought it might be interesting to see what Seattleites are reading. One of the publishing industry’s biggest problems is determining which books are being read. Bestseller lists all have their methodologies, and Bookscan has improved accuracy. But still, the system can be gamed, and seeing what’s popular is a problem.
Interestingly, one of the more organic measures of readership is compiled right here in Seattle. Seattle’s Open Data project tracks what titles get checked out at the Seattle Public Library. More important, the city makes the data available online, so you can see what’s being read. Seattle, as you might have heard, is known for being bookish.
The following list is the top ten most-checked-out books at SPL in 2022 so far. A couple of interesting things to note: Eight of the top ten were checked out as e-books or audio books. Only two were traditional physical books. Does a book count as a book if you’re listening rather than reading? Second, Audrey Blake must be the most popular writer in Seattle. She takes two of the top ten spots on the list.
Top Ten Seattle Public Library Books checked out in 2022 (so far)
- House of Broken Angels – Luis Alberto Urrea – ebook
- The Girl in His Shadow: A Novel – Audrey Blake – ebook
- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (unabridged) – Robin Wall Kimmerer – audiobook
- The Five Wounds: A Novel – Kirstin Valdez Quade – ebook
- 101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think (unabridged) – Brianna Wiest – audioboo
- House of Broken Angels – Luis Alberto Urrea – audiobook
- I’m Glad My Mom Died (unabridged) – Jennette McCurdy – audiobook
- Cloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel –
Audrey BlakeAnthony Doerr – audiobook
- The Girl In His Shadow (unabridged) – Audrey Blake – audiobook
- Sea of tranquility / Emily St. John Mandel – Mandel, Emily St. John, 1979 – physical book
- Harlem shuffle – Colson Whitehead – physical book