A snapshot of this year’s top books. Read on for more details.

The Top Fiction of 2019 According to 48 lists (interactive)

Kimberly Johnson
3 min readJan 11, 2020


I’ve recently been scraping the web for top book lists in an attempt to identify which books pop up on multiple lists of “Best books in 2019”. From 48 sources (listed below), here are the top 20:

To dive a little deeper, below is my first pass at an interactive tool that allows you to see the top books and filter to sources and source types.

Some notes:

  • The interactivity is a terrible experience on mobile. I know.
  • For simplicity, I’ve excluded books that don’t appear on more than one list. If you want to see books that are on one list, go look at the lists (linked below).
  • If you see something off, let me know. It’s entirely possible that due to a typo in the publication or something manual that I did that something is broken here.
  • I don’t feel strongly about my list categorizations; I just figured a raw list of 48 was too much to deal with. If you have other suggestions for how I might categorize these sources, I’m all ears.

What about overlap between lists? Which lists are most similar to other lists, and which have unique content?

This visualization may take a bit of explaining. Your first step is to choose a list (I’ve chosen the Booker Longlist as an example). This will toggle the list (y-axis) to only show books that are on the Booker Longlist. The length of the bars (x-axis) show how many other lists this book is on.

From this, you can get a sense of how “mainstream” a list’s books are: is this list filled with books that are on other lists, or is there quite a long “long tail” of books that are only on this list?

(Disclaimer: some of the books that are only on one list might not be fiction. A lot of these lists are a mix of fiction/nonfiction. I manually checked anything that was on more than one list, but no promises for the ~300 books across these 48 lists that only appear on a single list!)

If I were using Tableau (embeds are not supported on Medium), I would do some cool things like:

  • Hover to show the other lists
  • Color the bars by list category
  • Probably a lot of other cool things I haven’t thought of

But I’m not using Tableau for this first proof-of-concept; we’ll see if I have the energy/interest to go deeper there and figure out where to publish.

Some things that would be interesting to look at, but I don’t have a good way to automate the importing of this information (suggestions welcome):

  • Breakdowns by author demographic (gender, race, age, nationality)
  • Themes common across top books
  • Anything numeric, like month published, length (words/pages, bumber of weeks on the NYT bestsellers list, etc

More to come? Maybe? In the meantime, here are the sources if you want to take a look yourself.

Booksellers / Libraries:

Amazon Best Lit and Fiction
NY Public Library Librarians’ Picks
Powell’s Best Fiction

Literary Publication:

Electric Lit
Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
Literary Hub
London Review of Books
New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
She Reads
Shelf Awareness


Entertainment Weekly
Good Housekeeping
Good Housekeeping UK
Oprah Magazine
People Magazine
The Atlantic
The New Yorker
Time’s Must-Read Books
Vanity Fair


Chicago Tribune (Fiction)
Guardian (Best Fiction)
New York Post
New York Times Critics’ Picks
New York Times Notable
The Gazette
Washington Post Best Books
Washington Post Notable Fiction

Prizes / voting:

Booker longlist
Goodreads Choice Fiction
Kirkus Prize Fiction
National Book Awards Longlist
Not the Booker Shortlist

Web publications:

NPR Staff Picks
Real Simple
Slate / books editor
Slate / critic

Missing your favorite list? Link to it in the comments below and I’ll add it. Note that I’ve intentionally excluded:

  • Lists that aren’t specific to books published in 2019 (or late 2018), like Amazon’s bestsellers (and other bestsellers lists) or Obama’s top books
  • Lists that were really annoying to scrape accurately, like the Paris Review’s Staff Picks (can easily get title, but not author)
  • Lists that don’t come out until Spring, like the Pulitzer Prize or the national Book Critics Circle Award

Other feedback welcome; leave a comment below or send me a note here.