“A really good middle-grade novel … will supersede a lot of contemporary fiction in terms of economy, lucidity and grace,” says New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino in a recent interview with The New York Times. It’s a sentiment many hold privately, but if it’s one you have yet to explore, I can’t think of a better place to begin than the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association‘s list of what’s in demand at local independent bookstores for the week ending Sunday, Aug. 4.

Because it turns out the Northwest loves YA, and this week’s lineup of young-adult bestsellers exemplifies what the genre does best. It’s a diverse collection examining subjects worthy of supposedly grown-up books, but without the show-offy maximalism or numbing MFA voice.

It's summer, but we're pretty into serious literature

Unsurprisingly, YA golden boy John Green (“Paper Towns,” “The Fault in Our Stars”) leads the charge with “Turtles All the Way Down,” a caper pairing emotional turmoil with amateur detective work. The presence of Nicola Yoon’s “The Sun Is Also a Star” should come as no surprise. The book’s a hit (it’s already a movie) and focuses on one day in the lives of two New York teens from immigrant families: Natasha, who is trying to prevent her family’s deportation to Jamaica, and Daniel, who is facing pressure from his Korean family to become a doctor.

Meanwhile, YA powerhouse Angie Thomas anchors the list with two novels: 2017’s “The Hate U Give,” originally a short story written in response to the police killing of Oscar Grant, and “On the Come Up,” whose protagonist is a 16-year-old aspiring rapper hoping to match her father’s glory.

While it’s possible these books were purchased for teens and young adults, I have a sneaking suspicion they’re not the only ones reading them.

And why not? These stories are all grappling with subjects addressed elsewhere on the bestseller list — if Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility,”  No. 6 among most-purchased paperback nonfiction books, is any indication, we’re thinking a lot about racial inequity right now, and if last week tells us anything, it’s that illness, loss and crime are regional obsessions. (I’d even argue that Sally Rooney’s “Normal People,” a complex college romance and one of several holdovers from last week’s list, can be read as a perfectly executed work of young-adult literature. This is not faint praise.)


YA mines this complicated territory, often on a schedule better-suited to adults. If you’re a commute reader, getting through David McCullough’s “The Pioneers” (No. 2 among this week’s hardcover nonfiction bestsellers) could take months, but a middle-grade book could be a perfect morning companion. If you take the YA plunge, look around on your morning commute. I suspect you’ll find you aren’t the only one.


Current bestsellers from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association

Hardcover fiction

1. Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

2. The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead

3. City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert

4. Circe, Madeline Miller

5. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong

6. Normal People, Sally Rooney

7. The New Girl, Daniel Silva

8. Deep River, Karl Marlantes

9. Fleishman Is in Trouble, Taffy Brodesser-Akner

10. Exhalation, Ted Chiang

11. Knife, Jo Nesbø

12. The Guest Book, Sarah Blake

13. Mostly Dead Things, Kristen Arnett

14. Big Sky, Kate Atkinson

15. The Scent Keeper, Erica Bauermeister

Hardcover nonfiction

1. Educated, Tara Westover

2. The Pioneers, David McCullough

3. Becoming, Michelle Obama

4. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, Mark Manson

5. The Second Mountain, David Brooks

6. Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

7. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Neil deGrasse Tyson

8. The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates

9. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat

10. Everything Is F*cked, Mark Manson

11. Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, Karen Kilgariff, Georgia Hardstark

12. American Carnage, Tim Alberta

13. Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis, Thomas Nelson

14. The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben

15. Women Rowing North, Mary Pipher

Paperback fiction

1. The Overstory, Richard Powers

2. A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles

3. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

4. Washington Black, Esi Edugyan

5. The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris

6. There There, Tommy Orange

7. The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited!, Clint McElroy, et al.

8. Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate

9. Once Upon a River, Diane Setterfield

10. My Sister, the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite

11. Hope Rides Again, Andrew Shaffer

12. The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin

13. The Witch Elm, Tana French

14. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman

15. The Power, Naomi Alderman

Paperback nonfiction

1. Born a Crime, Trevor Noah

2. Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari

3. The Mueller Report, The Washington Post

4. How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan

5. Calypso, David Sedaris

6. White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo

7. The Soul of an Octopus, Sy Montgomery

8. Being Mortal, Atul Gawande

9. Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

10. The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown

11. They Called Us Enemy, George Takei, et al.

12. The Collected Schizophrenias, Esmé Weijun Wang

13. Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann

14. Tip of the Iceberg, Mark Adams

15. The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk

Young adult

1. Turtles All the Way Down, John Green

2. Wilder Girls, Rory Power

3. The Sun Is Also a Star, Nicola Yoon

4. The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

5. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

6. Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun, Guillermo del Toro, Cornelia Funke

7. Looking for Alaska, John Green

8. On the Come Up, Angie Thomas

9. Hey, Kiddo, Jarrett J. Krosoczka

10. The Prince and the Dressmaker, Jen Wang