September 3, 2020 at 7:11 AM EDT

What the country is reading during the pandemic: Dystopias, social justice and steamy romance

This year, perhaps as never before, our reading habits reflect our precarious reality. As the country has muddled through a deadly pandemic and a racial reckoning under a cloud of exhaustion and dread, we’ve used books to escape the present, inform our beliefs and educate our homebound children. We’ve found catharsis in apocalyptic science fiction and comfort in romance; advice in self-help guides and a moment of peace, thanks to children’s activity books. Most strikingly, since the death of George Floyd in May, we’ve flocked to books about race and social justice.

Data collected from publishers, libraries, associations, data firms and readers of our website provide a snapshot of book trends during the spring and summer of 2020. Together, these literary choices mirror our collective mood.

The Washington Post asked readers in early May and mid-August about the books that resonated with them. What follows comes from more than 1,600 submissions.

By Stephanie Merry and Steven Johnson

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