Bestsellers: Popular Fiction in America

What do Americans read, and how have our reading tastes changed over the years?

Bestsellers explores American reading habits from the earliest works of popular fiction in the late 18th century to today's blockbusters. Chronicling the top-selling books reveals much about American culture over time—its preferences, preoccupations, and mores. The exhibition also considers the dramatic shifts in the way people buy, read, and own books in an increasingly digital world.

Bestsellers features rare and beautiful first editions from the University Library's Lillian Gary Taylor Collection of Popular American Fiction. Mrs. Taylor compiled a significant collection of bestselling novels and lovingly recorded details of each book in her collecting journals. Mrs. Taylor’s notebooks, authors’ manuscript materials, early bestseller lists, scripts and photos from film adaptations, and modern bestsellers complement the items from the Taylor Collection.

This exhibition is sponsored by the family of Robert Coleman Taylor and Lillian Gary Taylor.


This website is the online version of Bestsellers: Popular Fiction in America. The exhibition is on view from February through August 2012 in the main gallery of the Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature, and Culture, and the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia.