The recent release of Harper Lee’s novel “Go Set a Watchman” has piqued the interest of library patrons across Suffolk County — where every copy of the book has been checked out and over 700 people are on waiting lists.
The book’s publisher, HarperCollins, has described the July 14 release as a “historic literary event” since the manuscript, which was written in the mid-1950s and assumed lost, was discovered last year and believed to be the author’s earliest known work.
Local library officials say they haven’t experienced such a high demand for a book since the erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” was released in 2012.
Floyd Memorial Library director Lisa Richland said all three copies of “Go Set a Watchman” have been checked out and four people are currently on a waiting list.
“One of the reasons is because the original book was very popular — and still is,” she said. “It got an enormous amount of hype.”
Mattituck-Laurel Library reader’s advisor Bev Wowak said her library has three copies and 14 people are on a waiting list. In addition, she said nearly 100 people in Suffolk County are waiting for the audio version of the book.
Mariella Ostroski, reference librarian at the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Free Library, said the library has five copies and two people are currently on the waiting list. In order to meet demand, she said the library is expected to order additional copies.
“With more than twice [as many copies as usual] and we still have holds, that tells us we made right choice by selecting more to purchase,” Ms. Ostroski said, adding she believes a total of 70 additional copies are being ordered across the county.
Southold Free Library has seven copies of the book and three hold requests, officials said.
Over at the Riverhead Free Library, director Joy Rankin said the library has three copies and 16 people on the waiting list.
North Shore Public Library director Laura Hawrey said the library is ordering large print versions of the novel, which she expects will also be popular.
Currently, she said the library has five copies and 30 people are on the waiting list.
“I can tell you all our copies of the book are out right now with reserves,” she said.
“Go Set a Watchman” was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before her classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
According to the book’s description, “‘Go Set a Watchman’ features many of the characters from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ some twenty years later … Exploring how the characters from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, ‘Go Set a Watchman’ casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee’s enduring classic.”
With over 1 million copies sold within the first week, the novel has become the fastest selling book in the publisher’s history, according to media reports.
Photo caption: Copies of Harper Lee’s newest novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” are currently all checked out at libraries across the North Fork. (Credit: Grant Parpan)