Is Your City a “Literary Scene” or a “Literary Community”?


Great question, glad you asked.

A “literary scene” sounds like a place where you schmooze at cocktails parties and sign book deals. But it might also be a competitive hellhole of smarmy assholes.

A “literary community” sounds like a place where you hang out in coffee shops and join a local writers’ group. But it might also be a cultural backwater with no talent whatsoever.

Which one do you live in? I ran a bunch of Google searches to find the answer. You can see the methodology and the full results here.

Big “literary scene”

  1. New York City
  2. San Francisco
  3. Chicago
  4. Philadelphia
  5. Austin
  6. New Orleans
  7. Los Angeles
  8. Portland
  9. Nashville
  10. Atlanta

More of a “literary community”

  1. Milwaukee
  2. Detroit
  3. Seattle
  4. Boston
  5. St. Louis
  6. San Diego
  7. Las Vegas
  8. Minneapolis
  9. Portland
  10. Washington DC

Random House

Small city, big “literary scene”

  1. New Orleans
  2. San Francisco
  3. Atlanta
  4. Portland
  5. St. Louis
  6. Nashville
  7. Baltimore
  8. Austin
  9. Washington DC
  10. Oakland

Big city, small “literary scene”

  1. San Jose
  2. Houston
  3. Los Angeles
  4. San Antonio
  5. Phoenix
  6. San Diego
  7. Jacksonville
  8. Indianapolis
  9. Columbus
  10. El Paso

Pegasus Coffee

Further observations:

  • If Brooklyn were added to this list (even though it’s not a city), it would rank 8th in “Big Literary Scene” and 9th in “More of a Literary Community.”
  • New Orleans has a huge “literary scene” compared to its small size, and San Francisco is close behind — they’re outliers in that category.
  • The biggest city that doesn’t appear on any of the top 10 lists is Dallas.
  • The phrase “Milwaukee literary community” has a surprisingly high number of Google search results.
  • And there is not a single Google search result for the phrase “San Jose literary scene.” In fact, this might be the first time anyone has said those words.

Now you know!

So where do you want to move next?

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