As it approaches a milestone 125th anniversary, the New York Public Library is looking back on its most borrowed books of all time. One of the largest and most iconic public library systems in the U.S., the New York Public Library has 92 locations across the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island.
In order to calculate a list of the books with the most checkouts, the library compiled a number of important factors, from circulation data to presence in the library catalog, which it outlined in more detail on its website. The books that made the top 10, listed below, range in subject and reading level. Here, the top 10 checkouts of all time at the New York Public Library.
10. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
With 189,550 checkouts, this beloved children’s book “is a favorite among librarians and teachers because of its interactive nature and unique format,” the library notes on its website. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, published in 1969, traces the transformation of a caterpillar, who begins the story hungry, but then starts eating everything as the pages go by. Accompanied by bright and cheery illustrations, this classic is a hit for young readers and, as the library calls it, “a staple for kids learning to read.”
Buy Now: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
It is no small feat that the first installment in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series made the library’s all-time top checkouts list with 231,022 checkouts. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone made its U.S. debut in 1998, which meant it was “competing with books that have been on library shelves for decades,” the library writes. The first book in the fantasy series introduced readers of all ages to the magical world of the now legendary boy wizard. Compared to other books on the list, it hasn’t been out for long, but in 10 years, the library expects to see the book “climb much higher.”
8. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
A self-help book for the masses, Dale Carnegie’s 1936 best-seller offers advice for anyone looking to improve their personal and professional lives. Though the circulation of How to Win Friends & Influence People peaked several years ago, the library writes that “it still generates checkouts as new readers look for the key to friends and influence.” The book, which proposes several tips on how to build strong social relationships, has garnered 284,524 checkouts.
7. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Some readers might recognize this title from their high school English classes. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is centered on a fireman in a dystopian world, where books are burned because they are deemed evil. The 1953 science fiction novel is one of the library’s most popular titles, with 316,404 checkouts. Like other titles on the list, this one “sees spikes in popularity based on current events,” the library reports.
Buy Now: Fahrenheit 451
6. Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
This timeless 1952 story of friendship, fear and loss from E.B. White has amassed 337,948 checkouts at the New York Public Library. Charlotte’s Web pulls in readers from every age as White brings together a pig and a spider who long to be friends despite the pig being the runt of his litter. “No one ever forgets the story,” the library writes. “It’s one that parents often like to share with their children.”
Buy Now: Charlotte’s Web
5. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
An essential component of modern American literature, the 1961 Pulitzer Prize winner has 422,912 checkouts at the library. To Kill a Mockingbird wrestles with racism, morality and hope, set against the backdrop of 1930s Alabama. The novel has been successful since its publication and, the library writes, it’s “a perennial favorite on high school and middle school reading lists.”
Buy Now: To Kill a Mockingbird
4. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
Maurice Sendak’s Caldecott Medal-winning 1963 picture book encourages readers to use their imaginations in order to deal with their feelings. Where the Wild Things Are, which has 436,016 checkouts, follows the misunderstood Max as he invents a magical world of beasts in his bedroom. The library notes that the artwork of the book is particularly captivating, “which is why, all these years later, Max still reigns.”
Buy Now: Where the Wild Things Are
3. 1984, George Orwell
The highest number of checkouts for an adult book on the library’s list belongs to George Orwell’s iconic dystopian hit. 1984, which comes in third with 441,770 checkouts, examines a bleak society where government surveillance and war loom large. “Its universal appeal and relatively short length make it both popular and a quick read,” the library writes.
Buy Now: 1984
2. The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss
“Of all the books on this list, this book is perhaps most ingrained in the zeitgeist—a perennial first checkout, or birthday party or baby shower gift,” the library writes. The Cat in the Hat focuses on a pair of very bored siblings who find their mundane day interrupted by a mischievous cat. Dr. Seuss’ classic picture book was published in 1957 and has been a hit ever since—it has been checked out of the library 469,650 times.
Buy Now: The Cat in the Hat
1. The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats
The book with the most checkouts from the New York Public Library is the simple but delightful journey of a small boy enjoying a snowy day. “It’s all about the story—and how the brilliantly told tale of Peter and his wintry adventure transcends generations,” the library writes of Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day. Published in 1962, the book has 485,583 checkouts and is one of the library’s top circulated books each year, across all the neighborhoods it serves.
Buy Now: The Snowy Day
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