The New York Public Library Announces the Top 10 Checked-Out Books of All Time

Pub­lic libraries are unsung heroes of their com­mu­ni­ties. Many a busy work­ing adult can take their impor­tance for grant­ed. But par­ents of young chil­dren know—the library is a qui­et haven, place of won­der and dis­cov­ery, and free resource for all sorts of edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ences. Giv­en the impor­tance of libraries in kids’ lives, it’s no won­der that six of the top ten most-checked-out books—accord­ing to the New York Pub­lic Library—are children’s books.

The NYPL cal­cu­lat­ed the most checked out books in its his­to­ry in hon­or of its 125th anniver­sary. Giv­en that it hous­es the sec­ond largest col­lec­tion in the U.S., after the Library of Con­gress, and serves mil­lions in the most lin­guis­ti­cal­ly diverse city in the coun­try, its cir­cu­la­tion num­bers give us a rea­son­able sam­pling of near-uni­ver­sal tastes.

These include time­less clas­sics of children’s lit­er­a­ture: Ezra Jack Keats’ Calde­cott-win­ning The Snowy Day tops the list, “in print and in the Library’s cat­a­log con­tin­u­ous­ly since 1962”; The Cat in the Hat comes in at a close sec­ond. Where the Wild Things Are and The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar round out the list of books for the very young.

Where is the stal­wart Good­night Moon, you may ask? Here we have a juicy bit of lore:

By all mea­sures, this book should be a top check­out (in fact, it might be the top check­out) if not for an odd piece of his­to­ry: extreme­ly influ­en­tial New York Pub­lic Library children’s librar­i­an Anne Car­roll Moore hat­ed Good­night Moon when it first came out. As a result, the Library didn’t car­ry it until 1972. That lost time bumped the book off the top 10 list for now. But give it time.

For now, Mar­garet Wise Brown’s 1947 clas­sic receives hon­or­able men­tion. Clas­sic kids’ books cir­cu­late a lot because they’re wide­ly read, but also because they’re short, which leads to more turnover, the Library points out. Length of time in print is also a fac­tor, which makes the pres­ence of Har­ry Pot­ter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, pub­lished in 1998, par­tic­u­lar­ly impres­sive.

  1. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats: 485,583 check­outs
  2. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss: 469,650 check­outs
  3. 1984 by George Orwell: 441,770 check­outs
  4. Where the Wild Things Are by Mau­rice Sendak: 436,016 check­outs
  5. To Kill a Mock­ing­bird by Harp­er Lee: 422,912 check­outs
  6. Char­lot­te’s Web by E.B. White: 337,948 check­outs
  7. Fahren­heit 451 by Ray Brad­bury: 316,404 check­outs
  8. How to Win Friends and Influ­ence Peo­ple by Dale Carnegie: 284,524 check­outs
  9. Har­ry Pot­ter and the Sor­cer­er’s Stone by J.K. Rowl­ing: 231,022 check­outs
  10. The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar by Eric Car­le: 189,550 check­outs

Like J.K. Rowling’s mod­ern clas­sic, all of the remain­ing books on the list are novels—save out­lier How to Win Friends and Influ­ence Peo­ple by Dale Carnegie—and all are nov­els read exten­sive­ly by mid­dle and high school stu­dents, a fur­ther sign of the sig­nif­i­cance of pub­lic libraries.

Some stu­dents may only be required to read a small hand­ful of nov­els in their school career, and whether they fol­low through, and maybe go on to read more and more books, and maybe write a few books of their own, may depend upon those nov­els con­stant­ly cir­cu­lat­ing for every­one through insti­tu­tions like the New York Pub­lic Library.

See the full list above and learn more about the project at NPR and the NYPL.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The New York Pub­lic Library Lets Patrons Check Out Ties, Brief­cas­es & Hand­bags for Job Inter­views

The New York Pub­lic Library Puts Clas­sic Sto­ries on Insta­gram: Start with Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land and Read Kafka’s The Meta­mor­pho­sis Soon

What Are the Most Stolen Books? Book­store Lists Fea­ture Works by Muraka­mi, Bukows­ki, Bur­roughs, Von­negut, Ker­ouac & Palah­niuk

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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