The New York Public Library Creates a List of 125 Books That They Love

The New York Pub­lic Library sure knows how to cel­e­brate a quasqui­cen­ten­ni­al. In hon­or of its own 125th anniver­sary, it’s rolling out a num­ber of treats for patrons, vis­i­tors, and those who must admire it from afar.

In addi­tion to the expect­ed author talks and live events, Patience and For­ti­tude, the icon­ic stone lions who flank the main branch’s front steps, are dis­play­ing some read­ing mate­r­i­al of their own—Toni Morrison’s 1987 nov­el Beloved and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age clas­sic The Great Gats­by, from 1925.

Donors who kick in $12.50 or more to help the library con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing such pub­lic ser­vices as ear­ly lit­er­a­cy class­es, free legal aid, and job train­ing cours­es will be reward­ed with a cheer­ful red stick­er bear­ing the easy to love slo­gan “♥ read­ing.”

The cov­er image of Ezra Jack Keats’ 1962 Calde­cott Award-win­ning pic­ture book The Snowy Day, which at 485,583 check­outs holds the title for most pop­u­lar book in the cir­cu­lat­ing col­lec­tion, graces spe­cial edi­tion Library and Metro­Cards.

And a team of librar­i­ans drew up a list of 125 books from the last 125 years that inspire a life­long love of read­ing.

The list is delib­er­ate­ly inclu­sive with regard to authors’ gen­der, race, and sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion as well as lit­er­ary genre. In addi­tion to nov­els and non-fic­tion, you’ll find mem­oir, poet­ry, fan­ta­sy, graph­ic nov­els, sci­ence fic­tion, mys­tery, short sto­ries, humor, and one children’s book, Har­ry Pot­ter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which the judges decid­ed “tran­scends age cat­e­gories.” (A sim­i­lar list geared toward younger read­ers will be released lat­er this year.)

The list was drawn from a pool con­tain­ing any­thing pub­lished after May 23rd, 1895, the day attor­ney John Bigelow’s plan to com­bine the resources of the Astor and Lenox libraries and the Tilden Trustin into The New York Pub­lic Library was offi­cial­ly incor­po­rat­ed.

The selec­tion cri­te­ria can be viewed here.

Obvi­ous­ly, the list—and any per­ceived omissions—will gen­er­ate pas­sion­ate debate amongst book lovers, a prospect the library rel­ish­es, though it’s enlist­ed one of its most ardent sup­port­ers, author Neil Gaiman, whose Amer­i­can Gods made the final cut, to remind any dis­grun­tled read­ers of the spir­it in which the picks were made:

The New York Pub­lic Library has put togeth­er a list of 125 books that they love—the librar­i­ans and the peo­ple in the library. That’s the cri­te­ria. You may not love them, but they do. And that’s excit­ing. The thing that gets peo­ple read­ing is love. The thing that makes peo­ple pick up books they might not oth­er­wise try, is love. It’s per­son­al rec­om­men­da­tions, the kind that are tru­ly meant. So here are 125 books that they love. And some­where on this list you will find books you’ve nev­er read, but have always meant to, or have nev­er even heard of. There are 125 chances here to change your own life, or to change some­one else’s, curat­ed by the peo­ple from one of the finest libraries in the world. Read with joy. Read with love. Read!

To real­ly get the most out of the list, tune in to the NYPL’s The Librar­i­an Is In pod­cast, which will be devot­ing an episode to one of the fea­tured titles each month.

The cur­rent episode kicks things off with co-hosts Frank Col­lerius and Rhon­da Evans’ favorites from the list:

Maus by Art Spiegel­man

Beloved by Toni Mor­ri­son

Invis­i­ble Man by Ralph Elli­son

The Haunt­ing of Hill House by Shirley Jack­son

The House of Mirth by Edith Whar­ton

Har­ry Pot­ter and the Sor­cer­er’s Stone by J.K. Rowl­ing

In Cold Blood by Tru­man Capote

Their Eyes Were Watch­ing God by Zora Neale Hurston

Read­ers, have a look at the com­plete list of the New York Pub­lic Library’s 125 Books for Adult Read­ers, and leave us a com­ment to let us know what titles you wish had been includ­ed. Or bet­ter yet, tell us which as-yet unread title you’re plan­ning to read in hon­or of the New York Pub­lic Library’s 125th year:

George Orwell, 1984

Saul Bel­low, The Adven­tures of Augie March

W.H. Auden, The Age of Anx­i­ety

Ron Cher­now, Alexan­der Hamil­ton

Erich Maria Remar­que, All Qui­et on the West­ern Front

James Pat­ter­son, Along Came a Spi­der

Michael Chabon, The Amaz­ing Adven­tures of Kava­lier & Clay

Neil Gaiman, Amer­i­can Gods

Mary Oliv­er, Amer­i­can Prim­i­tive

Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

Mag­gie Nel­son, The Arg­onauts

Sylvia Plath, Ariel

Ian McE­wan, Atone­ment

Anne Car­son, Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Red

Toni Mor­ri­son, Beloved

Ray­mond Chan­dler, The Big Sleep

Tom Wolfe, The Bon­fire of the Van­i­ties

Eve­lyn Waugh, Brideshead Revis­it­ed

Colm Tóibín, Brook­lyn

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

J.D. Salinger, The Catch­er in the Rye

Clau­dia Rank­ine, Cit­i­zen

Sta­cy Schiff, Cleopa­tra

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Langston Hugh­es, The Col­lect­ed Poems of Langston Hugh­es

Ter­ry Pratch­ett, The Col­or of Mag­ic

Alice Walk­er, The Col­or Pur­ple

Wal­ter Mosley, Dev­il in a Blue Dress

Erik Lar­son, The Dev­il in the White City

Frank Her­bert, Dune

Michael Ondaat­je, The Eng­lish Patient

Alyssa Cole, An Extra­or­di­nary Union

Ray Brad­bury, Fahren­heit 451

J.R. R. Tolkien, The Fel­low­ship of the Ring

N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Sea­son

Ali­son Bechdel, Fun Home

George R. R. Mar­tin, A Game of Thrones

James Bald­win, Giovanni’s Room

Arund­hati Roy, The God of Small Things

Flan­nery O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find

Edwin G. Bur­rows and Mike Wal­lace, Gotham

John Stein­beck, The Grapes of Wrath

F. Scott Fitzger­ald, The Great Gats­by

Mar­garet Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

J.K. Rowl­ing, Har­ry Pot­ter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Shirley Jack­son, The Haunt­ing of Hill House

Car­son McCullers, The Heart Is a Lone­ly Hunter

Dave Eggers, A Heart­break­ing Work of Stag­ger­ing Genius

Dou­glas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

Edith Whar­ton, The House of Mirth

Mar­i­lynne Robin­son, House­keep­ing

Allen Gins­berg, Howl

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Tru­man Capote, In Cold Blood

Bev­er­ly Jenk­ins, Indi­go

Jhumpa Lahiri, Inter­preter of Mal­adies

Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air

Ralph Elli­son, Invis­i­ble Man

Gore Vidal, Julian

Khaled Hos­sei­ni, The Kite Run­ner

Ursu­la K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Dark­ness

Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club

Kate Atkin­son, Life After Life

Tra­cy K. Smith, Life on Mars

Vladimir Nabokov, Loli­ta

Art Spiegel­man, Maus

David Sedaris, Me Talk Pret­ty One Day

John Berendt, Mid­night in the Gar­den of Good and Evil

Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Chil­dren

Mar­tin Amis: Mon­ey

Michael Lewis: Mon­ey­ball

Jonathan Lethem, Moth­er­less Brook­lyn

Vir­ginia Woolf, Mrs. Dal­loway

Ele­na Fer­rante, My Bril­liant Friend

J.D. Robb, Naked in Death

Richard Wright, Native Son

Eliz­a­beth Strout, Olive Kit­teridge

Jack Ker­ouac, On the Road

Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez, One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude

Jeanette Win­ter­son, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Adam John­son, The Orphan Master’s Son

Per Pet­ter­son, Out Steal­ing Hors­es

Octavia E. But­ler, Para­ble of the Sow­er

Mar­jane Satrapi, Perse­po­lis

Annie Dil­lard, Pil­grim at Tin­ker Creek

Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Com­plaint

Gra­ham Greene, The Qui­et Amer­i­can

Daphne du Mau­ri­er, Rebec­ca

Kazuo Ishig­uro, The Remains of the Day

Louise Erdrich, The Round House

Amor Towles, Rules of Civil­i­ty

Alice Munro, Run­away

John Ash­bery, Self-Por­trar­it in a Con­vex Mir­ror

Stephen King, The Shin­ing

Annie Proulx, The Ship­ping News

Rachel Car­son, Silent Spring

Nali­ni Singh, Slave to Sen­sa­tion

Joan Did­ion, Slouch­ing Towards Beth­le­hem

Leslie Fein­berg, Stone Butch Blues

John Cheev­er, The Sto­ries of John Cheev­er

Albert Camus, The Stranger

Ernest Hem­ing­way, The Sun Also Ris­es

Patri­cia High­smith, The Tal­ent­ed Mr. Rip­ley

George Saun­ders, Tenth of Decem­ber

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watch­ing God

Chin­ua Achebe, Things Fall Apart

Cix­in Liu, The Three-Body Prob­lem

Harp­er Lee, To Kill a Mock­ing­bird

Denis John­son, Train Dreams

Hen­ry James, The Turn of the Screw

Milan Kun­dera, The Unbear­able Light­ness of Being

Col­son White­head, The Under­ground Rail­road

Joseph Mitchell, Up in the Old Hotel

Jef­frey Eugenides, The Vir­gin Sui­cides

Jen­nifer Egan, A Vis­it from the Goon Squad

Isabel Wilk­er­son, The Warmth of Oth­er Suns

Alan Moore and Dave Gib­bons, Watch­men

Ray­mond Carv­er, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Don DeLil­lo, White Noise

Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Haru­ki Muraka­mi, The Wind-Up Bird Chron­i­cle

Hilary Man­tel, Wolf Hall

Max­ine Hong Kingston, The Woman War­rior

Via Lit Hub

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

The New York Pub­lic Library Lets You Down­load 180,000 Images in High Res­o­lu­tion: His­toric Pho­tographs, Maps, Let­ters & More

New York Pub­lic Library Card Now Gives You Free Access to 33 NYC Muse­ums

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join Ayun’s com­pa­ny The­ater of the Apes in New York City this March for her book-based vari­ety series, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain, and the world pre­miere of Greg Kotis’ new musi­cal, I AM NOBODY. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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