To celebrate the 125th anniversary of the New York Public Library’s opening in 1895, a team of library experts decided it was only fitting to highlight the perennially popular books that have contributed to its success.
They pulled the circulation stats on all print and digital formats of books, analyzed factors like length of time in print and presence in the library catalog, and came up with a list of the library’s 10 most checked-out books of all time.
Topping the list was Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day, the charmingly illustrated, timeless tale of a young boy discovering the wintry wonders of a snow day. It’s been in circulation since its publication in 1962, and it’s far from the only children’s book on the list—in fact, six of the top 10 most borrowed books are meant for a young audience, including Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, and Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. As the library explains, this is partly because shorter books have quicker turnover rates, and partly because certain children’s classics appeal to a wide range of readers.
And, of course, it would hardly be a “top books” list if it didn’t include at least one of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came in ninth place, with 231,022 checkouts. One children’s book, however, is conspicuously missing: Margaret Wise Brown’s peaceful bedtime story Goodnight Moon, published in 1947 and seemingly read by just about everyone. According to the NYPL, Anne Carroll Moore, an important children’s librarian at the time of the book's publication, despised the story, so the library didn’t add it to the catalog until 1972. (They gave it an “honorable mention” designation on this list.)
Books can also rack up high circulation numbers if they’re often used in school curriculums, like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, or cover themes that appear (and reappear) in current events—which might explain why George Orwell’s 1984 has been checked out a staggering 441,770 times.
See the rest of the top 10 below, and find out which books made the NYPL’s 2019 most checked-out list here.
- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats // 485,583
- The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss // 469,650
- 1984 by George Orwell // 441,770
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak // 436,016
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee // 422,912
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White // 337,948
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury // 316,404
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie // 284,524
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling // 231,022
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle // 189,550