The New York Public Library has calculated the most checked out books of all time: NPR

Children in the Bronx visit a book mobile from the New York Public Library in the 1950s.

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Children in the Bronx visit a book mobile from the New York Public Library in the 1950s.

New York public library

The New York Public Library has been borrowing books for a long time – the institution will be 125 this year.

To celebrate this, the library has dug into its archives and calculated a list of the 10 books that have been checked most in history.

The most wanted book? The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

The Caldecott Medal-winning story of a young boy’s encounter with snow has been checked 485,583 times from the NYPL since it was published in 1962.

It shares qualities with many of the other most borrowed titles: the beautifully illustrated book has been around for a long time, it is well known and loved and it is available in different languages.

“It’s such a relatable story and pure magic for both children and adults,” said Andrew Medlar, director of the BookOps selection team at the library, in a statement. “It’s on people’s radar screens, they remember when they first heard it, and they want to share that experience with their children. And the illustrations are just beautiful.”

The 1962 classic The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats has been checked out more often than any other book in the history of the New York Public Library.

Jonathan Blanc / The New York Public Library


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Jonathan Blanc / The New York Public Library

The 1962 classic The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats has been checked out more often than any other book in the history of the New York Public Library.

Jonathan Blanc / The New York Public Library

Children’s books form a large part of the list. That is not surprising – short books can be read faster and are returned faster. Even the more mature books on the list, such as 1984 and To Kill A Mockingbird, are quite slim.

There is only one non-fiction book on the list: How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The self-help juggernaut was published in 1936.

The library has also been awarded an “honorable mention” to Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. That book was perhaps a contender for the first place, but NYPL children’s librarian Anne Carroll Moore loved the 1947 book so little that the library only carried it in 1972. … for now.

Here are the top 10:

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

Children are in the library of Chatham Square on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1911.

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Children are in the library of Chatham Square on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1911.

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Only one book on the list is completely recent: the first Harry Potter novel, published in the US in 1998. The library says that the Sorcerer’s Stone and subsequent Rowling wizard’s stories are always popular, but they regularly experience spikes in circulation when new editions or films are released.

Books about current events turn out to be popular from year to year. The best cash register at the library in 2019 was Becoming, the autobiography of Michelle Obama.

The all-time list contains many titles that people read and cherish and that they want to share with their children.

“The books on this list have gone beyond generations and, just like the library itself, are just as relevant as when they first arrived,” said NYPL Chairman Anthony W. Marx. “This list tells us something about New Yorkers in the past 125 years – what moves them, what excites them, stands the test of time.”