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What Are the Most Checked-Out Books at the New York Public Library?

The New York Public Library (NYPL) has been around since 1895, supplying the NYC community with books for over 125 years. To celebrate its birthday, the institution went through its records and compiled a list of the 10 books that had been checked out most frequently. We at thought it would be interesting to see what books New Yorkers have read the most throughout the years.

The Snowy Day Takes First Place

In first place was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, which people have checked out of the library an astounding 485,583 times as of January 2020 since its publication in 1962. The beloved story of a young boy playing in the snow has captured the hearts of children and adults alike, with parents wanting to share one of their favorite childhood stories with their children. The beautiful artwork only solidifies the book’s place at the top of NYPL’s most checked-out books.

The Snowy Day features many qualities that the majority of other books in the top 10 share. The most checked-out books tend to be those that have already been around for many decades, are famous and well-liked, and have been translated into countless foreign languages.

Short Fiction Books Dominate the List

Many of the books on the list are children’s books, which makes sense because they can be read quickly and thus do not need to be checked out for as long. Similarly, the books on the list more targeted at adults, such as 1984 and To Kill a Mockingbird, are relatively short.

Most of the books on the list are fiction, with only one nonfiction book making the cut: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. People have been consulting this world-renowned self-help book since 1936 to help them succeed socially.

Goodnight Moon Banned from the NYPL for 25 Years

Another children’s book that has been checked out countless times is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. The library gave the book a special mention because it might have made the top 10 had it not been kept off the library’s shelves until 1972. Having been published in 1947, the book lost 25 years in the competition for the top 10 most checked-out NYPL books.

The top 10 are as follows:

  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

Classics Are Popular in the Long Term, Current Events in the Short Term

Unsurprisingly, most of the books on the list have been around for a long time, allowing them to rack up numerous check-outs. The only recent book—the first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone—was published in the US in 1998. Though all the Harry Potter books are extremely popular, the first has experienced the most check-outs, and they all spiked in popularity whenever new editions or movies were released.

A look at the most checked-out books per year reveals a different picture: People seem to love books on current events. The most checked-out book in 2019 was Michelle Obama’s autobiography, Becoming.

Here at, we find the list of top 10 books fascinating. It offers insights into what moves and excites New Yorkers. The books on the list are timeless, moving generation after generation of readers, just as the library has provided generation after generation of New Yorkers with a nearly unlimited supply of quality reading material. As lovers of reading and learning, we strongly encourage all our students—and all New Yorkers—to take advantage of the services of the NYPL and get lost in some of the best books of all time.


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