20 votes

The New York Public Library Has Calculated Its Most Checked-Out Books Of All Time

15 comments

  1. [9]
    AugustusFerdinand
    Link
    Here are the top 10: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats: 485,583 checkouts The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss: 469,650 checkouts 1984 by George Orwell: 441,770 checkouts Where the Wild Things Are by...

    Here are the top 10:

    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
    13 votes
    1. [4]
      Eric_the_Cerise
      Link Parent
      Here's a weird coincidence ... I've never heard of #1 or #10. I've read all the others (except not sure about #8, may have just skimmed it). In fact, again except for #8 (?), I think I've owned...

      Here's a weird coincidence ... I've never heard of #1 or #10. I've read all the others (except not sure about #8, may have just skimmed it). In fact, again except for #8 (?), I think I've owned them all.

      2 votes
      1. [3]
        vivaria
        Link Parent
        That's... huh. The Very Hungry Caterpillar was huge for me growing up. It felt like a cultural icon-ish! Next you're going to tell me you've never heard of The Rainbow Fish either. ;V (Lucky 10,000?)

        That's... huh. The Very Hungry Caterpillar was huge for me growing up. It felt like a cultural icon-ish! Next you're going to tell me you've never heard of The Rainbow Fish either. ;V

        (Lucky 10,000?)

        5 votes
        1. emdash
          Link Parent
          I miss both of those books so much. They’re definitely “childhood defined” for me, in a way.

          I miss both of those books so much. They’re definitely “childhood defined” for me, in a way.

          2 votes
        2. Eric_the_Cerise
          Link Parent
          What age? I'm 52, with no kids. The Caterpillar was published when I was 2, so if it was popular right away, I should have heard of it. But if it didn't take off for a decade or more, that may be...

          What age? I'm 52, with no kids. The Caterpillar was published when I was 2, so if it was popular right away, I should have heard of it. But if it didn't take off for a decade or more, that may be why I missed it.

          1 vote
    2. [4]
      envy
      Link Parent
      At first I thought this was unfairly biased towards the older books, then I looked at the top 10 for 2019 Becoming by Michelle Obama Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover Little Fires Everywhere by...

      At first I thought this was unfairly biased towards the older books, then I looked at the top 10 for 2019

      Becoming by Michelle Obama

      Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

      Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

      A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

      Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

      Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

      Circe by Madeline Miller

      Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

      Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

      Milkman by Anna Burns

      I think I prefer a list of old familiar classics instead of a reminder of how few books I read last year.

      2 votes
      1. [3]
        Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        It might not be unfairly biased, but the nature of an "all-time" list like this is that older books have had more opportunities to be borrowed than newer books. A book that was published 50 years...

        At first I thought this was unfairly biased towards the older books

        It might not be unfairly biased, but the nature of an "all-time" list like this is that older books have had more opportunities to be borrowed than newer books. A book that was published 50 years ago can have been borrowed more times than a book that was published 10 years ago, simply because it's been on the shelf for longer than the newer book.

        So, if a 50-year-old book has been borrowed 250,000 times, and a 10-year-old book has been borrowed 100,000 times, the older book will appear higher on the all-time borrowed list than the newer book.

        Maybe a better measure would be the average number of loans per year. That way, we see that the 50-year-old book gets borrowed 5,000 times per year, while the 10-year-old book gets borrowed 10,000 times per year - which shows us which book is actually more popular.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          envy
          Link Parent
          Yeah, I thought about that, probably a little too much. You would have a situation where a book might be insanely popular the first year, jump to the top of the list because a large number divided...

          Maybe a better measure would be the average number of loans per year.

          Yeah, I thought about that, probably a little too much.

          You would have a situation where a book might be insanely popular the first year, jump to the top of the list because a large number divided by one is still a large number, and then drop off the next year.

          Or maybe all seven of the Harry Potter series end up being more popular than anything else.

          There is something special about the list of books they came up with. As evidenced by how many of us are familiar with almost the entire list.

          1 vote
          1. Algernon_Asimov
            Link Parent
            I considered that scenario while writing my comment. Obviously any true measure of a book's popularity would have to be more nuanced than simply the total number of times it has been borrowed, or...

            You would have a situation where a book might be insanely popular the first year, jump to the top of the list because a large number divided by one is still a large number, and then drop off the next year.

            I considered that scenario while writing my comment. Obviously any true measure of a book's popularity would have to be more nuanced than simply the total number of times it has been borrowed, or even an averaged number of borrowings per year.

            1 vote
  2. [4]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    Bizarre. I've read 9 out of 10 of these books - except the #1 book, which I've never even heard of. Looking at 'The Snowy Day' now, I wonder if the combination of a black child and snowy weather...

    Bizarre. I've read 9 out of 10 of these books - except the #1 book, which I've never even heard of.

    Looking at 'The Snowy Day' now, I wonder if the combination of a black child and snowy weather meant that Australian librarians felt it wasn't relevant to Aussie children in the 1970s (when I would have been most likely to read it). We don't get much snow here, and what little we get is restricted to a few mountains far away from any major cities. However, I can see why this book would be very relevant for readers at a library in New York.

    8 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Consider me surprised as well. I've never heard of #1, and I'm in the US in an area that snows. Granted, I didn't grow up in this area, but you'd think I still would have encountered the book...

      Consider me surprised as well. I've never heard of #1, and I'm in the US in an area that snows. Granted, I didn't grow up in this area, but you'd think I still would have encountered the book since moving here. Presumably something iconic enough to be the #1 checkout of all time from my country's largest library would cross my radar, especially because my job means that I have to keep at least somewhat of a pulse on kids' literature.

      4 votes
    2. [2]
      envy
      Link Parent
      I don't get it either. I would have thought the Big Red Barn, where the narrative is particularly soothing. I'm guessing for most parents that reading about going out into the snow is a more...

      I don't get it either. I would have thought the Big Red Barn, where the narrative is particularly soothing.

      I'm guessing for most parents that reading about going out into the snow is a more appealing idea than actually taking your kids out in the snow.

      2 votes
      1. Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        This list isn't about "these days". It's an "all-time" list, which means it's counting all the times this book has been borrowed since 1963. Maybe the book hasn't been borrowed at all in the past...

        This list isn't about "these days". It's an "all-time" list, which means it's counting all the times this book has been borrowed since 1963. Maybe the book hasn't been borrowed at all in the past 10 years. We just don't know.

        3 votes
  3. [2]
    gpl
    Link
    Very interesting stats. I wonder if 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Fahrenheit 451 are so high because of their enduring popularity, or because they are assigned every where to high school...

    Very interesting stats. I wonder if 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Fahrenheit 451 are so high because of their enduring popularity, or because they are assigned every where to high school students. That has got to contribute to the numbers here. Then again, they are often assigned to students because they are popular, so the causation is likely not so clean.

    5 votes
    1. Eric_the_Cerise
      Link Parent
      Just anecdotal, but none were assigned to me during school. Reading 1984 was my New Year's resolution for 1984.

      Just anecdotal, but none were assigned to me during school. Reading 1984 was my New Year's resolution for 1984.

      3 votes