N.Y. Public Library's Top 10 All-time Checkouts

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January 13, 2020

The New York Public Library is celebrating its 125th anniversary in various ways, one of which is the release of a list of the 10 books that have been checked out the most.

Topping the list is The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats, with nearly half a million checkouts. The story of a red-snowsuited boy named Peter who enjoys adventures on the first day of snow in the city, making a snowman and snow angels and sliding down a hill. The author, Ezra Jack Keats, won the 1963 Caldecott Medal; it was the first time that a picture book with an African-American main character won a major children's award. Peter appeared in six more books by Keats.

In second place is The Cat in the Hat, one of the most famous creations of the well-known Dr. Seuss, the pseudonym of Theodor Geisel. The origin story off the book that was most related by Geisel was that scanned a vocabulary list and, seizing on the first two rhyming words he found, and that those two words were cat and hat. The 1957 book created the iconic character that has been the star of an animated television special and a full-length motion picture.

George Orwell's post-World War II dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-four came in at No. 3. The book, about the struggles of the protagonist Winston Smith within an oppressive state, added new terms to the discourse, among them Big Brother and Newspeak. A feature film of the book appeared in the year of the book's title.

Back in the children's book realm, at No. 4, is Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. The story of Max and his brief reign as king of the Wild Things has been a hit for most of the time since it was first published, in 1963. The Caldecott Medal winner has been an animated short film, a live-action feature film, and even an opera.

The Pulitzer-Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, came in at No. 5. Harper Lee's story of racial inequality in the American Deep South followed the efforts of the crusading lawyer Atticus Finch to defend an African-American man accused of a violent crime against a European-American woman.

The title character in Charlotte's Web is a spider, one of many barnyard creatures who befriend Wilbur the pig and, along with the young girl Fern, attempt to save him from the farmer's axe. Adaptations of the fifth-place book by E.B. White have included two animated films and a live-action feature film.

Books themselves feature heavily in the plot of seventh-place Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's cautionary tale about censorship. The award-winning 1953 novel is one of the science fiction author's most well-known stories. Among the adaptations have been two feature films and a BBC Radio dramatization.

Self-help guru Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, at No. 8, is the oldest book on the list, having been published in 1936. It's also the only nonfiction book on the list. No less a famous billionaire than Warren Buffett took the Dale Carnegie Course, when he was 20, and still has the certificate on his office wall.

The magical world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the introduction of the title to it form the initial plot of ninth-place Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the first of seven books featuring the title character written by J.K. Rowling. The first book, published in 1997 and known in the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, reinvigorated the young adult fiction genre and inspired many young people to turn back to reading for adventure.

Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, published in 1969, came in at No. 10. The story of the title character, which eats a wide variety of things before becoming a butterfly, has wide acclaim for its story, its artwork, and its scientific accuracy.

The New York Public Library has 92 locations that house nearly 53 million items. The second-largest public library in the U.S., it dates to 1895 and was established largely with money from the will of famous furrier and businessman John Jacob Astor and helped along in the early years by noted philanthropists Andrew Carnegie, James Lenox, and former N.Y. Gov. Samuel J. Tilden.

Place Title Author Year Published Checkouts
1 The Snowy Day Ezra Jack Keats 1962 485,583
2 The Cat in the Hat Dr. Seuss 1957 469,650
3 1984 George Orwell 1949 441,770
4 Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak 1963 436,016
5 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee 1960 422,912
6 Charlotte's Web E.B. White 1952 337,948
7 Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury 1953 316,404
8 How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie 1936 284,524
9 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone J.K. Rowling 1997 231,022
10 The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle 1969 189,550

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