Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the New York Public Library has released a love letter to books. Continuing the celebration of the institution’s 125th anniversary, the library culled together a list of 125 beloved books, chosen by librarians within the NYPL system. The list, collected under “125 Books We Love,” brings together titles of adult literature, spanning 12 forms and genre categories.
The aim of the list is to highlight the library’s role in “inspiring a true, lifelong love of reading.” The complete collection, which includes selections like Sylvia Plath’s “Ariel,” James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” is available online and across the system’s 92 locations in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island. Physical copies of the list take the form of old-fashioned check-out cards. The library will also bestow its 42nd Street lions — Patience and Fortitude — with copies of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” in honor of the list.
“For 125 years, The New York Public Library has worked to encourage and foster a lifelong, true love of reading in people of all ages, to help them find the books that get them excited, that help them escape, that keep them turning pages, that help them learn, grow or have fun,” New York Public Library president Anthony W. Marx said in an announcement. “As we mark our anniversary we want to celebrate this role, and acknowledge its continued and increasing importance in a world with so many distractions. Books can provide new perspectives, a calming presence, knowledge, or just a few hours of enjoyment. All are important, and we encourage everyone to look at the list, talk about it, debate it, and start reading. And then tell us which book made you love reading.”
The librarians who were brought the immense task of cataloguing the library’s 125 most loved books were led by associate director of readers services Lynn Lobash. The process took about a year and included sorting works based on, among other criteria, their ability to “inspire a love of reading,” “make people want to keep reading” and “remind people why reading is fun, exciting and enlightening.” The titles considered also met practical standards, such as being published after May 23, 1895 (the date the NYPL was incorporated) and available across the NYPL collections.
“It wasn’t easy to put together, but we are proud of this list, which we consider a blueprint or great starting point for anyone looking to find their next great read,” Lobash said in a statement. “We built this list so just about anyone can find an entry point, something that sparks their interest, and can get reading. We know not every title will be a fit. We know there will be discussion and debate and arguments. That’s great. Part of our role for 125 years is to get people talking about books, and all of that is part of the fun.”
The announcement also kicks off a series of public events, which include several programs with authors on the list. More details about the additional events can be found here. A full list of titles is available online.
Top Image: "125 Books We Love" announced by the New York Public Library.