While the New York Public Library is closed, readers have been busy scouring the beloved institution’s digital stacks for titles to read from home. Out of the system’s of over 300,000 e-books, 10 titles have emerged as the most checked-out during this time of social distancing.
On Wednesday, the New York Public Library released a list of what patrons have been reading since the institution officially closed in March. Michelle Obama’s memoir “Becoming” took the top spot — mirroring the results of the library’s most checked-out books of 2019. Tara Westover’s “Educated” ranked second, while novels from Margaret Atwood, Ann Patchett and Ta-Nehisi Coates also made the cut.
“For 125 years, the New York Public Library has brought New Yorkers together around reading and learning, offering books, classes, programs and materials to strengthen our communities,” Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, said. “I am proud that we continue to connect New Yorkers, even when we can’t actually be together. Reading provides so much: comfort, an escape, a distraction. I hope this relatively small pleasure helps our communities through a very challenging time.”
The list demonstrates a range of titles, from dystopian fiction (Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”) to young adult literature (J. K. Rowling’s ever-pervasive “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”). Sally Rooney’s literary fiction novel “Normal People” also ranked, as did Lori Gottlieb’s memoir “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist and Our Lives Revealed.”
The library noted that since shuttering last month, e-book checkouts are up 10% from last year, and there has been a 15% increase in weekly readers on average.
“This is a supremely challenging time for all of us,” Marx said in a letter to library members announcing the top 10 books. “Of particular concern is our uncertain future: we don’t know what the coming months hold for the Library, our communities, our city and our country. We expect that there will be pressures and difficult circumstances that we will need to overcome, and none of it will be easy. But we can do it.”
In addition to its robust digital holdings, the library hosts a number of resources for homebound readers, including daily storytime with children’s librarians, blogs, on-demand virtual tutoring, research databases and educational tools — all accessible online.
Earlier this month in an effort to expand its presence in the digital sphere, the institution partnered with WNYC to create a virtual book club, picking James McBride’s new release “Deacon King Kong” as its first title (now available as an e-book through the library). The group will gather online for its first meeting April 30 via a livestream, during which WNYC’s Alison Stewart will lead a conversation with McBride and an audience Q&A.
“During this unsettling time, we believe reading can be both the escape and the connection that New Yorkers need,” chief librarian Brian Bannon said in a statement announcing the book club. “The [New York Public Library] brings New Yorkers together, offering welcoming spaces for people of varying backgrounds and perspectives to learn, grow and explore the world.”
Find a full list of the New York Public Library’s most checked-out e-books during social distancing below:
- “Becoming,” by Michelle Obama
- “Educated: A Memoir,” by Tara Westover
- “The Dutch House: A Novel,” by Ann Patchett
- “Deacon King Kong: A Novel,” by James McBride
- “The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood
- “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist and Our Lives Revealed,” by Lori Gottlieb
- “Normal People: A Novel,” by Sally Rooney
- “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” by J. K. Rowling
- “The Water Dancer: A Novel,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood
Top Image: The New York Public Library's Rose Main Reading Room. Photo: Jonathan Blanc/NYPL.