Top 5 All-Time NY Public Library Checkouts

Ever wonder what some of the most read books of all-time are?  We here at ThinkFives have been thinking about that (that’s what we do).  Certainly, Amazon has good data, but we’re old school, so we thought, “What could a library tell us?”

Luckily, the New York Public Library keeps track of that (there’s someone in a backroom that lists every checkout in a black/white composition book).  Since The New York Public Library’s founding in 1895, millions of books have been checked out. 

By using sophisticated detective work, including historic checkout, popularity, length of time in print, and presence in the library catalog, they have been able to compile this list and share it with ThinkFives.

To Kill a Mockingbird

(422,912 checkouts)

This Harper Lee classic was an instant success when it was first published in 1960.  The Pulitzer Prize–winning book can still be found on most high school reading lists. Sometimes dubbed “America’s novel,” according to the library, “there’s a bit of cultural peer pressure around this novel, with people feeling they should read it. “

Despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial inequality, the novel is renowned for its warmth and humor. That might be a reason it has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.

Quick Amazon Synopsis

Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus–three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman.

Where the Wild Things Are

(436,016 checkouts)

Maurice Sendak created a rumpus, imaginative, relatable story of Max and his adventures with the Wild Things.  This classic has been in print since 1963 and won a number of awards including a Caldecott Medal. The book’s incredible artwork helps capture the imagination of adults and kids alike, which is why, all these years later, Max still reigns.

Quick Amazon Synopsis

Max dons his wolf suit in pursuit of some mischief and gets sent to bed without supper. Fortuitously, a forest grows in his room, allowing his wild rampage to continue unimpaired. Sendak’s color illustrations (perhaps his finest) are beautiful, and each turn of the page brings the discovery of a new wonder.


(441,770 checkouts)

George Orwell’s dystopian novel foretold a future that has been partially realized and still mostly feared.  A staple of almost every high school reading list since its publication in 1949, it has amassed over $30 million in sales.

The book also sees regular spikes in popularity based on US politics and topped the USA Book List as recently as February 2017, after the surprising election of Donald Trump.  The book ushered in a whole genre of futuristic tales from A Clockwork Orange to the more recent Hunger Games Trilogy.

Quick Amazon Synopsis

A startling and haunting novel, 1984 creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions—a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

The Cat in the Hat

(469,650 checkouts)

Instantly popular and considered quite innovative when it was first published in 1957, this Dr. Seuss children’s book can probably be found in every young child’s room. According to the library, “Of all the books on this list, this book is perhaps most ingrained in the zeitgeist—a perennial first checkout, or birthday party or baby shower gift.”

“Now! Now! Have no fear. Have no fear!” said the cat. “My tricks are not bad, said the cat in the hat.”

But: “He should not be here,” said the fish in the pot. “He should not be here when your mother is not.”

Quick Amazon Synopsis

The Cat in the Hat may be an old standby, but he never lets us down. When in doubt, turn to the story of the cat that transformed a dull, rainy afternoon into a magical and just-messy-enough adventure. There’s another, hidden adventure, too: this book really will help children learn to read.

The Snowy Day

(485,583 checkouts)

Ezra Jack Keats’ charming and beautifully illustrated tale of a child enjoying the simple magic that snow brings to his city is #1 on the NYPL All-Time Checkout List.  Since its publication in 1962, the award-winning picture book has had universal appeal and is a top checkout even today.  

Translated into 10 languages for children around the world, it is a beautiful story of Peter and his wintry adventures.

Quick Amazon Synopsis

  So popular, this book has been made into a movie, a TV show, a song (Boyz II Men), a forever stamp — and Peter and his dog Willie are memorialized in a bronze statue in the Imagination Playground in New York City.

In 1962, a little boy named Peter put on his snowsuit and stepped out of his house and into the hearts of millions of readers. Universal in its appeal, this story beautifully depicts a child’s wonder at a new world, and the hope of capturing and keeping that wonder forever.

Honorable Mentions

  • Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White (337,948)
  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (316,404)
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie (284,524)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling (231,022)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle (189,550)

What is your favorite book?



  1. These are reminding me of the books I want to checkout again the next time I go to the library.

  2. I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, loved reading the books and watching the movies. Definitely not surprised that Harry Potter made the list. Loved the community that was developed because of the book series.

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