Brooklyn Public Library announces most-borrowed book of all time to celebrate 125th anniversary

brooklyn public library sign
To celebrate its 125th birthday, the Brooklyn Public Library has announced its top 125 most-borrowed books of all time.
File photo by Kevin Duggan

In celebration of its 125th anniversary, the Brooklyn Public Library has released its list of the top 125 most-borrowed books of all time — and the beloved 1963 children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak tops the list.

The library has been celebrating its anniversary all year long with special events and, to bookend the festivities, decided to count up Brooklyn’s favorite books — using factors including checkout and circulation data, old bestseller lists, and the years since each book was published. Four of the top five on the list were children’s books — including “Where the Wild Things Are,” “The Snowy Day,”  “The Cat in the Hat,” and “Are You My Mother?”

bpl central branch
Four of the top five books on the list were children’s books — but the list contained a wide variety of reads, from picture books to classics and nonfiction. File photo courtesy Brooklyn Public Library

“We’re thrilled to close out our year long anniversary celebration with a list that gives us insight into what Brooklynites have been reading over the last 125 years — from beloved children’s books to classic literature, graphic novels and everything in between,” said BPL President and CEO Linda E. Johnson in a Nov. 14 statement. “We look forward to the next 125 years of providing free and open access to information and connecting readers to the books and stories that will inspire them, spark curiosity, and keep them reading for decades to come.”

The sprawling list includes dozens of picture books, plenty of classics — including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and George Orwell’s “1984,” and more modern hits like “Game of Thrones” by George R. R. Martin, which inspired the hit TV series, and “Twilight” by Stephanie Meyer. Here are Brooklyn’s top 10 most-borrowed books — the full list is available online.

The Brooklyn Public Library’s Top 10 Most-Borrowed books

  1. “Where the Wild Things” Are by Maurice Sendak
  2. “The Snow Day” by Ezra Jack Keats
  3. “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss
  4. “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
  5. “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman
  6. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte
  7. “Naruto: Volume 1” by Masashi Kishimoto
  8. “The Adventures of Huckeberry Finn” by Mark Twain
  9. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
  10. “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

The first branch of the BPL was founded in 1896, and its first branch opened in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1905. Within a few years, the organization had received funds to build 21 more libraries — and now, there’s a branch in nearly every neighborhood, with 60 locations across the borough. In addition to providing free books to readers of all ages, BPL now has vinyl, movies, board games, sewing machines, and even telescopes available to borrowers as part of its “Library of Things,” and hosts regular workshops, classes, and get-togethers where Brooklynites can learn, read, and get to know their neighbors. 

brooklyn public library vinyl collection
After 125 years in operation, BPL has plenty more than books to borrow — including vinyl and movies. File photo courtesy Gregg Richards/Brooklyn Public Library

Earlier this year, in response to large-scale book bans in schools nationwide, BPL announced “Books Unbanned,” an initiative that gave young readers across the country access to the library’s huge digital database of books and other information. 

To celebrate and honor “Where the Wild Things Are” and its enduring popularity, BPL will be hosting a Wild Rumpus celebration on Dec. 3 at its Central Library with special guest Julian Shapiro-Barnum, creator of the internet show Recess Therapy. Additionally, BPL is giving away free and reusable tote bags to every patron checking out books at BPL branches.