Library list shows a variety of reading options
Published 5:21 pm Friday, November 18, 2022
As I was taking a few minutes to browse news headlines this week, NPR had one that piqued my curiosity. It was about how the Brooklyn Public Library was celebrating its 125th anniversary: bit by bit for the last few weeks, they had been releasing a list of the top 125 most-borrowed books in the library’s history.
Despite not ever visiting the Brooklyn Public Library (I’ve never even been to New York, to be honest), I must admit that I was still curious about which book – finally revealed on Nov. 14 – was number one.
The answer was “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. The award-winning children’s book was first published in 1963, and has been considered a classic ever since. Even when I was a kid in the 90s, I remember teachers and our school librarian reading this book to us in class. Even if the story fades from my mind over time, the art remains just as memorable to me when I first saw it. I can see why it ended up being number one on this list.
Back in August this year, I wrote a column about “must-read” books. From the arbitrary list I found, I’d only actually read 17 of those books, though I was familiar with the plots of many more of them. A lot of the books were ones I remembered from high school and college English classes. Plenty of them were “classics” that teachers are always asking students to study and pick apart. If you were to categorize that particular list, almost all of them would fall into the same or similar categories, I think.
So it’s interesting to me to compare that list to this one from the Brooklyn library, because the library’s list isn’t one of what’s considered “worthy” of being read or its educational value for a classroom. Some of them were published well over 100 years ago, while others may be less than a decade old. According to NPR, the list was compiled based on multiple factors including years since publication, bestseller lists, and checkout/circulation data.
Basically, it’s just a list of the most popular books many people want to read. They’re not all classics. In fact, like the number one entry on the list, many of them are children’s books.
Those familiar titles for children include the Harry Potter series, some of the Berenstain Bears books, the very silly Captain Underpants series, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And then there are some books that standalone, like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White, “Matilda” by Roald Dahl, or “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” by Judi Barrett. (That last one is one of my personal favorites, by the way.)
There’s an abundance of Dr. Seuss titles on the list. I was particularly amused that Dr. Seuss almost dominates the list from number 28 to number 34, except for John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” squeezed in the middle there at number 30. Personally, I also think it’s funny that the title “Of Mice and Men” doesn’t exactly sound out of place as a title for a Dr. Seuss story… but the inside contents, of course, would beg to differ.
The list isn’t all children’s books though. The old classics you read in school are still popular. The top 10 even contains Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” (#10), Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” (#9), Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (#8), Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights (#6), and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” (#4).
The list also contains a lot more fantasy and science fiction than you would expect. Stephenie Meyer’s series about sparkly vampires, “Twilight” ended up at #122. The first book in Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson” series was #120. I hear that series is getting a TV adaptation soon, and it’s not the only one that’s made the jump from page to screen. George R.R. Martin’s first Game of Thrones book made the list at #86.
Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” is on the list at #39. I’ve got that one sitting on my bookshelf if I ever have time to reread it again. I also have #47, “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley on my bookshelf… but I haven’t gotten around to reading it for the first time. Maybe eventually.
What really surprised me about this list is actually that there are seven manga series included. I wouldn’t have expected any Japanese comics to end up on this list, but I think it’s very cool that the library offers them for readers interested in a different story medium. Many of the series included – like Naruto, Bleach, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Inuyasha – were the same ones that were popular when I got into reading manga over 15 years ago. Back then, most people didn’t even know what Japanese comics were, and I would hide them from other kids just in case they teased me for reading something “weird.”
But now, their popularity has grown over the years that even the Brooklyn Public Library is putting them on the “most borrowed” lists. It’s cool to see that these tales are still as entertaining for people today as they were when I was a teenager, desperately trying to find a copy squirrelled away in a bookstore corner somewhere.
There are also plenty of books on this list that I’ve never heard of before, but all of them look pretty interesting. And I have to give a shoutout to what sounds like the most delightful title on the list: “Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type” by Doreen Cronin. It’s a children’s book but I’m immediately interested in the typing cows! What messages are they typing? I’ll have to read the book to find out.
While this is a list for the Brooklyn Public Library, I’m sure every library’s list would be different. People all around the world have different tastes, after all.
And if this column makes you feel inspired to read something, why not take a visit to any of our local libraries! The Albemarle Regional Library system – stretched out across our four-county area – has a wealth of books just waiting at our fingertips, along with other resources for the community including computer access and hosting a variety of events every month.
Check it out!
Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-332-7206.