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New York Public Library unveils the top 10 most checked-out books of all time

Top 10 books at New York Public Library
Top 10 books at New York Public Library 01:31

The New York Public Library is marking its 125th year of existence and to celebrate, the local institution is revealing its list of the most checked-out books of all time. Some of these popular titles are real page-turners — and some may surprise you. Here are the top 10, along with one honorable mention.

10. The Very Hungry Caterpillar: 189,550 checkouts

This classic children's book has been in print since 1969, and it's one of the most popular in history, according to the New York Public Library (NYPL). It may just be a story about a caterpillar with an insatiable hunger, but it has become a staple among librarians, teachers and parents — and of course, the kids who are learning how to read.

9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: 231,022 checkouts

The original "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling is seven books deep, but one has proven to be more popular than the others — the very first one.

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is one of the most checked-out books ever from the NYPL. It was released in the U.S. in 1998 and in just over 21 years has cemented itself as one of the most popular books in the library system — and with kids worldwide.

Sixth Harry Potter Books
Copies of Harry Potter books on display at a bookstore in 2004. Getty Images

8. How to Win Friends and Influence People: 284,524 checkouts

"Everyone knows this book," according to the NYPL, which also notes that "How to Win Friends and Influence People," by Dale Carnegie, is of the best-selling books of all time. It has been in circulation since 1936 and is often recommended to young people looking to improve their work or life. It's the "ultimate self help book," NYPL says.

7. Fahrenheit 451: 316,404 checkouts

This 1953 classic by Ray Bradbury is a staple on high school reading lists. "Fahrenheit 451" often sees spikes in popularity due to current events, and has recently seen an uptick in checkouts amid a surge of interest in dystopian fiction, NYPL says.

6. Charlotte's Web: 337,948 checkouts

It's not hard to spell out why "Charlotte's Web" made the list. The E. B. White children's classic, which has been in print since 1952, teaches kids themes of friendship and explores the deeper realities of life and death through the relationships of adorable farm animals and a clever spider. 

"Charlotte's Web" turns 60
Author E.B. White's classic tale "Charlotte's Web." 

5. To Kill a Mockingbird: 422,912 checkouts

Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," which is sometimes referred to as "America's novel," was first published in 1960 and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. 

The story of race and injustice in a small Southern town has also been adapted into a play and film. It was an instant success when it was first published and continues to hold popularity, often due to "a bit of cultural peer pressure around this novel, with people feeling they should read it," NYPL says.

4. Where the Wild Things Are: 436,016 checkouts

Another children's fantasy book proves to be an all-time favorite for patrons of the New York Public Library. Maurice Sendak's vividly illustrated book about a boy named Max and his friends, "the Wild Things," first hit shelves in 1963 and has been praised for exploring how kids deal with emotions, NYPL says. The book won a Caldecott Medal and was also adapted into a live-action film.

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Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak stands with a character from his book, "Where the Wild Things Are," on January 11, 2002. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

3. 1984: 441,770 checkouts

"1984" gives readers a glimpse into a dystopian future, from the mind of George Orwell in 1949. This novel is a regular on high school reading lists and is profoundly though-provoking as well as a short and easy read, contributing to its popularity. Interest in "1984" has risen "based on the ever-changing sociopolitical climate of the United States," NYPL says.

2. The Cat in the Hat: 469,650 checkouts

Who says a book of 236 rhyming words can't be a masterpiece? The Dr. Seuss classic is always in demand at the NYPL, and it has influenced generations of children since its release in 1957. 

"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," NYPL says.

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Dr. Seuss' rhyming classic "The Cat in the Hat." Random House

1. The Snowy Day: 485,583 checkouts

This simple, magical children's story is the most checked-out book in the 125-year history of the New York Public Library. The 1962 book is available in a multitude of languages and is one of the earliest examples of diversity in children's books, NYPL says. It is a Caldecott Medal winner and it is one of the most circulated books at the NYPL in every neighborhood it serves. 

Honorable mention: Goodnight Moon

Several classic children's books made it onto the top 10 list, but one favorite seemed to be missing: "Goodnight Moon." The book came out in 1947, but was not carried at the NYPL until 1972. 

"By all measures, this book should be a top checkout (in fact, it might be the top checkout) if not for an odd piece of history: extremely influential New York Public Library children's librarian Anne Carroll Moore hated 'Goodnight Moon' when it first came out," NYPL explains. 

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