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The New York Public Library Reveals What New Yorkers Are Reading While Social Distancing

24 April 2020
2 min.
The New York Public Library Reveals What New Yorkers Are Reading While Social Distancing

Inspiring biographies, dystopian novels, book clubs, and boy wizards are helping New Yorkers cope with the crisis.

The New York Public Library—temporarily closed since March 13 to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19—continues to offer New Yorkers over 300,000 e-books to browse, borrow, and read remotely through its e-reader app SimplyE. All that is required is a library card, which can be obtained through the app. Since the Library closed about a month ago, e-book checkouts have increased nearly %10 as compared to the same period last year and there has been a 15% increase in weekly e-book readers on average.

Today, in its NYPL Connect newsletter, the Library will share which books New Yorkers have checked out the most since the system temporarily closed. The top checkout over that time period is Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming; other notable books on the top 10 list include James McBride’s Deacon King Kong—the first book being read as part of a new virtual book club being offered by NYPL and public radio station WNYC—and two books featured on the Library’s 125 Books We Love list (released in February to help celebrate the Library system’s 125th anniversary): Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling and dystopian novel A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

The full top 10 list includes:

  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  2. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
  3. The Dutch House: A Novel by Ann Patchett 
  4. Deacon King Kong: A Novel by James McBride
  5. The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  6. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
  7. Normal People: A Novel by Sally Rooney
  8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K.  Rowling
  9. The Water Dancer: A Novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  10. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood


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,” said Anthony Marx, president of The New York Public Library. “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.” 

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President, Chief executive of the NYPL
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