These Are the Most Borrowed Books From Public Libraries in 2023

Most Borrowed Books of 2023

Photo: isaac1112/Depositphotos

Each year brings the opportunity to make a New Year's resolution. For many, this often includes the promise to read more, whether it be books, magazines, or other media. If you haven't already made your reading list for 2024, then you may want to see what was popular last year according to U.S. public libraries.

From Cincinnati to New Orleans, public libraries have released their lists of the most borrowed titles from 2023. While some books appear across all of these compilations, there is still plenty of variation in what people pick up depending on the area. “We had Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus as our number one checkout,” says Emily Pullen, who manages reader services at the New York Public Library. The best-selling novel about a female chemist in the 1960s was the most borrowed at other public libraries across the country, including Seattle and Boston. Its numbers were likely bolstered by its television series on Apple TV+ that premiered in 2023.

Rounding out the New York Public Library's top three according to their list is Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin and Spare by Prince Harry. The latter was actually the most borrowed e-book in 2023 on the app Libby. “What surprised me really was the amount of checkouts in e-format compared to physical format,” says Deb Lambert, who works at the Indianapolis Library as director of collection management. “To see the stark numbers now, it's really drastic. It's like 5 to 1 e-checkouts to physical checkouts. And it looks like we might be heading even more towards ‘e' than physical.” This preference for digital reading applies to not just books, but magazines as well. The Indianapolis Public Library notes that The New Yorker e-magazine was the most checked out title overall, surpassing both Spare and Lessons in Chemistry.

Some libraries break down the most borrowed books of the year into numerous sections, which provide further insight into what people gravitated towards over the year. The Boston Public Library's list of “Top Adult Books” for instance features Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow as well as Lessons in Chemistry, but also Jennette McCurdy's memoir I'm Glad My Mom Died. Whereas, the “Top Teen Books” was dominated by The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. “The most borrowed titles of 2023 list is an interesting mix of novels and memoirs, some of which deal with heavy topics of grief and tragedy, combined with some beloved ‘BookTok' authors launching new titles in existing worlds,” said Melissa Andrews, BPL's chief of collection management. “Both scenarios tell a story about the value of reading—whether we choose to read a story of perseverance or survival in difficult times, or a novel that transports us back to a familiar world, populated by characters we know whose story arcs end happily, books can not only be comforting, but can also provide a sense of connection to and understanding of the world.”

h/t: [Smithsonian Magazine]

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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