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New York Public Library reveals what New Yorkers are reading while social distancing

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APRIL 15, 2020— 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,“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.” 

In addition to e-books, the Library has made many other digital resources available remotely, including: 

For the latest information on service offerings, patrons should sign up for NYPL Connect, a special newsletter focused on digital resources, at

In addition to sharing remote resources and the top 10 checkouts, today’s issue of the newsletter will include a special note from President Marx. It’s below: 

Dear Patrons,

I hope this note finds you safe and healthy during an unsettling time. 

It has been a month since The New York Public Library temporarily closed its locations to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. While our physical libraries remain closed during this global crisis, we have been working hard remotely to keep New Yorkers connected with the library programs and services that they need and want: e-books, research databases, on-demand virtual tutoring services, classes, book discussions and clubs, storytimes, reading recommendations, and more. I hope that during this unprecedented moment, the Library continues to play a key part in your life, whether you need an escape from current events, support with remote learning, assistance with your work, or help learning a new skill. We are here to help and support you, as we have been for 125 years through good and challenging times.

This is a supremely challenging time for all of us. Of particular concern is our uncertain future: we don’t know what the coming months hold for the Library, our communities, our City, and our country. We expect that there will be pressures and difficult circumstances that we will need to overcome, and none of it will be easy. But we can do it.

During the Great Depression, Mayor LaGuardia named the beloved lions who guard our 42nd Street library Patience and Fortitude for the qualities he felt New Yorkers needed to get through a difficult time. That sentiment certainly rings true now. Just as the lions continue to stand strong and defiant, so will New York City. I firmly believe that we will get through this moment together, with patience, fortitude, and strong support of each other.

Thank you.


About The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves nearly 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at  

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