The New York Public Library (via John Sawyong Ra’s Flickrstream)

Were you one of the many readers who checked out Michelle Obama’s Becoming in the New York Public Library system? Congrats! The highly in-demand autobiography of the former first lady was the top checkout title for 2019. Although the NYPL did not release the exact number of checkouts for each title, they did a full list of top 10 books for the year, as well as top titles throughout several boroughs and branches throughout the city.

Obama’s autobiography leads a varied list that also included Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir, Jodi Picoult’s A Spark of Light, Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing, Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko and several others. Becoming was the top book for readers in Manhattan and the Bronx, but Picoult’s A Spark of Light took the top spot in Staten Island. Brooklyn and Queens have their own set of library systems, but the NYPL’s bookmobiles found visitors often chose Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians and Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar’s The Map of Salt and Stars.

The library system also broke down a number of first throughout genres, among them are favorites like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (Classics), Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (Science Fiction) and Stephen King’s The Shining (Horror), perhaps in conjunction with the renewed interest in movies based on his works like It and The Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep. Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga topped the Comics and Graphic Novel section, Marlon James’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf held down the number 1 spot among Fantasy titles, James Patterson’s The Chef thrilled the most Mystery readers, and Nicholas Sparks’ Every Breath was the most popular checkout in the Romance section. 

Next year, for its 125th anniversary, NYPL will announce its top checkouts of all time as well as launch a program to motivate New Yorkers to read for 30 minutes a day. Since NYPL reported a 30% increase in library card sign-ups this year, they’ll have a lot more readers to inspire.

See the ordered list of top checkouts below:

  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  2. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
  3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  4. A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
  5. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  6. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  7. Circe by Madeline Miller
  8. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
  9. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
  10. Milkman by Anna Burns

Monica Castillo

Monica Castillo is a writer and critic based in New York City. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Village Voice,, Remezcla, the Guardian,...