From New York to Canada, which books were libraries' most borrowed of 2021?

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·3-min read
The New York Public Library recently released its list of the most borrowed books over the past 12 months.
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  • Barack Obama
    Barack Obama
    44th president of the United States
  • Brit Bennett
    American writer

Faced with the pandemic blues, everyone has their own way of coping. Visitors to libraries in the US and Canada inevitably turned to books, it seems. Some titles, such as Brit Bennett's "The Vanishing Half" and Barack Obama's "A Promised Land," caught their attention more than others during this trying year.

With the holiday season just around the corner, the New York Public Library (NYPL) has released its list of the most borrowed books of the past twelve months. This roundup of literature's finest covers almost every genre, from fiction to graphic novels and biographies. It turns out that the most popular title among New Yorkers is Brit Bennett's "The Vanishing Half." In it, the author explores the question of identity through the fate of twin sisters, one of whom lives as a black, while the other lives as white.

"Mexican Gothic" by Mexican-Canadian Silvia Moreno-Garcia and "Klara and the Sun" by British author Kazuo Ishiguro also feature on the New York Library's list of most popular books. These are joined by "A Promised Land" by Barack Obama. In his memoirs, the former American president looks back on his political career in the late 1990s and his first years in the White House. Nearly 900,000 copies were sold on the first day of its release, November 17, 2020.

The New York Public Library found that some of the books on the list were recommended as part of the "Get Lit!" virtual book club, which it launched with the WNYC radio station in March 2020. Book clubs have become a mass craze in recent years, especially since the start of the pandemic.

From New York to Canada

"It's interesting that so many of the top titles were featured as part of book clubs-the WNYC book club and others-showing that New Yorkers are certainly craving a sense of togetherness through reading following a period of unprecedented isolation," said Lynn Lobash, NYPL's assistant director of reader services.

Canada has also revealed the most borrowed books in 2021, but on a national scale. They were identified by the Booknet association from data collected between December 27, 2020, and December 5. The most popular novel among Canadian library users is none other than "The Four Winds" by Kristin Hannah. In it, the American writer portrays the courage and determination of the workers who went to California during the Great Depression. A story that has also seduced New Yorkers, as "The Four Winds" is also one of the most borrowed books in the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Bronx public libraries.

Otherwise, in the past 12 months, Canadian readers have shown interest in Brit Bennett's "The Vanishing Half," Lucy Foley's "The Guest List" and Delia Owens' "Where the Crawdads Sing," just like their American counterparts. On the non-fiction side, they rushed to Barack Obama's "A Promised Land," Glennon Doyle Melton's "Untamed" and Jesse Thistle's "From the Ashes."

Caroline Drzewinski

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