These were America's most popular library books in 2021 - how many did you read?

image of a library
'Even if ebooks are popular, people are still physically returning to their beloved libraries.'
Image: UNSPLASH/Alfons Morales
  • During 2021, people in the U.S. read a wide variety of books, with fiction being the most popular category overall.
  • Below is a look at the top books borrowed from public libraries in the US last year.

During the pandemic year of 2021, Americans read diverse titles and authors. Fiction books were the most popular overall, including The Vanishing Half, Where the Crawdads Sing, The Midnight Library, and The Four Winds. The most common checked-out non-fiction book was Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. For children’s books it was Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Deep End by Jeff Kinney followed by books in the Dog Man series by Dav Pilkey. The data are a result of a Quartz survey of 36 public libraries in the largest cities across the US. Of those, 14 provided us data on their most popular books.

Top books checked out from public libraries in the US:

A map showing the most checked out books from U.S. libraries in 2021.
This data was taken from a Quartz survey of 36 public libraries in the largest cities across the US
Image: Quartz

Not surprisingly ebooks were popular with readers. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah was the most common book checked-out at the top of libraries’ ebook circulation lists. It held the top spot at five libraries. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett was the most checked-out ebook at three libraries.

While the pandemic certainly increased the amount of digital checkouts, particularly when public libraries were closed, ebook checkouts were on the rise before 2020. “Year after year, we have seen our ebook usage soar,” said Quinn Smith, an assistant director at Salt Lake City Public Library. “Patrons enjoy the ease provided by downloading ebooks and e-audiobooks, and the pandemic made digital reading the only viable option for a while.” Book publishers also warned of supply chain issues for new books in 2021.

What is the World Economic Forum's Book Club?

The World Economic Forum launched its official Book Club on Facebook in April 2018. Readers worldwide are invited to join and discuss a variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction. It is a private Facebook group dedicated to discussing one book every month.

Each month, we announce a new book on our social media channels. We then publish an extract and begin a chapter-by-chapter discussion with group members. Selected comments and questions are sent to the author, who in return sends us a video response.

Unlike other book clubs, the group features the direct involvement of the authors, giving you - our global audience with members all around the globe - a chance to directly connect with some of the most influential thinkers and experts in the world.

We have featured authors such as Steven Pinker, Elif Shafak, Yuval Noah Harari, and Melinda Gates.

You can join the Book Club here.

Follow us on Twitter here.

Follow us on Instagram here.

Libraries are spending more on ebooks. “Every year, we have to increase our budget for ebooks to meet customer needs especially as customers discover how convenient it is to checkout and read on a personal device,” said Harold Escalante, an assistant director at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

But even if ebooks are popular, people are still physically returning to their beloved libraries. “Now that all of our buildings are open, digital circulation has begun to decline slightly while print circulation is edging up,” said Frank Brasile, a librarian at Seattle Public Library.

About Us
Partners & Members
Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2023 World Economic Forum