I’m a member of two different library systems with long “hold” queues in each one. I know! It’s crazy when you think of all of the books that publishers send me. But I can't help it. When it comes to books, more is more.
Late last year, media website Quartz asked America’s public libraries to report back on the most popular books in their systems: What were people borrowing? What were they waiting for? What had they been reading during the isolation and solitude of the pandemic?
I was curious about how much overlap there was between my queues and the borrowing habits of readers in more than a dozen other cities.
As I expected, we library cardholders have expansive imaginations and curious minds and we’re connecting with lots of diverse and compelling ideas through books.
In San Francisco, the top books checked out were Brit Bennett’s “The Vanishing Half,” Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land,” and Dav Pilkey’s “Dog Man."
In San Antonio, Texas public library readers were delving into Isabel Wilkerson’s magnificent book, “Caste” and Delia Owens’ “Where the Crawdads Sing.”
Adam Grant’s “Think Again” showed up on Seattle’s most popular book list and Ross Gay’s essay collection called “The Book of Delights” ranked high in Portland, Ore.
Kristin Hannah’s “The Four Winds" was one of the most-read and requested novels among the libraries responding to the survey. I have not yet read it but I immediately put in my library queue.
I am a library evangelist. Some of my happiest times as a kid were being turned loose in our small-town library, knowing that my mother had told the librarian I could check out any book I wanted.
I believe that in a country where trust in our government and institutions, including our faith and education institutions, is diminishing, libraries remain one of our most powerful symbols of national character and idealism. "Libraries,” writer Neil Gaiman asserts, “are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom to communicate.”
"Libraries,” he added, “are the gates to the future.”
All of this to say that if you haven’t had the pleasure of devouring “The Vanishing Half” or losing yourself in “Where the Crawdads Sing,” start 2022 with a shiny new library card and succumb to the spell of shelves bursting with stories just waiting to be told.
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