The New York Public Library is celebrating Valentine’s Day—and its 125th anniversary—with the release of 125 Books We Love, a list of titles for adults from the last 125 years chosen by the institution’s expert librarians.
The titles on the list—available at nypl.org/125 and as a printed old-fashioned check-out card in the system’s 92 locations in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island—were chosen because they generate excitement around books and a love of reading. With 12 forms (for example, short stories or essays) and genre (for example, suspense or romance) categories, the list was built with the hope that there’s something for just about every taste.
To celebrate the list, the Library is hosting related public programs (including talks with authors featured), offering a podcast book club, and launching a social media campaign across all channels to ask the public which books made them #LoveReading. Additionally, the beloved lions that guard the 42nd Street Library—Patience and Fortitude—will be holding / reading two titles from the list beginning today: Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987) and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925).
Lists of the 125 Kids Books We Love and the 125 Teen Books We Love will be released later in the year to continue the celebration of the Library’s 125th anniversary.
“For 125 years, The New York Public Library has worked to encourage and foster a lifelong, true love of reading in people of all ages, to help them find the books that get them excited, that help them escape, that keep them turning pages, that help them learn, grow, or have fun,” said New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx. “As we mark our anniversary we want to celebrate this role, and acknowledge its continued and increasing importance in a world with so many distractions. Books can provide new perspectives, a calming presence, knowledge, or just a few hours of enjoyment. All are important, and we encourage everyone to look at the list, talk about it, debate it, and start reading. And then tell us which book made you love reading.”
A team of librarians from across the organization—led by Associate Director of Readers Services Lynn Lobash, who serves on several American Library Association book committees—spent about a year discussing, debating, and deciding on this list, which includes books that:
- Inspire a love of reading
- Make people want to keep reading
- Remind people why reading is fun, exciting, and enlightening
- Make people miss their train stops because they can’t put them down
- Non-readers may love
- Survive the test of time
Which books were considered:
- Fiction and non-fiction published after May 23, 1895 (when The New York Public Library was incorporated)
- Titles for adults (with one exception: Harry Potter, which transcends age categories)
- Currently available in NYPL’s collections (in print a plus)
- Available in English
- Only one title or series per author
All of the following elements were taken into consideration as the list was developed:
- Literary merit
- Checkouts/popularity over the last 125 years
- Diverse voices (ensuring that New York City’s diverse voices are represented as best as possible)
- The opinions/observations of longtime librarians (AKA – reading experts)
“It wasn’t easy to put together, but we are proud of this list, which we consider a blueprint or great starting point for anyone looking to find their next great read,” said Lynn Lobash, the Library’s Associate Director of Readers Services. “We built this list so just about anyone can find an entry point, something that sparks their interest, and can get reading. We know not every title will be a fit. We know there will be discussion and debate and arguments. That’s great. Part of our role for 125 years is to get people talking about books, and all of that is part of the fun.”
“The New York Public Library has put together a list of 125 books that they love – the librarians and the people in the library. That’s the criteria,” wrote author Neil Gaiman, whose book American Gods made the list, in an email announcing the list sent to NYPL patrons on February 14. “You may not love them, but they do. And that’s exciting. The thing that gets people reading is love. The thing that makes people pick up books they might not otherwise try, is love. It’s personal recommendations, the kind that are truly meant. So here are 125 books that they love. And somewhere on this list you will find books you’ve never read, but have always meant to, or have never even heard of. There are 125 chances here to change your own life, or to change someone else’s, curated by the people from one of the finest libraries in the world. Read with joy. Read with love. Read!”
Direct to to 125 Books We Love List