The Top Titles Checked Out from the Free Library in 2023

By Bridget G. RSS Wed, December 13, 2023

As the holiday season bears down upon us with what feels like (almost) no warning, we will soon ring in 2024 as if this past calendar year were just a blink of an eye. While it may feel like it snuck past us, 2023 was an incredibly eventful year at the Free Library of Philadelphia and one certainly worth looking back upon.

The Free Library added many new employees and released a flurry of new hours announcements thanks in part to the library's budget increase under Mayor Jim Kenney for 2023. Notable authors graced our stage for repeatedly sold-out Author Events programs and popular Free Library Podcast episodes. The One Book, One Philadelphia program offered engaging events for all ages that brought Philadelphia's Asian-American community to the forefront of the conversation, while Summer of Wonder once again kept Philly kids motivated to read through summer break. The library released its first specially designed library art card that made its way into patrons' hands to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip hop. Librarians filled the events calendar with culturally significant programming honoring Philadelphia's diverse population and highlighted unique contributions to art and literature through curated Exhibitions; all of this, while of course attending to the everyday needs of patrons and the materials they come to the Free Library for!

In 2023, 12 book titles stayed on patron's holds lists and circulated widely throughout the library system. The most popular titles that everyone seemed to be checking out this year are as follows:


1. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow (2022) by Gabrielle Zevin

Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary

On a bitter-cold day, in December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn't heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimate since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even 25 years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won't protect them from their creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts. Spanning 30 years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin's Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all — our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

2. Demon Copperhead: A Novel (2022) by Barbara Kingsolver

Genre: Historical Fiction

Southern Appalachia. He was born to a teenage single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father's good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. Damon braves the perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.

3. Spare (2023) by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

Genre: Memoir

It was one of the most searing images of the 20th century: two young boys, two princes, walking behind their mother's coffin as the world watched in sorrow — and horror. As Diana, Princess of Wales, was laid to rest, billions wondered what the princes must be thinking and feeling — and how their lives would play out from that point on. For Harry, this is that story at last. With its raw, unflinching honesty, Spare is a landmark publication full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief.

4. Crying in H Mart: A Memoir (2021) by Michelle Zauner

Genre: Memoir

From the indie rockstar of Japanese Breakfast fame, and author of the viral 2018 New Yorker essay that shares the title of this book, comes an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean-American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity. In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up the only Asian-American kid at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother's particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, performing gigs with her fledgling band — and meeting the man who would become her husband — her Korean-ness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother's diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer when Michelle was 25 that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her. Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Michelle Zauner's voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.

5. I'm Glad My Mom Died (2022) by Jeannette McCurdy

Genre: Memoir

I'm Glad My Mom Died is a heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor — including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother — and how she retook control of her life.

6. Interior Chinatown (2020) by Charles Yu

Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary

Interior Chinatown was the 2023 One Book, One Philadelphia selection.

Willis Wu doesn't perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: He's merely a Generic Asian Man. Sometimes he gets to be Background Oriental Making a Weird Face or even Disgraced Son, but he is always relegated to a prop. Yet every day he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He's a bit player here, too, but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy — the most respected role that anyone who looks like him can attain. At least that's what he has been told, time and time again. Except by one person — his mother — who says to him, "Be more."

7. Lessons in Chemistry (2022) by Bonnie Garmus

Genre: Historical Fiction

Set in 1960s California, this blockbuster debut is the hilarious, idiosyncratic, and uplifting story of a female scientist whose career is constantly derailed by the idea that a woman's place is in the home, only to find herself starring as the host of America's most beloved TV cooking show. Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it's the 1960s and even though she is a scientist, her peers are very unscientific when it comes to equality. The only good thing to happen to her on the road to professional fulfillment is a run-in with her super-star colleague Calvin Evans (well, she stole his beakers). The only man who ever treated her — and her ideas — as equal, Calvin is already a legend and Nobel nominee. He's also awkward, kind, and tenacious. Theirs is true chemistry. But as events are never as predictable as chemical reactions, three years later Elizabeth Zott is an unwed, single mother (did we mention it's the early 60s?) and the star of America's most beloved cooking show, Supper at Six. Elizabeth's singular approach to cooking ("take one pint of H2O and add a pinch of sodium chloride") and independent examples are proving revolutionary. Elizabeth isn't just teaching women how to cook, she's teaching them how to change the status quo. Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.

8. Verity (2018) by Colleen Hoover

Genre: Thriller, Romance

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish. Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity's notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn't expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of the night her family was forever altered. Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents could devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue loving her.

9. It Ends With Us (2016) by Colleen Hoover

Genre: Romance

Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most. Lily hasn't always had it easy, but that's never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She's come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up — she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily's life suddenly seems almost too good to be true. Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He's also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn't hurt. Lily can't get him out of her head. But Ryle's complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his "no dating" rule, she can't help but wonder what made him that way in the first place. As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan — her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened. With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. Combining a captivating romance with a cast of all-too-human characters, It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.

10. Twenty Thousand Fleas Under the Sea (2023) by Dav Pilkey

Genre: Children's Graphic Novels

Twenty Thousand Fleas Under the Sea is the highly anticipated new graphic novel in the #1 worldwide bestselling series starring everyone's favorite canine superhero by award-winning author and illustrator Dav Pilkey! Piggy has returned, and his newest plot is his most diabolical yet. WHAT other new villains are on the horizon?

11. An Elephant & Piggie Biggie! (2017) by Mo Willems

Genre: Children's Picture Books

For the first time ever, best friends Elephant and Piggie have five Biggie adventures in one book!

12. Happy Place (2023) by Emily Henry

Genre: Romance

Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college. Except they broke up five months ago and still haven't told their best friends. This is how they find themselves sharing a bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group's yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blissful week they leave behind their daily lives. Only this year, the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they'll all have together in this place. They can't stand to break their friends' hearts, and so they'll play their parts. After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week?

The Free Library thanks patrons for an amazing 2023 and looks forward to welcoming more in the coming year. If you have a chance, be sure to thank your librarian for all of the hard work that they do next time you visit!

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Cute! Lots of great books here.
Monday, December 18, 2023