Best-Checkers: The Most Checked-Out Books of 2011

It was a year of ice and fire in the book industry, of fallen leaders, marriage plots, and Paris wives. But amid the usual best-seller buzz, Kansas City Public Library customers were thrilling to a 135-year-old novel of a boy’s life in rural Missouri.

That’s right, Aunt Polly. When we ran the circulation numbers for 2011, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, this year’s Big Read selection, stood boldly atop the list.

Surpassing runner-up The Help by more than 200 bleeps of the barcode scanner, Tom Sawyer became the second Big Read selection to earn the most checked-out book of the year honors.

Elsewhere on this year’s fiction list, crime kings Stieg Larsson and James Patterson duked it out for top-10 dominance. On the late-bloomers front, Jonathan Franzen’s 2010 epic Freedom crept into fourth place, and Sara Gruen’s 2006 book club favorite Water for Elephants placed just outside the top 10, thanks, no doubt, to the movie tie-in.

Women ruled the nonfiction category, with books about women by women taking spots 2 and 3 behind the perennially popular Devil in the White City (Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra and Rebecca Skloot’s Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) and Tina Fey’s hilarious memoir Bossypants not far behind.

On the kids’ list, Harry Potter nabbed two spots in the top 10 – no surprise there, except that the debut Sorcerer’s Stone, out-checked the series-ending Deathly Hallows. Meanwhile, in the teens’ section, it was all about The Hunger Games, with all three books in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy outpacing the competition.

Find out what the Library’s other “best-checkers” were below, including DVDs and e-books. And tell us what us what you checked out in 2011 in the comments.

Top 25 Adult Fiction Books

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson
Freedom – Jonathan Franzen
The Confession – John Grisham
Sizzling Sixteen – Janet Evanovich
Cross Fire – James Patterson
Port Mortuary – Patricia Cornwell
Tick Tock – James Patterson
Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
Toys – James Patterson
Treachery in Death – J.D. Robb
Full Dark, No Stars – Stephen King
Smokin’ Seventeen – Janet Evanovich
Rescue – Anita Shreve
Don’t Blink – James Patterson
Tempted by Trouble – Eric Dickey
The Reversal – Michael Connelly
When the Thrill Is Gone – Walter Mosley
Room – Emma Donoghue
Mystery – Jonathan Kellerman
Indulgence in Death – J.D. Robb
Worth Dying For – Lee Child
Getting to Happy – Terry McMillan
Sing You Home – Jodi Picoult

Top 10 Adult Nonfiction Books

The Devil in the WhiteCity – Erik Larson
Cleopatra: A Life – Stacy Schiff
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
Bossypants – Tina Fey
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resiliecne, and Redemption – Laura Hillenbrand
Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That? – Ina Garten
Cracking the GRE – Karen Lurie
Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family – Erik Larson

Top 10 Children’s Books

The Cow Loves Cookies – Karma Wilson
Silly Tilly – Eileen Spinelli
Birds – Kevin Henkes
The Great Monster Hunt – Norbert Landa
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
If You’re a Monster and You Know It – Rebecca Emberly
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes – Eric Litwin
The Terrible Plop – Ursula Dubosarsky
Interrupting Chicken – David Ezra Stein

Top 10 Teen Books

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
The Maze Runner – James Dashner
Breaking Dawn – Stephenie Meyer
The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton
Eclipse – Stephenie Meyer
Matched – Allyson Braithwaite Condie
New Moon – Stephenie Meyer

Top 10 E-books

The Help – Kathryn Stockett
Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
Private – James Patterson
The Quickie – James Patterson
Bachelor Unleashed – Brenda Jackson
Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
The Confession – John Grisham
The Lincoln Lawyer – Michael Connelly
1st to Die – James Patterson
A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

Top 10 Film DVDs

The Kings’s Speech
Black Swan    
Eat Pray Love
Knight and Day
Winter’s Bone
The Last Airbender

Top 10 TV DVDs

Dexter: Third Season
Mad Men: Season One
The Wire: Third Season
True Blood: Complete Third Season
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television Series
Modern Family: Complete First Season
Glee: Complete First Season
Weeds: Season Six
Sons of Anarchy: Season Two

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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