Check it out: Forbes and Jones libraries’ most-borrowed books

Staff Writer
Saturday, February 01, 2020

What are the most popular books checked out at Forbes and Jones libraries?

The main libraries of Northampton and Amherst, respectively, provided the Gazette with a list of their most checked-out books since they migrated their digital library systems to the Central and Western Massachusetts Resources Sharing (CW MARS), a library consortium made up of more than 100 libraries, in 2012.

Topping the list at Forbes is “Being Mortal: Medicine & What Matters in the End,” by Atul Gawande, an exploration of caring for loved ones as their health declines in old age, which has been checked out 410 times. Second and third, respectively, were “The Goldfinch,” by Donna Tartt (341 times); and “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (332 times).

Two of the titles on the list were community reads as part of All Hamptons Read, a reading program spearheaded by public libraries in Northampton, Florence, Easthampton, Southampton and Westhampton: “Being Mortal,” and “Never Caught.” Northampton native and children’s book author Mo Willems is also a notable list-maker.

At Jones, many of the top 10 checked-out books were children’s books. Two novels, “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr and “The Goldfinch,” were overlapped on both lists. The top three checked-out books were “Garfield,” by Jim Davis (5,232), “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” by Jeff Kinney (2,253), “Calvin and Hobbes,” by Bill Watterson (2,082). These titles account for all books in a series. For example, there were 113 different titles in the library’s system under “Garfield.”

Florence resident and award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka also made the list with “Lunch Lady,” a series about an undercover spy posing as a lunch lady at Thompson Brook School who becomes a hero for students. Krosoczka is a New York Times-bestselling author, a two-time winner of the Children’s Choice Book Award, and a finalist for the 2018 Young People’s Literature.

Forbes and Jones compiled their top 10 lists a little differently. Essentially, at Jones, the library grouped together so-called “fingerprints” within its catalog system, so its search results included all titles within a series, according to the head of borrower services at Jones, Amy Anaya.

Thus, its most-borrowed books had much higher numbers of check-outs compared to Forbes, which searched for individual titles as opposed to series, according to the assistant director at Forbes, Molly Moss.

Forbes Library

Gawande, a Boston surgeon and staff writer for the New Yorker, delves into a paradoxical dilemma of modern medicine: We have made such tremendous progress in prolonging lifespans into people’s 80s and 90s, and yet care for these individuals has not caught up to their extended ages. People may live longer now, but how much autonomy do they have in old age? Gawande reflects on the quality of hospice and palliative care in the United States and the United Kingdom, and how doctors interact with patients who are terminally ill.

In Tartt’s novel “The Goldfinch,” which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, 13-year-old Theo Decker, a New Yorker, survives a terrorist bombing that killed his mother and is then abandoned by his father. The book chronicles his life as he grows up estranged from his fellow schoolmates, his prized painting of a goldfinch, and his brushes with the criminal underworld of art.

Winner of the 2018 Frederick Douglass Book Award, “Never Caught” is the story of 22-year-old Ona Judge, a runaway slave who belonged to George and Martha Washington, and her escape from the nation’s then-capital in Philadelphia. When the opportunity presents itself, Judge leaves the President’s House and travels to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, aboard a boat bound for a black and abolitionist community in the North.

The top 10 most checked-out books at Forbes Library:

■“Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,” by Atul Gawande (410 checkouts).

■“The Goldfinch,” by Donna Tartt (341).

■“Never Caught: The Washington’s Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge,” by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (332).

■“There is a Bird on Your Head!” by Mo Willems (298) .

“A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle (282).

■“All The Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr (277).

■“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” by J.K. Rowling (277).

■“Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory,” by H.A. Rey and Margret Rey (267).

■“Curious George Visits the Library,” by H.A. Rey (263).

■“We Are in a Book!” by Mo Willems (259).


“Garfield” debuted as a comic strip in newspapers in June 1978. Several months after the launch, the Chicago Sun-Times canceled the comic strip, and after an avalanche of a response from angry readers, the comic was reinstated. According to the official Garfield website, the comic is read in more than 2,100 newspapers by 200 million people.

Recommended for readers ages 10 to 13, the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is a series about Greg Heffley, a middle-schooler, writing in a journal filled with hand-written notes and simple drawings about his personal life. The series now has 14 installments and has resulted in four feature-length films.

Named after a theologian and philosopher, “Calvin and Hobbes” ran for just 10 years, from 1985 to 1995, but became a beloved series about the adventures of 6-year-old Calvin and his tiger, Hobbes. Calvin is named for 16th-century theologian John Calvin, who believed in predestination; Hobbes is named after 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who held a dark view of human nature, according to author Watterson on the Calvin and Hobbes website.

The top 10 most checked-out book at Jones Library:

■“Garfield,” by Jim Davis, (5,232).

■“Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” by Jeff Kinney (2,253).

■“Calvin and Hobbes,” by Bill Watterson (2,082).

“Baby Mouse,” by Jennifer Holm (1,444).

■“Lunch Lady,” by Jarrett Krosoczka (1,292).

■“All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr (1,216).

■“Bone,” by Jeff Smith (1,108).

■“Naruto,” by Masashi Kishimoto (1,010).

■“Big Nate,” by Lincoln Peirce (943).

■“The Goldfinch,” by Donna Tartt (834).

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com.