The 10 most popular Denver Public Library books over the last 10ish years

Why is a landlocked city obsessed with knots for seafaring?

The Denver Public Library's mighty media collection. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Denver Public Library's mighty media collection. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

If a public library system reflects the people it serves, Denver is full of African poetry connoisseurs and… sailors? And of course, kids who like kids’ books.

Denverite and CPR’s Colorado Matters teamed up to ask the Denver Public Library a hard-hitting question: What books do people borrow most often?

A few surprises emerge from this list and one of the biggest is that “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling didn’t make the cut.

“It’s still kind of surprising that at least one of them or the series in general didn’t show up on the list,” says Jennifer Hoffman, manager of books and borrowing for the Denver Public Library system.

Full disclosure: We borrowed this idea — without a library card but with a subscription — from the New York Times, which found a city very much into books for kids but also very much into dystopian futures and racial inequality. George Orwell’s “1984” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” made that city’s list. (Librarians in Denver can only go back to 2011 because of technical difficulties, so comparing the two would be comparing apples and oranges.)

Here are Denver’s top ten, and how many times each book was checked out.

10. “Gone Girl”

Gillian Flynn

📖 8,265

The thriller represents a theme for Denver book checker-outers: novels that became major motion pictures.

9. “Marco Polo”

Marco Polo

📖 8,289

Maybe East High School students saw the mural of the famous explorer in their high school library and became inspired?

8. “Poems from Black Africa”


📖 8,325

Circulation manager Hoffman thinks the popularity of this poetry collection stems from its connection to Langston Hughes, whom local students study. The book includes writing from Ethiopia, South Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Kenya, Gabon, Senegal, Nyasaland (now Malawi), Mozambique, South Africa, Congo, Ghana and Liberia.

7. “Hop on Pop”

Dr. Seuss

📖 8,413

Kids love this introductory to reading and so do parents and teachers. A classic!

6. “The Ashley Book of Knots”

Clifford Warren Ashley

📖 8,741


“That was interesting in a landlocked state to see so much interest in not tying, but you know, I’m sure there’s lots of applications for outdoors,” Hoffman said.

While most of the book is dedicated to sailing knots, they’re used for climbing as well.

5. “The Art of Racing in the Rain”

Garth Stein

📖 8,945

Another book that (only recently) became a movie. It’s about a dog that teaches humans lessons about love and laughter. So no complaints here.

4. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth”

Jeff Kinney

📖 9,936

This one is part of an immensely popular series for kids that also made its way to the big and small screen.

3. “The Help”

Kathryn Stockett

📖 10,749

Another huge movie that came out in 2011, the year this list begins, about black housekeepers in the South who essentially raise the children of white families but are discriminated against nonetheless. The book and the movie were subject to a lot of criticism for their portrayal of black characters — including by Viola Davis, who played one of them in the film.

2. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”

Jeff Kinney

📖 11,374

The original book from Kinney’s series. Not a surprise, says Hoffman.

“I never went out on the bookmobile where multiple kids were not asking for that book,” she says. “They think it’s hilarious. They get a big kick out of it.”

1. “Arthur Meets the President”

Marc Brown

📖 14,411

It’s hard to argue with the predominance of the “Arthur” series, especially because the books, shows and movies have been around for decades. Still, this particular book’s place on this list left librarians sort of stumped.

That’s it. Go read something. Or watch something. “Beauty and the Beast,” “Mary Poppins,” “Mulan” and “Toy Story” topped the most-rented DVDs.

Thanks for reading another Denverite story

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