These Are The Most Borrowed Foreign-Language Books At The New York Public Library

New Yorkers have gravitated toward these non-English titles the most over the course of NYPL’s 126-year history.
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The New York Public Library is one of the largest public library systems in the world, and it’s been serving the diverse communities of New York City for well over a century. Over the course of its history, the NYPL has supplied a huge amount of literature to a vast multicultural hub. Naturally, the titles it has supplied have covered a great range of topics, genres, cultural backgrounds and languages. But certain books have proven to be time-tested favorites.

For the first time ever, the NYPL has revealed its most-borrowed non-English fiction books, spanning its entire history and all 92 of its locations across three of New York City’s boroughs: Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island.

The following list represents the most-borrowed novel, folk tale, children’s story or other book in each of the Library’s most popular non-English languages. Note that these books are not always written in their original languages, but for one reason or another, certain translations have proved immensely popular.

Babbel’s team of linguists has provided supplementary information and title translations, along with difficulty ratings for non-native-speakers. Regardless of where you are or what your reading level is, you can use this list as inspiration to dive into some new reading material this summer.

NYC’s Favorite Foreign-Language Books To Borrow From The NYPL


لغز المفتاح الذهبي (The Case of the Golden Key)
By James Preller
First published in 2002 (English)
Genre: Children’s
Babbel Difficulty Rating: Beginner

The Case of the Golden Key follows puzzle-detective Jigsaw Jones as he attempts to piece together a number of curious clues, including lost hamsters, haunted houses and missing coins.

Bangla (Bengali)

সেরা সাত হিমু (The Seven Best Himu [Novels])
By Humayun Ahmed
First published in 2017 (Bangla)
Genre: Collected Works, Drama
Babbel Difficulty Rating: Advanced

Himu is the titular protagonist of Bangladeshi author Humayun Ahmed’s legendary series of Himu novels. The books follow the nomadic, far-seeing Himu as he wanders endlessly, encountering individuals from many walks of life with differing perceptions of the world.


農家貴媳 (The Farmer’s Daughter-in-Law)
By Youlan Gu
First published in 2015 (Chinese)
Genre: Drama
Babbel Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

Originally published in Taiwan, The Farmer’s Daughter-in-Law follows the fortunes of a young woman as she navigates the hardships of family and rural life to find love and prosperity.


Poisson Un, Poisson Deux, Poisson Rouge, Poisson Bleu (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish)
By Dr. Seuss
First published in 1960 (English)
Genre: Children’s
Babbel Difficulty Rating: Beginner

This popular rhyming book for young readers is the whimsical tale of Jay and Kay, two children who have a weird and wonderful menagerie of creatures and oddballs as friends.


Doktor W. Wehchen und Federfant (Doctor W. Wehchen and Federfant)
By Ted Sieger
First published in 2000 (German)
Genre: Children’s
Babbel Difficulty Rating: Beginner

This charming children’s tale by the Swiss writer and illustrator Ted Sieger follows Dr. W. Wehchen, the world’s greatest animal doctor, as he attempts to help Federfant, an African elephant who is so light that he blows away on the slightest breeze.


मेरे नानाजी की छड़ी (My Grandfather’s Stick)
By Nandini Nayar
First published in 2011 (Hindi & English)
Genre: Children’s
Babbel Difficulty Rating: Beginner

In this picture book written by the prolific Indian children’s author Nandini Nayar and illustrated by Kshitiz Sharma, a little girl is inspired by her grandfather’s walking stick, and her imagination runs wild about the many and magical properties it might possess.


L’amica geniale (My Brilliant Friend)
By Elena Ferrante
First published in 2011 (Italian)
Genre: Drama
Babbel Difficulty Rating: Advanced

This modern classic, the first in Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, follows two friends, Elena and Lila, growing up in Naples in the 1950s. The novel explores the powerful bond between these two women as they navigate the fast-changing world of post-war Europe. The 2018 HBO television series My Brilliant Friend is an adaptation of the novels.


By Haruki Murakami
First published in 2009 (Japanese)
Genre: Fantasy/Alternate History
Babbel Difficulty Rating: Advanced

The novel 1Q84, its title a tribute to George Orwell’s 1984, is set in the year 1984 and presents an alternate version of history. Protagonist Aomame pursues a quest for truth after she begins noticing strange things happening around her. This novel was well-received in Japan and worldwide, selling over a million copies in the month after its release.


Человек в коричневом костюме (The Man in the Brown Suit)
By Agatha Christie
First published in 1924 (English)
Genre: Crime/Mystery
Babbel Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

This classic Christie tale of mystery and intrigue begins with a woman, Anne Beddingfield, witnessing a man die and discovering a curious piece of paper. This sets off a chain of events leading her to South Africa in pursuit of answers as to just who this man was.


El Gato Ensombrerado (The Cat in the Hat)
By Dr. Seuss
First published in 1957 (English)
Genre: Children’s
Babbel Difficulty Rating: Beginner

Arguably one of the most famous children’s stories of all time, this book follows the antics of a mischievous anthropomorphic cat as he shows up one day at the house of Sally and her brother, wreaking havoc as he does so.

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