CPL’s Most Popular Books of 2020

Before we completely close the door on 2020, we're looking back at the most popular books of the year as measured by checkouts and hold requests at Chicago Public Library. While the COVID-19 pandemic and election campaigns initially may have distracted from reading, many people later settled into social distancing and clearly started reading in a big way. As you check the lists for new titles, keep in mind books published early in the year have a better chance to chart. Expect to see more 2020 titles on next year's lists.



The highest-ranking title on the most popular adult fiction list is Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid, which explores the fallout when a Black babysitter is baselessly accused of kidnapping her charge. Although technically a 2019 book, we're counting it as an honorary 2020 title because it was published just one day before the year started. The next highest-ranking 2020 title is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, a story of twin sisters and the diverging paths they take in life. We agreed with you, readers, and selected both titles for our annual Best of the Best lists.

We were also pleased to see the high ranking of our most recent One Book, One Chicago selection, Exit West. Thanks again for joining us in reading it.

View the full list of the most popular adult fiction.


The highest-ranking 2020 book on our most popular adult nonfiction list is Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, author of our 2013-14 One Book, One Chicago selection The Warmth of Other Suns, which charts just below it. This highly acclaimed and bold exploration of racism led the way in a year that saw antiracist and Black Lives Matter-themed books race up the bestseller charts, including How to Be An Antiracist, among others. 

In an especially impressive feat, Michelle Obama's Becoming topped the chart for a second year in a row. And her husband, who published A Promised Land in mid-November, managed to chart for 2020 despite the short window. Check back next year to see if he can claim the top spot for himself. 

View the full list of the most popular adult nonfiction.


For the third year in a row, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas—a contemporary classic of enduring relevance—tops the most popular books for teens. The only 2020 title to chart is Suzanne Collins' The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the prequel to the Hunger Games series

View the full list of the most popular books for teens.


Kids grow up fast but what stays most popular for kids changes slowly. It often seems that parents and kids mainly want mo', mo', mo': anything by Mo Willems plus more titles by authors Jeff Kinney, Raina Telgemeier and Dav Pilkey, that is. But this year's list was topped by New Kid by Jerry Craft. The book won the Coretta Scott King Award and was the first graphic novel awarded the Newbery Medal.

View the full list of the most popular books for kids.

More Recommendations

Explore 2019's most popular books for comparison. And keep up with the latest trends year round with our lists of the most popular books of the previous month

Want recommendations beyond popularity? Check out our Books, Teens and Kids pages for staff picks, blogs and lists all year long.