The owned and the loaned—comparing top novels by holdings vs. ILL

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Recently, OCLC rolled out The Library 100, a list of the top print novels held by the world’s libraries. OCLC Research generated this list using data from WorldCat.

For most people, a list of 100 is fine. But for those of us who are bibliophiles and want to dig deeper, a list of the top 500 novels held in libraries also is available at the website. The list of 500 is marvelously rich and lets you explore even more titles, authors, and genres.

As I read over the longer list, I wondered how it would match up against a list of the most-requested novels on the OCLC system, WorldShare ILL. Would there be any overlap? Would the two lists be mutually exclusive? What about authors? Who would be on both lists? Any other similarities and differences?

Using ILL data from the last five years, I pulled a list of the top 100 novels requested on WorldShare ILL and compared it to The Library 500. Six titles and 11 authors were on both lists.

Top novels on WorldShare ILL vs. top novels of all time

The Library 500 reflects a historical perspective of what literature is important; those books that have been most widely taught and translated over time. Not surprisingly, the overlap between The Library 500 and the most requested books on ILL centers on more recent popular novels, those that have established themselves as “modern classics.”

Titles that overlap:


In addition to the six authors above, there was overlap with five other authors. The titles borrowed on the ILL list were different, though, from the titles listed on The Library 500.

Authors that overlap:


Lists of books are fun. It’s interesting to look at who’s reading what and which books are the most popular based on library holdings or ILL transactions. The complete ILL list can be found below.

Send us your observations

When we rolled out The Library 100 it instantly became a big hit. It was the most-viewed web page on our site for March and continues to be in the top five. The comments and sharing on social media platforms remain high. And the feedback we receive at meetings and conferences is positive and encouraging.

How do the top novels owned by libraries compare to those being loaned through ILL? Click To Tweet

Take a look at the ILL list and the list of The Top Novels of All Time. What are your observations? What titles are on the lists that surprise you? Who’s missing? Let us know your thoughts at, or post them to Twitter with the hashtag #library100novels.

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Top 100 ILL novels, 2014–2019

  1. All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr
  2. A Man Called Ove: A Novel, Fredrik Backman
  3. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
  4. Me Before You: A Novel, Jojo Moyes
  5. Orphan Train: A Novel, Christina Baker Kline
  6. A Gentleman in Moscow, Armor Towles
  7. The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah
  8. Little Fires Everywhere: A Novel, Celeste Ng
  9. Iris and Lily: Book One, Angela and Julie Scipioni
  10. The Martian: A Novel, Andy Weir
  11. Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
  12. The Rosie Project: A Novel, Graeme C. Simsion
  13. My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
  14. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  15. Storm Clouds Rolling In, Ginny Dye
  16. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
  17. Before We Were Yours: A Novel, Lisa Wingate
  18. The Light Between Oceans, M. L. Stedman
  19. The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd
  20. The Husband’s Secret, Liane Moriarty
  21. Wonder, R. J. Palacio
  22. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
  23. The Rent Collector: A Novel, Camron Steve Wright
  24. Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty
  25. The Storied Life of A. J. Firky: A Novel, Gabrielle Zevin
  26. The Pecan Man, Cassie Dandridge Selleck
  27. Ordinary Grace: A Novel, William Kent Krueger
  28. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  29. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
  30. Station Eleven: A Novel, Emily St. John Mandel
  31. Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly
  32. Fifty Shades of Grey, E. L. James
  33. Spilled Milk, K.L. Randis
  34. The Life We Bury: A Novel, Allen Erskins
  35. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Fredrik Backman
  36. Beneath a Scarlet Sky, Mark T. Sulliva
  37. Circling the Sun, Paula McLain
  38. News of the World, Paulette Jiles
  39. On to Richmond, Ginny Dye
  40. A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
  41. Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  42. Diary of an Oxygen Thief
  43. What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty
  44. Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee
  45. Call Me by Your Name, Andre Aciman
  46. Small Great Things: A Novel, Jodi Picoult
  47. The Aviator’s Wife, Melanie Benjamin
  48. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
  49. Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
  50. Exit West: A Novel, Moshin Hamid
  51. Life in a Jar The Serena Sendler Project, Jack Mayer
  52. The Hangman, Louise Penny
  53. It, Stephen King
  54. Still Life, Louise Penny
  55. The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen
  56. Shade of Vampire: Book One, Bella Forrest
  57. Harry Potter and The Cursed Child: Parts One and Two, Jack Thorne, J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany
  58. Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel, Jesmyn Ward
  59. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson
  60. The Power: A Novel, Naomi Alderman
  61. Commonwealth: A Novel, Ann Patchett
  62. Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware
  63. Our Souls at Night, Kent Haruf
  64. The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom
  65. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
  66. The Girls: A Novel, Emma Cline
  67. The Letter, Kathryn Hughes
  68. The Circle: A Novel, Dave Eggers
  69. The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George
  70. The Gender Game, Bella Forrest
  71. My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel, Elizabeth Strout
  72. Ross Poldark: A Novel, Winston Graham
  73. Whip: A Novel, Karen Kondazian
  74. Little Life: A Novel, Hanya Yanagihara
  75. Shade of Blood, Bella Forrest
  76. Spring Will Come, Ginny Dye
  77. What She Left Behind, Ellen Marie Wiseman
  78. Yellow Crocus, Laila Ibrahim
  79. Origin, Dan Brown
  80. Thirteen Reasons Why: A Novel, Jay Asher
  81. The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  82. Fall of Marigolds, Susan Meissner
  83. The Green Ember, S. D. Smith
  84. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
  85. Infinite Jest: A Novel, David Foster Wallace
  86. Before the Fall, Noah Hawley
  87. Turtles All the Way Down, John Green
  88. Into the Water, Paula Hawkins
  89. The Marriage of Opposites: A Novel, Alice Hoffman
  90. In a Dark, Dark Wood, Ruth Ware
  91. The One, Kiera Cass
  92. Luckiest Girl Alive, Jessica Knoll
  93. Warleggan: A Novel of Cornwall, 1792-1793, Winston Graham
  94. Brooklyn, Colm Toibin
  95. Calendar Girl, Audrey Carlen
  96. The Secret Wife, Gill Paul
  97. The Memory Box,  Eva Lesko Natiello
  98. The Good Girl, Mary Kubica
  99. A Spool of Blue Thread, Ann Tyler
  100. The Sellout: A Novel, Paul Beatty