Wimpy kids, dark hours and dog man: What Los Angeles is reading as the library turns 150

A family reads in the Children's Literature   room at the  Riordan Central Library
Shelley Kim, left, visiting from Washington D.C., daughter Blythe Kim, 4, and husband Dasol Kim in the Children’s Literature reading room at the Richard J. Riordan Central Library.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

The North Hollywood branch of the Los Angeles Public Library is named for one of the area’s most famous residents, Amelia Earhart —the pioneering female pilot who mysteriously disappeared in 1937 while trying to fly around the world.

But this year, the Amelia Earhart branch is itself the locus of a mystery: How can it be that not a single one of its top-10 most checked out books in 2022 included any titles in either the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” or “Dog Man” series of children’s books?

In this, the Spanish-style stucco-building on Tujunga Avenue is distinguished from all other regional branches in the city’s library system. All the rest saw at least one —and often many more than one— such books on their lists, according to library circulation numbers. At the West Valley Regional Branch in Reseda, eight of the top 10 titles were from the Wimpy Kid series, and at the Exposition Park branch, nine out of 10 were Dog Man books.


“We know to keep ourselves well stocked with Wimpy Kid and Dog Man,” said Catherine Royalty, the library’s collection services manager.

But if there appeared to be little variety in terms of what kids across the city are reading, when it came to other kinds of books, the city famous for its diversity proved it yet again at the library checkout counter.

The Central Library was designed by New York architect Bertram Goodhue and built during the mid-1920s.
The Central Library was designed by New York architect Bertram Goodhue and built during the mid-1920s.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

In Hollywood, the most popular book of the year was “Go Hunt Me,” a 2022 young adult novel about teens who visit a Romanian castle only to run into someone who acts a lot like Dracula.

In San Pedro, the murders came a little closer to home: the top book there was Michael Connelly’s “The Dark Hours,” a detective story published last year featuring fictional LAPD Det. Renee Ballard and Connelly’s beloved investigator — and star of many of his previous bestsellers — Harry Bosch.

In Highland Park, the top book was published in 1977: Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Ceremony,” about a Pueblo man named Tayo and the struggles he faces upon his return from World War II. That book’s popularity at the Arroyo Seco branch — some 45 years after it was published — was probably because the library featured it in a book club, Royalty said. “Some of these entries really speak to the power these branch librarians have.”

There were fewer surprises, she noted, when it came to the most popular books systemwide.

The library’s most popular ebook in 2022 was “Book Lovers,” Emily Henry’s romance/send-up of small-town romances. Other top ebooks included Matt Haig’s “The Midnight Library,” Anthony Doerr’s “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” and, of course, two books by publishing phenomenon Colleen Hoover, “Verity” and “It Ends With Us.”

The Barrier Breakers exhibit in the Getty Gallery inside the Richard J. Riordan Central Library in downtown Los Angeles.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

The most popular juvenile ebook was — surprise surprise — from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Book 15 in the series, “The Deep End.” Other popular titles included “Wonder” by RJ Palacio and “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman.

The most popular physical books were “The Lincoln Highway” by Amor Towles (at #1), “The Dark Hours” by Michael Connelly (at #2) and “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig (at #3.) For juvenile books, it was — hold onto your hats! — “Dog Man” by Dav Pilkey, “Dog Man: Unleashed,” the second book in the series, and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck,” by Jeff Kinney.


Three of the most popular books in Spanish were “Emma y las Otras Señoras del Narco” by Anabel Hernandez, “Los Cuatro Acuerdos : Una Guía Práctica Para la Libertad Personal” by Miguel Ruiz, and “¡Ya Supéralo! : te Aadaptas, te Amargas, o te Vas” by César Lozano.

And beyond those titles were many more; the system is on track to see more than 10 million books checked out in 2022.

In 2023, the library will also continue to mark its 150th anniversary. The celebration, which kicked off on Dec. 7, will carry on until May 6, with special events and a portal where Angelenos can document what the library means to them.

As any student of the Los Angeles library system already knows, however, the institution’s own history is full of enough drama and pathos to put the plots of many of the books in its collection to shame. There have been floods. Political intrigue. Hollywood swashbuckling. And of course fires — including a giant conflagration in 1986 that incinerated much of the Central Library.

The Tom Bradley Wing of the Richard J. Riordan Central Library in downtown Los Angeles
The Tom Bradley Wing interior consists of eight levels designed around a glass-roofed atrium with three massive chandeliers created by Therman Statom at the Richard J. Riordan Central Library in downtown Los Angeles.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

That history, lovingly told in 2018 by Susan Orlean in her bestseller, “The Library Book,” and documented as well in numerous blaring newspaper headlines, also features a number of colorful characters who have over the years been hired to run the system. Many of whom, incidentally, had no experience with libraries before the City Council gave them the job.

Among the most famous was Charles Lummis, a former Los Angeles Times editor and founder of the Southwest Museum who was hired in 1905. In order to give him the job, the City Council summarily fired Librarian Mary Jones — prompting protests by many of the city’s feminists.

Perhaps it was this racy history — and the knowledge of the headlines it has generated over the years — that made some librarians around the city cautious when a reporter called earlier this month to ask about the mystery at the Amelia Earhart Branch Library in North Hollywood. No one would offer any wild theories about why the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dog Man books were missing from its top 10 list.


In fact, many librarians just seemed happy that people were reading, and coming back into the libraries after being locked out for so long during the pandemic.

“We’re a city of readers,” said Royalty, the circulations manager.

The top books:

Top Ten print, adult


The Lincoln Highway by Towles, Amor
The Dark Hours by Connelly, Michael
The Midnight Library by Haig, Matt
Cloud Cuckoo land: a Novel by Doerr, Anthony
Where the Crawdads Sing by Owens, Delia
Crying in H Mart by Zauner, Michelle
The Maid by Prose, Nita
The Paris apartment: a Novel by Foley, Lucy
The Judge’s List by Grisham, John
Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results : An Easy & Proven Way... by Clear, James

Top Ten print, Kids

Dog Man v. 1 by Pilkey, Dav
Dog Man: Unleashed v. 2 by Pilkey, Dav
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: HardLuck by Kinney, Jeff
Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild v. 6 by Pilkey, Dav
Pokemon Adventures by Kusaka, Hidenori
Dog Man: Fetch 22 v. 8 by Pilkey, Dav
Dog Man: Mothering Heights v.10 by Pilkey, Dav

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball by Kinney, Jeff
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Kinney, Jeff
Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas v. 5 by Pilkey, Dav

Top Ten Spanish, Adult

Spanish Adult Titles

Emma y las Otras Señoras del Narco by Hernandez, Anabel
Los Cuatro Acuerdos : Una Guía Práctica Para la Libertad Personal by Ruiz, Miguel
¡Ya Supéralo! : te Aadaptas, te Amargas, o te Vas by Lozano, César
Invencible: Cómo Descubrí mi Ffuerza a Través del Amor y la Pérdida by Rivera, Chiquis
¡Despierta!... Qque la Vida Sigue: Reflexiones para Disfrutar Plenamente la Vida by Lozano, César
Santo Remedio Para Mujeres: Los Remedios Caseros Que el Doctor Juan Recomienda a las Mujeres de su by Rivera, Juan
Curso Completo de Inglés Para Latinos.
Salsas Mexicanas: Bilingüe = Mexican Salsas: Bilingual by Muñoz Zurita, Ricardo
Santo Remedio: Cientos de Remedios Caseros llenos de Ssabiduría y Ciencia by Rivera, Juan
La Cocina Casera Mexicana: Recetas Tradicionales al Estilo Casero Que Capturan los Sabores y Recuer by Martínez, Mely

Top Ten Spanish Kids

Juvie Spanish Titles

¿Puedo Jugar yo También? by Willems, Mo

Huevos Verdes con Jamón by Seuss, Dr.

¡Un Tipo Grande se Llevó mi Ppelota! by Willems, Mo
¿Estás Lista Para Jugar Afuera? by Willems, Mo

!Esperar no es Fácil! by Willems, Mo

¡Diez Manzanas en la Cabeza! by LeSieg, Theo

¿Debo Compartir mi Helado? by Willems, Mo

¡Tienes un Pájaro en la Cabeza! by Willems, Mo

El Gato Ensombrerado ha Regresado by Seuss, Dr

¡Vamos a dar una vuelta! by Willems, Mo