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Crime rules along the library shelves

Picture: Emil Widlund, Unsplash

BRITISH readers’ love affair with all things dark, murderous and mysterious shows no signs of waning.

Crime continues to come first choice among public library users, with children’s books a valiant second and daylight to all other genres.

Thrillers, mysteries and crime fiction take eight out of the ten top places in the British Library’s latest list (for the 2018-19 year) of the country’s most borrowed books.

Continuing the trend of recent years, the list reflects readers’ enduring love of thrillers. Eight of the top ten are crime fiction.

Lee Child, who leads the way with The Midnight Line as the most borrowed book, also features in fifth place (Past Tense) and seventh (Night School).

He is accompanied in the Top Ten by James Patterson, Peter James, Ann Cleeves, Michael Connelly and Dan Brown.

Books for young readers by David Walliams (in second place with The World’s Worst Children) and Gail Honeyman (fourth with Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine) complete the group.

Overall, James Patterson was the most borrowed author for the 13th year running. Lee Child came in at number four with children’s authors Julia Donaldson, Daisy Meadows and Francesca Simon completing the top five.

From start to finish, crime’s grip does not let up. It continues throughout the top twenty, the top hundred and on to number 200, held by Chris Carter with Gallery of the Dead.

Sadly, it is all the old favourites who dominate, which shows little inclination among borrowers for sampling the many newcomers to crime fiction’s growing ranks.

In fact, no real surprises with ho-hum appearances by Peter May, Val McDermid, John Grisham, Mark Billingham, James Patterson, Nicci French. David Baldacci, Stuart MacBride, Ian Rankin and other stalwarts.

All terribly predictable and unadventurous. But it does serve to confirm the dominance of crime fiction, especially when even the much-praised and awarded Normal People by Sally Rooney is pushed down to 110th place.

However, it does make one wonder about all those books one sees in the shops emblazoned with the “Bestseller” tag within days of making their appearance. Seemingly the word is exceedingly slow to spread among borrowers.

For the first time, this year’s data includes ebook loans. And already the library has seen “a remarkable surge” in ebook borrowing from public libraries due to Covid-19 closures. Early estimates suggest a 358 per cent increase in ebook and audiobook borrowing in the first three weeks of lockdown.

Whether listed high or low, it is all good news for authors and contributors.

In February, almost 22,000 of them received payments under the Public Lending Rights scheme, which has  £6 million  to distribute as the result of library borrowings.

As one grateful contributor commented, ‘I expected pennies and got pounds. Quite a few more than I expected.’

A source of income that has been long overdue.

To be  included in this year’s calculations, any new titles (including ebooks and audiobooks) must be registered by midnight on 30 June 2020.
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