Monday, June 18, 2012

Flying off the shelves: what's popular at the library

Reading is both a solitary and a social activity. The solitary part is obvious: what better way to escape from the world around you than immersing yourself in a great book? But most avid readers will agree that reading is only part of the pleasure and that's where the social comes in. For a lot of readers, talking about books with other readers is as much pleasure as reading itself. I have a friend who makes a point of reading all the big block buster books that everyone is talking about, whether he thinks he'll like them or not, simply because he wants to be a part of the conversation when a book has a lot of buzz and everyone is talking about it.

I'm a bestseller watcher. I like being aware at any given point of what books are at the top of the lists and am curious about books that endure on those lists. I'm also a library catalogue watcher: I'm endlessly curious about which books have the most holds and what that says about our local reading culture. I thought maybe you'd be curious too: so here's a look at the ten books with the most requests right now at Halifax Public Libraries.

Occupying positions 1, 3 and 8 on the requests lists at the library right now are the three titles in E.L. James' 50 Shades trilogy (M): 50 Shades of Grey, 50 Shades Freed and 50 Shades Darker with more than 1000 holds on the 3 titles combined. I think that anyone that reads anything has already heard of the 50 Shades phenomenon: James's erotic trilogy about the relationship between a young college student and an enigmatic billionaire have taken the reading world by storm and HPL isn't the only library with high demand for the books.

Another trilogy occupies three more slots on our top ten list right now: the books in the Young Adult series The Hunger Games (M) (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay) hold positions 2, 5 and 6 and have over 650 requests between them. This futuristic tale about a dystopian society where a televised survival game pits youth against one another started in 2008 and quickly became a crossover hit with adults as well as youth. The recent film adaptation of the first book has ensured that it has stayed close to the top of library request lists.

The four remaining slots on our top ten request list are mix of current and forthcoming hits. At #4 with over 200 holds is a book that isn't even out yet: the first book in the Unwritten Laws series (M) called The Bone Tree. I had to admit, that I was surprised that a book that isn't due to be released until December could have so many holds, but a little digging uncovered an intriguing back story. The book is the latest effort from Greg Iles, a two volume contribution to his popular Penn Cage legal thriller series. It was originally due for release in 2011, but prior to that release date, Iles was involved in a severe car accident: one which he was lucky to survive. His website gives a few more details about the book and his recovery.

The last 3 entries on the list all sneak in with slightly under 200 holds. At number 7 on the requests lists we have the only Canadian entry: Why Men Lie (M) by Linden MacIntyre. His follow up to the 2009 Giller Prize winning The Bishop's Man (M), those two books and a third—1999's The Long Stretch (M)—together form what is sometimes referred to as the Cape Breton Trilogy. The three books share common settings and characters, and fill out back story between them, but can be read and enjoyed individually as well as together.

The way that James Patterson has been publishing books these days, and the rate at which people seem to be reading them, leaves me almost surprised that there is only one of his books in this top 10: at #9 it's The 11th Hour (M), the latest installation in his numbered Women's Murder Club series.

Rounding out the list is What Doesn't Kill You (M) by Iris Johansen: a thriller that features CIA operative Catherine Ling on the trail of a powerful poison that has fallen into the wrong hands.

If you've already received your copy of one of these titles and had a chance to read it, join the reading conversation and add your thoughts below. If you've got a bit of a wait ahead of you, tune in tomorrow and I'll give some suggestions of other titles to consider while you wait.

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