Friday, February 10, 2006

UK Library users turn to crime

The latest Public Lending Right statistics are in and it appears that Britain has abandoned its love of romance for crime.

The forensic novels of American writers such as James Pattersson and Patricia Cornwell have gained popularity in British libraries, compared with previous years when romantic fiction dominated the charts. More than half of the most popular titles borrowed in the year to June 2005 were crime tales or thrillers.

The most borrowed adult fiction book last year was Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell, the 12th in the series featuring Kay Scarpetta, who is now a private forensic consultant.

The list of the top 10 most borrowed authors still has its love interests, with titles from the likes of Josephine Cox and Joanna Trollope, but figures indicate a major shift towards crime and thrillers compared with five or 10 years ago, when Catherine Cookson ruled supreme.

The current Children's Laureate, Jacqueline Wilson, remains the most borrowed author in UK libraries for the third year running. She was the only British writer to have more than two million loans. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling was the most borrowed children's fiction title - which I find surprising given how many copies have been sold since it came out !

The Public Lending Right, which was established in 1979, pays authors when their books are borrowed from libraries. This year authors are receiving a record payment of 5.57p per loan. (I like that "record" - as if it was £5000 not a mere £5 !!)

* * * * * *

Funny Books

Because my parents had denied
me comic books as sordid and
salacious, I would sneak a look
at those of friends, the bold and bright
slick covers, pages rough as news
and inked in pinks and greens and blues
as cowboys shouted in balloons
and Indian yells were printed on
the clouds. I borrowed books and hid
them in the crib and under shoes
and under bed. The glories of
those hyperbolic zaps and screams
were my illuminated texts,
the chapbook prophets of forbidden
and secret art, the narratives
of quest and conquest in the West,
of Superman and Lash Larue.
The print and pictures cruder than
the catalog were sweeter than
the cake at Bible School. I crouched
in almost dark and swilled the words
that soared in their balloons and bulbs
of grainy breath into my pulse,
into the stratosphere of my
imagination, reaching Mach
and orbit speed, escape velocity
just at the edge of Sputnik's age,
in stained glass windows of the page.

Robert Morgan from The Strange Attractor: New and Selected Poems. © Louisiana State University Press.

This poem was in my "Writer's Almanac" email today and I thought I would share it because it speaks of a child's visceral enjoyment of reading, a sensation that I remember well from my own childhood, and still often feel as an adult when my "inner six year old" gets hold of a gripping book and reads it fast, wanting to know "what happens next". For me this feeling is strongest with the Harry Potter books - hence I read The Half Blood Prince in 6 hours flat, but other books and authors bring it out too.

* * * * * *
Another Book Meme (what can I say, I can't resist them !) My friends Kelly at Big A, little a and Susan at Chicken Spaghetti have already done this.

What are your three favourite children's series?

1 - Harry Potter - J K Rowling
2 - His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
3 - The Old Kingdom (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen) - Garth Nix
Bonus: The Keys to the Kingdom - Garth Nix

What are your three favourite non-series children's books?

1 - The White Darkness - Geraldine MacCaughrean
2 - Because of Winn-Dixie - Kate Di Camillo
3 - The Thief Lord - Cornelia Funke
Bonus: Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

Who are your three favourite children's book characters?

1 - Bilbo & Frodo Baggins (I know, The Lord of the Rings isn't a children's book, strictly speaking - so sue me ! :-D)
2 - Lirael
3 - Matilda

Susan then added the following bonus rounds:

Bonus Round 1:

Q. Who wrote your least favourite childhood books?
A. I don't think I can answer that ! I don't recall disliking any books that much when I was a child !

Bonus Round 2:

Q. What was the saddest moment in your childhood reading?
A. This required some thought, but I'm going to have to go with two moments - in the same book: when Ben discovers his grandparents have sent him a picture of a dog instead of the longed-for puppy for his birthday, and when he loses his imaginary dog Chiquitito - A Dog so Small - Philippa Pearce

Bonus Round 3:

Q. Which children's book scared the bejeezus out of you?
A. The Owl Service - Alan Garner

(Confession: I amended the last one, as Susan had "adult book", but no adult book has ever scared me as much as The Owl Service scared me when I was a child !)


Anonymous said...

Good one, Michele. I'm glad you posted these--more reading ideas for the rest of us!

Michele said...

Thanks Susan... Of course, after I'd posted my Blog, I wished I'd added several more favourites !

Favourite characters:
Hermione, Harry Crewe, Lyra & Will, Arriety (The Borrowers), Tiffany Aching, Maurice the cat (in The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, Ged, Polly (Fire and Hemlock.

Favourite non-series books:
Fire & Hemlock, Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Sea of Trolls (though I believe there's going to be a sequel), The Phantom Tollbooth, Here Be Monsters!, The Power of Three.

Favourite series:
The Bartimaeus trilogy, Alex Rider.

Kelly said...

Oh, I've never read "The Owl Service," Michele. Hermoine would also be a favorite character for me if I included books I've read as an adult. And Dumbledore.

Michele said...

Well I decided to include all the children's books that I've ever read, because I didn't actually read *that* many as a child (I read a lot of non-fiction as a child, and I moved on to books for adults at about 12 or so !)