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Libraries: crime most wanted

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Public Lending Right – the body that pays royalties for library borrowing to authors – has released its lists of the most borrowed books in the UK, and crime tops the fiction tables. The most borrowed book in 2010/11 was Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, second was 61 hours by Lee Child and in third came James Patterson’s Private.

Patterson was also the most-borrowed fiction author in 2010/11 with UK libraries lending his books out over two million times. The chart was dominated by American crime authors with Patterson and Brown joined by Harlan Coben in the top 10. Lee Child and Ian Rankin held up for the British contingent.

The results demonstrate a real change in borrowers’ tastes when compared to the previous decade. In 2000/01 the chart was dominated by Catherine Cookson’s historical romance, and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Why? Lee Child has one possible explanation: “In the decade following 9/11, I believe crime fiction has become more important in people’s lives. It gratifies their desire for safety and security and the rule of law, because at the end of crime novels, order is restored. And in US crime fiction and thrillers, the canvas is bigger, and the stakes are higher, making them particularly successful in this context.”

James Patterson was the most prolific author in the top 100 too, with 17 books in that listing. Lee Child had five and with four books each were Steig Larsson, Michael Connelly and David Baldacci. The latter can be considered one of the biggest movers among crime authors on the list, jumping from being the 47th to 33rd most borrowed author.

The top 10 most borrowed titles according to PLR were:

1. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
2. 61 Hours by Lee Child
3. Private by James Patterson
4. 9th Judgement by James Patterson
5. Worst Case by James Patterson
6. Caught by Harlan Coben
7. Don’t Blink by James Patterson & Howard Roughan
8. Postcard Killers by James Patterson & Liza Marklund
9. The Complaints by Ian Rankin
10. Worth Dying For by Lee Child

If you’re a crime author, registering with PLR is a useful source of income. Each time a book was borrowed in 2010/11 6.05p was paid to its author. In 2010 the government announced that the PLR office would be abolished with responsibility for library book tracking and author payments transfered to another body. More news is expected on this later in the year.

Let us know what you think of the list. Why have American writers dominated? Why so few women?

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