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For Summer Times, Dunedin Public Libraries' staff have dug through their data base to discover the reading habits of Dunedin residents. Rebecca Fox talks to library staff about book trends.

We cannot get enough romance in our lives is the sad truth highlighted by the popularity of novels with happy or romantic overtones sought out by readers at Dunedin Public Libraries.

Whether it is a paranormal, good mystery or family drama with a happy ending, ''this is what readers of any age want and they can't get enough'', librarian collection development librarian Jackie Howell says.

But, says young adult librarian Su Ikin, ''teens like a bit of dark''. And film and television influence what we read.

Blockbuster movies such as those based on The Hobbit, Twilight and Harry Potter novels or television series like Downtown Abby or Call the Midwife all produce demand for the books they were based on or those from a similar era.

When the latest Hobbit movie came out, every book it was based on that the library held, both new and old, disappeared off the shelves.

''There was not one left in the library. We even bought extras.''

A recent Tom Cruise movie based on a Lee Child book had also increased interest in his books. Whenever a Jane Austen-based movie came out, it piqued interest in her novels. A significant trend was towards what library staff called ''speculative fiction'', the ''falling in love with an alien'' type novels that were divorced from reality.

Following on from her success with the Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling's latest book, targeted at adults, had 76 holds on it when it came out, while there were 48 holds for the late Irish author Maeve Binchy's latest book, A Week in Winter.

The death of Australian author Bryce Courtney also led to increased interest in his latest book Jack of Diamonds.

There had been a surprising increase in popularity of Catherine Cookson novels, which were about life in the grinding poverty of northeast England, as a new generation discovered her work and recommended her to friends.

It had even meant dusting off some copies from the stacks.

''They might read one by accident, like it and when they discover there is more, they come and get six at a time.''

It seems Dunedin readers are going against a trend as in the United Kingdom, where the Mail Online reported Dame Catherine, once the most popular author read in British Libraries, had suffered a ''massive drop in popularity'' not even making the top 10 most popular authors in the past nine years - the same poll she topped for almost 20 years.

Recently, there had also been a surge in popularity for graphic novels. The library had moved its collection and displayed it on the first floor. The move hit a nerve as of 70 books put on the shelves, only 15 remained - mostly taken out by readers in the 30-plus age group.

Teens

In the past, it might have been the Sweet Valley High series that dominated teenagers' reading, but now it was the paranormal romance - fallen angels and vampires - that attracted young adult readers.

The Hunger Games, Twilight and Harry Potter - it has been the decade of blockbuster teen reads that also appeal to older readers.

''We had one tourist who came in every day to read a few pages [of Harry Potter], Ms Ikin said.

Hunger Games, by American writer Suzanne Collins, was particularly popular with girls, but older novels such as John Marsden's Tomorrow series from the late 1990s and Anthony Horowitz books from the 1980s were still going out.

Popular with boys were horror writers Darren Shan and David Hare.

''Girls will read just about anything, whereas boys are mostly into fantasy, adventure or war.''

Children

As you read this, Dunedin libraries' shelves will be emptying out as children choose their holiday reading.

''The shelves will be hammered. Some take a lot away for Christmas; others come in when they get back.''

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney is never on the shelves and more often than not had holds on copies before they even arrived at the library.

Series are really popular and Harry Potter was a prime example, with some books having more than 200 holds on them.

''We have to keep replacing copies as they get a bit scruffy. Everyone reads those,'' youth services librarian Phillipa Crack says.

A lot are rereading old favourites, ''nostalgia reading'' such as Roald Dahl, Biggles, Narnia and for little children Lynley Dodds' Hairy Maclary series.

''Anything about cats and dogs is popular.''

Julia Donaldson's Gruffalo picture books are all really popular with children who are always requesting them, even ''little children who can hardly speak''.

Lucy Cousins' Maisey books or anything written by her were similarly in demand.

''Children like to read everything by an author,'' Ms Ikin says.

Non-fiction

Cooking books and sports books (see Summer Times' Meiks reads) rate as some of the favoured in the non-fiction section of the library.

Recent releases of biographies on New Zealand athlete Valerie Adams and All Black Ritchie McCaw and Kerre Woodham's Short Fat Chick in Paris were all in demand.

Biographies, authorised or not, were also popular, such as those on British actor Colin Firth, American chef and television personality Julia Child and British actress and comedian Miranda Hart.

A less well known book Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn about why Kenyans were so good at long distance running was also popular.

Television also has its influence on the non-fiction shelves, with anything to do with British presenter Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs fame in demand.

Reviews on radio also generate interest, with that of On the Map by Simon Garfield, a book aiming to bring geography and maps to life, requested afterwards.

''Anything on National Radio on Saturday morning brings people in,'' non-fiction collection advocate Shirley Jones says.

British broadcaster, critic and columnist Catlin Moran's book How to be a Woman was an example, as was Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz's The Price of Inequality.

''Issues that touch people like globalisation, things that affect us all.''

Anything by Nigel Latta, his books and DVDs were continual favourites.

As summer arrived, gardening books also disappeared off the shelves, from the ''how to'' guides to the inspirational landscape gardening books.

Cookbooks also went out more in summer, with speculation many were read just for fun rather than used for cooking. Books by British chefs such a Nigella, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Whittingstall were all sought after.

''It's like speculative cookery - if only I could,'' collection specialist non-fiction Jackie McMillan says.

New Zealand television presenter and chef Al Brown's latest offering Get Fresh disappeared off the shelves quickly after a library event at Port Chalmers featuring the man himself.

''We had 150 there and 50 on a wait list. If people have been here, it sparks their interest.''

Anything written by Dunedin author Neville Peat was also very popular.

Other Southern authors such as Rees Valley Station owner Iris Scott's take on her life and the Life on Gorge River books by husband and wife Robert Long and Catherine Stewart were also very popular even a year or so after their release.

''It's the whole idea of a life better than your own.''

And of course, no story on popular books could be complete without a mention of the New Zealand Road Code - the library's copies just keep flying off the shelves.

 


Authors

On the up

Katie Flynn (UK, romance)Erica James (UK, romance)Karin Slaughter (US, crime)Kathy Kelly (Ireland, ''chick lit'')Catherine Cookson (UK, family saga)Peter Robinson (UK, crime)Jeffrey Archer (UK, saga)Reginald Hill (UK, crime)Nalini Singh (NZ, romance)Marcia Willet (UK, family saga)Josephine Cox (UK, family saga)Stieg Larsson (Sweden, crime)Terry Pratchett (UK, fantasy)Anita Shreave (US, family)Joanna Trollope (UK, romance)Robyn Carr (US, romance)

On the down

Johnathan Kellerman (US, suspense)Jude Deveraux (US, romance)Susan Lewis (UK, ''chick lit'')Clive Cussler (US, thriller)Kathy Reichs (US, crime)Mary Higgins Clark (US, suspense)Quintin Jardine (Scotland, crime)

Source: Dunedin Library based on authors' three last publication.

 

Top 10 most requested

1. Wanted Man by Lee Child

2. A Wife on Gorge River by Catherine Stewart

3. The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

4. Richie McCaw by Greg McGee

5. The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes

6. Simple Pleasures by Annabel Langbein

7. The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell

8. Winter of the World by Ken Follett

9. Standing in Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin

10 A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

 

Top 10 - NZ fiction

1. The Larnachs by Owen Marshall

2. Containment by Vanda Symon

3. The Italian Wedding by Nicky Pellegrino

4. Recipe for Life by Nicky Pellegrino

5. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

6. The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon

7. Inheritance by Jenny Pattrick

8. Dolci di Love by Sarah Kate Lynch

9. Hunting Blind by Paddy Richardson

10. The Conductor by Sarah Quigley

 

Top 10 NZ non-fiction

1. Footrot Flats by Murray Ball

2. The Free Range Cook by Annabel Langbein

3. Free Range In The City by Annabel Langbein

4. A life on Gorge River by Robert Long

5. All Blacks Don't Cry by John Kirwan

6. Port Chalmers and Its People by Ian Church

7. So Brilliantly Clever: Parker, Hulme and the murder that shocked the world by Peter Graham

8. It's Easier Than You Think by Jo Seagar

9. 100+ Tasty $10 Meals by Sophie Gray

10. Riverstone Kitchen by Bevan Smit

 

Top 10 children's reads

1. Obelix & Co by Goscinny.

2. Explorers on the Moon (Tintin) by Herge.

3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling.

4. Asterix the Legionary by Goscinny.

5. Asterix and the Big Fight by Goscinny.

6. Slinky Malinki, Open the Door by Lynley Dodd.

7. The Little Yellow Digger by Betty Gilderdale.

8. Asterix and the Banquet by Goscinny.

9. Hairy Maclary, Sit by Lynley Dodd.

10 The Blue Lotus (Tintin) by Herge.

 


The top five

 

BIOGRAPHY

1. And Furthermore by Judi Dench

2. A Life on Gorge River by Robert Long

3. A Train In Winter: a story of resistance, friendship and survival by Caroline Moorehead

4. Dear Fatty by Dawn French

5. All Blacks Don't Cry by John Kirwan

 

COOKING

1. The Free-Range Cook by Annabel Langbein

2. Free Range In The City by Annabel Langbein

3. It's Easier Than You Think by Jo Seagar

4. 100+ Tasty $10 Meals by Sophie Gray

5. Riverstone Kitchen by Bevan Smith

 

GARDENING

1. The Tui New Zealand Flower Garden by Rachel Vogan

2. Yates Garden Guide

3. Native by Design: landscape design with New Zealand plants

4. Compost by Kenneth Thompson

5. Colour in the Garden by Val Bourne

 

MYSTERY

1. The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

2. Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George

3. Red mist by Patricia Cornwell

4. Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich

5. The Saint Zita Society by Ruth Rendell

 

THRILLER

1. The Affair by Lee Child

2. Private by James Patterson

3. A Wanted Man by Lee Child

4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

5. Worth Dying For by Lee Child

 

CONTEMPORARY FICTION

1. House Rules by Jodi Picoult

2. Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

3. Daughters-in-law by Joanna Trollope

4. Stolen by Lesley Pearse

5. The Real Katie Lavender by Erica James

 

SCI-FI

1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

2. Halo by Greg Bear

3. The Lost Fleet by Jack Campbell

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

5. Lord of Mountains by S. M. Stirling