At Hasting’s Library, I’m more than a writer in residence. Chiefly, in truth, I’m workshop-facilitator-and-organiser-in-residence, but that doesn’t trip off the tongue in the same way. I’m also, like almost all visitors to the library, a reader in residence.
I have been interested to find out about the top books Hastings Library sees checked out, and I’m including some lists below the body of this post, split up in various ways. I can’t claim to have read all these books, but I’d got through a lot of them already, and I’ve picked a few to read during my residency to see what’s made them so popular in Hastings.
And what is popular? Well, that depends on the audience.
For adults, it’s crime thrillers. In the top ten books issued from Hastings Library in 2017, the top two are crime thrillers, and all four adult books in the overall top ten have some element of crime or mystery to them.
I’ve read three of the four adult books that have made it onto the top list. I’ve been gripped by Lee Child’s Night School (which was the most recent in his Jack Reacher series during the time period the list covers), and I loved This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell (one of last year’s big paperback releases – I love anything by Maggie O’Farrell to be honest, and I understand she used to work at The Poetry Society in London, somewhere I worked myself some time later).
Junior fiction dominates the overall top ten loans, with Roald Dahl occupying a lot of the list. This is no surprise, given that many of the people I speak to associate the library with children – either visiting as a youngster, or taking their own children or grandchildren.
I doubt this part of the list changes much year on year, and I expect the likes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG will be popular for many generations yet. It seems that every writer for children wants to be Roald Dahl, and I’ve seen many recent books in the library which use a similar style to Quentin Blake in their illustrations to achieve that Dahl-like effect.
It’s a tougher story for what’s called the “teenage” fiction. None of this appears on the top list itself, and the number of issues are much lower – echoing what I can tell by hanging out in the library: it’s mostly populated by children and adults, but very few teenagers. Trying to tackle that is part of the reason so many of my creative writing workshops have been aimed at teens.
I love books for young adults. Of the teenage top ten, I’d read 50% already, and I’m working on a few of the others at the moment. What strikes me is that there’s very little difference between a young adult book and the pacey crime thrillers that populate the adult list. They’re all page turners. They all start with a concept or an idea that sucks you in so it’s all you can think about. At a basic level the difference between them comes down to how they are marketed, not so much their content: the crime thrillers have black covers and the young adult books are a bit more diverse.
I know a lot of adults will already dip into young adult books without even thinking – Phillip Pullman’s The Northern Lights is the top book on the teenage list, and that’s definitely not got an age limit on it. But I think there’s more room for this to happen. A 16-year-old would probably get as much out of a Jack Reacher thriller as they would one of the titles on the teenage list, and those adults who gravitate to the ominous black covers of the crime fiction could do well to explore the books written initially for young adults. I find them all just as addictive.
So, that’s my summary. Below you’ll find the top ten lists sliced up in various ways. I hope you might discover a title or two you’re interested in. These lists relate to books loaned from Hastings Library in the calendar year 2017.
Top 10 loans from Hastings Library
Night School by Lee Child (adult fiction)
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (adult fiction)
You Choose by Pippa Goodhart (junior fiction)
This Must be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell (adult fiction)
The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths (adult fiction)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (junior fiction)
Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl (junior fiction)
George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl (junior fiction)
The BFG by Roald Dahl (junior fiction)
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl (junior fiction)
Top 10 adult books loaned from Hastings Library
Night School by Lee Child
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
This Must be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell
The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths
Dead Man's Footsteps by Peter James
Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves
Love You Dead by Peter James
The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan
A Twist of the Knife by Peter James
The Last Mile by David Baldacci
Top ten teenage books loaned from Hastings Library
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
Girl Online on Tour by Zoe Sugg
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Private School Murders by James Patterson
Paper Towns by John Green
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
All Wrapped Up by Holly Smale
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Top ten junior fiction books loaned from Hastings Library
I’ve separated this into two lists, as the paperback junior books tend to be for slightly older children and the hardback books picture books for younger children:
You Choose by Pippa Goodhart
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Twits by Roald Dahl
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl
Superworm by Julia Donaldson
Stick Man by Julia Donaldson
Colours by Julia Donaldson
Where's Bear? by Emily Gravett
Usborne Baby's Very First Slide and See Zoo by Stella Baggott
Peppa's Gym Class by Mandy Archer
Mine! by Emily Gravett
Thomas and the Winter Rescue
All About Spot by Eric Hill
That's Not My Badger by Fiona Watt