British Columbia

Vancouver Public Library reveals top 10 fiction books checked out in 2015

A list of the Vancouver Public Library’s top 10 most checked-out fiction books of 2015 exposes the city’s literary preferences.

Breaking down checked-out books exposes city preferences and uncovers neighbourhood character

Vancouver Public Library's top 10 most checked-out books of 2015 reveal Vancouverites' penchant for mysteries and thrillers. (Vancouver Public Library)

The Vancouver Public Library's top 10 most checked-out fiction books of 2015 exposes the city's literary preferences.

Many of the novels in the top 10 list supplied to CBC News have garnered some serious accolades, whether it be the Pulitzer prize or CBC's annual Canada Reads competition.

Meanwhile, other books on the list reveal a definitive propensity for mysteries and thrillers.

Top 10 most checked-out fiction of 2015

  1. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (2015) 
  2. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, C. Alan Bradley (2015)
  3. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (2012)
  4. Life After Life, Kate Atkinson (2013)
  5. Sandman, Lars Kepler (2014)
  6. Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki (2013)
  7. Bones Never Lie, Kathy Reichs​ (2014)
  8. Luminaries, Eleanor Catton (2013)
  9. Ru, Kim Thuy (2012)
  10. Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan (2013) 

Hal Wake, artistic director of the Vancouver Writers' Festival, says writers and publishers have long been aware of the long-lasting effect prizes can have.

Hal Wake is the Artistic Director of the Vancouver International Writers' Festival. (Vancouver Writers Festival)

"It's why they despair when they're not on a list," he says. "It can give you a real leg up."

As for the dominance of mysteries and thrillers, Wake says the genre can be addictive.

"The advantage that mystery writers have is that they write series," he says. "People will discover one book, and then they're devoted and they can't wait for the next one."

The library's acting director of collections and technical services, Chris Middlemass, says not much on the top 10 list came as a surprise to her.

Library selectors choose books six to nine months before they're published, she says, and can easily spot what will be a popular title; they know to order multiple copies of books by authors like mystery writer Kathy Reichs.

Growth of sub-genres 

Chris Middlemass is the Vancouver Public Library's acting director of collections and technical services. (VPL)
 But, Middlemass says, the biggest change in book selection she's seen at the library comes beyond the top contenders, where there's been a growth of specific sub-genres.

"Readers are getting very focused," she says. "They have way better access to authors, through Twitter feeds and blogs and all that kind of thing, than they ever used to have."

Whereas readers may have once professed themselves as fans of broader genres like science fiction, Middlemass says they're now more likely to express their appreciation for more specific categories like gothic, steam punk, and alternate history.

Top 10 lists vary by library branch

The library also supplied CBC News with top 10 fiction check-outs by branch, revealing which neighbourhoods are still reading Dan Brown's Inferno or J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy.

Interactive map of the top 10 books by branch

As a former branch manager, Middlemass said head librarians know to cater to their communities.

"Each neighbourhood does have a different kind of mix," she says.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see more mystery readers on the West side. On the East side, from my recollection, there would be much more interest in the arts, performing arts, pop culture and out-there literary fiction."

However, she says, those differences have become less pronounced as readers are now able to order books from any branch.


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