Here are the most checked-out books at the Hamilton Public Library for 2021

Throughout the second year of the pandemic, books and movies have been an important way for people in Hamilton to get through lockdowns and months of uncertainty. 

Ecological thriller Blaze Island topped this year's list

Blaze Island, a novel by Catherine Bush, was the most checked-out book at the Hamilton Public Library in 2021. It was also the Hamilton Reads pick. (Ayelet Tsabari, Goose Lane Editions)

A climate change novel set off the coast of Newfoundland, Barack Obama's memoir and a plant ecologist's essays on science and Indigenous teachings — these were some of the most popular books at the Hamilton library this year.

Hamilton Public Library (HPL) released a list of its top 10 most checked-out books in 2021 earlier this month, which includes copies of physical books, audiobooks and ebooks.

The top checked-out title was Canadian novelist Catherine Bush's Blaze Island, which was also the 2021 Hamilton Reads pick. The novel, billed as an ecological thriller about climate change, is inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama's memoir A Promised Land also made the list twice — once as an audio book and again as a physical book. 

Lisa Radha Weaver, HPL director of collections and program development, said that last year saw more thrillers in the top 10, while 2021's list features more broad storytelling. 

"It was not just focused on one genre," she said. "I think that sort of speaks to all of us as we continue in a balance of pandemic and post-pandemic responses. We're all exploring in different ways."

Digital books have also become more popular in the last year. After hitting a milestone of one million checkouts of e-books in 2020, the HPL broke another record in 2021 with almost 1.3 million checkouts, Weaver said.

Canadian writer Catherine Bush's novel Blaze Island was the most checked out book at the Hamilton Public Library this year. (Gooseland Publishing)

Top 10 2021 Titles

1. Blaze Island by Catherine Bush

In Blaze Island, a Category Five hurricane devastates the eastern seaboard of North America, including a small island off the coast of Newfoundland where the former climate scientist Milan Wells lives with his daughter Miranda. As in The Tempest, the arrival of strangers on the island upends the character's lives.

The novel was the 2021 Hamilton Reads Pick and A Writers' Trust of Canada Best Book of the Year. Based in Toronto, Bush is also the coordinator of the University of Guelph's creative writing masters program.

2. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half follows the story of the Vignes twin sisters through multiple generations of their family. Raised in a small black community in Louisiana, two sisters run away at 16 and their lives begin to radically diverge as adults. 

The book is a New York Times bestseller, and it is also being adapted into an HBO series with Bennett as one of the executive producers.

3. A Promised Land (audiobook) by Barack Obama

Barack Obama's memoir A Promised Land is narrated by Obama himself in the audio book. It is the first volume of his presidential memoirs that covers his beginnings in politics up until the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011.

When it was first released in November 2020, sales of the book broke a record for Penguin Random House with 890,000 copies sold in the U.S. and Canada in its first 24 hours.

4. A Promised Land by Barack Obama

The book version of A Promised Land came in fourth on the list, right after the audio book. 

5. Braiding Sweetgrass: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Robin Wall Kimmerer, a plant ecologist and a member of the Potawatomi First Nation, blends the study of botany with Indigenous lore in Braiding Sweetgrass. Published in 2013, the book became a surprise bestseller and made it to the New York Times bestseller list in February 2020. 

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer became a surprise bestseller in 2020. (Dale Kakkak, Milkweed Editions)

6. The Four Winds: A Novel by Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah's The Four Winds begins in 1920s Texas and follows the story of a woman named Elsa throughout the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl era. 

BookNet Canada, which tracks book sales and library circulation, listed The Four Winds as the most circulated fiction book in Canada in 2021.

7. The Guest List: A Novel by Lucy Foley

Set on an island off the coast of Ireland, a wedding celebration ends in murder in Lucy Foley's thriller The Guest List. Based in the UK, Foley's other novels include The Hunt­ing Party and the upcoming novel The Paris Apartment. 

8. The Sentinel by Lee Child and Andrew Child

In the 25th entry of the Jack Reacher thriller series, Reacher finds himself involved in a conspiracy in a small town in Tennessee. 

It is the first of the Reacher books to be co-authored by James Grant and his younger brother Andrew Grant (using their pen names Lee Child and Andrew Child).

9. A Time for Mercy by John Grisham

The thriller A Time for Mercy continues the story of Jake Brigance, the main character of John Grisham's A Time to Kill. In the third book of the series, Brigance finds himself at the centre of a trial in Clanton, Miss., for a 16-year-old boy accused of murdering a local deputy.

10. Greenlights (audiobook) by Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey narrates the audiobook version of Greenlights, his memoir about his life and career as an actor. Before it was released, McConaughey said the book "is not a traditional memoir, or an advice book, but rather a playbook based on adventures in my life."

 Top 10 DVDs Borrowed

  1. The Rhythm Section.

  2. Irresistible.

  3. Breach.

  4. Restless.

  5. Burke's Law, Season one, Volume one.

  6. Honest Thief.

  7. Motherless Brooklyn.

  8. Just Mercy.

  9. Gemini Man.

  10. Mulan.

People can borrow books and DVDs with a library card. Those who don't have a card can sign up for one at hpl.ca


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