James Patterson tops library lending chart

James Patterson Patterson's fictional detective Alex Cross has enjoyed big screen success

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US crime writers dominate the list of most borrowed authors from British libraries, with James Patterson in pole position for the sixth year in a row.

Seventeen of the top 20 most borrowed adult fiction titles were by US, or US-based, crime writers; nine of them written, or co-written, by Patterson.

Patterson's 10th Anniversary was the most-borrowed title of 2012.

He and Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson were among seven authors to score over a million loans last year.

Agatha Christie was one of only six British authors in the top 20 most-borrowed adult fiction authors, alongside Katie Flynn, Josephine Cox, Alexander McCall Smith, Ian Rankin and Lee Child - although Child is based in the US.

The US-dominated list of gory thrillers is in stark contrast to the gentle British romances that held sway 30 years ago when Public Lending statistics first began in 1983.

That year, Catherine Cookson was a long-running favourite.


  1. 10th Anniversary, James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
  2. Worth Dying For, Lee Child
  3. Miracle Cure, Harlan Coben
  4. Private London, James Patterson
  5. The Help, Kathryn Stockett

The annual report by the Public Lending Right (PLR), who oversee payments to authors for the loan of their books, also revealed that library lending had dropped by around 4% in 2012, with 200 branches closing over the past year.

Bucking the trend, children's fiction remained the one area where lending figures rose, with children's books representing 37.4% of all books borrowed from public libraries.

Julia Donaldson, Jacqueline Wilson, Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon and the authors behind the Rainbow Magic series, all clocked up more than a million loans last year.

Six children's writers appeared in the top 10 most-borrowed authors across all genres, with Donaldson's The Gruffalo at number six among the most popular titles.

Mick Inkpen, Adam Blade and Jeff Kinney - of the Wimpy Kid diaries - were among the other high-performing children's authors.

Public Lending Right - funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) - was established in law in 1979.

All lending income goes directly to the author, with a maximum payment threshold of £6,600 for the top-lending authors.

American writer Danielle Steel is the only author to have appeared among the top 10 most borrowed adult fiction authors every year for the past three decades.

The 65-year-old is believed to have sold more than 600 million copies of her 80 novels.

"Danielle writes very feelingly and honestly about the kind of issues real women face," said Steel's UK editor, Catherine Cobain of Transworld. "She can also be very funny."

"It is fantastic to see such support for Danielle and for her wonderful books to gain such recognition from the library reading community."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    I had a teacher at primary school who stated that to dismiss another pupil's work as 'rubbish' implied it was only worthy of being consigned to the bin, and that none of us had the right to dismiss the time and effort of another person in such a way. By all means decide a piece of work is not to your taste, but never 'rubbish'. All literary work has some merit if you only choose to look for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    you dont need to be a literary snob to realise that most of the novels on this list are rubbish. there are lots of good contemporary fiction novels around without having to read danielle steel. reading a few of the classics never did anyone any harm

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    52. bitofeverything

    I think you'll find there are books out there that are almost universally agreed upon to be 'rubbish', just as there are books universally agreed upon to be masterpieces. If a book has been labelled 'rubbish' by dozens of critics and reviewers over the years, I'm certainly not going to waste a portion of my life reading it. That doesn't make me a snob, it makes me practical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Libraries are great. Take my little one in often and i think its the only time she sees me getting something great without paying !


  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    I never really read as a child and this extended into adulthood. However I picked up a James Patterson book at a camp site a few years ago and have since read about 30 of his novels. I moved onto Lee Child, Jo Nesbo and Raymond E Feist as well as some "classics". I now can't get enough of books. So whatever others have to say about his writing skills, from me Thank You James Patterson.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    51 Graphis

    There's a difference between knowing I won't enjoy a book and writing it off as 'rubbish' based on my reading preference. You don't appear able to distinguish the two concepts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    48. bitofeverything

    LOL! Are you seriously telling me that every single book in the world is brilliant? I haven't mentioned a single book, and yet you're saying I'm an arrogant snob??? C'mon, even you must have some books that you won't read, knowing you won't enjoy them? Please stop putting words in my mouth: I've only ever stated that I'm talking about my own preference, nor insulted anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    James Patterson ( co-writers--It shows ) is sort of OK, but some of his writing is rather banal and too simple---far too many Americanisms not understood by other English speakers ). Some novels like Mary, Mary have good multi-plot lines and are page -turners, but others in the Alex Cross series are really corny/banal and not worth anywhere near the hype of 1st. Better writing is required .

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Great i love his books , fiction yes, boring no !

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    46. Graphis
    I don't have to read every book to know some are rubbish and I won't enjoy them. I simply haven't got the time to waste.

    Talk about arrogant! Just because a book isn't to your taste does not automatically make it 'rubbish'. If that is your considered opinion then, yes, you are a book snob.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Will the titles change following the raft of library closures we are about to see?

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    39. Jiffman
    42. Meerkat

    Not at all. I don't have to read every book to know some are rubbish and I won't enjoy them. I simply haven't got the time to waste. The authors you mention have had hundreds of years to acquire a (well-deserved) reputation (and yes, I've read them, and enjoyed them). Not fair to compare them to modern popular authors, who many others say are rubbish. I said "generally".

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Not in my Library he isn't! But then again I don't work in a public library so that may be why!!!


  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    In Edinburgh we have fantastic libraries - there are books to suit every taste. I order my books online to be delivered to my local library where I pick them up - it is like shopping at Amazon but free. Book clubs, Bookbug sessions for children etc. etc. Long may it last - encourage children while they are young. Use your local library or lose it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    "27.The_Squirrel "

    Absolutely the best advice, particularly for children. I remember hating reading as a nipper because I was reading what other people thought I should read. Only after finally making my own choices did my love of reading blossom and my grades start to go up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.


    Yes, you're a snob. Read everything you can, because until you read it you don't know if it's good or bad for you. Don't just take someone else's opinion, make up your own mind. Often the reason something's popular is because it's good. H G Wells would be rubbish according to your way of thinking (popular science fiction), anyone for the War of the Worlds?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    @38 Jack Napier - fair point, but those free online versions tend to be sub-par translations from 1902, and there's nothing like having the real thing in your hands. Reading on a computer screen isn't the same. Not up to the libraries though, true, and I could get Stephen Baxter's Bronze Summer, which I sought at the same time as the Aeneid, easily enough very soon after its release.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I am happy to read novels by James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Johnathan Kellerman Harlan Coben and John Connolly. The caveat being that they are the author and not a co-author. I also avidly read Anne Cleeves, Iain M Banks and Lindsey Davis, who are UK authors. However, one development I detest is the co-author franchise novel.I usually find them a pale shadow of the solo works.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    @ 3.Graphis
    You seem to be saying the only good books, films, music, etc is underground stuff with a small fanbase. Not only very snobby, but very wrong too. Popular doesn't mean rubbish. If it has a small fanbase and it's good, that small fanbase gets big...

    Dickens was one of the most popular authors in history. I hear people are quite fond of Shakespeare's stuff too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Just now
    . I tried to take out the Aeneid last year but there was a waiting list and it was 6 weeks before I got the county's only copy. The AENEID!


    Most classical literature is available free online these days, from Homer to Geoffrey of Monmouth - maybe your local library has diverted scarce resources to books that aren't widely available at the click of a button.


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