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Readers picking crime novels over romance

books Updated: Feb 03, 2012 14:08 IST

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Book readers in Britain have lost their affection for love stories in favour of action packed thrillers and gritty crime novels, library lending figures have shown.

According to experts, the shift over the last decade could be linked to a feeling that life is more serious and precarious because of the September 11 attacks and the economic downturn.

The death of Catherine Cookson may also have had an effect.

“In the decade following 9/11, I believe crime fiction has become more important in people’s lives,” the Telegraph quoted Lee Child, the British thriller writer of the Jack Reacher novels as saying.

“It gratifies their desire for safety and security and the rule of law, because at the end of crime novels, order is restored,” Child said.

The dramatic change in reading tastes emerged from the latest release of figures from the Public Lending Right, the government body that pays royalties to authors.

It found that despite the turmoil surrounding the British library system, the popularity of books remains remarkably robust.

Overall borrowing figures for the year 2010-2011 was 300 million loans down from 309 million the year before, and from more than 370 million on the previous decade.

However, the most dramatic change is the with from romance novels to crime and thrillers.

Back in 2000, ‘The Thursday Friend’ by Catherine Cookson was the most popular book in our libraries but by 2010 it was ‘The Lost Symbol’ by Dan Brown.

In all there were six romance based novels in the chart and just one crime in 2000 but by then end of the decade the chart was dominated by thrillers and crime novels, especially those from America.

With over two million loans, prolific American writer James Patterson is the UK’s “Most Borrowed Author” for the fifth year running.

He is one of five writers to clock up over a million loans in UK libraries between July 2010 and June 2011.

Crime writer Ian Rankin is the only UK-resident author in the Top 10.