Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

Skip the sex, we like murder

Kiwis would rather curl up with a juicy crime novel than a kinky love story.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a popular book turned movie.Photo / File
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a popular book turned movie.Photo / File

Kiwi bookworms prefer homicide to hanky panky, figures from libraries reveal.

The Herald on Sunday surveyed libraries at five North Island centres to lift the lid on our reading habits.

The results - from Auckland, Wellington, Tauranga, Hamilton and Whangarei - show an increasing appetite for fictional crime thrillers over steamy popular novels such as E L James' controversial best-seller, Fifty Shades of Grey.

More than 27 million items were issued at libraries across the five regions last year.

British crime writer Lee Child topped most charts. His gritty novels such as The Affair, Worth Dying For and 61 Hours featured in most of the top 10s. Child is the most requested author across Auckland libraries, which issued more than 17.2 million items at 55 branches and four mobile facilities.

Sweden's Stieg Larsson and American duo Michael Connelly and James Patterson also feature heavily in Auckland's top 10 adult fiction list.

"A notable trend over the past few years is major blockbusters," said Louise LaHatte, manager of Auckland regional resources libraries and information.

"Starting with Harry Potter then Twilight, it continued with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, The Hunger Games, Fifty Shades of Grey, and now J K Rowling is back with her adult novel, A Casual Vacancy, which has 1061 requests."

She added: "The popularity of blockbusters and books linked to movies are often short-lived though, meaning old favourites by Lee Child still come out on top across the year."

Borrowers in Whangarei appeared more adventurous than Auckland when it came to sneaking a peek at Fifty Shades.

In Whangarei, it topped the charts with 109 issues. The saucy novel also fared well with library-goers in Tauranga (319 requests) and Wellington (285 requests) but it failed to scrape into the top 100 in Auckland.

Homegrown books fared well in the non-fiction charts.

The Free Range Cook by Annabel Langbein and What Was I Thinking by Paul Henry with Herald on Sunday columnist Paul Little were hugely popular, as was The Official New Zealand Road Code and New Zealand New Home Trends.

In children's fiction, Jeff Kinney and the Geronimo Stilton series pretty much ruled the roost.

Kiwi and author Gordon McLauchlan said borrowing habits typically mirrored best-seller lists. However, he was surprised at Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series doing well in Wellington and Auckland but hardly registering elsewhere. "It reflects the huge influence of word of mouth and fashion among kids," he said.

"One author might get more fashionable in one town than another."

McLauchlan believed a love of crime potboilers was no reflection on intellect.

Once bitten ...

Librarian Diane Taggart put the bite on a cheeky borrower who returned steamy novel Fifty Shades of Grey - complete with teeth marks in the cover.

The damaged book was recently handed back to the Tauranga city library, and the unnamed borrower will have to replace it.

"The bite marks caused a lot of hilarity among library staff as it is a pretty infamous and sexually graphic novel," Taggart said.

"There was no explanation given by the person who borrowed it as to how it got into that condition but we hope it was done by a dog or another family pet," she said. "Otherwise, I shudder to think how the teeth marks might have got there."

No Shades here, thanks

Avid reader Philip Barnes admits he is "old school" when choosing books to borrow.

The retired businessman drops into Auckland's Central City Library at least once a week to pick up two or three items and he admits he has read the No1 and No2 books on the most popular non-fiction Top 10.

However, Barnes, 64, is dismayed foreign crime fiction is the most popular reading material among Kiwis. He insists he has never even heard of best-selling thriller writers such as Lee Child and Stieg Larsson ... and Fifty Shades of Grey is a no-no.

"I prefer something informative or inspiring," he adds.

- Herald on Sunday

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