Readers in Topeka and Shawnee County look for suspense, mystery and excitement.
That is according to the most checked out books in 2015 at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 S.W. 10th. Mystery and suspense novels dominated lists of the most popular library books overall and the most popular adult fiction.
It could be a sign of escapism, wanting distraction from day-to-day life, said Melanie Burdick, assistant professor of composition and English education at Washburn University.
“Maybe it’s a sign of the way things are in the world,” she said, noting that readers like books that transport them to different times or places.
The top 10 books at the library according to number of checkouts are:
■ “Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins
■ “Gray Mountain” by John Grisham
■ “The Liar” by Nora Roberts
■ “Memory Man” by David Baldacci
■ “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” by Jeff Kinney
■ “14th Deadly Sin” by James Patterson
■ “The Escape” by David Baldacci
■ “Prodigal Son” by Danielle Steel
■ “The Cinderella Murder” by Mary Higgins Clark
■ “The Stranger” by Harlan Coben
The popular books fall in line with national trends, said Miranda Ericsson, public service librarian at the library. Books like “Girl on the Train” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” have received widespread attention in the New York Times, National Public Radio and goodreads.com, a website devoted to social book reviews, she said. Many of the books on the top 10 lists are by well-known authors like John Grisham, James Patterson and Danielle Steel. Those authors often create likable characters and series that draw readers to each new book they write.
Readers, like moviegoers, look for excitement and action in books, Ericsson said.
“People find a character they like, and they want to see what will happen to them next,” she said. “They want something fun that’s easy to get into and keeps them interested.”
Keeping with the idea of movie-like books, Ericsson said it is common to see a spike in readership of books that have been made into movies or the book adaptation of movies. Two book versions of Disney’s “Frozen” appeared on the top children’s book list. Popular young adult books like “Mockingjay” and “Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins, “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner and “Divergent” by Veronica Roth all have been made into blockbuster movies in the last few years.
Even on the nonfiction list, books-turned-movie were popular. “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand were made into movies in 2014.
To keep books fresh and promote what readers may be into, Ericsson said library staff monitor national book reviews and blogs to see what titles are trending. They also track books that appear in other media, like movies or television. When books are “hot,” she said, they push them to the front with signage and a special section called “14 Day Best Seller Express,” where books can’t be renewed or put on hold, they can only be checked out for two weeks.
Burdick was surprised to see another book-turned-movie not on the list: “The Martian.” She also was surprised that “Go Set a Watchman,” Harper Lee’s much publicized and criticized posthumous follow up to her 1960 “To Kill a Mockingbird,” only appeared on the top 10 e-books list, not any other list.
“That is strange that more people didn’t check that out,” she said.
Burdick also noticed there wasn’t much variety in genre or author across the lists. Books on the most popular list also can be found on the adult fiction list and in the e-books list.
“It seems everyone is reading the same thing,” she said.
Ericsson said that could be because people like to discuss books with friends and family. People are influenced by their peers, and when a lot of people are talking about a book, it draws readers’ attention.
“If you’ve read a great book, you want to talk about it, but if no one else has read it — that’s hard,” she said.
The group most likely to be influence by friends are the children and young adult readers, kids’ library public service librarian Natalie Moreland said.
“Kids care more about what their friends tell them to read than anyone else,” she said. “Especially younger kids, like around 12, they want to read what older kids are reading because they look up to them.”
The young adult list, like the adult book list, are dominated by well-known authors and series like John Green, Roth’s “Divergent” series and Collins’ “Hunger Games” series. The same is true for the children’s list with books like the “Where’s Waldo” series by Martin Handford and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Kinney.
With young adult readers, usually those between 13 and 18 years old, Moreland said books with a strong character that stirs a lot of emotion have the biggest fan base.
“Those familiar characters almost become like friends,” she said. “You get to know them and can predict them.”