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Bookworms turn to mystery and thriller novels throughout COVID-19

Press Release: Civica [May 18, 2021]

Sydney, 18 May 2021: Australians sought escapist fiction to get through major lockdowns and restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, with almost half of this year's top 20 most borrowed books listed as mysteries and thrillers in Civica's 2021 Libraries Index.

The Index, now in its sixth year, assessed borrowing data from 34 million loans across 104 regional and metropolitan libraries in Australia and New Zealand between 1st April 2020 31st March 2021. Civica, provider of the cloud-based Spydus library management system to schools, TAFEs and local government, partnered with the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) to create the Civica Libraries Index.

At the top of this year's list is Jane Harper's, The Survivors, which depicts the story of a man whose life changed forever on a single day when a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences. Jane Harper's suspenseful thriller, The Lost Man, also features on this year's most borrowed books and depicts a story about family secrets, suspicion and death.

Michael Robotham's popular crime novels When She Was Good, a psychological thriller about a murder dressed as suicide, and Good Girl Bad Girl, a story about a forensic psychologist caught between two cases, both featured in the top 20.

Australian authors popular with readers

This year's index reveals Australian authors continue to rise in popularity with almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of the top 20 borrowed books authored by Australians. This is up from 60 per cent in 2020 and 40 per cent in 2019.

Notable Australian authors recognised include Trent Dalton's bestselling novel Boy Swallows The Universe featured alongside his most recent novel, All Our Shimmering Skies, which tells the story of adventure and unlikely friendships in World War II Australia. Liane Moriarty's Nine Perfect Strangers, a story about uncovering the secrets of a group of people, was also recognised again as one of the most popular books.

Australian biographies continued to be popular amongst readers with Leigh Sales' Any Ordinary Day, Eddie Jaku's The Happiest Man on Earth, Malcolm Turnbull's A Bigger Picture and Behrouz Boochani's No Friend But The Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison recognised in the top 10 biographies.

Australian authors also dominated the most popular picture books with Lucinda Gifford's Whitney and Britney Chicken Divas topping the list followed by Matt Cosgrove's Alpacas with Maracas, Aaron Blabey's Pig the Pug Series and the Bluey Series from the ABC.

Sue McKerracher, Chief Executive Officer, ALIA, says, "It's fantastic to see such a strong representation of Australian authors again in this year's Civica Libraries Index. We have such diverse and talented writers and their stories are reflected across a number of different categories from fiction, non-fiction, biographies and picture books.

"While local book awards have played an important part in the prominence of many of these authors, it's also driven in part through campaigns like Australia Reads which encourages people to pick up and read a book. ALIA's National Simultaneous Storytime, another campaign we run in which a picture book is simultaneously read in libraries, schools, pre-schools, childcare centres, homes and bookshops around the country seeks to encourage reading amongst children. This year's reading comes from the International Space Station and will be beamed to more than 1.5 million children and families in Australia, New Zealand and countries around the world."

A rise in e-loans

While libraries were forced close for part of last year, research released for the COVID-19 Audience Outlook Monitor shows 86 per cent of Australians read for pleasure. This was reflected in citizen borrowing patterns for physical books and also through the uptick in e-loans from April 2020 to March 2021.

Iain Finlayson, Managing Director of Libraries and Education Solutions at Civica says, "Libraries played an important role throughout lockdowns last year as a rich source of much needed escapism. While many people continued to borrow physical books, we also saw an uptick in the number of e-loans. A key enabler of this trend is access to digital platforms that provide online access for citizens to a broad range of titles."

Ipswich Libraries based in Queensland, that houses almost half a million titles, saw an 80 per cent increase in e-audio downloads, 67 per cent increase in e-books and a 120 per cent increase in e-magazine downloads.

ACT Libraries, that supports two million visitors each year to its nine branches, saw a 35 per cent increase of e-books and e-audio loans. Similarly, Yarra Plenty Regional Library in Melbourne saw a combined e-audio and e-book increase of 45 per cent.

Hutt City Libraries in New Zealand, that compromises of eight libraries, saw e-audio loans increase by 40 per cent and e-book loans increase by 41 per cent for the same time period.

"We should expect this trend to continue to be part of citizen borrowing patterns moving forward and it will be important for libraries to continue to have a digital presence to meet citizen's evolving expectations" Finlayson adds.

The 2021 Civica Libraries Index was compiled by analysing loans from libraries across Australia and New Zealand libraries that use Civica's Spydus between 1st April 2020 31st March 2021. Spydus is a cloud-based software system developed in Australia that enables more than 2,500 libraries around the world to meet the dynamic needs of today's library members with the latest digital technologies.

About The Civica Libraries Index

The Civica Libraries Index is compiled in partnership with participating libraries using the market-leading Civica Spydus integrated library management system. Loan data is collected, compiled and analysed for the calendar year for a range of audiences and categories. Civica reviewed more than 30 million library book loans across Australia to help determine the country's most popular books. Data was gathered over a 12-month period from between 01 Apr 2019 and 31 Mar 2020. All information on borrowing behaviours is collected anonymously. Civica is Australia's leading provider of library information, collection, and management solutions.

About Civica Group

Civica ( is a global leader in software applications for public services, digital solutions and managed services that help teams and organisations around the world to transform the way they work. Combining exceptional customer focus, experience and commitment, Civica supplies more than 3,000 major organisations in 10 countries, providing the software and digital technology and automation behind essential every-day services for over 100 million people and businesses.

About The Australian Library and Information Association

The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) is the professional organisation for the Australian library and information services sector. With 5,000 members across Australia, we provide the national voice of the profession in the development, promotion and delivery of quality library and information services, through leadership, advocacy and mutual support.

View Citation
Publication Year:2021
Type of Material:Press Release
Language English
Issue:May 18, 2021
Company: Civica
Record Number:26272
Last Update:2023-12-06 03:52:53
Date Created:2021-05-18 03:42:52