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Our library reflects on 2019 as it looks to the future

By Lorraine Graves

Published 10:49 PST, Fri January 10, 2020

The past year, 2019, was a bumper one for books of all sorts, according to Richmond Public Library’s Stephanie Vokey. 

Our library’s One Book Three Cities book club meeting—that joined Richmond and her two sister cities in China—boosted Yann Martel’s Life of Pi up to the No. 3 position of the most checked-out adult fiction of the year. Although published 18 years ago, the book club revitalized interest in this Canadian author’s work.

So did Martel’s visit to the midsummer transpacific, video-linked book club gathering. 

Sitting in the No. 1 adult fiction position was the 2018 John Grisham thriller, The Reckoning.

Following on the heels of the blockbuster movie, Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel of the same name came in second. His later novel, China Rich Girlfriend, also made the top 10 for 2019. 

In the children’s category, Dav Pilkey’s visually appealing comic-book format won the top position with Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas. He also had a pair of other Dog Man titles among the top 10. 

Pilkey, a resident of nearby Bainbridge Island, Washington, writes for those who feel like misfits. Diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD as a child, his disruptions meant his teacher sat him in the hall most days. He spent his time there drawing, coming up with stories and creating his original comic books. His highly successful Captain Underpants series, created when he was in Grade 2, was aimed principally at kids who hated reading. Their slightly naughty themes appealed, resulting in massive sales—the series has sold over 80 million copies—and many new readers. Pilkey credits his parents’ unwavering support for his creativity as a bedrock of his success. 

So far, Pilkey’s Dog Man series has sold over 13 million copies worldwide. 

The top 10 for children’s books is rounded out with three Harry Potter novels, three from the Wimpy Kid series, and one stand-alone, Mo Willems’ Waiting is not Easy!, showing that most children love books about children who struggle to belong. 

The teen fiction top 10 features dystopian, post-apocalyptic novels, such as The Hunger Games. The two exceptions are Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, about Holocaust-era Nazi Germany, and the teen romance novel with a twist, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han’s remarkably well-written story that became a movie in 2019. 

In adult non-fiction, Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming ranked No. 1.

Reflecting our multicultural city, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship study guide ranked eighth overall and the second-most borrowed book in this category was a learn-to-drive manual in simplified Chinese. 

A memoir by a survivalist’s child who first went to school at age 17, Tara Westover’s Educated took third place. Fourth was a catalogue for stamp collectors. 

Self-improvement books rounded out the rest of non-fiction’s top 10. 

Becoming and Educated also took first and second place in the biographies category. The other eight featured biographies of those who have overcome great odds to lead satisfying lives.   

Richmond’s public library offers so much more than just books.

“As we kick off 2020, we’re excited to be launching new 3D printers, expanded digital literacy programs and a new book dispenser at the Seniors Centre, ensuring more librarians will be out and about in our city connecting with community members, and providing easy access to the newest and most popular books of the year,” chief librarian Susan Walters says.

There are programs, computers, printing facilities, classes, information in all formats from traditional print to electronic, as well as books, movies, periodicals and languages that represent the true multicultural nature of our city. 

Walters says, “We can’t wait to welcome you at any of our four branches. Get your free library card and come check us out.”

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