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Short list speaks volumes on reading habits

A political memoir, a cookbook and an edgy crime thriller - a short list that speaks volumes about the reading habits of Australia's most educated city.

Canberrans may have flocked to their local public libraries to borrow the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E. L. James and Downton Abbey on DVD, but the most requested book last year was Speechless: A Year in My Father's Business by James Button, former speechwriter for Kevin Rudd and son of former Labor minister the late John Button.

Button's book was followed by The Secret Keeper, the latest novel by Australian writer Kate Morton, whose particular brand of haunting historical fiction has made her an international bestseller.

The successful thriller Gone Girl, by American writer Gillian Flynn, came in at No. 6, only just pipped by another memoir, that penned by actor William McInnes and his late wife Sarah Watt - Worse Things Happen at Sea: Tales of Life, Love, Family and the Everyday Beauty in Between.

And it seems Canberrans were too busy devouring books and watching DVDs to spend much time in the kitchen - Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals came in at No. 3.

Director of ACT Libraries Vanessa Little said the list was par for the course when it came to Canberra readers.


''Each year there's always at least one cookbook, and it's a pretty representative group of titles,'' she said. ''I'm not surprised at The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton - people in Canberra do read meaty and sometimes challenging books.''

She said a large proportion of loans were in the history and non-fiction area - last year's most requested book was The Happiest Refugee, a memoir by Australian comedian Anh Do.

''Of course, with Jamie Oliver's 15 Minutes - everybody is time poor and Jamie is just gorgeous to watch on the telly so people want to read his book,'' she said. ''And The Fifty Shades of course came up because everybody wanted to know what the hype was around it.''

She said many Canberrans were fans of McInnes, who was the face of last year's National Year of Reading, and the recent death of his wife had heightened people's interest in him.

And aside from Downton Abbey, some of the other most requested DVDs included Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris and the surprise Aussie hit Red Dog.

''It's a pretty representative group for a year,'' Ms Little said.

''I imagine it would be very unusual to find the Button one on the absolute top in other jurisdictions - I would think it's a particularly Canberra kind of thing.''