True crime, fantasy, self-help: Most popular books at Canberra's prison library
Advertisement

True crime, fantasy, self-help: Most popular books at Canberra's prison library

Canberra inmates have shown a readiness for self improvement as they favoured books from the prison library to help them quit smoking and get in shape this year.

Among the most popular reads from the Alexander Maconochie Centre library in the past year were Easyway to Stop Smoking by British author Allen Carr and Neila Ray's 100 No-Equipment Workouts.

The library collection at the Alexander Maconochie Centre contains about 5000 items.

The library collection at the Alexander Maconochie Centre contains about 5000 items.Credit:Rohan Thomson

However, while ample free time and obvious motivation meant self-help books remained some of the most regularly borrowed books behind bars, true crime, horror and fantasy novels continued to rate.

An anecdotal list of the top ten page turners revealed young adult high fantasy novels by American author Sara J. Maas were some of the most popular books borrowed in 2017.

The Alexander Maconochie Centre library caters for more than 400 detainees.

The Alexander Maconochie Centre library caters for more than 400 detainees. Credit:Jay Cronan

Advertisement

They included Tower of Dawn from the Throne of Glass series, which follows the journey of a teenage assassin who uncovers a conspiracy during her adventures in a corrupted kingdom with a tyrannical ruler.

Prisoners also got hooked on the author's romantic fantasy trilogy A Court of Thorns and Roses, about a woman dragged to a magical kingdom for killing a mythical being.

The series' third book, Court of Wings and Ruin, was one of the year's most popular reads.

British author Lee Child's Jack Reacher thriller series, which followed an ex-army officer investigating crimes in the United States, was a favourite again this year with the series' 25th book Night School.

No book is banned, but some true crime and martial arts books are vetted.

No book is banned, but some true crime and martial arts books are vetted. Credit:Jay Cronan

Inmates also often requested The Core by Peter V. Brett, part of the imaginative fantasy saga Demon Cycle.

Among the top ten was the biography How Long Will They Mourn Me? The Life and Legacy of Tupac Shakur about the American poet, rapper and actor who died in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in the 1990s.

Popular novels were Neil Gaiman's American Gods, a blend of Americana, fantasy, and mythology, and Rusty Young's Colombiano, which tracks a young man's descent into war and violence to avenge his father's murder.

Inmates also often pulled copies of the English dictionary from the library's cells.

Fantasy novels that made up The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist and Australian writer Robert G. Barrett's stories about likeable larrakin Les Norton, were also hits.

The secretive affairs of counter-terrorism operative Mitch Rapp, detailed in Vince Flynn's fictitious series, and Melbourne journalist John Silvester's true crime Underbelly series, returned to the most-read list.

Bookworms commonly borrowed Charlaine Harris' vampire-filled Sookie Stackhouse series, which inspired the True Blood television show, and the young adult Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare.

Other in-demand authors included fantasy writers Robert Jordan and Brent Weeks, and Norwegian crime novelist Jo Nesbo.

The shelves behind the walls of the Hume jail are packed with fiction including thrillers, crime fiction, historical fiction, graphic novels, easy readers, horror, fantasy, science fiction and classics.

Bookworms can also pore over books on self-help, religion, law, social sciences, science, health, cars, cooking, art, business, sport, entertainment, poetry, drama, geography, biography, history and military history.

The librarian said crime fiction, true crime, prison memoirs and horror were some of the most popular genres, while inmates preferring an escape from reality opted for fantasy, art, biographies, thrillers, history and poetry.

However, it's unlikely inmates will get hooked on popular true crime podcasts like Serial or S-Town - detainees don't have access to podcasts.

While no book had been strictly banned for prisoners in the jail, a Corrections ACT spokeswoman previously said books on true crime and martial arts had to be vetted.

Revelations of popular library items in recent years have revealed the literary predilections of ACT inmates keen for a legal form of escape, and offered insight into changing tastes and trends.

The books of Raymond E. Feist, George R. R. Martin and Lee Child were among favoured literary choices for Canberra's jail inmates in 2014, when prison memoirs had also been in high demand.

In 2015, men and women couldn't wait to get their hands on biographies and autobiographies, particularly of sports legends such as boxer Muhammed Ali, and stories of Australian history such as Gallipoli Diaries, about the Anzacs, by Jonathan King.

Last year, detainees at the jail enjoyed for the first time that most Canberran of past-times - the book club.

Prisoners who joined the club chewed the fat over Bryce Courtenay's bestseller The Power of One and spoken word poem To This Day, penned by Canadian writer Shane Koyczan.

Megan Gorrey is a reporter at the Sydney Morning Herald. She was previously a reporter at The Canberra Times.