Annual Figures Reveal the Most Borrowed Books and Authors From UK Public Libraries

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Beloved children’s authors including Julia Donaldson, David Walliams, Francesca Simon and Roald Dahl feature strongly in the latest figures revealing book and audio book loans from UK public libraries, compiled and published by Public Lending Right (PLR).

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Seven of the top ten authors on the national list write for children – highlighting the crucial role public libraries play in supporting early years reading and literacy. Thriller writers are also perennial favourites, with US writer James Patterson topping the chart of most borrowed authors for the twelfth year running, and thrillers featuring heavily in the top ten most borrowed titles.

Top 10 most borrowed authors 1 July 2017 – 30 June 2018 

(2016-17 ranking in brackets)


James Patterson  (1)



Daisy Meadows  (3)



Julia Donaldson  (2)



Francesca Simon  (6)



Adam Blade (8)



Roald Dahl  (4)



MC Beaton  (7)



David Walliams



Roderick Hunt  (5)



Lee Child


Top 10 most borrowed titles 1 July 2017 – 30 June 2018

  1. Night School (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child

  2. The Whistler by John Grisham

  3. The Wrong side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

  4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney

  5. The Late show by Michael Connelly

  6. Camino Island by John Grisham

  7. Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin

  8. The Fix by David Baldacci

  9. The Thirst: Harry Hole 11 by Jo Nesbo

  10. The Midnight Line (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child

The figures also reveal some regional trends. In London, books by Margaret Atwood, Naomi Alderman and Zadie Smith feature among the Top 20 most borrowed, while in Scotland, Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series remains a popular choice for library borrowers, as well as autobiographies from homegrown talent such as Judy Murray and Sir Alex Ferguson.

Photo by Gregory Culmer on Unsplash
Photo by Gregory Culmer on Unsplash

PLR was established by Act of Parliament in 1979 and is run by the British Library from its site at Boston Spa, West Yorkshire. The scheme gives authors the legal right to receive payment from government each time their books are loaned through the public library system. In February 2019, PLR distributed £6 million to 22,314 authors at a Rate Per Loan of 8.52p. Last year, the government announced the extension of the PLR fund to include loans for e-books and audio-books, meaning that authors are now eligible for payment in the same way if their books are borrowed electronically as well as physically. E-book figures will be included in the next batch of figures released for 2018-19.

In order to receive payments authors must register for PLR.  Writers, illustrators, photographers, editors, translators, narrators, producers, abridgers can apply via the UK PLR office:

Tom Holland, Chair of the PLR advisory committee, said:

“For four decades now, PLR has been acknowledging the role played in the cultural life of the nation by writers, illustrators and translators, and recognising the vital role they play in keeping our public libraries supplied with a truly astounding breadth of reading material. I would like to take the opportunity of this 40th anniversary to pay a particular tribute to the campaigning authors who, for many years, tirelessly argued the case for PLR. Their vision and determination has helped to foster entire generations of creative talents. Over the past forty years, more than £150 million has been distributed to authors – a remarkable amount. At a time when writing remains as challenging a way to make a living as it ever has been, the support of PLR – and especially of the staff who run it – is something for which we all extremely grateful indeed.”

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