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Obamas dominate Greater Victoria Public Library's most-borrowed book list

Books with themes of hope, resilience and embracing life
Sarah Washbrook places books on the holds shelf at the central library branch on Broughton Street on Thursday. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Barack Obama continues to hold sway in the non-fiction section at the Greater Victoria Public Library, where his book A Promised Land leads the top-10 borrowing list.

Keeping it all on the family, Michelle Obama rounds out the list with her book Becoming.

Both were also on the list last year.

Other frequently borrowed titles include Where the ­Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens in adult fiction and Lincoln Pierce’s The Gerbil Ate My Homework in the kids section, according to the GVPL, which compiled the rankings from its 12 branches and virtual branch at

All formats are included: print, large print, ­digital and audiobooks.

GVPL chief executive ­Maureen Sawa said given the challenging events of the past year, it’s not surprising that books with themes of “hope, resilience and embracing life” topped the most-borrowed lists.

Rachel Rogers, the GVPL’s collections and technical services co-ordinator, said many of the listed titles were particularly popular in digital format, “a trend we see continue from the onset of the pandemic in 2020.”

Borrowers accessed more than 1.8 million digital items in 2021.

Graphic books remain popular among young readers in such areas as science fiction and fantasy, Rogers said.

“We also have the Netflix effect with the new series Shadow and Bone creating renewed demand for Leigh Bardugo’s popular Grishaverse novels.”

The system also saw a rise in interest in adult fiction and historical fiction, Rogers said. “Normally Victoria is big for mysteries and thrillers — that tends to be the super-popular stuff.”

With non-fiction, she said audiobooks have attracted a lot of people, especially memoirs. “People were really interested in not just reading the memoirs but also hearing them in the voices of the people themselves.”

That has meant a run on books like those written by the Obamas.

“I’ve anecdotally heard from people that they read the book and then listened to it, as well, because they wanted to hear the Obamas speaking in their own voices,” Rogers said.

After a period of closures in some branches due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the system is back in full operation, with all branches open since last fall, she said. “There’s a few spaces that are not open yet, but all of the branches and all of the collections are open.”

Rogers said the goal is to restore services gradually to make sure they’re safe and sustainable for both patrons and staff. “Doing it in a phased approach has given us a chance to make sure that we’re not doing something which we’d have to roll back.”