Just when I thought the British Isles could serve up no deeper, more bitter cup of ignominy and disgrace, I have to reveal – to my undying shame – that the UK’s most borrowed author from public libraries, for the eighth year running, is James Patterson. That’s according to the latest data from the UK Public Lending Right scheme at least. Administered by the British Library, the PLR “gives authors the legal right to receive payment from government each time their books are loaned through the public library system” – a payment currently running at 6.66 pence (10 cents) per book.

Only, are we really talking James Patterson here? Because, as anyone knows – except maybe a few gullible UK book-borrowers – James Patterson Inc. employs admittedly well-credited ghostwriters by the yard to churn text under the Patterson monicker. So in fact, people have been borrowing not James Patterson, but James-Patterson-plus-Michael-White (for Private Down Under, the year’s fifth most borrowed book), or James-Patterson-plus-David-Ellis (for Mistress, the ninth most borrowed). And I hope those co-authors are getting their share of the PLR moolah …

Happier to report, former Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson is the third most borrowed author, and Francesca Simon, author of the “Horrid Henry” series, the fourth most borrowed. That at least suggests that children’s books, and junior literacy, are getting a fair slice of the library action. It also rather undermines the UK government’s current library policy. “When I was the Children’s Laureate and went on a six-week library tour I was impressed with how libraries continue to inspire today’s children,” says Donaldson. And the numbers clearly bear her out.




  1. Calm down. If this were the UK’s leading “disgrace,” the country would be heaven on earth.

    James Patterson is a brand-enforcer. People read his books for a certain style and story line. The fact that he wants to be listed as one of the authors may be a silly affectation, but it’s not a disgrace. And while playing that game may contrive to give him a greater appearance of success than he has earned by his actual writing, I wouldn’t get hot and bothered by it.

    You might as well argue that Daisy Meadows (#2) and Julia Donaldson (#3) haven’t earned their ranking either because, as children’s book authors their tales are (we might assume) easier to write and quicker to read. To illustrate that, recall the times you stood in a library checkout line and saw the mother of small child checking out a couple of dozen books. I doubt any Patterson fan checks out that many at one time.

    Writing is often a shared activity. My latest (Lily’s Ride) is actually one I co-authored. I just helped a friend with a book she’s working on. I just finished a biography of Churchill and many of the drafts of his books were written by a team of researchers. He came along later, selected what to include, and added marvelously to the styles and insights.

    I’m not a Catholic, but I agree with Catholicism that envy belongs among the seven deadly sins. Envy is quite destructive. Leave it alone. Let Patterson top the lists and earn millions. I’m happy with what I’m doing.

    –Michael W. Perry

  2. Given that James Patterson Inc. has published hundreds of books (seems likely that the most published “author” would also be the most read author) and his books are regularly at the top of best seller lists, this is hardly surprising. At least people are reading books.

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