Librarians name jails’ most in-demand books

Librarians have named the most in-demand reads behind bars over the past 12 months. Picture: TSPL
Librarians have named the most in-demand reads behind bars over the past 12 months. Picture: TSPL
Have your say

HITLER’S memoirs, gruesome novels on serial killers and the Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy were among the books ­borrowed by Scotland’s prison inmates this year, officials have revealed.

In an intriguing insight into the reading habits of the men who are involuntary guests of Her Majesty, librarians have named the most in-demand reads behind bars over the past 12 months.

Topping the lists were best-selling author Lee Child, creator of the Jack Reacher series, American thriller writer James Patterson, and George RR Martin, the man behind fantasy series Game Of Thrones.

But biographies, dictionaries and literary classics – including The Count Of Monte 
Cristo – were also high in the popularity stakes among the 8,000-strong prison population.

The details have been ­released under Freedom of Information laws, also revealing for the first time the full list of books available to inmates in Scotland.

Librarians at HMP Barlinnie, Scotland’s largest prison, said crime writers Martina Cole and Jeffrey Deaver were the most popular authors in the cells, with The Forgotten Highlander by Alistair ­Urquhart – the true story of a Gordon Highlander captured by the Japanese in Singapore – the single most wanted book.

The Glasgow jail offers a vast selection of real-life crime books to borrow, including 
the likes of Spree Killers: Devastating Massacres, Edinburgh Murders And Misdemeanours, Murder Is My Business and Execution: A Guide To The ­Ultimate Penalty.

American romantic ­suspense novelist Karen Rose’s 2007 book Die For Me, about an ­archaeologist who falls for a serial killer, was one of this year’s most popular reads at Glenochil.

The Clackmannanshire jail’s library is well stocked with ­biographies – including those of John Major, Katharine ­Hepburn and Sarah, Duchess of York – and books by literary greats such as Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott.

Prisoners can also borrow one of four Mills & Boon tales, or three books on aromatherapy, including Awaken Your Senses, Change Your Life.

At Low Moss Prison, inmates were keen to read the novel Hector And The Secrets Of Love, described as a “fable filled with thoughtful insights into the very human desire to find and keep love”. Hitler’s Mein Kampf was also available to borrow at the Bishopbriggs jail, as were autobiographies by West Lothian singing star Susan Boyle and TV personality Dale Winton, while the prison was the only one in Scotland to stock the Fifty Shades Of Grey series.

Inmates serving time in Greenock have the chance to delve into a host of novels by Barbara Taylor Bradford, ­Jackie Collins and Virginia ­Andrews, and Peterhead ­Prison’s 2,489 books contained poetry by the likes of Robert Burns and Thomas Hardy.

Irvine Welsh was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular author in HMP Edinburgh, while dictionaries and the Driving Theory Test For Cars were the most popular of the 5,602 titles in Perth.

Author Ron Halliday, whose paranormal and crime books – such as Scotland’s Killers: From Manuel To Mitchell – were among those popular in Perth, said he often interacted with his fans in jail.

He said: “I have had loads of letters from inmates over the years, and I enjoy getting them and hearing about their lives.

“Some tell me about their own paranormal or UFO ­experiences.

“I’d say they are attracted more to the crime books though, because it comes as a natural topic of interest to them. Perhaps it’s also because there is a sense of escapism from their day-to-day lives.”

Officials at the Scottish Prison Service said their libraries are “as varied as the contents of libraries in the wider community, reflecting a wide range of interests among those in our custody”.

A spokeswoman added: “The Scottish Prison Service actively encourages those in our custody to engage in activities that boost their reading skills, as a vast number of ­offenders struggle with low literacy levels, and welcome any interest shown by prisoners in accessing library services.”