Singapore loves romance and potboilers

Singapore loves romance and potboilers
One of the scenes from 'The Hunger Games', which is one of the Bestsellers.

SINGAPORE - This year, Singaporeans raced to buy steamy chick lit and dystopian teen tragedies, according to The Straits Times' bestseller lists.

It was also the first time in five years that books by Singapore authors made it to the weekly Top 10 chart, but hopefully, not the last.

For at least 15 years, The Straits Times has compiled a weekly list of the best-selling books in Singapore, collating sales figures supplied by major bookstores at the time. Currently, these are Books Kinokuniya, Popular, MPH and Times.

Books on the bestseller list thus indicate what Singaporeans are buying at physical bookstores, while online purchases unfortunately remain a mystery. This is because analytical groups such as Nielsen BookScan do not operate here and the newspaper's previous requests for hard data to online retailers such as Amazon have gone unanswered.

So what were Singaporeans reading this year? Romance and potboilers are perennial favourites and indeed, the biggest fiction bestsellers flying out of stores this year included the steamy Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy by E.L. James and the new Dan Brown thriller Inferno.

The bestseller lists of 2013 look oddly like those of the past five years. Apart from relative newcomer James, who rose to prominence only in the middle of last year and paved the way for other writers of adult romance such as Sylvia Day, certain fictionauts dominated, with novels that sell as much on the strength of the author's name as content.

Brown, of course, brought a smile to booksellers with Angels & Demons in 2009, The Lost Symbol a year later and Inferno this year. Feel-good guru Mitch Albom is back in first place as well, with The First Phone Call From Heaven, not to be confused with the big bestseller of 2009, The Five People You Meet In Heaven. Chick-lit queen Sophie Kinsella has not quite regained the stature of her well-known Shopaholic series but this year's offering, Wedding Night, has been firmly ensconced midway on the bestseller list for six months. Lauren Weisberger continues her gossipy tales of high life (Chasing Harry Winston, 2009 and Last Night At Chateau Marmont, 2010) with the obvious hit, Revenge Wears Prada, her sequel to the 2004 book that made her name, The Devil Wears Prada.

Other writers who will not be budged include the prolific James Patterson, who writes solo and with collaborators. He has a hit every year, starting with Alex Cross' Trial in 2009 to this year's Alex Cross, Run. It is the same for John Grisham, whose heartwarming baseball story of last year, Calico Joe, seems to have done almost as well as legal thrillers from The Associate (2009) to this year's Sycamore Row.

New movie adaptations of text also propel some denser, more literary titles to a few weeks on the list.

This year, these included 1920s romance The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Yann Martel's allegorical tale Life Of Pi and David Mitchell's complex story about reincarnation, Cloud Atlas.

Yet a few trends set this year apart when compared with reader favourites from 2009 onwards.

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