Need a break from the news? Escape with any of the books listed on the Ottawa Public Library’s most read books of 2021

The darkest time of the year is the perfect time to light up your life with a great book — especially during these days of disappointing news. If you are curious about what book lovers in Ottawa read this year, you’ve come to the right place! Ottawa Public Library (OPL) gathered lists of the most popular books between January 1 and December 1, 2021, based on the number of hold requests.

Adult (English)

  1. State of Terror by Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny
  2. The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny
  3. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
  4. Fight Night by Miriam Toews
  5. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
  6. The Push by Ashley Audrain
  7. Five Little Indians by Michelle Good
  8. Indian in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power by Jody Wilson-Raybould
  9. What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad
  10. A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson

Notes below each list are courtesy of librarians in OPL’s Content Services department:

Louise Penny, the extraordinarily popular Quebec crime writer’s foray into state crimes with Clinton has garnered a huge following, on the tail of her success with The Madness of Crowds.

Kate Quinn and Laura Dave are the only two American authors on our list.

Miriam Toew’s Fight Night has her trademark humour and pathos along with unique characters and relationships, and The Push by Ashley Audrain is a gripping psychological drama. Both of these Canadian writers offer refreshing views on motherhood.

Five Little Indians, published in 2020, is still going strong as residential schools stay in the news for the saddest of reasons, followed by Indian in the Cabinet – Wilson-Raybould’s view on federal politics today (our only non-fiction title).

Giller Prize winner What Strange Paradise speaks of the plight of refugees, another reflection of current events.

A Town Called Solace is the return of Mary Lawson’s Northern Ontario world with another captivating family drama.

Adult (French)

  1. Un café avec Marie by Serge Bouchard
  2. Tiohtiàke by Michel Jean
  3. Le sablier : otage au Sahara pendant 450 jours by Édith Blais
  4. La plus secrète mémoire des hommes by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr
  5. Em by Kim Thúy
  6. Le promeneur de chèvres by Francine Ruel
  7. Les villages de Dieu by Emmelie Prophète
  8. Fast food santé by Geneviève O’Gleman
  9. La pharmacie Lamoureux by Louise Tremblay d’Essiambre
  10. Leonard Cohen : sur un fil by Philippe Girard

The list of most requested French books for 2021 includes six books written by women, and the list includes mostly Canadian authors and/or subjects.

Sadly deceased this year but still a popular author, Serge Bouchard’s novel Un café avec Marie is number one on the list. Bouchard was a great storyteller who left many books to discover.

Michel Jean’s Tiohtiàke is also one of the most requested titles this year, and so is his 2019 book, Kukum.

Édith Blais’ non-fiction title, as well as Philippe Girard’s comic book were very popular in the media this year.

There are also have a few award winners on the list, such as Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, the winner of the Goncourt 2021 prize, and Emmelie Prophète, a Haitian writer who won the Prix du rayonnement de la langue et de la littérature françaises from the Académie française.

Also on the list, La pharmacie Lamoureux, is the third book of the series Place des Érables by Louise Tremblay d’Essiambre, one of the most popular authors of historical fiction in Quebec and Canada.

Teens (English)

  1. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  2. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
  3. Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
  4. Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
  5. Hunting by Stars by Cherie Dimaline
  6. Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean
  7. The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Barnes
  8. The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
  9. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
  10. Lore by Alexandra Bracken

The top teen titles sorted showed a preponderance of old titles, reflecting the strong impact that Netflix and Booktok (a book-focused subcommunity on the app TikTok) are having on what teens are reading. Older titles were eliminated with the purpose of focusing on 2021 titles.

Leigh Bardugo, the author of the number one title on this list, had several titles from a couple of different series in the top 20 titles.

Chinese-Canadian author Xiran Jay Zhao wrote Iron Widow, a science-fantasy novel.

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley is a YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community.

Concrete Rose is a prequel to Angie Thomas’s first novel The Hate U Give, which was adapted into a film. The Gilded Ones touches on topics such as racism, xenophobia, misogyny, inequality, abuse, and trauma in a positive and fantastical way, and will soon be adapted into a movie too.

Hunting by Stars is a sequel to the bestselling, award-winning novel The Marrow Thieves, about a dystopian world where the Indigenous people of North America are being hunted for their bone marrow and ability to dream.

Reminiscent of The Princess Diaries, the book Tokyo Ever After follows main character, Izumi, as she discovers her own identity and searches for her father—who turns out to be the crown prince of Japan.

Teens and Children (French)

  1. Journal d’un dégonflé – Tome 12: Sauve qui peut ! by Jeff Kinney
  2. Le secret des dragons by Dominique Demers
  3. Mystères à l’école by Various authors
  4. Les méchants : No 12 – L’être élu?! by Aaron Blabey
  5. J’avais tout prévu sauf les bélugas by Andrée Poulin
  6. Bas aux genoux et coton ouaté by Catherine Bourgault
  7. Lucie la mouffette qui pête et les achigans tannants by Shallow and Vannara
  8. Fifi a mangé le facteur by Marilou Addison
  9. Médaille d’or pour Geronimo by Geronimo Stilton
  10. Nish : Le nord et le sud by Isabelle Picard

The most popular and requested French youth titles dip into OPL’s older collection, as well as some titles published in 2021.

The three novels: Mystères à l’école, J’avais tout prévu sauf les belugas, as well as Bas aux genoux et coton ouaté were popular among teens.

Mystères à l’école, written by 15 Canadian authors, contains 15 stories of mystery and misdemeanour, sure to please thriller fans. The book is also on the recommended reading list of some school curriculums.

J’avais tout prévu sauf les belugas, a story rich in reflection and in emotion, is written by Orléans-Ottawa native and well-known author Andrée Poulin.

Written by Catherine Bourgault author of several successful series, her novel, Bas aux genoux et coton ouaté explores with humor and finesse the themes of friendship, love and differences through the daily lives of two young women.

For readers between the ages of 10 to 12, Nish is a new series by Isabelle Picard based on indigenous culture and folklore. Isabelle Picard is an ethnologist from Wendake, a reserve in Quebec, and an indigenous affairs specialist for Radio-Canada.

Journal d’un dégonflé – Tome 12: Sauve qui peut !, by Jeff Kinney, and Les méchants : No 12 – L’être élu?!, by Aaron Blabey, are both popular series for young readers.

Fifi a mangé le facteur, by Marliou Addison, is a large print book, which is popular for children. Marilou Addison is a prolific writer of both children and teen fiction.

Even after two decades, the adventurous mouse and journalist, Geronimo Stilton, remains a beloved character for kids. Released this year, Médaille d’or pour Geronimo’s book cover claims it was written by the character Geronimo Stilton (a pseudonym), it is in fact written by Elisabetta Dami.

Children (English)

  1. Big Shot by Jeff Kinney
  2. Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling
  3. Howl of the Wind Dragon by Tracey West
  4. Keepers of the Empire by Geronimo Stilton
  5. Bo and the Merbaby by Rebecca Elliott
  6. Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan
  7. Dangerous Gift by Tui Sutherland
  8. Like Father, Like Son by James Patterson
  9. Spy School at Sea by Stuart Gibbs
  10. Truly Tyler by Terri Libenson

This year, eight out of 10 titles are part of ongoing series, which speaks to the popularity of series for kids! Six of these titles are of the fantasy genre; two fall under contemporary fiction; and two are categorized as mystery adventure books.

Meant for older readers, the books Big Shot, Keepers of the Empire, and Truly Tyler are highly illustrated giving the feel of graphic novels.

Howl of the Wind Dragonas well as Bo and the Merbaby are both part of popular series for younger readers who enjoy a lot of illustrations. Surely the power of illustration enhances understanding and enjoyment of the text.

The above lists provide some great gift ideas too! Books are easy gifts to wrap and send – especially eBooks or Audiobooks. In whatever form, a book can appeal to hearts and minds, and even provide a welcome break as another year comes to a close.

The Library hopes these titles will inspire you to share and experience the joy of reading.


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