Scottish Librarians Reveal Most Borrowed Books... By Prisoners

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Prison Bars

'Tis the season for recognizing the best authors and books out there. Goodreads announced their picks, as did Amazon, as did the Nobel committee. Winning one of these awards is a pretty big deal, as it signifies a recognition most authors strive to achieve. Whether you agree with the selections or not, the authors who win these awards provided a product that their audience wanted, and won big time.

But Scottish librarians recently called out the most popularly-read works from a lesser-represented demographic. I guess the title gave it away, so yes, we're talking about prisoners.

It shouldn't raise any eyebrows that some of the most requested books were by authors popular in the non-criminal population. Lee Child, James Patterson, and George R.R. Martin to top out the list, as would be expected. Prisoners aren't exempt from getting caught up in the works of celebrity authors.

Perhaps also unsurprisingly, a lot of crime books seemed to be requested by inmates.

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.

Yes, even Hitler's Mein Kampf is available at some of the libraries, because of course it is.

Mixed in are the literary classics, biographies, and... what? Fifty Shades of Grey is available to inmates? Why?

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.”

...okay. Well, if nothing else, I have an excuse to make the most hilariously-linked Amazon list at the bottom of this article.

Prison libraries face their own special challenges in providing reading material to inmates. Some of the works on this list gave me a knee-jerk reaction, such as the idea of Hitler's manifesto being passed around a prison, but I have a hard time formulating an argument against it that doesn't counter a lot of the beliefs I have about free speech in the non-prison community. What do you think?

Image of Mein Kampf
Author: Adolf Hitler
Price: $18.98
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company (1998)
Binding: Paperback, 694 pages
Image of Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy (Fifty Shades of Grey Series)
Author: E L James
Price: $8.39
Publisher: Vintage Books (2012)
Binding: Paperback, 514 pages
Image of Die for Me
Author: Karen Rose
Price: $8.99
Publisher: Vision (2007)
Binding: Mass Market Paperback, 584 pages
Nathan Scalia

News by Nathan Scalia

Nathan Scalia earned a BA degree in psychology and considered medical school long enough to realize that he missed reading real books. He then went on to earn a Master's in Library Science and is currently working in a school library. He has written several new articles and columns for LitReactor, served for a time as the site's Community Manager, and can be found in the Writer's Workshop with some frequency.

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Comments

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff December 10, 2013 - 5:01am

Very interesting. I'm always researching prison stuff.

I don't think anybody can become violent after reading anything, like, out of nothing. Plus, if someone is in prison, chances are the reasons why this person had to resolve to crime are preexistent to what he or she will eventually end up reading while doing time. And that, provided you believe all inmates are guilty the same.

It's like Ted Bundy saying porn made him do it -- and he shitted a lot of people with that statement -- but the truth is Ted Bundy's neurological structure and socialization made him do it. Not just some weird stuff he happened to look at.

The reasons for censorhip are often arbitrary and biased. I can understand the concern about hardcover books though, but there's a very practical motivation involved in that case.

 

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated December 10, 2013 - 8:56am

Aren't a lot of these guys not white?

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things December 10, 2013 - 12:53pm
Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated December 10, 2013 - 4:49pm

Yeah I do, I was thinking more in terms of percentages than absolute numbers. The article also mentions Scottland's ratio.

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/oct/11/black-prison-population-increase-england

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things December 10, 2013 - 4:54pm

I'm not sure of the point you're making, I suppose. Care to elaborate?

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated December 10, 2013 - 6:30pm

That if the imbalance of non whites to whites was strong enough you'd have a group who reading Mein Kampf would be incredibly unlikely to form or join Neo Nazi groups or other white power groups, which I thought was the most obvious (serious) downside to something like this. I was thinking in terms of the relative population (non whites in general compared with non whites in prison) to get this idea.  If the numbers you linked to are correct, that wouldn't be the case.