In the absence of the weekly Nielsen bestseller books chart, Steve Braunias describes the top 10 classics that were most requested in the past seven days as e-books from Auckland Council Libraries.

1 The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie! Amazing. Her 1916 novel was requested twice as many times the past week as the next most-requested classic. Her legend began here: it was her first Poirot mystery, and laid down the pattern for all her brilliant puzzles that followed. Mrs Inglethorp is found poisoned. Poirot is called in to figure out whodunnit.

2 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“I plod away,” Alcott wrote in her diary, about composing her book at her publisher’s request, “although I don’t enjoy this sort of thing.” It’s remained in print since it was published in 1868.

3 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

There were two great loves in the life of the great detective: Watson, and Irene Adler, who makes her first appearance in “A Scandal in Bohemia”, included in Doyle’s classic collection of short stories published in 1892.

4 Middlemarch by George Elliot

Robert McCrum, ranking Elliot’s 1871 book the 21st best novel of all time, wrote in the Guardian: “Middlemarch is one of those books that can exert an almost hypnotic power over its readers.” Virginia Woolf described it as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people”.

5 Emma by Jane Austen

Reviewing the film of the book, Linda Burgess wrote recently in ReadingRoom, “Austen is that genius who even now is so extraordinarily modern. She  knows a bitch when she sees one.”

6 The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

Lockdown literature from 1844.

7 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

8 Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

“Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy. I’ve come home! I’m so cold; let me in through your window.”

9 A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe

I reviewed Defoe’s 1772 masterpiece at Reading Room at the onset of coronavirus, and headlined it, “The first pandemic book.” The Great Plague of London was even more devastating than our Great Plague, but with very close parallels to 2020. Defoe writes, “The necessity of going out of our homes to buy provisions was in a great measure the ruin of the whole city, for the people catched the distemper [the plague] on these occasions, and even the provisions themselves were often tainted.”

10 A Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

“Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined the rings that they recognised who it was….”

Steve Braunias is the literary editor of Newsroom's books section ReadingRoom, a noted writer at the NZ Herald, and the author of 10 books.

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