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Bestselling fiction across Europe in 2015

It’s the time of year for lists and there are plenty of them telling us which were the best books of 2015. But what about the books that everyone was reading? Which novels were the most popular across Europe in 2015?

Browsing the lists of last year’s top ten bestsellers in several European countries, I’m struck both by the frequent recurrence of some titles and authors and by the huge variety of fiction that proved especially popular among European audiences.

British author E.L. James had bestsellers in the UK, France, Germany and Spain, missing out only in Italy. An astonishing nine of the fifty titles in the lists I looked at were novels from her ‘Grey’ series. The release of the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey last summer no doubt played its part in these remarkable sales.

Paula Hawkins, whose psychological thriller The Girl on the Train was the bestselling novel in the UK last year, also poached the number two spot in Spain with the Spanish translation.

With one exception, all of the lists feature at least three titles in translation. Most of these were written by British or American authors, including US novelist Harper Lee, whose 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird was a bestseller in Italy, and Ken Follett, Welsh writer of historical novels whose 2014 novel Edge of Eternity proved popular with Spanish readers. Australian, Swedish, Danish, Swiss and Austrian writers also featured across the lists with Australian author Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief reaching number two in Italy.

It is no surprise that the only country with no translated titles in the bestseller list is the UK, where the top ten fiction titles were all written by British or American authors. Yet variety is certainly not absent, from this or any of the lists. Thrillers, romances, crime novels, fantasy novels and historical drama all proved bestselling genres in the UK last year. There’s even a children’s book (David Walliams’ Awful Auntie) and a graphic novel (Joe Sugg’s Username: Evie) on the list.

It’s a pattern that echoes across every list. Germans were avidly reading a crime novel by Charlotte Link, an apocalyptic techno-thriller by Marc Elsberg and a romance novel by British author Jojo Moyes. Italian readers were obsessed with Elena Ferrante, who has four titles on the list. Yet millions were also buying a conspiracy thriller by Umberto Eco, an apocalyptic fairy tale by Niccolò Ammaniti and George Orwell’s 1984. The French list is perhaps the most diverse, ranging from The Little Prince to Jean Anouilh’s 1944 version of Antigone.

Popularity is no bad thing and can tell us a lot about the tastes of different readerships. In my view, these lists are cause for celebration. There is no shortage of good writing and the diversity of genre, form and target audience suggests that eager readers are in no short supply either.

Judith Vonberg

Judith Vonberg ist freiberufliche Journalistin und Doktorandin an der University of East Anglia. In ihrer Dissertation behandelt sie die Darstellung der Briten und Deutschen in der Populärkultur zwischen 1945 und 1965. 2011 beendete sie ihr Studium an der Oxford University mit Abschüssen in Englisch und Modernen Sprachen. Ihren Master absolvierte sie 2013 an Queen Mary, University of London. Als Journalistin schreibt sie über europäische Kultur, Migration und nationale Zugehörigkeit. Lesen Sie hier Judith Vonbergs Blog.

Judith Vonberg is a freelance journalist and PhD student at the University of East Anglia. Her thesis surveys the depictions of Britons and Germans in popular culture between 1945 and 1965. She graduated from Oxford University in 2011 with a degree in English and Modern Languages and received her MA from Queen Mary, University of London, in 2013. As a journalist, she writes on European culture, migration and national identity. You can read her blog here.

Judith Vonberg ist freiberufliche Journalistin und Doktorandin an der University of East Anglia. In ihrer Dissertation behandelt sie die Darstellung der Briten und Deutschen in der Populärkultur zwischen 1945 und 1965. 2011 beendete sie ihr Studium an der Oxford University mit Abschüssen in Englisch und Modernen Sprachen. Ihren Master absolvierte sie 2013 an Queen Mary, University of London. Als Journalistin schreibt sie über europäische Kultur, Migration und nationale Zugehörigkeit. Lesen Sie hier Judith Vonbergs Blog.

Judith Vonberg is a freelance journalist and PhD student at the University of East Anglia. Her thesis surveys the depictions of Britons and Germans in popular culture between 1945 and 1965. She graduated from Oxford University in 2011 with a degree in English and Modern Languages and received her MA from Queen Mary, University of London, in 2013. As a journalist, she writes on European culture, migration and national identity. You can read her blog here.

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