Toronto is Reading...

From 1941 to 1957, the Toronto Public Library released a monthly list of the twelve most requested fiction and non-fiction titles for the previous month, ranked with the most requested title first. These lists were then printed in various Toronto newspapers. In the Toronto Star the lists were published under the headline "Toronto is Reading..."

In July 1955, R. D. Hilton Smith, Head of the Toronto Public Library, explained the importance of this data: "You will be familiar with the weekly lists of best-sellers that appear in various American journals. Probably the nearest equivalent in Canada is the monthly list of books in most demand in the Toronto libraries, which Mr Deacon and other literary editors publish in their columns. . . . But there is a significant difference between the American and Canadian lists, in that every month the latter usually contains four to six Canadian books amongst the two dozen listed—twelve novels and twelve non-fiction" (123).

Hilton does, however, have a caution about the lists, noting that: "It does not follow, of course, that because a book failed to appear on the list [the Toronto Public Library] did not buy heavily to meet a steady demand for it. For example, the demand for Ethel Wilson's Swamp Angel was such that we bought eighty-one copies, which exceeds [the amount purchased for] several that are on the list [from July 1954-1955]" (124).

Agreeing with Smith's assessment of its value, I have compiled these lists to allow for easier access to this data. So far, I have only compiled the lists for fiction titles, but at some point in the future I will compile the non-fiction titles as well.

Please note that there are a few months for which is there is currently no data. I will be looking through other sources in an attempt to fill in these gaps. As well, some months have less than twelve titles listed. It is unclear whether the list of titles provided by the library was shorter in these months, or whether the newspaper ran out of space to print the full list. I suspect it is the latter, and I will be attempting to find other sources to verify this.

This website was created by Christopher Doody, 2017.

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Sources:

Smith, Hilton. "Libraries." Writing in Canada: Proceedings of the Canadian Writers' Conference, Queen's University, 28-31 July, 1955. Ed. George Whalley. Toronto: Macmillan, 1956. 115-127. Print.