Booklists | February 13, 2018

The Top Books Read in 2017


Reading on a mobile phone

When we look back at what titles our mobile readers were enjoying in 2017, we see that once again romance outpaced all other genres across our markets—just like it did in 2015 and 2016. But we’re also seeing something new.


These 5 books were among the top 30 titles read across all our geographies:

top books read by worldreader readers

Local Content

In previous years this list would be sprinkled with international titles, like the recognizable Harlequin brand. This year, the top titles are from Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana. What does this suggest? Have international titles fallen out of favor? Not entirely, but we do know that readers are drawn to content that reflects the world they live in. It’s no longer just about love, it’s about local love.

We aren’t just seeing this trend among our own readers. In Nigeria, our fastest growing market, readers are choosing local. Patabah is a popular bookstore in Lagos, Nigeria. This year they released their bestsellers in fiction. The top five titles were all from Nigerian authors.   

worldreader library


There is a discernible demand for local content among readers in our markets. But what is it about romance titles that get our audience to start reading and keep reading unlike any other genre?

Over and over we see that romance is the common theme among our top books. It’s the most engaging: Our books with reader ratio rates of over 90%* are almost exclusively romance novels.   Love and sex were our top two search terms for the year with a combined number of 82,892 searches. And the most clicked category for our app in 2017 was—you guessed it—Love.

Worldreader mobile app

Here’s one reason this could be happening. Romance novels are the stories of relationships. Marriage, consent, commitment, lust – all topics that can be challenging to engage in day to day conversation. Romance stories provide readers something textbooks can’t—accessible, relatable stories that offer refuge, engage empathy and aim to entertain. Stories can be a powerful change agent and romance stories are no exception. “If we want men and women equally empowered to form real connections, to talk, honestly and openly about who they are and what they want, there are worse places to start than curling up with a good book,” says Jennifer Weiner in her article, We Need Bodice-Ripper Sex Ed.

Local Love

When two trends become one.

The demand for romance crosses divides—urban, rural, conservative, and progressive. In Kano, a predominantly muslim region in Northern Nigeria, romance novels are coveted among women and girls. A Daren Farko is a bestselling romance novel in Hausa, the local language in Kano. Translated as “My First Night,” this book chronicles the first night of marriage between husband and wife, a momentous event many young women can relate to in this part of the world. Learn more here on the desire for romance stories in Northern Nigeria.


South of Kano in bustling Lagos, publishers are challenging social mores around romance. The Nigerian publisher Cassava Republic launched an imprint, Ankara Press, which focuses on the new wave of romance by publishing books “that reflect the realities of African women’s lives in ways that challenge boundaries and go beyond conventional expectations.”

Romance stories are captivating. Local content is relatable. When we combine the two we unearth great potential to engage more readers, deepen understanding of intimacy, challenge assumptions and are reminded that sometimes our greatest teacher lies in the pages of a really good book.

As we look forward to further growing our library in 2018, data like this will continue to inform our content acquisition, helping us to engage more readers so that we can keep building a culture of reading.


Here’s the full list of top books read in 2017:

Top books in our school and library projects in sub-Saharan Africa

Title Author Publisher
The Girl With the Magic Hands Nnedi Okorafor Published by the author
Disability is Not Inability Wairimu Mwangi The Jomo Kenyatta Foundation
Who Is Barack Obama? (Who Was…?) Roberta Edwards              Penguin (Penguin Random House)
Grandmother’s Winning Smile Stanley Gazemba  Imbada Publishers
Margaret and the Moth Tree Brit Trogen Kids Can Press


Top books among teens and adults reading on the Worldreader app

Title Author Publisher
Broken Promises    Ros Haden Cover2Cover
Forever My Love    Heather Graham Open Road Integrated Media
Sugar Daddy      Ros Haden  Cover2Cover
Le Roman de la momie        Théophile Gautier    Feedbooks
First Love… Thinking of Him         A.V. Frost Beaten Track Publishing


*Reader ratio rates are the rate of readers who click on a book and read past page three