A while back, people in the UK were surveyed to discover which books they failed to finish. I have listed the fiction results here though, for the record, ‘My Life’ by Bill Clinton came in second on the non-fiction list.
Top ten books people cannot finish – fiction
1 Vernon God Little, D.B.C Pierre 35%
2 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling 32%
3 Ulysses, James Joyce 28%
4 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis De Bernieres 27%
5 Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell 24%
6 The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie 21%
7 The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho 19%
8 War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy 18%
9 The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy 16%
10 Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky 15%
Of the reasons given for failing to finish a book, none related to the book itself, but I don’t know what the questions were. Maybe there was no opportunity to address this question.
Top reasons for not finding time to read:
Too tired 48%
Watch TV instead 46%
Play computer games 26%
Work late 21%
Do any titles on this list surprise you? Some surprise me. I’m amazed Ulysses is listed and Finnegan’s Wake isn’t. Maybe the reason people didn’t fail to finish Finnegan’s wake is that they were smart enough not to start it in the first place. War and Peace makes its expected appearance but Proust doesn’t figure at all. Since I don’t read books for peedie folk I can’t account for Harry Potter. I’m also surprised to find The God of Small Things on the list. It seemed an excellent novel to me.
Here’s a question. If you wanted to add a title to the fiction list, what would it be and why?
My answer is ‘Underworld’, by Don DeLillo. I started this book several times, failed to finish it each time, and gave it to a charity book-shop – which might not be deemed a charitable act. The first, lengthy section centered on a baseball which was hit into the crowd as a result of the winning strike. Who had it? Where did it go? A character in the book then makes it his life’s work to track this ball down. Interesting or what! I realise that the search for the ball is a mechanism by which a range of environments and issues can be explored. Nonetheless I find it tedious, yet apparently I’m in a minority of one. How do I know this? Because the marketing department went into overdrive for this title, and had everyone from the Pope to the Dalai Lama is quoted in the book extolling its virtues. And ‘everyone’ includes quite a few authors. I can think of two reasons why this might be the case, one of them being their genuine high regard for the book.