Tag Archives: Goodreads

Unwanted and abandoned books

What do people leave in hotel rooms? Travelodge publishes a list every year. In 2017 it included a winning Euro Millions lottery ticket, a bath full of jersey potatoes, a mother in law (no jokes please) and 84 pairs of builder boots. I’m guessing that the 84 pairs were not all in one room. And of course, people leave books.

In 2014 the books most left behind were Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James, Billionaire series by JS Scott and The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst. I have not read any of these, but I believe they have similar themes. Previously political memoirs topped the list.

Where do the abandoned books go?

Oxfam in Swansea received so many copies of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown that the manager built a tower and asked for saleable donations, especially vinyl. In 2014 they had built a fort out of Fifty Shades of Grey and again asked for vinyl instead.

Both these books have sold very well, in their millions, which of course means that there are more of them about to leave behind or to give to charity shops. The Da Vinci Code sold 8 million copies.

I still like the idea of BookCrossing. You register the book on the website and if the person who finds it reports its location you can track its journey. Sadly very few books I have set free to travel the world (161 to date) have been tracked in this way – a mere 21.

Garbage collectors in Ankara have recently opened to the public their library of 6000 abandoned books. Brilliant.

Which books are unwanted?

On a recent visit to my local Oxfam bookshop my donations were received enthusiastically and were priced and on the shelves before I had left the shop. The volunteer explained that they would be snapped up quickly as they were ‘quality books’. Well, of course I preened a little, but I was not sure of their criteria for quality books. Or indeed mine for giving them away.

When I moved house I considered my criteria for de-cluttering my shelves (see post on decluttering). And I give away books that I give up reading (see my post from 2014 Abandoning books). Very few of the books review on Bookword get passed on, mostly because I only review books I value enough to tell people about. I am always hoping that the books I pass on will find happier readers.

Goodreads listed the top 5 most abandoned books in January 2018 (from a straw poll – so what follows is not to be considered as reliable research):

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Atonement by Ian McEwan

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

All these books have big reputations, so perhaps the abandoners were not their natural readers.

And the 5 most abandoned classics – same source in 2013

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (?really???)

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Ulysses by James Joyce

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Over to you

What books have you abandoned? Or found? What do you do with unwanted books?

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Abandoning books

People have rules about this kind of thing: I always finish the book; or I only read books by women; or I can’t be bothered with books that are more than 100 pages; or I only read when there’s an R in the month. One friend says, ‘If I start a book I always finish it.’

Books byAurelia Lange.

Books byAurelia Lange.

Seriously – why finish every book? Why make a rule of it? Why do readers think they need to, unless they think they should carry on? It’s an irrational position, an act of faith.

Finding the hidden treasure

Part of me understands that every book might have some hidden treasure. And I can see that if I stop reading, I’ll never find it. I like to be sure of the treasure in the book from fairly early on. If I don’t see it then the book gets tossed aside. In truth, that means it is left in the pile of books on bedside table, slowly sinking to the bottom, and moved on to the Oxfam books pile when I decide to tidy up. Or returned to the TBR shelf to sit awhile. This is what has happened to The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I’m not yet sure whether I have abandoned it or not.

130 TBRSome people I know borrow library books so that it they want to stop reading them they haven’t wasted money buying them. Kindlers can use the first few pages sampler.

Letting it go

Abandoning a book is a pretty serious action, an indictment, a judgement. So I don’t do it lightly. I decide when I don’t believe the book will get any better. Usually it happens when I fail to feel any interest in the characters. It’s rare, but it happens. If the characters are boring, or lacklustre or facing dilemmas that just don’t seem very important, well I can’t see any point in continuing. There are better things to do and better books to read.

130 D&sonI’m not going to identify the books, because I have no reason for drawing attention to them and my evaluation of them may not be yours. Except I will mention Dombey and Sons, by Charles Dickens, which just seemed to go on and on – but I may get back to it one day!

Not letting it go

Some books contain pretty nasty characters, in whose company you are really not very comfortable. I think of the main character in Money by Martin Amis. He is gross. But that is really the point. Or take Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. The book is full of very selfish characters who behave very badly towards each other. And it doesn’t even end happily. Of course, just because the characters are not sympathetic, it doesn’t mean the book is not worth reading.

Going back

Recently I posted about hard-to-read books. Some of those were originally abandoned, but then I managed to get back to them. For example, I found it very hard indeed to read the novella Chasing the King of Hearts, by Hanna Krall. It was one of my five World Book recommendations this year. I am really glad I did return to it. You should read it if you haven’t yet.

Throwing them out

Perhaps it’s the same people who never give up on reading a book who keep every book they ever bought. I wouldn’t have space in my cottage for my cat and my piano if I had done that. The unfinished, the duplicates, the unwanted gifts, the read-but-happy-to-give-away, the unreturned loans, the out of date non-fiction, the painful reminders – all these can go. Other readers can take them in. Perhaps they will make different judgements.

I like this take on the issue from the Guardian Review in May 2014 by Tom Gauld.

My Library by Tom Gauld

My Library by Tom Gauld

What other people do

Goodreads listed the top 5 most abandoned books in July last year (from a straw poll – ie what follows is not to be considered as proper research):

  • Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  • Wicked by Gregory Maguire

I notice that these books all had big reputations, so perhaps the abandoners were not their natural readers. And some people perhaps were put off by authors who use two initials in place of a first name.

And the 5 most abandoned classics – same source

  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (?really???)
  • Lord of the Rings by JR Tolkein (there you go again!)
  • Ulysses by James Joyce
  • Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Goodreads suggested that 38.1% of readers will continue reading to the end. The writer Peter Wild when he reported on the Goodreads statistics, wrote that these people think that abandoning a book is a kind of heresy. Others quit after a chapter or (this may be a joke) 100 pages minus the reader’s age.

But whatever our practice it’s good isn’t it that readers don’t say, ‘I was disappointed by a book once. Never read a book again’!

 

Do you abandon books that disappoint you? If you stick with a book, tell us why!

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