Tuesday, March 13, 2007


From: The great unread: DBC Pierre, Harry Potter ... oh yes, and David Blunkett (Paul Lewis and John Ezard, The Guardian, March 13th, 2007)

It's the literary club no author wants to belong to, but boasts the likes of Salman Rushdie, Bill Clinton, Paulo Coelho and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. A survey out today of the books Britons own but do not finish shows a surprising lack of appetite for many of the nation's most popular titles.

The bestselling book that topped the poll, DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little, has been lauded the world over - ironically, for its explosive denouement. But 35% of respondents who bought or borrowed the Man Booker-winning satire about a Texan schoolboy in a death row reality TV show failed to get to the end.

And while few can dispute the crazed popularity of JK Rowling's books amid the under 16s, the survey of 4,000 adults found 32% were not particularly fussed about the fourth in the series. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire beat James Joyce's 1912 novel Ulysses - running to more than 1,000 notoriously laborious pages - into second place.

Confession being good for the soul, you are invited to reveal a well-known book you only finished half of at most, but which you saw no harm in talking about as if you had finished it. For us, Lord of the Rings.


Susan's Husband said...

What if one never talks about a book one hasn't finished as if one had? Why would you bother, instead of saying "If I can't finish, it's cr*p!".

Brit said...

I will generally trudge grimly on to the end of any book I start, purely out of a sense of duty.

It is rare that I hate a book so much that I can't complete it. The only two I can think of at the moment are: 'Choke' by Chuck Palahniuk; and 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius' by Dave Eggers.

I have only read the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past(Swann's Way). The rest are waiting on the shelf until I have some accident that confines me to the sickbed for a year or so.

Harry Eagar said...

Hmmm. Nobody to talk to about books out here in surfer's paradise, so the temptation does not arise.

I never finished 'Penguin Island,' but I do refer to the early chapters, which impressed me. However, it is not a coherent work, so I don't know if that counts.

I quit 'Gone with the Wind' halfway through but I don't believe anybody ever tried to start a lit'y discussion with me about it.

Brit said...

Er hang on, I've just thought of two that fit Peter's original brief: The Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

Susan's Husband said...

At least I'm not worse than Brit. I got through the Old Testament but have yet to finish the New Testament.

On books I should have finished, but didn't —

Islands in the Net


Ali Choudhury said...

The Diamond Age

One Hundred Years Of Solitude


War and Peace

joe shropshire said...

Audel's Carpenters and Builders Guide, volumes I - IV, my grandfather's 1923 pocket editions. Really interesting for the sorts of things a skilled workman had to know back then, for instance how to true a circular saw blade by cold-hammering it, or how to make paint from white and red lead, and for the low opinion of balloon framing.

Oroborous said...


I thought that Dune (although not the sequels) and the LotR trilogy were the bee's knees.

I even read The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.

Hey Skipper said...

The Bible

The Q'uran

Das Kapital

Les Miserables (although I don't talk about this one).

I read the LoTR trilogy when I was in HS, and thought it fabulous. Tried to re-read The Hobbit when the The Fellowship of the Ring came out.

Hard to tell which had more power to drag time to a painfully boring near dead stop.

Ali said...

LOTR was good although Tolkien's constant butt-kissing of monarchy and races with superior blood nearly had me reaching for the Commmunist Manifesto.

Dune was full of overwrought cod mythology and prophecy.

Oroborous said...

I assumed that Tolkien's lionization of nobility and the elves was due to the conventions of the genre, romantic fantasy.

erp said...

SH, you know why people don't admit to not reading a high-brow book. They're afraid of sounding like a low-brow.