Saturday, 3 November 2012

Abandoned books

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey, Thomas Payne and Jack Steel)

Some interesting news about books was published recently, but from an unexpected source. In the United Kingdom there’s a popular chain of budget hotels known as Travelodge, and they recently issued a report which listed the number of books which had been left behind in their hotel rooms, and which of these novels – which had clearly so displeased their owners that they simply discarded them, not even being prepared to carry them out to their cars – had proved to be the most popular, or rather the most unpopular.
            It may not come as a particular surprise to anyone to learn that the book which came top, with around 7,000 copies being abandoned, was the erotic bestseller by E L James, Fifty Shades of Grey, which accounted for almost one in every three books which had been dumped, Travelodge stating that in all a total of 21,786 books had been recovered from its 36,500 hotel rooms during 2011. It will probably also not be entirely surprising that the other two books in the trilogy – Fifty Shades Freed and Fifty Shades Darker – also made the ‘Books Left Behind’ worstseller list at numbers 4 and 7 respectively. I haven't read any of these three novels, and so I'm not qualified to comment on their literary worth, but I do think it's significant that most people I've spoken to who have read them, or have tried to read them, have dismissed them as boring rubbish.
            But I am familiar with the work of the late Steig Larsson, whose three novels have also featured prominently in this list, and again their inclusion does not come as any kind of a surprise to me, because I thought the books were really very average indeed. In fact, I couldn't even be bothered to finish the last one in the series. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins also proved to be unpopular, as did her other two books. But as well as this collection of entirely forgettable novels, there were also some surprises, including The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry and John le Carre's classic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
            The full and unexpurgated list is as follows:

1.         Fifty Shades of Grey   E.L. James
2.         The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo   Stieg Larsson
3.         The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest   Stieg Larsson
4.         Fifty Shades Freed   E.L. James
5.         The Hunger Games   Suzanne Collins
6.         The Girl Who Played With Fire   Stieg Larsson
7.         Fifty Shades Darker   E.L. James
8.         Catching Fire   Suzanne Collins
9.         Mockingjay   Suzanne Collins
10.        The Help   Kathryn Stockett
11.        One Day   David Nicholls
12.        A Tiny Bit Marvellous   Dawn French
13.        Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography   Steve Jobs
14.        Diary Of A Wimpy Kid   Jeff Kinney
15.        The Brightest Star In The Sky   Marian Keyes
16.        The Fry Chronicles   Stephen Fry
17.        Room   Emma Donoghue
18.        StrengthsFinder 2.0   Tom Rath
19.        The Confession   John Grisham
20.        Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy   John Le Carre

There are of course a number of conclusions one can draw from this report. It could be argued that the abandoned books are an accurate reflection of the changing reading habits of the British public, and a spokeswoman for Travelodge confirmed that they had noted a change in the types of books. Previously, the majority of dumped books were either celebrity biographies or chick lit, both of which categories had clearly failed to live up to the low expectations of their purchasers. So, in 2007 the most abandoned book was The Blair Years by Alastair Campbell, which reportedly failed to satisfy on any number of levels, while the following year it was Piers Morgan's equally unimpressive Don't You Know Who I Am? In 2009, the book most commonly tossed aside by Travelodge customers was Katie Price's autobiography Pushed to the Limit, which presumably she paid somebody to write for her, just like all her other books: at least E L James actually wrote what she put her name to.
Perhaps inevitably, ‘unusual’ reading material was discovered at several hotels in the chain, including a bag of Kama Sutra books found in a room previously occupied by an elderly couple in Scarborough, and in Peterborough a company CEO left behind a suitcase filled with comics.
And I really don’t quite know what to make of that!
Finally, and nothing to do with the topic of this post, I will not be posting anything else until January 2013, assuming that the world doesn’t end on 21 December 2012, as some people are claiming the Mayans predicted, because we will be travelling and also taking a cruise. I’m a guest lecturer on the Fred Olsen ship Boudicca, sailing from Portsmouth on 18 November on a round trip to the Caribbean.

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Website link:  Brit Writers