I was reading the latest edition of Shelf Awareness this weekend. In case you don't subscribe, Shelf Awareness publishes a free newsletter about books with lots of reviews and excerpts.
As a reader, I like to see what's coming out from the print publishers even though the newsletter is really aimed at bookstore and library buyers. Consequently, one sees only the books that result from paid ad placement. Still, it's kind of a pulse on the industry.
One of their snippets in the recent edition originated in England's The Daily Mail weekend edition so I clicked over to read the actual article at the source. I laughed when I read that bookshelves in the U.K. are packed with "at least 80 books the owners haven't read."
My bookshelves and my Kindle are packed with unread books too, but not for lack of trying. I simply don't have enough time to read as much as I'd like. Trust me, none of the unread books I long to tackle are pretentious literary tomes.
Apparently, in the U.K., it's still considered good form to make a literary impression on visitors. The Daily Mail went on to say that 57% (of respondents, I assume) make sure the books they prominently display are literary classics even though the book owners admit to never having read the first page.
Guess which book was most lied about, according to this research study sponsored by Lindeman Wines? Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. That surprised me because the book is intellectually accessible by any reader. True, the text is more formal than today's contemporary fiction, but that doesn't make it unreadable.
Next on the most lied-about list were Lord Of The Rings, Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, and The Hobbit.
Sophie Kinsella, Jodi Picoult, Jackie Collins, Helen Fielding, and Danielle Steele were listed as the books most of the respondents really like to read. About 20% of the men who responded confessed that they enjoyed the much-maligned chick-lit genre. Since I have several male readers for my romantic comedies, this doesn't surprise me.
I think the many ereader devices have enabled men to discover that books mostly marketed to a female audience are actually quite good. Of course, they'd never have been caught dead purchasing such a book in a brick and mortar bookstore. Hurray for Kindle, Nook, and all the other ereaders who have widened our reading audiences.
Human Nature Doesn't Change
Perhaps little has changed since Jonathan Swift wrote: "The most accomplished way of using books at present is to serve them as some do lords: learn their titles and then boast of their acquaintance."
Come on, Readers! Donate those unread tomes and fill your shelves with books you truly enjoy. You may find that visitors to your home then have something else to talk about because, chances are, they've probably read those books too!
I'll close with these wise words from William James: "To give up pretensions is as blessed a relief as to get them gratified."