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Which Books are Abandoned the Most, and Why?


An infographic about books that are abandoned which reveals the haphazard relationship between a book’s life and our own existential course as readers.

“Reading should be one of the forms of happiness, and we cannot force anybody to be happy”, Borges said, appealing to the distinctly hedonist character of reading –– the fact that this should be conceived, largely, as a pleasant and not as a compulsory experience, edifying in a humanist sense, and not a cause of gloom and suffering. And yet, there exists certain social condemnation surrounding books that are abandoned. It is in fact true that reading is defying –– it is a challenge the reader imposes on himself when facing literature of an undeniable difficulty.

Aside from the fact that to read we require time and will, once we embark on the task we discover that it is not the same to read Oscar Wilde than G.K. Chesterton, nor James Joyce than José Lezama Lima, Swift or Garcia Marquez. First of all because of subjective reasons: no two readers are the same, or even, the same to themselves. That is, our reading biography modifies parallel to our existential biography, and if today we feel repelled by Balzac or Pérez Galdos’ realism, it is possible that tomorrow we will find it unexpectedly comforting. On the subject, Borges again:

If Shakespeare interests them, that is fine. If they find him tedious, leave him. Shakespeare has not written for you yet. One day will come when Shakespeare will be worthy of you, and you will be worthy of Shakespeare, but until then, do not rush things.

On the other hand, difficulty also obeys technical reasons: the way in which a writer writes — the words he uses, the grammatical forms he prefers, the literary forms he employs — can also harrow on these terms and thus find that a paragraph by Proust or Virginia Woolf is notably different and harder to read than one by Conan Doyle or Edgar Allan Poe. The demands of each work are different, and if apparently to read a poem by Pessoa we only need some metaphysical sensitivity, in return to read Gongora we must have a more or less precise cartography of Greek and Roman myths (among other requirements).

From this that the abandonment of a book is to a certain extent predictable –– The random or whimsical combination of these and other circumstances between a book and its reader don’t always happen, and despite all this, despite the celebrity status of a book and the reader’s effort, reading is halted and the reader becomes once more a person and the book an inertial and meaningless object among many others that populate the world.

Goodreads has elaborated an infographic entitled “the psychology of abandonment”, which shows the titles that are abandoned the most, the reasons for this and some other circumstances, such as where a book’s point of no return lies and the reasons why, against all odds, we continue to read.

Among other things, titles such as Casual Vacancy (J. K. Rowling’s most recent book), or Fifty Shades of Grey can be found heading the list, something which might seem unexpected if we take into account their bestselling quality. Similarly, it would seem predictable that Ulysses and Moby Dick are among the classics that are interrupted the most, while it is a little startling that Tolkien is keeping them company with The Lord of the Rings.

Lastly, it’s important to stress the resemblances between some arguments to abandon or pursue reading a book with those of a personal relationship. Like with the latter, a book is also left because we don’t find it interesting or, in contrast, we give it a chance –– the so called benefit of the doubt –– so that the grasping lightning bolt might emerge from the words we believe have been waiting for us all along.

Infographic by Goodreads on book abandonment


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