An analysis of British taste, based on the top ten books list from this past week.
The 10 most popular books in Britain this week run to an average of 459 pages. The longest is Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian at 704, the shortest Elisabeth Hyde’s The Abortionist’s Daughter, which is completed within 285. This casts doubt on theories about the time-poverty of contemporary Britons, which should encourage snack-narratives to flourish. Or perhaps clock-watchers – able to consume only one or two books each season – prefer summer stories that really feel like a read; novellas represent neither value for money nor a reward for the work put in.
So this year’s holidaymakers are not taking away a suitcase of laughs: at least 80% of the top 10 reads are sombre and intense, depicting crises and miseries. Rendell’s title – End in Tears – could serve as an umbrella summary for most of them.
The reason for this is probably to be found in the title of a recent non-fiction superseller: Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit? All this fiction was written and purchased in the post-9/11 period, during which both authors and readers have been nervous of work that seems entirely trivial. Even at their lightest, these 10 books touch on the question of how we are to live our lives in dangerous times; on the balance between wider responsibility and personal pleasure.
Dude, I thought it WAS just me. But apparently everything really IS shit. Whew.