Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” has a UK charity shop begging people to stop giving them copies because, at the rate of one copy donated every week for months, they’ve been overwhelmed.
And I have to hold my hand up that – a long long time ago – I bought a copy. There, I’ve come clean. I also bought a copy of “Angels & Demons” … and I read and finished both. I read the latter first and the following combination of circumstances caused me to continue with Mr Brown’s offerings, despite my raised eyebrows :
- I was on holiday in rural Italy and books in English were impossible to come by (this was pre-Kindle).
- The “Da Vinci Code” had a massive vibe going on and I just had to read it in order to add my comments.
- A good friend had recommended it.
- It’s not like each book is terrible, it’s the fact that they’re so laughably repetitive. My ex-father-in-law was a historian and his comment was “decent enough thriller, but really rubbish history” which I think gets it in one.
So, they sell really well and they’re
good decent enough thrillers, the perfect holiday book, easy-reading and undemanding, and they chuck in a little if misleading history for those who like to learn a bit while they read. But they’re not the type of books you keep, are they? Even by those people who really enjoyed them, otherwise we wouldn’t be having a charity shop epidemic.
And that got me to thinking, what other runaway successes could morph into a charity shop epidemic?
My nominations appear below:
“Fifty Shades of Grey” by E L James which I have genuinely neither purchased nor borrowed. It remains unread. My good friend read and reviewed it as “rubbish, really badly written, and the sex is nothing you wouldn’t have come across if you’d been doing internet dating for a while.” She read it in an attempt to figure out how to become a mega-selling author. I guess many a person would’ve donated this, hidden away in a carrier bag with other books. It occured to me to check just how many of the sales were electronic copies (1.5 million apparently) but they were vastly outweighed by the 3.8 million real books, so plenty of fodder for the charity shops, even if some were kept as re-reads for – ahem – inspiration.
“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn the vibe around this was that it was a good, clever book. So I read it. Was it? Yes, it was and certainly better than Dan Brown. It stayed believable and dark while we remained in Nick’s POV. Sadly, once we moved to Amy’s, I felt the storyline got stretched too far because we had to buy into the ‘what actually happened’ and that would’ve been better if it had remained obtuse. Thrillers (even good ones) are a genre that rarely features in most people’s repeated reads shelves. So, once the film had been out for a while, off to the charity shop to make room for more? I suspect this one could be more of a dribble rather than a deluge, but still, it was high up on the sales list of actual (rather than electronic) books for two years running, so …
“The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins everyone had read this one and I was doing a reading challenge in which this was a category, so it filled the niche. That’s pretty much all the good I can say about it, other than it handled some of the realities of being a troubled drinker well. But the who-dunnit was too obvious and the storylines of the other characters were too trite. Plain dull, I’m afraid. Even if you disagree with that view, after reading it once I can see no reason for it to remain on the book shelves. And as it blasted Paula Hawkins into the list of the UK’s most highly paid authors alongside J K Rowling, clearly there’s a lot of copies about.
“The Lovely Bones” by Alice Seebold with the highest sales of any Richard & Judy Book Club pick. And that’s it real,ly because appearing on this list is powerful. It can turn an author’s fortunes around significantly. Are those who buy books based upon this list’s recommendations people who keep books, or do they pass them on – whether to friends, family, or charity shops? I’ve not read this one – the subject matter was not one I could face. Again, I suspect there’ll be a relatively regular supply to charity shops, but nothing which overwhelmes.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon having 2 million copies sold in the last decade, makes him the third-highest selling author behind J K Rowling and Dan Brown. But I’m not sure about this one’s candidature. With so many being diagnosed as ‘somewhere on the spectrum’, this was the first bestseller which provided a realistic depiction. I wonder how many kept it, or passed it on to others for its potential use as an aide to understanding aspects of Aspergers and Autism. So, at most a dribble, simply in terms of numbers sold.
So, that’s my five … although it’s six if we add “Da Vinci Code” ‘cos I so did. I don’t think it even got into the bookcase, it went straight from the suitcase to the charity donation bag.
© Debra Carey 2017
Care to nominate your expected candidates? And, if you’re a regular haunter of charity shops (thrift shops for US readers), what books have you seen piling up on their shelves?