Kobo releases figures to shame you into finishing The Goldfinch

Though online activity may offer the illusion of anonymity and impermanence – of a malleable realm where we can throw caution to the Vonnegut and not care how careful we are about who we pretend to be – everything leaves a footprint, as anyone who’s ever requested their tweet archive has no doubt discovered to their chagrin. Now, with the advent of e-readers, you can’t even do a simple thing like lie about having finished Infinite Jest or skipped merrily through Ulysses in under a week without cold digital evidence to contradict your claims: Kobo has released figures illustrating which books downloaded by British readers this year most often went unfinished.

Leaving aside the ethics of a company harvesting its clients’ activities in this manner, the list makes for interesting if not necessarily surprising reading, especially when contrasted with its companion list of most regularly finished titles.

The most regularly unfinished list is populated with books that, for one reason or another, grabbed headlines, and seemingly gave readers a sense that they were What You Should Be Reading: 55% of people who started reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch on their Kobo, for instance – published towards the end of 2013, only Tartt’s third novel in 21 years, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, mainstay of many a critic’s list and awards shortlist, generally considered a big deal – didn’t make it to the end.

Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir Twelve Years a Slave, meanwhile – brought back into the spotlight by its Oscar-winning film adaptation (released in the UK in January) – may have been ninth on Kobo’s bestseller list but would have been significantly lower were bestsellers judged on who actually read the thing, with only around 28% sticking with it through the whole twelve years.

The books that people really did finish, however, were emphatically not those that people felt they were being told from on high that they had to read, which no doubt had something to do with it: Casey Kelleher’s self-published Rotten to the Core (boasting an 83% completion rate) topped that list, joined by the likes of Lynda LaPlante, Nora Roberts (both under her own name and her alias, JD Robb), Stella Rimington (!) and Melody Anne. The other notable thing about the top ten titles that were read cover to cover? They were all written by women.

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