Word of Mouth
4:11 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

The Most Popular Books Left Unread

The terror of an unfinished pile of books re-created by Producer Zach Nugent.
Credit Logan Shannon / NHPR

We’ve all been there, crack open a new book, read the first few chapters and then for whatever reason, just…stop. And that’s it. The book slowly migrates from bedside, to under the bed, and ends up in a pile with a bookmark placed somewhere in chapter two. Enough of the “best sellers” and “the book” to read this summer, we’re adjusting our aspirations to consider the books purchased optimistically in June and are left, un-read, by Labor Day. Dr. Jordan Ellenberg has come up with an entertaining and un-scientific formula to determine the most un-read books of summer.

Jordan's list which uses an unscientific algorithm--we'll use that term lightly--attempts to reveal how many of the most popular books we try to finish never get finished. You can listen to his interview with Virginia here.

An interview with Dr. Jordan Ellenberg about his Hawkings Index

In an unscientific poll of our own, we asked the WOM team what books they've left unfinished:

Taylor Quimby - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Logan Shannon - Moby Dick by Herman Melville "Please don't tell my High School English teacher."

Molly Donahue 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez "I really liked it, I just haven't managed to finish it."

Zach Nugent  - The Known World by Edward P. Jones

Maureen McMurrayThe French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles

Virginia PrescottFalling Man by Don DeLillo

You can also check out the hashtag #unreadbooks on twitter, and please, don't leave us hanging, let us know what book(s) you've left unread. We've compiled a few of the latest below. 

[View the story "Most Unread Books" on Storify]

Dr. Jordan Ellenburg is a professor of mathematics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the author of How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking.

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