I dearly love a good book, and I plough through a fair few in my snatched moments of spare time. I’ll curl up with a classic, pass time with some pulp fiction, bond with a biography – if it’s words well-arranged between two covers, I’m more than happy to give it a try.
But someone’s just done a survey to find out which particular tome of the thousands produced every year, of the millions sitting on library shelves, people would single out as the shining achievement of literature.
The results are in, and they’ve put me in a bad mood.
Top of the pile – and I mean that in terms of a stack of stuff, rather than any reference to a potential posterior problem, even though I can see how you might be confused – is a numbskull thriller that was tossed into every beachbag on the planet.
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I’m talking about Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, which may well have been a worldwide sensation but was also a half-baked pudding of codswallop conspiracy theories written with all the elegance, love of language and understanding of humanity of a sat-nav directing you to the suburbs of Swindon.
The trouble is that the survey just picked out a random sample of people to ask, rather than narrow it down to people who actually like books.
So the top 10 is stuffed with titles that people probably haven’t read at all, but may well have caught as a film adaptation somewhere along the line.
And the only classics that don’t fit easily into that category are the slim volumes that regularly feature on the English syllabus at schools.
So we’ve got The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, Tolkein, a slim showing for Dickens and one of the Bronte brood, along with Orwell’s 1984 and Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.
And if that’s not enough to put any writer toiling away on a labour of love into a dark despond, here’s some more data destined to deepen their despair.
Those quizzed reckon that the thing they spend most time reading – devoting almost twice as much time to them as proper, honest to goodness books – are blogs, those rough and ready outpourings of petty opinion that litter the internet like so many fast food wrappers on the floor of a fat club convention after the midnight buffet.
They’ll also spend more time reading other stuff online than they will devote to books – and that’s not even counting the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
But if you dig into the results of the survey, they just don’t ring true. Put aside the slightly worrying figure for the amount of time people say they spend reading newspapers and you’ll find them claiming to need 20 minutes to leaf through letters and post and eight minutes for instruction manuals.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I got anything in the post that required longer than the 20 seconds to establish it as junk mail and direct it towards the bin.
And as for reading the manual, I’m a bloke. Come on.
Let’s be honest, if Dan Brown was ever given a manual about how to write a pleasing paragraph, it’s still sitting unopened on the shelf of his study. What? Jealous? Me?