New research by the Reading Agency suggests the UK is a nation afflicted with "book-block", with many readers deciding to give up on books after struggling through a difficult title.
The survey, commissioned to mark World Book Night on Monday 23rd April, reveals more than half of Brits (54%) are stuck reading the same book for up to three months, preventing them from reading any more. The book most Brits say they have started but never finished is E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey (Arrow), followed by J R R Tolkein’s The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (HarperCollins) and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling (Bloomsbury).
Conversely, a number of respondents said they took a stoic approach to reading, with nearly a quarter (22%) insisting "you should never give up - once you start a book you should always finish it". According to the survey, over half of people in the UK (51%) say the biggest barrier to finishing a book is if they aren’t enjoying it.
This World Book Night, the Reading Agency is encouraging Brits to "ditch the burdensome books you’re not enjoying and try something new instead". In recognition of the challenges many people face when it comes to finding the right book, the charity is calling on readers across the country to share a great book with someone who doesn’t read often.
The survey of 2,000 UK adults suggests preconceived ideas about books are stopping us from reading more, with over half (55%) admitting they would avoid reading a book if they thought it would make them sad. When asked why, more than a quarter (28%) said they felt sad enough at the state of the world and would avoid reading a book that would add to this.
Yet the findings also reveal people are turning to books to help them navigate the turbulent political climate in the UK and abroad, with more than half (65%) of readers agreeing books provide an escape from the uncertainty of world events. Meanwhile, almost half (49%) agree reading fiction increases our capacity to empathise and understand the world.
The Reading Agency’s research also highlights the wider benefits of reading, with the majority of Brits (91%) saying they think reading can have a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing. Those of us who are reading books are finding companionship between the pages, with one in four (28%) saying they would be most likely to turn to books if they felt lonely. Other top scenarios are turning to a book when feeling low, stressed or anxious and struggling to cope with difficult life events.
Sue Wilkinson, chief executive of The Reading Agency said: “At a time when one in five of us will experience anxiety or depression, and world events can leave people feeling confused or scared, reading has never been more important. As this research shows, reading can have a hugely positive impact on our health and wellbeing; it can build empathy and help us understand the world and the people around us.
“At a time when so many brilliant books are being written and published, you should never force yourself to read something you’re not enjoying. World Book Night is the chance to find a book that works for you.”