The Books We Start and Never Finish

43% of books we begin to read are never finished.

The gloss of the front cover and an inspiring blurb may be enough for the book to find itself taken from the shelf at the bookstore and placed on the side table at home, but every book knows it could be forgotten about and replaced by an even shinier one!

Jordan Ellenberg from the University of Wisconsin devised an ingenious way to measure what percentage of best selling books were actually read by those who purchased them. He studied the popular highlights from Kindle e-readers and created an index based on phrases highlighted throughout the book.

He created his ‘Hawking Index’ (named after the famously ‘unread’ A Brief History of Time), by averaging the page numbers of a book’s five most popular sentences and dividing them by the number of pages in the book. He then created a percentage – with 0.1 per cent meaning the most popular phrases were all on the first page, while 100 per cent would put them all on the last page.

Stephen Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time measured 6.6% and Hillary Clinton’s biography Hard Choices an index of only 1.9%. Catching Fire from Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series did especially well at 43.4 per cent (Dan Bloom, Daily Mail).

As you can see by the numbers, a huge portion of the books we begin to read are ever finished. But this business of leaving things unfinished is not reserved only for the book worms, as there is an endless amount of unfinished projects, goals, dreams and stories left on the shelf waiting to be picked up again.

The church in Corinth decided to give generously to those in need. Although they began with excitement, Paul encouraged them in their follow through:

‘Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it’ – 2 Corinthians 8:11 (NIV)

Anyone can have energy and excitement at the beginning of something. However these days fewer and fewer people have the character, the gumption or the stickability to see things through to the end.

Don’t just step of the boat, but make sure your splash is heard as you match your willingness with your completion of it!


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