September 3, 2013

What books do people dump?


If you’re currently sifting sand out of your loafers and thinking with mild guilt of that paperback you (accidentally) left behind in the guest room, you, my wicked book-abandoning friend, are not alone. Because Travelodge, the hotel chain, has disclosed their annual list of the books most often left behind in hotel rooms, and there are a lot of books that meet the same fate each year.

Top of the list is erotica: E.L. JamesFifty Shades Freed is the number one abandoned book. Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker also made it onto the list, in the sixth and tenth spots. But James is far from alone: apparently people are abandoning erotica all over the place. Bared to You, Reflected in You, and Entwined with You by Sylvia Day are also way up there, and other Fifty Shades-like knockoffs, suggesting either that these books are so dull that their buyers become disenchanted and put them down midway through. Or, that they function perfectly as pornography: titillating during the period when the reader wants to be titillated, but superfluous and slightly embarrassing afterwards—not something you want to carry around with you.

Further down are some crummy celebrity autobiographies, Gone Girl, The Casual Vacancy, and last of the top 20, like a suspended Daisy-Buchanan-esque tear, is The Great Gatsby. Which might be further confirmation that movies made out of books, even if they inspire people to then pick up the books, still spoil the appetite for the books themselves.

This year’s list was consistent with past years’—7,000 copies of the Fifty Shades trilogy were left behind last year, along with copies of other books from the Stieg Larsson and Hunger Games trilogies. People tend to leave politicians’ and entertainers’ memoirs (Cherie Blair’s Speaking for Myself, Russell Brand’s My Booky Wook), a smattering of “books you should read” (Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach—presumably ditched for its ultimate vacation-dampening properties), and a steady showing of personal finance books. Once in a while, there’s an anomaly: in 2008, 10 copies of the Kama Sutra were left in the Travelodge in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, sparking visions of some kinky/trashy group suburban experiment abandoned by its participants because of exhaustion, ennui, or the sudden realization that you’d left home without feeding the rabbits.

But for all the books left behind, there’s a curious flip side: 7% of Britons admit to stealing the Bible out of hotel rooms. Is it because it’s a unholy thrill, stealing the very book that prohibits stealing? Racier, occasionally, than Bared to You? Seems like it might be useful where these guests are going? I guess we’ll never know for sure.


Sal Robinson is an editor at Melville House. She's also the co-founder of the Bridge Series, a reading series focused on translation.