Between The Covers: What's Really Going on in the World of Books

There’s nothing like a full-frontal naked soldier to send people rushing to bookshops, it turns out – the BBC War & Peace adaptation has pushed Tolstoy’s novel to No 13 on Waterstones’ hardback fiction chart.

It doesn’t mean they’ll read it, though: the novel (1,440 pages in this Penguin Clothbound Classics edition, £18.99) consistently figures high in polls about the most unread books.

In 2007, a Teletext survey of 4,000 Britons revealed it is the eighth most likely book to be bought and left unread, after Vernon God Little, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and James Joyce’s Ulysses at Nos 1, 2 and 3.

In 2013, a survey of the books people claim to have read but haven’t put War and Peace at second, after 1984 by George Orwell. My advice to readers would be to remember: you are allowed to skip the war bits – or even the peace bits, if you’re that way inclined.

Unfortunately, though, even the BBC adaptation edition does not have pictures.

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When the hardback non-fiction bestseller list contains such heavy reading as Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air (an honest and eye-opening memoir by a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer) and the frankly exhausting sounding Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying, you wish for a bit of light relief.

Thanks, then, to Sarah Knight and Quercus Publishing for her thoroughly modern self-help book, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k.

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Anyone who’s considering quitting their job and writing a best-selling novel should take some advice from Jo Nesbo before spending any money on a perfectly designed writer’s room.

“Some years ago I bought a big apartment, an old attic, that had a beautiful view of the hillsides of Oslo”, he told lithub.com.

“I bought a big desk that they had specially made for me, I guess they brought it in pieces. I have bookshelves there, a big computer, all my music (CDs, Spotify, Sonos), great loudspeakers.

And I have an espresso coffee machine, a guitar, a huge couch and a TV and a fridge ...” And where does he write? “A very small coffee shop where I’ve been going for 15 years.” Preferably at one of two tables. Aspiring novelists – first investigate your local café.

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