What’s got 700 pages, tons of hype, and practically no readers?
“Capital in the 21st Century,” by French economist Thomas Piketty
According to Jordan Ellenberg, a maths professor at the University of Wisconsin, most readers didn’t get past page 26.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Ellenberg pinpointed the locations of the most frequently highlighted passages in various books, using Amazon’s “Popular Highlights” feature, to see how far readers were getting. He calls it the Hawking Index, because “A Brief History Of Time” is generally regarded as the least-read book ever. Here’s the exact process:
…Take the page numbers of a book’s five top highlights, average them, and divide by the number of pages in the whole book. The higher the number, the more of the book we’re guessing most people are likely to have read.
The results for “Capital” blew all others away: readers made it through just 2.1% of the book on average, with the last highlighted section appearing on page 26.
Other results: Most people have gotten through only an eighth of “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, and only a fifth through “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis.
“Stephen Hawking is off the hook; from now on, this measure should be known as the Piketty Index,” he says.