The Oxfam chain has released figures showing which author's books are most often donated to their 700 shops and anybody who buys second-hand books on a regular basis will be unsurprised to learn it's Dan Brown, the author of the not-very-intriguing-despite-huge-sales Da Vinci Code. John Grisham and Helen Fielding also ranked highly.
Have you ever noticed that you see the same books in every single charity shop you go in? You can guarantee there'll be at least four Da Vinci Codes (one of which will be hardback) and a similar number of the book's sequel, Angels and Demons. However, the second title will all appear unread - this is because they were bought as a present for somebody who enjoyed the Code. But once they'd read the first one, they looked further into it and discovered it's actually a load of bollo...make-believe and never bothered with the second.
There will also be three copies of Bridget Jones' Diary - this one is harder to explain, since it's actually not a bad tale in a slightly sickeningly middle class way. Presumably, people who don't usually read saw the film, bought the book and never got round to it. That probably explains the three Captain Corelli's Mandolins, too.
Many charity shops have a whole shelf full of Jeffrey Archer novels. Books by the loathsome Tory toad are bought by people who know no better simply because they've heard the name and have a relative for whom they don't know what sort of gift to buy. This does have a good side, though, even though it's made the lying bugger a very rich man - since his books tend to come out in hardback just before Christmas, you can guarantee a good crop around Easter time which in recent years has become the festival of DIY - and if you're building a patio, a wheelbarrow full of 'em (many shops will sell them to you at 10p per ton) makes an excellent low-cost alternative to rubble for the hardcore foundation.
Ian Rankin, creator of the insanely (and inexplicably) popular Inspector Rebus series, says that authors like to know "their books are popular. With Oxfam, it's also heartening to realise that each book donated and bought is helping such a worthwhile organisation." If he's being truthful, he's in the minority. Authors are, on the whole, an incredibly conceited bunch - it's not unknown for them to buy every copy of their own book that they see in remainders shops just so they're not seen as poor-sellers.
Incidentally, the Vatican declared Angels and Demons to be "harmless" back in May this year. Whichever poor priest was given the task of reading it must be seriously wondering what he did to annoy God so much.