I was curious how far readers typically make it through these books. I couldn’t get any reading data, but I reached out to Audiobooks.com for listening data on political memoirs by presidential candidates going back to the 2000 election. We focused on books by every “serious” candidate published before or shortly after each presidential election — “serious” as defined by my colleague Harry Enten back before the 2016 election. (Basically, any candidate who held a major political office before running or got at least a bit of the vote in Iowa or New Hampshire.) Audiobooks.com was able to find the books with more than 10 downloads and sent over the average percentage of the book that listeners sat through.The book with the highest proportion listened to was John McCains's Faith of My Fathers, for which the average completion rate was 74.7%. But part of that high completion rate was the total length of the book: this audiobook could be completed in 4.8 hours, and the average user listened to 3.6 hours. The book with the longest time listened to was George W. Bush's Decision Points, which had a 59.7% completion rate that corresponded to 12 (of 20.2) hours.
Before we get to the data, there are some caveats! If you don’t see a book on here, remember that not all books have an audio version widely available. Moreover, sales for some of these books peaked long before Audiobooks.com began collecting data. Second, if a completion rate number seems low, keep in mind that most people don’t finish reading most things. Most likely, less than half of the people who started this article made it to this sentence. It’s the nature of the game.
The difference between proportion and time can also be seen in the books with the lowest averages. While Rand Paul's Taking a Stand had the lowest completion rate of 30.5%, Hillary Clinton's It Takes a Village had the lowest listen time at 1.3 hours (which corresponded to 48.2% of the book).
It begs the question, "What are words for if no one listens anymore?"