You say you’ve read 1984, Ulysses and the Bible… but have you really?
Last week, when I was putting together my list of 11 True Facts About Lying, I stumbled onto a few surveys about books that people lie about reading. I thought it was interesting enough to break out into its own list. And not just because my 11 Points Books category always feels woefully thin compared to this site’s other sections.
I took five different lists of books people lie about reading from the past five years — four of which came from surveys, one of which was compiled by the scone-eating staff at some New York Times blog — and plucked out the books that ranked near the top of one of at least one.
Here are 11 books people lie about having read.
1 | 1984 by George Orwell
If there’s any consensus pick amongst the various lists I used as reference, it’s this. Apparently no one’s actually read 1984. In fact, the number of people who’ve read it in this country is probably lower than the number who’ve watched Big Brother on CBS. Perhaps they’ll be another movement soon to ban it, which in turn will increase its allure and expand its readership in a mind-melting burst of irony.
2 | War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
It’s more than 1,000 pages long, was originally written in Russian, and Tolstoy himself said he doesn’t consider it a novel but rather a historical record of the French invasion of Russia. Translation: If you buy it, you’re probably buying it to use its massive weight to crack turtle shells.
3 | Ulysses by James Joyce
I happened to watch WWE’s 1,000th episode of Monday Night Raw a few weeks ago. There was a new wrestler whose catchphrase is apparently chanting “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I wonder if he stole that from James Joyce.
4 | The Bible by either God or a committee of several writers
From what I’ve heard, it’s an entire book about how
the Jews deserve to be persecuted we have a right to own slaves women are inferior to men and should be treated as property love your neighbor as yourself gay is bad.
5 | Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
This is really three books, but all of the lists that included it just seemed to lump it together as one book. Which is either a sign that no one’s read any part of the trilogy — or the people who made the list haven’t read any of the books either and didn’t know saying Lord of the Rings is like saying Harry Potter or The Babysitter’s Club or Encyclopedia Brown.
6 | Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
This was the only book on this list where I had to pause to try to remember whether I’d read it or not. Ultimately I decided I did read it in high school. Or am I lying?
7 | Moby Dick by Herman Melville
I don’t really think there’s any reason to read Moby Dick. As long as you know “Call me Ishmael,” Captain Ahab and the concept of chasing white whales, you just saved yourself a ton of hours of reading a book generally described as “oh, definitely a classic but kinda boring.”
8 | Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
I recommend buying a pricey first edition on a high-interest credit card. Think of how happy that will make you.
9 | Pride & Prejudice by “Stone Cold” Jane Austen
I read Pride & Prejudice in 10th grade English and forgot virtually all of it. And that stuck, until about five years ago — when my dad inexplicably became ADDICTED to Pride & Prejudice. No joke. He owns both the 1995 BBC adaptation with Colin Firth and the 2005 movie version with Keira Knightly. He watches them over and over. They’re always on in the background. Last year he and my mom came and visited me in L.A. and one afternoon we streamed and watched a three-hour British miniseries called Lost In Austen. (A modern girl gets transported to the world of Pride & Prejudice, hilarity ensues.) Because of this, I’ve now absorbed Pride & Prejudice in its entirety once or twice a year, every year, since 2007.
10 | The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
I’m surprised this made the list; dishonestly bragging about reading Dan Brown is the equivalent of dishonestly bragging about taking your dates to Applebee’s. But thinking back to when the Da Vinci Code craze was in full effect, I guess I may’ve lied about reading it too — mainly because I didn’t want people to tell me, “Oh my God, you’ve GOT to read it.”
But even though I’d never read it, when I watched the movie, I knew Tom Hanks was miscast.
11 | Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
A survey found this is the number one read that impresses a woman and the number six read that impresses a man. Today, sadly, it’s probably been displaced on both lists by Fifty Shades of Grey.