Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Books We Lie About Having Read


We all suffer from a wide range of frailties, one of which is a tendency to play fast and loose with the truth*. Despite that Biblical injunction against bearing false witness, all of us are guilty of lying at one time or another. Most of the time, the lies are relatively minor ("I can't come to work, boss, my grandmother's funeral is today"), sometimes they're significantly bigger ("I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinski"), and sometimes the stench of flaming pants is overwhelming (insert quote from any presidential candidates' debate here). And sometimes we lie about odd things ... like the books we claim to have read.

I ran across this interesting article the other day: The Book Most People Have Lied About Reading – and It's Not War and Peace. Leo Tolstoy's great novel War and Peace is actually on the list of the top 20 books people lie about having read (it's at #4), but the winner is - of all things - Alice in Wonderland. Go figure.

I think most of us want to appear to be better read and more erudite than we really are, which is why someone felt a need to compile a list of books people claim to have read. This is the complete list, with those I've actually read in italics**, and my parenthetical commentary added:

1. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll;

2. 1984, by George Orwell (if Mr Orwell only knew ...);

3. The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, by JRR Tolkien (I've read the whole trilogy at least half a dozen times over the years);

4. War And Peace, by Leo Tolstoy;

5. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy;

6. The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle (my favorites were "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "The Adventure of the Speckled Band");

7. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee;

8. David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens;

9. Crime And Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky;

10. Pride And Prejudice, by Jane Austen;

11. Bleak House, by Charles Dickens (I've always wanted to read this, and it's on my Kindle ... I'll get to it eventually);

12. The Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling (I've read the whole series twice, and loved it);

13. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens (a gift from Mrs Smith's high school Humanities class);

14. The Diary Of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank;

15. Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens;

16. The Fifty Shades trilogy, by E. L. James (I feel like I should be ashamed to admit having read these, rather than Dickens or Dostoyevsky);

17. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie (a wonderful and often-imitated mystery);

18. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (also in Mrs Smith's Humanities class);

19. Catch 22, by Joseph Heller (you can't have served in the military and not appreciate it); and,

20. The Catcher In The Rye, by J. D. Salinger.

So, I'm at 50%, having read ten of the 20 books on the list. The three great Russian novels on the list - War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, and Anna Karenina - are books I've always wanted to read, but just never got around to ... probably because of the sheer size and weight, although having read and enjoyed the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series, that's probably no excuse. And I think it's interesting that there are four novels by Charles Dickens on the list ... apparently, we believe that Mr Dickens is one of those people we're supposed to have read, but that many people of generations after my own haven't***. And I sort of feel guilty for not having read To Kill a Mockingbird, especially in light of the discussion and controversy over Harper Lee's new novel, Go Set a Watchman (which I haven't read, either).

My reading tastes are very wide and eclectic, and include plenty of brain candy as well as more substantive and thoughtful works ... the Inspector John Madden novels by Rennie Airth and the philosophical writings of Eric Hoffer sit side by side with the Repairman Jack stories of F. Paul Wilson and Stieg Larssen's stories about Lisbeth Salander.

So, Dear Readers, what do you like to read? And what books are you guilty of claiming to have read, but really haven't? You can 'fess up ... your secret is safe with me.

Have a good day. Read something good. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* Especially if you are pursuing a career in investment banking or politics.

** No, really!

*** He's one of those "dead white males" many people believe we're supposed to eschew in favor of more ... contemporary ... authors.

10 comments:

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Why would anyone lie about reading 50 Shades. Yuck!

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I feel like I should lie about reading Remembrance of Things Past, but everyone would know I was lying. I've read five of the books on your list; but I did read Crime and Punishment.

The Three Musketeers is a great page-turner!

I'm interested in Catch-22 now.

Duckbutt said...

Catch-22 was good but mordant.

Mike said...

We all read Great Expectations in high school didn't we? I can't remember. Way too long ago.

Robin Vicki Frost said...

I agree with Mistress of the Dark.......who would lie about reading 50 Shades? I have not read it nor do I intend to. I got 13 out of your 20. Two summers ago I read "War and Peace". Another author that people, I think, lie about reading is James Joyce. I have not read any of his books and am not ashamed to say that. My tastes in reading are eclectic like our Bilbo's. I recommend Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey and Maturin naval books. They are superb. The Sharpe's series cannot even come close.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

I've only read 6. Most because I had to and a couple because I wanted to. I did not read Great Expectations in high school Mike. But Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird were a list I had to read from in school as well as the Great Gatsby. I loved all books I was made to read in school. It's the stuff I pick out later that disappoints. My taste in books really vary but I would never ever read Harry Potter or 50 Shades.

Ken said...

I've only read six unless you count 50 Shades as three. Then it's eight. And if you haven't read it, don't knock it.

Big Sky Heidi said...

I brazenly admit to reading Fifty Shades of Gray and Harry Potter. I read the Cliff's Notes version of Mockingbird.

allenwoodhaven said...

I've read 9 2/7. I read the first two Harry Potter books. Most were in high school and college.

Used to read a lot of fantasy, Lord of the Rings type. I highly recommend Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings. It starts a wonderful series. These days I mostly read newspapers and The New Yorker. Vacations are great for spy and mystery novels.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

I truly liked The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades. I liked books by Tawny O'Dell.