Let’s face it, a large chunk of literature and non-fiction sales are nothing to do with people reading and everything to do with being seen to read. It was no surprise to early e-reader adopters that the romance and erotica genres took off as people on the bus to work could now read the stuff they wanted to without being judged. The Guardian posted this survey of readers (although I can’t find the source) listing off everyone’s favourite reading cred books, you know, the ones you claim to have read but fell asleep at page 2.
A recent survey of 2,000 people suggests that the majority of people pretend to have read classic books in order to appear more intelligent, with more than half of those polled displaying unread books on their shelves and 3% slipping a highbrow cover on books they’d rather not be seen reading in public.
The books most likely to be lied about are, naturally, the books most often filmed, talked about and studied in school (some of the respondents must have been lying since GCSE onwards). Are any of them in your pretend-I’ve-read/never-finished pile, or do you save your literary fibbing for Finnegans Wake and Infinite Jest? Share your guilty secrets below.
1) 1984 by George Orwell (26%) I have actually read this classic. I read it because Animal Farm was one of the only books I had to read in English Lit class that I actually enjoyed (I’m not counting plays, you’re not meant to read plays, you’re meant to see them performed!!!). I enjoyed it, but I can see how people would battle to read this one.
2) War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (19%) Haven’t read this one and have no intention of trying. People always talk about battling through it in small chunks because it is such an important and blah blah blah book. If it was really important it wouldn’t have been so boring as to necessitate reading it in small chunks.
3) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (18%) I watched the old black and white film, does that count?
4) The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (15%) I’ve read this many times and hated it every single time. Each time I’ve re-read it I’ve done so because I felt I was too young and/or stupid to get it, so I must re-read it because I’m so much older and smarter now. Although, John Green did manage to convince me of its literary merits via Crash Course Literature, not that I’ll bother revisiting this novel.
5) A Passage to India by EM Forster (12%) I can honestly say I’ve never heard of this book.
6) Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien (11%) I’ve read it, but I will admit that I did so only after seeing the first movie. I really enjoyed the book, but it was long and waffly and I can see why others wouldn’t actually finish it. I will also say that I started reading The Hobbit when I was in school and then realised that life was worth living and stopped.
7) To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee (10%) Okay, I’m guilty of this one. It is on my TBR pile. I have it on Kindle and DTB.
8) Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (8%) See #2
9) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (8%) I’m going to read the zombie version.
10) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (5%) If there is a zombie version of this I may read it.
9 thoughts on “The top 10 books people claim to read but haven’t”
Aside from the Russians, I’ve read and (mostly) enjoyed everything on this list. Do I get a prize or something?
A prize in lying.
You can’t honestly have enjoyed Catcher and Expectations.
I’ve read Pride and Prejudice and I loved it, To Kill A Mockingbird and felt conflicted about it, 1984 and hated it with a special passion. I have been reading Jane Eyre for something like 8 months and I’ve only gotten through about 25% but I know I’ll never finish it. I have no desire to read any of the others on this list!
My wife loves Pride and Prejudice too, she re-reads it regularly and we have the TV series and movie on DVD. I think that love is the reason that so many claim to have read them when they haven’t. Have to fit in the cool kids.