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Literate Liars and the Lying Lies We Tell

July 18, 2013 | by

The results of Book Riot’s “Books you pretend to have read” survey are in, and they’re explosive. While the usual lengthy suspects—UlyssesMoby-Dick, Infinite Jest—are represented, Pride and Prejudice is a surprise dark horse number-one. (Maybe after investing six hours in the BBC miniseries, people feel they’ve got the idea?) Other surprises include the relatively short To Kill a Mockingbird and Great Expectations—perhaps purely due to their inclusion on hundreds of syllabi?—Harry Potter, and, somewhat mysteriously, Fifty Shades of Grey. And this prompts several follow-up questions: When you listen to a book on tape, does that count? Is there a point at which, via osmosis, adaptations, and self-delusion, one can actually begin to believe he has in fact read a book, and is there a German compound word for this phenomenon? And what of the monstrous Mr. Darcy in the Serpentine?





  1. Mr. Darcy | July 19, 2013 at 11:35 pm


  2. Shirley | July 20, 2013 at 11:11 am

    I find it very hard to believe Les Miserables isn’t on the other side. I’ve tried to read that book twice each time giving up about 100 pages in from the ridiculousness of the writing style Hugo uses just describing his main characters. Given that there have been many plays and many movie versions of Les Miserables, I can’t see how more people aren’t pretending to have read it over saying they are “going to read” it.

  3. SpaceAlienApparently | July 20, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    I’ve never lied about having read a book. Is this a usual thing? What’s the point? If the asker wanted to talk about the book, you’d be busted; do people have conversations where they just list books they’ve read?

    I’ve read 10 of the books in the diagram, they are mostly in the “pretend to have read” section. Every one of those I’ve read, except Harry Potter and 50 Shades of Grey…and they are NOT in my “meaning to read” group. Read what you want to read, people.

  4. Brad | July 22, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I’ve read the heavy tomes (War and Peace, Ulysses, Moby Dick, Anna Karenina, the Bible) and other books on the list, and have absolutely no desire to read any of the other “serious literature” on the list that I have not read already or am not reading (Gravity’s Rainbow). Tried, didn’t like. That goes for Dickens, Hugo and Austen.

  5. Victoria | July 23, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I’ve read most of the books in the first two columns and Lolita. As an English and Comparative Literature major, I thought I had to read everything. I was surprised by how few of these books my fellow students had read. Of the books In my personal “meaning to read” list, I have started many (Proust, Pynchon, David Foster Wallace) and gave up. However, I can easily read Dickens and George Eliot’s novels, so it’s not the density of the prose that stops me.
    I have to admit that I couldn’t remember if I read the book or just saw the film versions of a couple of the books as well.
    And I’m currently trying to read Don Quixote…

  6. Lee | July 26, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Italo Calvino covered all this ages ago in Why Read the Classics. Stop it.

  7. Smith | June 17, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Any number of Shades of Grey or Harry Potter would rather be on the list of books people pretend NOT to have read. Or wish they could unread.

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