Stranger Fruit

Lying about reading

Apparently 65% of Britons have lied about reading certain books in an effort to impress others. The top ten books not read but claimed to have been read were:

  • 1984 – George Orwell (42 percent)
  • War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy (31)
  • Ulysses – James Joyce (25)
  • The Bible (24)
  • Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert (16)
  • A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking (15)
  • Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (14)
  • In Remembrance of Things Past – Marcel Proust (9)
  • Dreams from My Father – Barack Obama (6)
  • The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins (6)

I’m willing to admit to having read Orwell, Joyce (but unfinished), Hawking, Dawkins and the Bible (most of the NT, some of the OT).


  1. #1 Tony P
    March 5, 2009

    I’ve read 1984, and A Brief History of Time and believe it or not the Bible but that was 20+ years ago.

  2. #2 Noadi
    March 6, 2009

    Read 1984 (Animal Farm too), Bible, Selfish Gene, attempted War and Peace but gave up, have not actually read a Brief History of Time but did listen to the audio book. Audio books are a wonderful thing I don’t think I could have actually managed to read the Origin of Species but listening worked. There’s a great site called Librivox with lots of audio books all in the public domain.

  3. #3 Moth Eyes
    March 6, 2009

    I’ve read Hawking and Dawkins too, most of the Bible, and some of Tolstoy. Personally, though, I recommend How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. That way, people can’t tell when you’re lying about having read books you haven’t.

    It does seem to me that the Bible is rather a poor choice for lying about, though.

  4. #4 marilove
    March 6, 2009

    What the hell. 1984 is not a difficult or overly long book! Also, Animal Farm is better.

    I’ve actually not read any of the other books (Dawkins is on the list, and I’ve paged through the Bible), but I HAVE read the entire John Steinbeck and Fitzgerald library (or, at least, practically). Does that make me smart or just boring?

  5. #5 sbh
    March 6, 2009

    I’ve read 1984, Ulysses, and the Bible in their entirety, several times. I’ve started War and Peace and Madame Bovary, but I didn’t finish either. I’ve planned on reading most of the others, but never got around to it.

    I find this survey a little puzzling; from the Reuters report it looks like somebody selected these ten titles and the people surveyed were asked to say whether they had ever claimed falsely to have read them. Thus only six percent said they had falsely claimed to have read the Dawkins and Obama books, as opposed to the forty-two percent who named 1984.

    In my experience falsely claiming to have read a book seldom impresses anybody. It’s bad enough to try to keep up my end in a conversation about a book I read many years ago and only half-remember without trying to fake it entirely. On the other hand I find it amusing how many people who claim to read the Bible regularly and to follow its teachings (whatever that means) actually know very little about it.

  6. #6 Thony C.
    March 6, 2009

    I have read 1984, chunks of the Bible, Hawkins and Joyce (I finished!) I have read lots of Rushdie but not Midnight’s Children. I don’t see the point of lying about books I haven’t read!

  7. #7 Phil
    March 6, 2009

    1984. The story of the Apple commercial with the cute babe smashing the big screen.
    War and Peace. The story of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo.
    Ulysses. The miniseries starring Antonio Banderas at Troy.
    The Bible. The claymation show about Noah’s Ark.
    Madame Bovary. The opera about a Japanese woman who falls for an American naval officer.
    A Brief History of Time. Something to do with the guy in the wheelchair and his appearance on the Simpsons.
    Midnight’s Children. The futuristic story where no one cna have children, starring Clive Owen.
    In Remembrance of Things Past. Brendan Fraser emerges from a bomb shelter after 30 years to discover there was no war.
    Dreams from My Father. Adapted into a movie with Harrison Ford, where a cop in the future tracks down androids.
    The Selfish Gene. The story of KISS and Gene Simmons.

    How close am I?

    The only ones I have read are 1984, bits of the bible ( and who has really read the whole thing?), er…….I’ve read other books by Dawkins does that count?

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