Surprised to hear that people lie so frequently about reading books. There really is no reason as one leaves themselves open to being found out quite easily. So my motto for this sort of thing, just be truthful!
Sarah Ebner, 5 March 2009, London Times
It happened to me recently. I was telling someone how much I had enjoyed reading Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father and how it had changed my views of the current US President. The person I was talking to agreed with me that it was, in his words, “a brilliantly written book”. However, he then proceeded to talk about Mr Obama in a way which suggested he had no idea of his background at all. I sensed that I was talking to a book liar….
And it seems that my acquaintance is not the only one. Apparently two thirds of people have lied about reading a book which they haven’t. In The World Book Day’s Guilty Secrets Survey, Dreams From My Father is at number 9. The survey lists ten books, and various authors, which people have lied about reading, and as I’m not one to lie too often (I’d hate to be caught out), I’ll admit here and now that I haven’t read the entire top ten. But I am pleased to say that, unlike 42 percent of survey entrants, I have read the book at number one, George Orwell’s 1984. I think it’s absolutely brilliant.
Here’s the rest of top ten.
1) 1984 by George Orwell (42 percent)
2) War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (31 percent)
3) Ulysses by James Joyce (25 percent)
4) The Bible (it doesn’t say which testament! 24 percent)
5) Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (16 percent)
6) A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (15 percent)
7) Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (14 percent)
8) In Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust (9 percent)
9) Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama (6 percent)
10) The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (6 percent)
Asked why they lied, the most common reason was to “impress” someone they were speaking to. This could be tricky if the conversation became more in-depth!
The World Book Day survey also has some other interesting information in it. It reveals that many people lie about having read Jane Austen (I recall a friend who studied Emma for A level, but never actually read it), the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky (I haven’t read him, but haven’t lied about it either) and Herman Melville.
But when asked which authors they actually enjoy, respondents named J K Rowling, John Grisham, Sophie Kinsella, Jilly Cooper, Dick Francis, Marian Keyes and Stephen King (ah, the big sellers, in other words). Forty one percent of people asked admitted they turned to the back of the book to read the end before finishing the story (I’ll come clean: I do this and am astonished that 58 percent said they had never done so).