Liar, liar, pants on fire!

1984_timesI found this fun Times Online post about the World Book Day’s survey on the top ten books people have lied about reading. They are:

1. 1984 – George Orwell (Read it!)

2. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy (Read but never finished.)

3. Ulysses – James Joyce (Read the first page. That was enough. Decided my one James book would be Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man.)

4. The Bible (Most of it. Catholic school.)

5. Madam Bovary – Gustave Flaubert (Read it!)

6. A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking (Never read it. I suspect many people lie about this one at cocktail parties.)

7. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (On the TBR list. No Rushdie under my belt at this point.)

8. In Remembrance of Things Past – Marcel Proust (Did I read this? I can’t remember.)

9. Dreams of My Father – Barack Obama (Haven’t read it, but would like to.)

10. The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins (Ditto #9.)

As for myself, while I’ve never actually lied about having read a book, I admit that sometimes when people hear I have two degrees in English, they tend to assume I’ve read things I haven’t (like, say, all of Dickens or Austen or James), and I don’t always correct them. Or sometimes I’ll say I’ve read something, but I never actually finished it–which is not exactly a lie, right? Nobody ever asks, “Hey, did you finish War and Peace?”  

How about you? Have you ever lied about having read a book? Which ones, and why? ‘Fess up!

*image from

10 thoughts on “Liar, liar, pants on fire!

  1. HA! That’s funny about the Proust. It’s 3600 pages, though, so we’d probably remember. I don’t think I’ve lied about finishing books. I just go add them to my TBR list. so many to read, so little time!

  2. I don’t think I’ve lied about reading a book, though most people think I’ve read Great Expectations, just because I know about its themes and the Miss Havisham character. I wish I could lie about having read Twilight and instead say that I haven’t! 😉

    I’ve only read one book on this list (1984)… most of the other ones are on my TBR list.

  3. Once I was in charge at the very last second of escorting an uncoomunicative poet around the campus at TSTC who was going to do a reading and made the mistake of mumbling “Oh yeah, I thought your book was really good” at which point she perked right up and asked, “Really? So which poem did you like the best?” There was a long pause and then I looked up to suddenly see the guy actually in charge of the event entering the auditorium foyer and said, “Look! There’s George! Let’s go see what news he’s got!” Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris aside, it’s those moments that give a hint of something divine in the universe.

  4. If you read the cliff notes and can sound like you’ve read the book, does it count as reading the book?

    I think this falls in the subject matter of “A Brief History of Time”…

  5. Rebecca, so true! And yes, probably would remember 3600 pages…at least for the madeleines!

    Steph, that would be a good post: what books would you lie about having read, because you wish you’d never read them? Ha!

    Mark, that was truly a moment of grace.

    Bob, no. Cliff Notes do not count. I explained this at our wedding.

  6. It’s so weird/funny that people do that! I haven’t lied about reading since highschool. And even then, I didn’t LIE lie, because like you said about War and Peace, I never said I FINISHED the books 😛 There were only two I couldn’t get through, anyway. Mostly I liked what I was assigned.

  7. Not intentionally! Every now and then I am convinced that I have read one classic or another and then come to discover I never had! I keep bumping into titles that surely I must have read at some point and then check them out of the library and the whole story is new to me.

  8. I don’t feel good lying about having read a book, as I’ll be dumb-struck if being asked what I thought of it 😛

    But there are also times when I have read, but just forgotton about it ‘cos it’s a long long time.

    Those on your list I have definitely not read, except the Bible though not the whole book.

  9. Hi Nymeth! It is strange about what people will lie about. I usually confess to not having read something all the way through, for whatever the reason. I’m a terrible liar, so I’d get caught out in a heartbeat, anyway!

  10. Molly, I get that way with Jane Austen. I haven’t read all her books, but I’ve read some of them, and I can never remember which ones. I know I’ve read Pride and Prejudice because I have the actual book, but then what? Emma? Sense and Sensibility? Persuasion? Mansfield Park? Having seen the movies or PBS series for these doesn’t help either! And finally, I’m doing the Gone with The Wind read-along, and now that I’m reading it, I swear I’ve read it before. *shakes head*

    Sal, I tend not to lie for the same reason. And I’ve also read things and forgotten most of the details, like The Red And The Black, or Fathers And Sons. I read those for classes and enjoyed them, but because I was reading them for a means to an end and not for pure pleasure, they didn’t stick as well as other books.

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